How Searching for Perfection and Happiness is Akin to Putting Your Head Up Your Arse

 

I am 31 years old, single, and have spent the last eleven years looking for love.  I am ashamed to admit that throughout this process I have been guilty of always looking for the next best thing.  I would hit rough patches and wonder if the grass over yonder is just a little bit greener.  This also applies to my professional life.  I have yet to hold a job that made me happy and satisfied.  Why have I been such a fickle creature?  There are many reasons, but I think two big ones are the distorted ideals of Perfection and the Destination of Happiness.  These falsehoods have ruled my life for far too long, and I feel like I’m finally at a place where I recognize the detrimental depths of these flights of fancy.

I have spent years searching for the perfect relationship.  I always thought that when the “right” man came along, things would magically fall into place. It would be easy and fun and amazing.  No conflict, no fighting, no need for real sacrifices.  We would buy a house with a porch swing and a big back yard.  Our kids would be smart and beautiful.  We would be that couple that other couples wished they could be.  Over the years of men and heartbreak, I continued to create this ideal in my brain, like my own private Pleasantville.  Due to this erroneous train of thought, when conflicts popped up in relationships, I would immediately wonder if that person is right for me.

He and I are fighting- this must mean we are fundamentally incompatible. Time to break up.

No wonder I’m still single at 31.

Now that I’m older, and somewhat wiser, I have realized that “perfection” does not exist. There are no perfect people, perfect relationships, or perfect anythings, no matter what society likes to tell us via rom-coms, Hallmark commercials, and beauty magazines. People, myself included, are so focused on finding what is perfect, that they are missing the beautifully imperfect things, and people, right in front of them.  Clinging to the concept of perfection is tragic defense mechanism that allows a person to justify surrounding him or herself with chasms of emotional distance.  Perfection does not exist.  Period.  The sooner that someone comes to terms with that, the better off he or she will be.

If there is no perfection, it stands to reason that there is no Destination of Happiness.  A Destination of Happiness is the notion that happiness is only reachable if certain things come to pass.

If I could just get that job/house/baby/car/husband/wife/etc, I will finally be happy.

How many of us have had that conversation with ourselves? How many people are always looking for that one thing that will fix their lives and finally make them happy? I know I am completely guilty of this. I thought that when I found the perfect man and had my perfect relationship, I would finally be happy.  It would be what “completed” me.

(Fuck you, Jerry Maguire)  

Except happiness is not a destination.  Life has constant ebbs and flows that bring peaks of happiness followed by canyons of sorrow. That sums up my entire experience in 2013. Up, down, up, down, like a psychotic yo-yo. When I stumbled down the deepest ravine of my life four months ago, I wasn’t sure how I was ever going to climb out of it. I’m pleased to report that I am slowly making my way out of the darkness and feel like I have some decent footing on my climb up.  But it hasn’t been an easy ascent and I still have a ways to go.  Even when I reach the top, it won’t be a Destination of Happiness.  Something will bring sadness or anger, unhappiness or fear.  That isn’t pessimism speaking, that’s the reality of life.

With no Perfection and no Destination of Happiness, what is life about, anyway? Well, life is about whatever you make it to be. If one constantly looks forward to finding the next best thing, or maintains the mindset that if only he had this, or she had that, then life is going to be a constant battle.  But if one can discover happiness in what one has now, then he or she will have the ability to find happiness no matter what life brings.  The truth about life is that you can plan and prepare and think that you have everything under control, but you don’t. So focus on the now, on what brings you joy, and let that soak into your pores and your cells and the deepest parts of your being. Live with that, and you can live with anything.

If there is no Perfection and no Destination of Happiness, what does that mean for relationships and finding love?  The fact of the matter is this: sometimes relationships are easy, and sometimes they are hard. Relationships require work and sacrifice. There will be times when your partner frustrates or angers you. There will be times when you wish they would just shut up. There will be days when he doesn’t pick up his dirty laundry or leaves the toilet seat up.  There will be days when she doesn’t want to watch another football game or would rather marathon Netflix than learn to sleep in a tent.

But there will also be other days, days when he bring you donuts at work, and she makes your bed, and he rubs your feet, and she scrubs out your stained dirty wine glasses.

And those are the moments you realize that your partner is pretty amazing.

I had a conversation yesterday about sacrifices in relationships, and how do you reach that balance where you aren’t giving up too much of yourself, but doing enough to sustain a healthy partnership. It can be a difficult dance trying to figure out where to draw that line. But at the end of the day, I think that if two people care for each other, then

whatever you give up should be worth less to you than the person you are with.

For example, let’s say you are an avid snowboarder. You love it so much you would do it daily. But if you get married with kids, you don’t have that same kind of freedom to drive off to the mountain on a whim.  So what do you love more- your wife and kids, or the freedom to snowboard whenever you want?

Another example. Let’s say you are a blogger and use that outlet to process your emotions. You love to write about whatever you want whenever you want, but your partner does not like your dirty laundry aired on the interwebs, no matter how anonymous it may be. What do you love more- your partner, or your freedom to write?

There is a disclaimer in all of this, being that if the person in your life is asking you to give up and change everything about yourself, that is plain unhealthy and you should run for the hills. However, if that is not the case, then you should ask yourself if the requests and sacrifices are reasonable and worth it.  I know that I am willing to give up or change some of the things I enjoy for the right person. It’s not perfect, but you know what? I’m okay with that, because

there is no such thing as perfect.

It is scary to make big changes. It is scary to give up things and make decisions and sacrifices. It is scary to let someone on and be vulnerable.

But you have to want it more than you are afraid of it.

So, ask yourself these questions:

What is it that I really want? What is it that I am willing to give up? What does my heart say?

Only you can answer those questions.  Take your time and do it right.  These are some of the most important decisions you will ever make.  As you think it through, make sure to drop Perfection and the Destination of Happiness.  If you don’t, you might as well just stick your head up your arse, because you are setting yourself up for a really crappy future.

Pun intended.

Until next time ~ B

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At The Intersection of Real Life and Dreams

“Dreams are lies.  A waste of precious thoughts.”

I read that recently.  I wish I could remember the source.   All I know is that I did not come up with it myself, so I give credit to the person who did.

That line has been on my mind quite often these days.  As I find myself at 31 years of age, single and childless, I am beginning to realize that I must come to terms with the reality that life has no guarantees.  This means that I need to start imagining a different kind of future.  One that does not involve a family.

Lest you think I have given up, dear reader, I will assure you that is not the case.  I have not given up on what I want.   Rather, I feel that it is disingenuous to go forth with the mindset that I will have the family I so dearly want someday.  The sad, unfortunate truth about the universe is that it owes us nothing.  The world does not stop turning when a heart breaks, or a child dies, or any other devastating event occurs.   Life swiftly marches forward, and if we don’t keep up, it will leave us in the dust.  It will do this no matter how desperately we want to grasp the clock and turn back the hands of time in an attempt to change the outcomes of our present.

I have been trying to imagine what my life could look like without a husband and children, and in doing so, I have had to ask myself the question of: “What makes me happy now, and what would make me happy in the future?”  I brought this up in counseling today, and my therapist agreed that I am doing the right thing by imaging different possibilities for my future.  She even straight up said: “Life has no guarantees.”

This brings me back to the opening line.   “Dreams are lies.  A waste of precious thoughts.”  The heartbroken cynic in me agrees with this 100%.  Why waste your brain space on dreams when the randomness of life will hit you with unpredictable events at a moment’s notice?  Why bother to plan for a future that may never come to pass?  It’s easy to dive into a sea of negativity and float out in its water like a sad, pale bitter melon.   Are dreams just lies we tell ourselves about the future to make the present seem more bearable?   When we think about future possibilities, are we just deluding ourselves into imaging a life that may never come to pass?  The only thing certain about life is its unpredictability, so perhaps dreams really are just a waste of precious thoughts.

Ugh.

The truth is, that is even too dark and depressing for me.  I may be a sad, pale bitter melon, but I want to hold on to whatever shred of hope remains in my psyche.  I want to hold on to the dream that someday, tacked onto my refrigerator, will be the picture of me, hubby, and  baby.

But in order for me to set a foundation for a healthy future, I cannot bank my entire life on that image.  I have to make room for other ideas of happiness.  Maybe I will never be a mom, but I could volunteer with kids.  I may never have a honeymoon, but I can travel to amazing places anyway.  I can try new things and surround myself with wonderful people and work towards making peace with that version of life.

Because when you are 31, single, childless, and female, you must make room for the possibility of a different kind of happiness.  Especially when you self-sabotage relationships.  I had to admit out loud today that I may end up alone, because if I don’t come to terms with that now, it will be all the more devastating to try and come to terms with that at 41, single, childless, and female.

Despite all of that, the deeper truth is that I am a fool for love, and will never stop looking or trying.  I may end up doing this my entire life, being a sort of Johnny Castaway of love, hanging out on my island alone, just waiting for that opportunity to come along.  I’ll dodge falling coconuts and hum loudly, and fall asleep just as the cruise ship sails by.

However, as I sit on my lonely island of one, I can’t help but wonder if maybe the question shouldn’t be “what else would make me happy” but rather “what is worth fighting for?”  At this point, I’m not sure what to fight for anymore.  I was recently in a relationship with a man who made me laugh every day, until things went to hell after I got pregnant.  At this point, I just wish he were around to make me laugh again.  Is that worth fighting for?

I have a hard time coming to terms with the fact that despite planning on being a family, we didn’t know each other very well.  I heard that from him and from others.  “How could it have been love?  You didn’t know each other,” one person told me.

So, how do I reconcile the concept of us not knowing each other with the connection that I can’t seem to shake?  Is that just the silly, rom-com loving, hopeless romantic dreamer inside of me, lying to myself?  Do I just need to resign myself to the reality that I made that connection up in my mind, and let it go?  Is this the desperate, lonely, 31 single childless female inside of me that doesn’t want to end up alone?

Or, is it something worth fighting for?  Because the truth is, he is a good man.  If he reads this, I’m sure he is shaking his head back and forth in disagreement.  He stood by me during pregnancy, and only left when it all became too much- the grief, me pushing him away, his old demons… I know how overwhelming it was for me, so I can only imagine how overwhelming it was for him.  And so I stand by my assertion.  Nothing will ever convince me otherwise.   He is a good man, and he is someone worth fighting for.  It may not be me who does the fighting, but that won’t be because I didn’t want to, or because he doesn’t deserve it.  The reasons will be entirely different, and much like my behavior during pregnancy, will be all about me, and nothing to do with him.

Only time will tell what I end up fighting for, and what my happy ending will look like.  I do know this: I will continue to dream, and allow myself to utilize my precious thoughts on the idea of a happy future, no matter what comes to pass.  Life may have no guarantees, and the universe may be moving forward without care or compassion, but that doesn’t mean I have to give up hope.  It doesn’t mean I have to stop fighting, because I may not be fighting for love, but I will at least be fighting for myself.

Until next time ~ B