by Jen Perry
Ahhh, the holidays and its food, family, and friends. A beautifully laid out table, happy children, civil and perhaps even engaging conversation. We all have a perfect Hallmarkworthy picture of it floating around inside our mind. Can you conjure up yours? I know I have one: my great aunt’s lovely antique china, candlelight, gracious conversation about all that we are thankful for.
The challenge with our idealized images is that reality often just can’t live up to them. Our human minds make it truly impossible. Whether gleaned from hazy memories of yesteryear or from yearnings in our hearts for just how it could be, these are fantasies. You see, if we have ideas about the perfect day or perfect dinner (or perfect partner, or perfect parent, child, job, or . . . really the applications are endless), then our minds act like a scanner constantly searching the situation for things that need to be fixed, done, changed, or otherwise wrestled into the idealized image. It’s exhausting. Out of the myriad of details before us, it takes just one to “ruin it.” One child’s temper tantrum, one sharp word from a loved one, one burnt pie ~ you get the picture. And THAT is actually where the freedom lies.
Try this: take your most precious, perfect picture and allow life to happen to it. You may find the results difficult or you may find them hilarious. In my case, that antique table I mentioned? Well, it literally collapsed mid-meal this Thanksgiving with no warning.
The carefully prepared meal, well maintained china, flowers and candlelight, glasses of wine and cider, and all the silverware came crashing to the floor. A child howling, guests staring in disbelief, and one alert responder racing around as if the torn photo could be repaired.
2015 is now a year for the history books in my family. Fortunately, we can laugh about this one.
One of my favorite sayings is: “Peace: It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble, or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart.” I encourage you to take your picture perfect image and your idealism and let life, or gravity, have its way with it. Holding onto our perfectionism, scanning life, real life, for all the ways in which it doesn’t measure up, is not a peaceful or present way to live. These perfect pictures we hold up – of a holiday, a spouse, the future, a child, even our very selves – they block us from seeing the real moments and people before us as they are in all their imperfect splendor. The relief after the surprise of it all falling apart is pure, pure magic. And a gift: the gift of a broken table, a broken picture of perfection is a gift of presence and peace with what is.
Jen Perry, MSEd, MA, LPC is a licensed professional counselor and peaceful parenting coach. She teaches mindfulness and self-compassion to people wanting more peace and calm in their hearts. Her next 6 week class offering, Beginner’s Mindfulness, starts January 11, 2016. Space is limited to 6 so reserve your spot today by calling 215-292-5056 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.