Life is like…

IMG_2531With all due respect to Forrest Gump, I don’t believe that life is really like a box of chocolates.  Personally, I believe that everyday life is actually far more like doing laundry.  Because no matter how many loads I wash, I know there’s always going to be more that needs to be done.  I never get to the point where I can say, “That’s it!  I washed, dried, folded, and put away all those clothes, and now I’ll never have to do laundry again!”  Doing the laundry is an ongoing process, which makes it very much like so much of the rest of my life.

For instance, when it comes to home and yard maintenance, we no sooner complete one project than we are faced with another.  We repaired out driveway last week, which means it’s time to replace our garage door and dig up three dead bushes.  And at the Animal Shelter where I volunteer, no matter how many dogs I walk and am thrilled to see get adopted into their forever home, there are always more dogs coming in that need to be walked and cared for until it’s their turn to be adopted.  Just like the laundry, it’s a never-ending cycle.

Even when I think something is coming to an end, I often find out that it isn’t.  I went to the doctor yesterday for what I thought was the final check up on the varicose vein treatment on my right leg, so I was surprised when he strolled into the examining room bearing a tray of syringes.  Apparently, I needed another treatment for minor veins, so here I sit in my support hose for another week.  (They look so fashionable when worn with summer shorts and dresses.)  When I was leaving, he asked if I wanted to do the next treatment in six weeks or wait until Fall, when he’s going to laser the varicose vein in my left leg.  And so the fun continues….

Just like laundry, life presents us with both loads that are light and loads that are heavy, and we have no choice but to handle them all.  And just like when we do laundry, sometimes we are successful (“I got the stain out!”) and sometimes we fail (“That stain is permanent!”).  Occasionally, we do something stupid (such as running a new wool sweater through both the washing machine and the dryer), and all we can do is forgive ourselves and move on, hoping we manage to handle things better the next time.

I honestly believe that few things in life are a matter of “one and done,” and that a big part of success stems from our willingness to just keep plugging away to the best of our abilities.  And it helps to remember that it’s not just the bad stuff, or even the everyday mundane stuff, that keeps on coming, but the good stuff as well.  We will always have something to celebrate and be grateful for, if we are willing to look for it

I could say more, but I think I’ve made my point.  Also, I’ve got to go throw another load of laundry in.

The Greatest Gift

I don’t know about you, but I have yet to meet anyone who is perfect, or even close to being perfect.  Everyone I know, even the people I love the most, have areas where I honestly feel they could use some serious improvement.  An sometimes it’s so tempting to tell people just exactly what they should be doing to improve their life, and to lay out a few convenient steps they should follow in order to fulfill their potential or simply live a happier, more productive life.  Thankfully, I usually try to resist that temptation.  (Although I suspect both my son and daughter could present lots of evidence to the contrary on that one.)

I think when we care about someone, it’s only natural to want to step in and “fix” what we see to be the flaws that are holding them back.  We might have a tremendous respect for our coworker’s work ethic, but think that his political views need to be corrected.  We might have a friend who struggles with her weight, and think we’re helping if we tell her how often she should be exercising and exactly what she should be eating.  Often, the better we know someone, and the more we care about them, the stronger our urge is to set them on “the right path.”  The problem is, despite our good intentions, we’re usually not helping at all.

Too often, what we’re really doing is trying to “help” the people we know become the kind of people we want them to be.  And if we’re honest, that usually means we’re trying to shape them into becoming more like us.  

As an avid reader, it bothers me to see my husband sitting on the couch in the evening, watching “The Karate Kid” for the umpteenth time.  How can he waste his time on that drivel, when we’ve got four bookshelves in the house just loaded with great books waiting to be read?  So from time to time,  I “helpfully” suggest a book that I think he’d like, and he accepts it politely and puts it on his dresser to read “when he gets the time.”  (The last time I checked, he’s got quite the stack going.)  But seriously, if watching a movie he enjoys helps him relax after a hard day at the office, why do I insist on trying to make him read?   Obviously, because reading a book relaxes me.

The simple truth is that it’s not our place to insist that other people think, believe, or act just the way we do.  They are allowed to form their own opinions, have their own preferences and yes, even their own flaws.  Unless they have actually asked for help, they don’t need us, or want us, to change them.  Rather, they need us to accept them and love them just the way they are.  Which is exactly how I want people to accept me and my many, many flaws.

I have come to believe that accepting people for who they really are is actually the nicest gift we can give anyone.  It gives them the confidence and freedom they need to let their own best self shine through, and what could be nicer than that?