My teenage cousin Jenny could hardly contain her excitement as she shouted down the phone, “I got the job!”
I was happy too, ‘cos when she’s happy I'm happy – well that's what love is isn't it?
Her excitement reminded me of when I did a week’s silent retreat.
We didn’t talk to anyone for the week except for our spiritual director.
My spiritual director was a kindly, wise, down-to-earth nun of at least 80 who wrote with a Jockey underwear pen!
I would burst in to see her all excited about some insight I'd had, or to tell her that a white dove had flown into my room yet she remained grounded, calm and open.
She knew life wasn’t about hype and the feeling of the moment, because hype falls to the ground and feelings change moment by moment depending on the news.
I thought of that nun as I listened to my cousin overjoyed at landing a great job - what Jenny didn’t say, but what I guess she was imagining was her “happily ever after.”
It goes something like this …
“I've just landed the perfect job with a great boss and awesome workmates.”
I've already got the perfect man, so one day, after an impossibly romantic proposal in front of my jealous friends, we’ll have the perfect wedding in perfect weather which will begin our perfect marriage.
We’ll have an expensive overseas honeymoon with joyous locals who share our newly married delight and in two years we’ll start having perfect babies who will sleep through the night as soon as we bring them home and always eat everything healthy put in front of them.
My life is going to get better and better!
I'll collect more and more amazing friends, we will have barbeques every night of summer on the deck of our perfect house with the three car garage and the perfect height picket fence.
I will enjoy perfect health and live a wonderful life with any tears of sorrow far outweighed by tears of joy.
As I age gracefully, my husband and I will hold hands as we walk around the neighborhood until one sunny day surrounded by everyone I love around my bedside I pass on peacefully with a hint of a smile on my face.
My funeral will be standing room only, packed with broken-hearted people wiping away tears of regret because they didn’t tell me they loved me more often when they had the chance ...”
That's what happens when you're in your late teens and still see the world through rose-colored glasses!
And it shouldn't be any other way.
The young should be full of hope and we should do what we can to create a wonderful life, but what actually happens is;
“Things … come together and they fall apart.
Then they come together and fall apart again.”
Fast forward a few years and the “perfect life” looks like this:
“The perfect job wasn’t so perfect - the boss certainly wasn’t - so you end up leaving the first one and after another two or three roles you finally do land a great job with high pay, flexible hours and great health insurance including dental.
Great, the job is sorted.
Yes everyone deserves a romantic proposal, but a wedding does not a marriage make.
You and your husband are drifting apart and you can't seem to get him to open up and communicate.
Maybe he's having a mid-life crisis, maybe he's distracted by the flirty young blonde who’s moved in down the street, or maybe it's because he’s dealing with the loss of his Dad and working hard to keep the “Frank Sr & Jr Plumbing” business they built together on track without Frank Sr.
A year on, you and your hubby have reconnected, but your eldest has joyfully informed you both that he’s dropping out of school to be street artist.
He's spotted a gap in the market – mime is going to be his “thing.”
There's tension at home because your plumber husband can't seem to relate to his artistic child, while your supremely optimistic son happily suggests, “Don't worry Mom, money is overrated!” before your son casually informs you that his dog needs $4,000 of hip surgery or he will have to be put to sleep.
Your high-paying perfect job with flexible hours and great medical disappeared in the recession, your new job is very fulfilling, but working with high-needs kids after school doesn't pay so much and a $4,000 vet’s bill is really going to put a dent in your son’s college fund, but then if he’s going to be a mime …”
You get the picture!
While some things are coming together, other things are falling apart.
I don't think we really mature until at least 40, because by then we will have been touched, humbled and made real by having gone at least one round with death, sickness or divorce.
So if you can keep two or three plates spinning in the air for a decent length of time you're doing real well.
I am a planner, and my life has never gone the way I plan.
Like today; I had 3 tasks to do - when I wrote them out this morning they didn’t look too difficult or seem like they'd take too long.
Then “reality” intruded.
Writing this post was Task # 1, and I'm barely going to get this finished by this evening – so I'm 1 from 3 today!
So what's the point of it all if we don't get the perfect life we hope for and probably feel entitled to?
I know a guy who has just lost his Dad.
His Dad had a difficult childhood, compensated for that by being a workaholic and earnt plenty of money but had recently gone through a divorce and been feeling down since then.
In the months before he passed by his own hand, he asked everyone he met some variation of the question, “Are you happy? / What makes you happy?”
Sadly, I guess he didn’t find his answer.
But I think he was asking the wrong question.
I don't believe the point of life is to be happy.
I've spent years of my life unhappy.
Were those wasted years of a wasted life?
Not if the question is, “did I grow during those years?”
So when your life falls apart, don't be surprised or unhappy.
No one, young or old, rich or poor, high or mighty, is spared suffering.
The Kardashians are amongst the wealthiest people in the USA.
And thankfully for the purpose of proving this point, their life is an “open book” / Reality TV show.
Are they free from suffering?
Free from heartbreak, death, divorce or cancer?
So the next time your life falls apart, don't ask, “why me?” ask, “how can I grow from this?”
Then your life, in the midst of suffering, can still be worth living.
Peace & Love.