I ran through the terminal as fast as I could while pulling a carry-on behind me. The voice over the loud speaker taunted me again. “Last call for Flight 2356 to Dallas-Fort Worth.” I searched the terminal gate numbers ahead of me as I ran. Ten gates to go. I cursed myself, morning traffic, the people crowding between me and my terminal gate…and then I silently prayed.
I am late to, well, almost everything. I’ve missed more things than I care to admit – including family dinners, church on Sunday morning, the previews to most every movie I’ve ever gone to see at the theater (and the previews are kind of my favorite part)…and flights. I’m not perfect. Neither is my life.
My moderately new car smells like a mixture of Peppermint Mochas and my gym bag already. The "inexpensive" vacuum I bought six months ago has cost me twice what I paid for it at the repair shop. And I have this one friend who, every time I see her name show up on my phone, I know she’s calling to discuss the latest trauma-drama she’s got going on. I also know she’s going to ask for my advice…and not take it. Again.
I used to let things like these get to me. I’d get frustrated, disappointed, and sometimes even mad. I’m pretty sure you could a list that rivals mine. You likely have people and things that regularly have you in knots – monopolizing your time, energy, and thoughts. Stressing you out.
Ironically, those people and those things gave you fair warning. If you really think about it, you probably should have expected it, right? I mean…let's face it; I’ve been late to 75% of everything in my life. Why would I think that’s going to change? My car isn’t going to stay new or clean forever…and I do drink (and spill) a lot of Peppermint Mochas. At least it helps mask the gym bag smell. I bought a piece of crap vacuum. An expensive death was inevitable (as was a new vacuum).
Why should I be disappointed by the things I realistically should expect? The reality is that most people are consistent in their behaviors – either consistently dependable, consistently dreadful, or consistently…well… inconsistent. One example, my brother remembers my birthday a week late every year. It has nothing to do with how much he loves me. He just sucks at remembering things and still hasn’t joined the rest of us in the twenty-first century (he swore off smart phones) so there’s no app to set up reminders for him. I’ve accepted it. I don’t let it disappoint me anymore.
In life, you have to just get real about things. Expect the expected. Unrealistic expectations are a guaranteed way to crank up stress levels and your frustration.
You can expect that things will break down the day you need them most (my oven died on Thanksgiving Day. No joke.). You can expect that your three year old will use a bright red Sharpie (that you still aren’t sure how he got his hands on) to practice writing his ABCs with on your stunning "guests only" white sofa. It’s a toddler thing. That’s what they do. When I have a houseful of teens, I can expect that they will raid my fridge and my favorite snack will be MIA when I want it until I make a grocery run. I can also expect a group wrestling match in my living room floor (I have boys) and music at a decibel level that makes me glad my neighbors are half a mile away. If it’s happened before, it’s predictable and pretty realistic based on previous occurrences, so, when it happens…sit back and relax. You kinda saw it coming.
The first line of the book The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck says this: "Life is difficult." I remember reading that for the first time and thinking what a terrible way to start a book! I’m a glass-is-completely-full kind of girl, so this line irritated me a little. Okay…it irritated me a LOT. But I came to realize what Peck was trying to say is if we expect life is going to be difficult, we’ll be prepared to cope with its challenges, and be more likely to enjoy the roller coaster ride.
So, accept that problems are going to happen. Accept you’re going to miss flights, have your couch double as a white board, and get cutoff in rush hour traffic. When we take into account the predictable, when we expect life to be imperfect, when we have realistically expectations, then we train ourselves to take every collision life hits us with in stride. And when we can do that, we can exist with a higher level of happiness.
So set your expectations for perfect imperfection. This is life. There's something around every corner. Enjoy the ride.
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