Okay, I’m going to attempt to put together a cohesive narrative from some of the thoughts that have been floating willy-nilly in my head since reading Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert. I finished the book a few days ago and, as promised, I have started going back, re-reading, and highlighting those passages that particularly resonate with me.
That Elizabeth Gilbert chick knows what she’s doing. Out of the gate the first concept she writes about is something that likely resonates with all married women – did I make the right decision? And not just about marriage, but about everything. Do my expectations of love & marriage and my current reality gel with what I thought they would be? Once upon a time each one of us made a decision that altered our life path. In order to make a decision of that momentousness we also generally produce a set of expectations – the future effects of that decision.
But first there’s the decision. We are so overwhelmed with choices now that, as she writes, “many of us simply go limp from indecision.” I have certainly felt that way. Too many options. When I’m asking my hubby what he wants for dinner, or what kind of something he wants and I say you can have this, or this, or this, or this, or this – he interrupts with, “Too many options. Narrow it down for me.” Because confronted with so many options how can we possibly know which one of them will add to our lives – make us healthier, wealthier and wiser?
Once we do make a decision do we then run the risk of becoming “compulsive comparers?” As Liz says (because she and I are so tight now I call her Liz) compulsive comparers are “always measuring [their] lives against some other person’s life, secretly wondering if [they] should have taken [their] path instead.”
I’m guilty of it, as you read here. My blogging inspiration, and the object of my “life envy,” Joni, wrote that she was guilty of it as well here when she looks at the Pioneer Woman. If you are a woman who has never experienced life envy then I want to meet you because you’ll be the first (that I know of).
I’m going to re-create the following passage word for word because I think it’s huge:
All these choices and all this longing can create a weird kind of haunting in our lives – as though the ghosts of all our other, unchosen, possibilities linger forever in a shadow world around us, continuously asking, “Are you certain this is what you really wanted?”
Oh boy. That’s it. How do we look at our lives today and be content?
I’m 35. I’m married to a man who isn’t perfect but I love him anyway. I have a job that is far from perfect, and especially aggravating of late, but it’s my means for supporting my family. I have two children who are also imperfect – but they are MINE, and a part of me, and that’s the important part. I stand here today with this imperfect life and I could so easily wallow in despair for other choices I could have made – but there are no guarantees in life, you know? I could own a house on the hill, wear expensive jewelry, drive a sports car, etc, and still be absolutely miserable. You get out of life what you put into it.
Let me say that again: YOU GET OUT OF LIFE WHAT YOU PUT INTO IT.
If you are discontented and unhappy then you are likely going to get discontent and unhappiness in return. But if you take all your expectations and filter them through your present reality then you just might find you have exactly what you didn’t know you wanted.
I have a happy, loving home. I have a husband who strives to be the best he can be, who loves me, and who makes me laugh. I have two gorgeous and talented children who melt my heart every night when they choose to share my spot on the sofa with me rather than sit – anywhere – else (and we have a large sofa).
It’s all about perception – not perfection. All the other stuff – the bills, the grocery shopping, the late homework – that’s just the minor aggravations that life gives us to keep us humble.
Now, I’m going to close this missive so I can go enjoy a perfect evening with my imperfect family.
5 thoughts on “Great Expectations”
I always knew you were smart — it's one of the reasons I fell in love with you — but you're also incredibly wise. You amaze me.
I always embrace my choices. They're not always the right ones, but I try not to live with regret over the choices I didn't make. I can't go back and change them, and worrying about the what-ifs just takes too much energy. I make a conscious effort to say to myself what's done is done.Great blog post Stef!
The thing about choices is that you just never know what they'll lead to. I got married when I was 18. Not the BEST choice I could have made. BUT, I got three kids out of that deal. Again, maybe the timing of their births wasn't my best choice either (if i even had the chance to choose, which i did not for two of them). But OH to consider the path of my life WITHOUT them. It makes me sick. I gave up college. The university I dreamt of going to , I left after a year. Because I CHOSE to care for my sister after my mom left. Do I wish I'd finished then? Yes. Would I be a doctor? Probably. Would I be happy? Who knows. Not likely. And would i have had the distinct privilege of watching my sister grow into a woman? No. And I wouldn't trade that for any degree. Could I wallow in my student loans and regret? Sure. But I won't.Because I'm healthy and I'm loved and I'm lucky.And I think, like you, most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be…
Great post Stef. Made me think about a condition that's growing more and more these days. The choices we have everyday now are 10 fold from our grandparents had. Everyday we have to make hundreds of choices if not more. I think that it spills over it many areas of our lives as well. Because we now feel that there is so much out there we are compelled to multi task. I see this everyday in employee's and coworkers. Good to ok at many things but a master of nothing. Just focusing on 1 thing at a time will cause your world to collapse. And your right it's all about perception. I feel life is 10% of what actually happens& 90% of how you perceive it. Great post, made me think.
Thanks Ryan! I think we often lose sight of the big picture when we are embroiled in our daily chaotic lives. It's important, though, to keep that perspective and understand where we all fit in and how we can make a difference in the choices we make. Things like the earthquake & tsunami in Japan really drive that concept home. Thanks for reading. Glad to know there is a man, besides my husband, reading. I'll have to make an effort to make my posts more guy-friendly! 😉