Our household frequently encounters the notions of expectations, reality, and contentment with circumstances.
When my kids complain about boredom, excessive chores, exorbitant school work, and insufficient play time, I feel tempted to lecture them about their lack of gratitude, remind them how blessed they are, and instruct them how they ought to rise above minor setbacks to appreciate how relatively easy their lives are. But all too often, I can see in their complaints a reflection of my own propensity to slip into a sense of entitlement and disconnect from reality.
I have a good life. But I do get bogged down sometimes in the minutia—not to say monotony—of meals, laundry, school work, cleaning, and discipline. When the grindstone seems too oppressive, it can be tempting to retreat into my own bubble and attempt to insulate myself from the demands and cares of daily life.
All too often the computer provides this temporary escape. Online diversion can be so effortless and ubiquitous that often I don’t even realize how easily I’ve slipped into a time-wasting black hole. Trying to re-focus on the here and now—after spending way too long reading about crises and concerns far and near—can be disorienting and irritating.
I don’t want to view my responsibilities as an annoying interruption, nor do I want to set myself up to see my children as bothersome. When I become too openly exasperated at anything that drags me back to reality, I have to ask myself, is real life truly so miserable that I need to routinely escape from it? And the answer is usually a resounding, “Of course not!”
Granted, we all have bad days, and we all need downtime sometimes, but it’s not appropriate to retreat into a fantasy world as a means of avoiding coping with reality. Rather, I’d do better to confront my challenges cheerfully and pragmatically, not only to model good coping skills for my children but also for my own sanity and peace of mind.
Here are some main complaints of my reality these days, along with an optimistic outlook to drive me toward thankfulness, not distraction:
- The house is a mess—Well, at least I have a house to live in, and stuff to fill it! Too much stuff, in fact—what an opportunity to pare down possessions and share with others. Indeed, we are blessed to have such abundance.
- The kids are being too noisy—How nice that they are all healthy and bursting with energy.
- I don’t know what to cook for dinner—What a blessing to have so many choices that I feel overwhelmed with my options; most of the world is stuck with a pretty limited diet.
- I don’t want to cook dinner—How nice that I have food to cook at all, without even having to light a fire to get it.
- I’m tired of teaching and burned out with reluctant learners—Well, at least I have the freedom to teach my children at home and the flexibility to pick our own schedule. We can take the day off, go for a walk, declare it a pajama day, or do anything else we need to reset our attitudes and approach this thing afresh.
And so on. Writing it out like that can sound like a trite count-your-blessings exercise, but it really does help to put troubles into perspective.
Sometimes reading about other peoples’ problems can help me get a better handle on mine. I’ve been pondering a fascinating quote discovered recently while (finally) reading through Anna Karenina:
And the son…produced in Anna a feeling akin to disappointment. She had imagined him better than he was in reality. She had to descend into reality to enjoy him as he was.
Leaving aside the possible irony surrounding the fact that I might be finding another means of escape from my daily drudgery in a long and enthralling Russian novel, I found this quote a profound analysis of my all-too-typical outlook on my circumstances. How often am I unable to appreciate the benefits of my reality because I’ve become wrapped up in some form of daydreaming about how I want my life to be? And exactly what would this less-stressful, less demanding, ideal life of mine look like, anyway, if not the very blessed life I actually lead? Who’s to say there would be more ice cream and less whining in such a hypothetical parallel universe?
I’ll stick with my reality—I may not live a charmed life, but it’s charming enough for me.
Photo Credit: First image courtesy of iStock. Following photos courtesy of author.