The other day, we got a reader comment that made me think…
“I read all these beautiful things here and feel inspired to be, especially, a better mom,” a reader named Stem commented on the post 15 CoJ Posts That Made Me Cry. “But then I get home and fall into the same patterns: going through the to-do list and talking with my preteen who can be a bit surly (but still sometimes wants to sit on my lap, thankfully) and trying to get even slightly nutritious food into aforementioned child. A lot of days, I don’t have the energy to swim upstream. I’m grateful for all the CoJ ideas, though, and hope that they will help me get closer to living a life that feels whole. Someday!”
Her comment struck me, and I immediately wrote back:
“Oh, Stem, you sound like you’re doing an amazing job during a hard chapter of life. Almost all the posts featured here are about tough times that people got through — definitely a mix of hard and bright experiences. That’s what life is all about. I can tell you right now that Toby has hit peak teenage vibes — he has a new expression where he makes his whole face go dead while he stares directly at me lol. I write about some cheerful moments in our lives, of course, but so much happens behind the scenes — stressful days, too much work, sibling arguments, co-parenting challenges, etc., and I hope that comes through, too. I think a whole life IS one that has all those ups and downs.”
It reminds me of this quote by Hugh MacKay, which I’ve loved forever:
I actually attack the concept of happiness. The idea that — I don’t mind people being happy — but the idea that everything we do is part of the pursuit of happiness seems to me a really dangerous idea and has led to a contemporary disease in Western society, which is fear of sadness. It’s a really odd thing that we’re now seeing people saying, ‘write down three things that made you happy today before you go to sleep’ and ‘cheer up’ and ‘happiness is our birthright’ and so on. We’re kind of teaching our kids that happiness is the default position. It’s rubbish. Wholeness is what we ought to be striving for and part of that is sadness, disappointment, frustration, failure; all of those things which make us who we are. Happiness and victory and fulfillment are nice little things that also happen to us, but they don’t teach us much. Everyone says we grow through pain and then as soon as they experience pain they say, ‘Quick! Move on! Cheer up!’ I’d like just for a year to have a moratorium on the word ‘happiness’ and to replace it with the word ‘wholeness.’ Ask yourself, ‘Is this contributing to my wholeness?’ and if you’re having a bad day, it is.
I’m curious to ask everyone: Do you feel that way? How do you think about the concept of ‘a whole life’? We’ve all had different chapters in life, some easy-breezy and some hard to bear. What advice has helped you through hard times?
Regarding surly preteens, here’s a funny exchange I had with 10-year-old Anton. Sometimes I’ll get schmoopy with my children at bedtime, and the other night, I was telling Anton how much I love him…
Me: I love you when we’re laughing; I love you when I’m mad at you. I love you when we’re together; I love you when you’re at school. I love you when you’re asleep; I love you when I’m asleep.
Anton: (thinking it over) Well, I don’t really love you when I’m mad at you, I actually HATE you when I’m mad at you!
Me: …….Cool! (lol)
Babies be babies. Kids be kids. Teens be teens. Jobs be jobs. Colds be colds. To-do lists be to-do lists. Bad days be bad days. That’s all part of a whole life, a life of meaning and truth and wholeness. If you have ups and downs, you are doing a GREAT JOB, and your life is whole, you are doing it right. xoxo
How are you feeling these days? I’d love to hear. We are all on this wild journey together. xoxoxoxoxo
P.S. You are more beautiful than you think, and what’s the best advice your therapist ever told you?
(Photo by Lea Jones/Stocksy.)