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The Reality of Living in Two Realities
Lately, I’ve been thinking about realities. Like the reality that you have four pairs of fabulous jeans in the closet but you can only fit into one. Or the reality that you deeply love your children, and yet today you want to physically rip out their vocal cords if they sass you one more time. This is a complex issue—this living in two different realities—the one reflects a woman who is the best in us, and the other a woman who’s “working on it.”
Sometimes we can look at others and see their best reality. Their children are excellent students and they're not even trying. Or their finances seem to flow like endless waters and they’re not even budgeting, while your reality is scraping life together and barely making ends meet. Or view the “best reality” woman whose child seems to win all the school contests, or is the type of mom who knows exactly where her Children’s Tylenol is kept. I once attended a meeting at a woman’s home when in the middle of her sentence her adult daughter called and asked her mother how long to boil a soft-boiled egg.
And she knew.
Sometimes this can make our “working on it” reality-self feel a little stressed. I’m not going to share a happy thought here that this is actually a good thing, that seeing our striving self brings needed humility, or that it helps us feel compassion and connection with others. I’m simply making an observation about what is, and that we save time and stress (ours and others’) by openly acknowledging it.
For example, years ago our family was asked to sing in church. We chose a song about families loving and helping each other, and hoped the message would subconsciously seep into our children’s formative brains. The children’s performance was beautiful. So much so that afterward many friends approached us and expressed many kind sentiments. After thanking them, I added, “You should have seen us three hours earlier.”
Because you see, three hours before our performance, the scene in our home went like this: My husband was at a meeting, so I was the lone parent, running around checking each child’s various stages of wardrobe “readiness”. Most of them were playing with toys, or hide-and-seek with their shoes. When I called our six children down to practice the song, the older boys said something like, “This is totally preschool and I’m not doing it.” On top of that, the younger children couldn’t sit still long enough to remain in a permanent line. And due to the anxiety of it all, I kept sweating off my makeup.
The joyous high point hit when my sons finally sat down on the sofa but refused to sing at all, and I yelled at them to get up and see it through to the end, or some such motivational phrase. Yes, yelled at them, to sing a church song. A family-loving-each-other church song. That’s when I started to cry.
So you can see why, as each person thanked me and looked at me with that “Gee, what a wonderful family” gaze, I wanted to pull down a mammoth white screen and replay for them the previous three-hour tour.
This experience has stayed with me a long time (though therapy has somewhat helped). Because now when I see an obvious “best reality” in someone else, before I allow my “working-on-it” self to feel guilty, I remember a perfect song and the imperfect three-hour tour that preceded it.
And that brings me back to a reality I can live with.
[The Life is Too Short Collection is available at all Utah Costcos and on Amazon]
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