Learning to Love the Messy Realities of Life

by Don Smith

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Everyone else is at the beach, why am I not there?
Flipping through my Facebook feed, I am amazed at how well all my friends are apparently doing.  There is Bob and Melanie, celebrating their 10th anniversary on a beautiful beach.  Melissa is posting about how her daughter just got straight A's this quarter and her dance team will be performing at Nationals this weekend.  Don is posting about his vacation to the Dells and how much fun it was doing that rather than gifts for Christmas.  Sally has a new love who apparently walks on water and could teach Jesus a few lessons about how to lead a perfect life.  Ahh…how sweet.  Good for them!
Just then, I gradually started becoming aware of an argument crescendoing to a fevered pitch in the next room.  “Why should I help pick up, you never help me!!!”  My youngest daughter comes stomping out of her room, screaming that she won't help pick up because her sister keeps throwing her clothes back out when she puts them away and isn't helping.  Hot on her heels, her sister is yelling that she isn't listening and is just shoving clothes everywhere and making a mess.
With a deep sigh, I put down my phone filled with wonderful friends doing amazing things, and came abruptly back to to the messy reality of my own life unfolding in front of me.

That's real life isn't it?  
Where is the perfect spouse and family in your own life that you see on all your friends Facebook pages? 
Happy boy - this is what life is supposed to look like, right?
This is what little boys are supposed to look like, right?
What do we need to change to make our life look like those pictures?
I'm going to let you in on a little secret.  Perfect lives only exists in stories, on Facebook, and in high dollar advertising that would lead you to believe that you too can have it, if you'll only buy their products.
An amazing woman once told me the formula for disappointment.  

Expectations – Reality = Disappointment 

That formula has stuck with me over the years because it is so true.  Any time I find myself getting angry, it is almost invariably because reality did not line up with my expectations.
Am I saying that you should just get rid of all your expectations and give up because it will never get better?  Should you stop cleaning, stop bathing, and just let everyone else walk all over you and do whatever they want because it doesn't matter anyway?  
No, that is not at all what I'm saying.
I believe that trying to improve your situation is a good thing.
Giving positive constructive feedback to others is a good thing.
Building your expectations up to expect the perfect life you see in the movies and on Facebook?  That's a recipe for disappointment.
Give yourself some grace to accept what is, in all the messiness of life.  Learn to appreciate the good things and stop dwelling on the bad. Look for your own Facebook moments.  They are there, even if only for the split second it takes to get the picture before chaos reigns once more.  Actively look for ways to bring joy to others – in case you didn't already know, joy is contagious and you may find yourself catching it later.  Appreciate what you have, for if you are privileged enough to be reading this article, it is much more than many others have.
Personally I've found much joy in choosing to look for the good moments and being thankful for them when they come.  A smile from my daughter, a glimmer of hope that my kids have finally learned manners, a spontaneous hug, a kiss from my wife.  Those are the things in life that really matter.
While I do take steps to try and reduce and avoid the bad things in life whenever possible, I don't fixate on them or actively seek them out.  I've learned to love the messiness of life because it makes me appreciate the good moments that much more.  I've learned to dance and find joy in the rain.  Will you join me?

About the Author 

Don Smith

Happily married with five kids, Smith owns a technology company, is the founder of this site, has served on the board of directors for multiple companies, and loves playing soccer, hiking, and mentoring.

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