One year for Christmas, a friend gave me a bookmark with the saying, “Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be wonderful.”
And it’s a mantra I’ve taken to heart over the years, although that perfectionism still creeps back in every now and again.
For a long time, it seems like I was just waiting for the perfect thing to happen in my life for me to be happy. I waited on a boyfriend and later a husband. But being married alone didn’t solve my “perfect happiness” problems.
So, I waited some more. I was sure that having a house and those 2.5 kids everyone talks about would make me happy. But parenting is tough too. I thought to myself when Grace got bigger and didn’t need my constant attention that I would be happy.
And then we found out Grace was sick with a terminal illness that has no cure and is fatal 100 percent of the time. Somehow that “perfect” life I had always waited for would find no happy ending.
So, instead of waiting for the storm to pass, I learned to “dance in the rain.”
It’s been tough. But no more do I measure life with perfect expectations. If the dinner I spent weeks planning doesn’t come out just right, then we find a way to laugh about it and order pizza.
If things don’t get done around the house in the time I intend or the way I expect them to, I work hard to be grateful they got done anyways.
But those feelings are a long time in coming, and I still find myself trying to shove off that need for “perfectionism” every now and then.
This year, it came during the holiday season. Last year, Grace spent more than half of December in the hospital, and we were lucky to get a Christmas tree up. But with a slower pace of life in the pandemic, we started decorating early in November, and three-year-old Charley loved every decoration we got out.
However, after I carefully placed each ornament or figure where I wanted it, she felt the need to move it and put it somewhere else. I was constantly telling her to be careful and not to break things.
One night, after the halo broke off an angel in my nativity scene, she looked up at me, eyes filled with tears and asked if I needed to get a new Charley.
I told her of course not, and we sat down together and figured out a way to fix the angel. She went right back to playing with the nativity scene, and telling the wise men about the night Charley was born. Next year, we might have to work on our Christmas story some.
We lost a few ornaments this year to three-year-old curiosity. And I scolded her about it more times than I care to admit.
But in the end, her wonder and amazement about everything during the Christmas season reminded me once again that life doesn’t have to be perfect to be wonderful.
And that got me thinking about the nativity story. Surely Mary would have preferred to have baby Jesus somewhere other than a stable. Surely it would have been easier to be mother to the savior of the world in different circumstances. But things weren’t perfect that night, and we all have to realize that things will never be perfect.
I think the year 2020 was a great reminder that sometimes life just doesn’t turn out the way we plan. But instead of mourning that our plans didn’t turn out perfectly, I think we all learned to adapt and be grateful for the things that we do have in our lives.
And while I’m hoping 2021 is a little less messy for all of us, I know it will be wonderful no matter what comes.