There we were, all 25 of us, standing in my friend’s driveway, shivering in the cold November air, waiting for the firetrucks to arrive as acrid smoke billowed out of her basement furnace. The crowd–consisting of kids, adults and two dogs–amicably talked and joked while eating cheese cubes and crackers out of the hatchback of someone’s car. Meanwhile, the hostess was expertly navigating the art of throwing a massive Friendsgiving event while evacuating all her guests during a moment of unexpected surprise. And to top it all of, her husband had raced off earlier to be with a loved one who had a medical emergency, leaving her to handle this “minor snafu” alone. This wasn’t what she bargained for.
I watched in admiration as she marched up the driveway in her apron and down coat to meet the firefighters and take charge of the situation. She never lost her cool or showed any sign of despair. She problem-solved and shut down the furnace, called the repair man, and aired out the house. After the firefighters cleared us to go back in, she never missed a beat in heating all the food and continuing the festivities as we sat around the kitchen table with parkas on and the heat off (awaiting repair) and the doors flung wide open for maximum ventilation.
The party continued until late in the evening. The repair man eventually showed up and the heat was restored. The jackets were shed and the post-dinner games ensued. Her husband returned and fun was had by all. In fact, the Friendsgiving dinner that seemed so doomed turned out to be the most unforgettable and festive one in history. In the heat of the moment, my friend might have crumbled, but instead, she let go of perfection and embraced the moment that was. Bravo, mama. I bow down to you.
This whole scenario was so incredibly fitting because I had just taught a mindfulness class earlier that day with the theme “perfectly imperfect”. This small group of women, who I have become so incredibly fond of, sat around a table sharing stories of our life events that didn’t quite turn out as expected. We all agreed that those disastrous moments were the ones that were the most memorable. We exchanged stories of birds pooping on a wedding dress, of being proposed to in a parking lot, of cooking Thanksgiving dinner in a microwave and toaster oven, and of professional photos being enlivened by screaming, crying, hysterical babies.
I shared with them a quote from my favorite mindfulness book, Present Over Perfect, by Shauna Niequist:
It’s about learning to show up and let ourselves be seen just as we are, massively imperfect and weak and wild and flawed in a thousand ways, but still worth loving. It’s about realizing that what makes our lives meaningful is not what we accomplish, but how deeply and honestly we connect with the people in our lives, how wholly we give ourselves to the making of a better world, through kindness and courage.
Let’s face it, life is messy. It throws you curve balls when you’re least expecting it. It gives you chapters and moments in your journey that you never thought you’d experience. But I still subscribe to that old adage: When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. We can choose to be a victim in our lives, or we can ask ourselves, “what is this moment trying to teach me? What is the lesson here?” and if all else fails and you feel like crying ….. throw your hands up in the air and ask, “What’s funny about this?”
I have endless stories about how life turned out WAY different than I expected. I love looking back on those memorable times of trial, tribulation, and challenge and see how I handled it and modeled lessons for my kids. I hope that in most cases it was similar to the way my friend handled her furnace failure: with shrug, a smile and a resignation that life is not perfect. And if you muddle through the mess, you see the beauty of it on the other side.
As an example, I submit to you the above series of photos that we chose to place on our 2005 Christmas card, highlighting the difficulty of taking a “perfect” family photo with 18 month old triplets. It was our most beloved and well-received card ever. What could we say? Life was hard raising three toddlers at once. This is us. Beautiful and disorganized, frazzled and sleep deprived. But I wouldn’t change it for a second.
In closing, I leave you with one final quote from Shauna’s aforementioned book:
Sink deeply into the world as it stands…This world, just as it is. This is the good stuff. This is the best stuff there is. Perfect has nothing on truly, completely, wide-opened, open-souled present.
So as we head into the future moments of our lives, I ask you: how can you embrace the perfect imperfections in your life? Can you find the beauty in the present moment, no matter how messy, scary or ugly as it may seem? Look for connection and meaning instead, as that is where value and love resides.
* If you’ve enjoyed reading my blog and want to hear more about the various mindful coaching groups I have ongoing, then join my Facebook group, Intentional Living https://www.facebook.com/groups/458760348205548/?ref=bookmarks
and like my business page: Live Your Best Life https://www.facebook.com/JennyLaBonteMD/