I recently celebrated my 20th wedding anniversary. I wanted to surprise my husband with a post to my personal blog honoring his amazing support of my career throughout the years. But I also had a large operational plan to deliver to senior management that same day. I planned ahead and wrote a draft well in advance. I edited painstakingly to the point I thought it was close. I really wanted to get this one just right but it needed more than editing. For my writing to reflect me, I have learned I need something even more difficult to find in the hustle of a two career, three children household: a quiet place in my mind where I gain clarity. I need to remove the clutter of other distractions and priorities. Then when I write, I just follow where my thoughts take me.
With the looming deadline, I couldn’t find this place until the weekend after our anniversary. As I published the finished post to my facebook profile, I shared why this anniversary announcement was two days late. I get that rather misses the point of instant updates which I have never been quite able to fully embrace anyway, being a more contemplative type. In my status, I wrote I learned over the last 20 years that sometime close is good enough.
I thought about this more in the days that followed because it is a theme that resonates with me. This summer I visited a dear friend, Cindy, who lives in Holland. We are pictured here with our two youngest. I used to live there and miss the day to day contact. But since I moved back to the US, we have grown our friendship by making do with what was available to us and cherishing the times we can be together. She has four young sons and a career helping with third world development. She asked while I was there how I found time to write. I told her it wasn’t easy but I committed to starting and then made it a priority.
She is an amazing cook. My family reveled in her creatively cooked meals. She has a broad range from her travels to the far flung parts of the world. When we got back home, my eldest asked with the teenage tone he has recently perfected, “Why can’t you do home cooking every night like Cindy does?” So many responses flashed through my brain – “Why can’t you be the child you were, before you reached your teen years, who thought everything I did was perfect? Why do you have such a sense of entitlement? Why can’t you see how hard I am trying to make this all work - -but there are limits child?”
Instead, I answered honestly and directly. “Given my current work obligations, I can’t cook for you all as much as you or I would like. I have to make hard choices about how I spend my time and right now that has not been my priority.” He nodded and walked off. In truth, it stung. I want to be that perfect mom who makes the home a wonderfully welcoming place.
I am not. I love to cook and am even working on a cookbook with my middle son. But I don't do it every day. My schedule often has me home later so I can cover the mornings. These are the tradeoffs we make now. But I was glad he shared that it was important to him. Knowing that gives me an opportunity to adjust and juggle so we can have home cooked meals more often. I was also glad to hear how much he enjoyed being with my friend and her family.
I know Cindy loves cooking for her family and made it one of her priorities. She finds there are other things she can’t do because of it, like write as I do. But I found making “good enough” good is not just about making those types of trade-offs. I also need to accept I am not super human and I will not be able to do everything those I care about want me to do. Once I make a choice, I need be okay with it instead of letting doubt and guilt sneak in and take away my ability to revel in the messiness, joy and exploration inherent in this type of juggling. And as was the case here, I need to remain open and adjust so I continue to do right for myself and my family as things constantly evolve.
What I know deep down, “good enough” to maintain balance is not settling for less. Within the context of these important competing priorities, it is just GOOD. I am not able hang on to that everyday yet but I am getting closer. . .I expect this will be a lifelong endeavor.
I would be interested to hear others experiences in moving “good enough” to GOOD.