Stop Trying To Have It All!

7 years ago

"I can have it all" is one of the most misbegotten notions. What is "all"? Is it supposed to be a successful and upwardly mobile professional life, an ample disposable income, a loving and richly nuanced relationship with your life partner, a fabulous and full relationship with your children, a lovely organized home, a group of supportive friends, enriching leisure time, firm thighs and a glowing future?

Oh woman, please!

Today I bring great spiritual news --

Give it up! That kind of perfection does not exist! You cannot have it all! So stop trying!

Doesn't that feel better?

Not only do many of us long to "have it all," we think something is wrong if we do not have it. We want the great job, the perfect family, the ideal love relationship, the beautiful home. We've read the books and magazines, watched the TV shows, and spent time at the video altars of self-help gurus. We have trained ourselves in all the ways we are supposed to be able to "have it all." But something seems oddly amiss.

Female office worker holding pile of paperwork, gesturing with hand

We are tired. Trying to create a whole life from so many demanding segments, each of which requires so much energy, is exhausting -- physically, emotionally and spiritually.

We feel guilty when our life-events do not have a picture-perfect resolution. We feel that we have failed, or that our spouses, children or colleagues have let us down. Or, worse yet, we feel we have let them down -- or that we have, in our weakness, not provided the right role model for other women. We strive to assemble a life where our accomplishments in every quarter are flawless.

We have to stop that. It is not only not possible; it is a sad struggle.

We seek balance for our lives in an unbalanced world. If the details of life seem to be getting the best of us, we think something is wrong.

That kind of life isn't wrong. It is just normal.

I have an 87-year-old cousin. She is one smart cookie. And she has not had an easy life. This past weekend, she was talking to me about someone she knew years ago who almost resented it when rough things happened to her. This woman recited stories about her hardships over and over through the years to anyone who would listen. Here is what my cousin Ida had to say: "It's all about the bumps."

Needless to say, I asked for details.

"Bumps ... you know ... bumps in the road. Everybody has them. Life can be hard for the luckiest among us. Everyone gets their share of bumps, some more than others. The important thing is to get over them as best you can, and let them make you a better person, not to get all upset that you had them."

Then she got quiet. We were driving along a stretch of wooded New England country road. The summer greenery was vibrant and deep. It was cool beneath the bowers of trees that arched over the country lane. Wildflowers blossomed by the side of the road. She looked out the car window with a slight smile on her face.

"See? This is what I mean. This road is a side road. It has bumps in it. But it is so much more interesting than the superhighway. It means we have to slow down, to notice things. The bumps make us notice how beautiful it is here ... Get it?"

I got it.

The irony is that when we think that we have to have it all, in our determination to get it, we end up missing so much. Having a little of everything means that we have to sacrifice the depth of something.

Look around you at the women you know personally (not just idols from afar) who you think really have good lives. My guess is that they do not fit into the "having it all" paradigm.

I have a friend who recently retired early from a job she enjoyed (as a teacher). She has two children and a husband who all love her. She is no housekeeper. Her home is a perpetual cyclone. It's clean, but a rousing mess. "Something had to give," she told me. "I can work and be an active mother, but neatness has to go by the wayside."

She has a happy life, but picture-perfect it is not. She could have been in business, as she certainly had the mind for it, but she chose to teach. First, she liked it, but also, it gave her time with her children. It also gave her plenty of time to help other people. Did she actualize her professional potential? No. But she is happy and supremely content. Don't try to tell her that she does not have it all! She isn't interested in having all of "it." She is too busy loving what she has.

We are assailed by media images of women who look as though they are managing to have everything in life. (Let's not forget that most of them also have hired help and a good public relations company!)

We need to be easier on ourselves as women. As long as we have what we need, we have enough.

Have Enough. Now there is a motto worth having.

How To Have Enough

Appreciate what you do have. If you've been hot and heavy on the road to having it all, you may have neglected to appreciate what you do have.

Try to find things/obligations/time-eaters that you can jettison.

Let go of the fantasy that "having it all" is a possible thing.

Look in your life for those relationships and experiences that bring you the most joy or satisfaction. Try to have more of them.

Make a list of the two or three things in your life that are most important. Try to live your life in alignment with those things.

Remember, you do not have to have it all, because it is not possible to attain it all. That quest is a spiritual hamster wheel. It will exhaust you while taking you nowhere. It gives only the illusion of progress.

In the best of lives, we get pieces of various wholes. No one's family is flawless; no job is perfect; no life is without room for improvement. But in a happy life, we learn to embrace the pieces, to accept that while we may end up limiting our options, we do can so with purpose and with satisfaction.

Learn from "the bumps." Have enough. Embrace the Pieces.

Be happy, my sisters, be happy. There is always something for which we can be grateful. We may not have it all, but we can treasure what we have.

Here's How Some Bloggers Are Talking about Having it All

Amy in Having It All says :

"The true test that proves my conviction that I have it all is this: There is not one person on this earth, not one other family on this earth, that I would want to trade lives with. Sure, there are some parts I'd like to switch out every now and then, but when it comes down to it, this is the life for me."

Meagan in Having Enough in a Have It All World says:

"I’m not sure who would call my business 'successful.' Let’s just say my income is not what it once was, and most of my business these days has to do with spreading jam on bread and changing poopy diapers. And, yet, somehow — by some divine good fortune — I realize that business is successful."

I laughed out loud when I read HeatherLeigh at One Louder write:

"...Having It All - I really hate that phrase. When have you heard an in-depth conversation about men 'having it all?' And so to the person that coined that phrase: either you said it in the fifties or you are kind of a jerk. Because that little phrase has made countless women feel either completely exhausted and spent, or feel like a failure. Or both."

Anna Ander in What Would Leo Do says:

"Having it all. I know there's no such thing...But here's the thing. I feel good. This has been a day full of less-than-Hallmark-moments. It has in fact been a day full of what people like to call 'real life' (why do they never say that about good things?) and I am tired and I look old and there's no chocolate in the house. But still. I feel good. I hope you do too."

~~ Contributing Editor, Mata H. also blogs right along at Time's Fool

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