I came back home after school drop of this morning feeling like a horrible mother, despite my best efforts. I imagined all the other elementary school moms and dads silently judging me for all sorts of failures: for running late yet again, for parking illegally on the narrow street, for nearly causing an accident when my daughter opened her door right in front of a passing car. Never mind that my kids don't have rain gear that fits, or backpacks that close properly. I felt the entire community looking at me, shaking its collective head.
Back at home, alone, I started to get a grip.
"Sure, maybe someone was judging you," I said to myself. "But the likelihood is that everyone else was so focused on their own life that they hardly even noticed you. Or if they did notice, maybe they breathed a silent sigh of relief that someone else was even more frazzled than they were."
The reality, of course, is that all of those critical voices live in my own head, based on my own fears and judgments stemming from who-knows-what in my past.
"What exactly do you want from me?" I asked the critical voices. And I listened as they told me all of the details of the perfect morning that I was supposed to have experienced: everyone well-rested and cooperative, filled with love and gratitude and enthusiasm for the day, every possible need anticipated and met without effort. The expectations were so high that it was ridiculous to get upset about falling short.
The truth is, the perfect morning routine -- that it would possible (or even desirable) to get it all down to a science -- is a myth. Each morning is different, right? With different energy, different expectations, different kids having gotten up in the middle of the night for different kinds of reasons.... I just don't know -- really can't know -- can't predict -- can't control -- what a particular morning will look like. Maybe I'll get to school on time, and maybe I won't. Maybe I will get up early to exercise, and maybe I won't. Maybe the kids will get along with each other, and maybe they won't. Maybe everyone will be healthy, or maybe they won't. Maybe the heat will be working, and maybe it won't. It's just impossible to know. The less I need any one of those things to be guaranteed, the more freedom I will have. Imagine if I could only be happy if all of those vectors lined up a certain way? What kind of fool's game is that?
I can see how it would be tempting to try to come up with a formula, where maybe if just 80% of things went right it would still be okay, I could still be happy. But still, that creates fear, this sense of ever-present monitoring and evaluating of whether life is "good enough." Even if I made that percentage ridiculously low, as long as there is some minimum threshold below which the morning -- and I -- am not okay, I am setting myself up for an emotional roller-coaster ride.
The only freedom from this craziness is to approach it backwards. To admit up front: I have no idea, ever, how this morning (or day, or conversation, or project) will go. But I refuse to be a slave to it. Every single thing could go wrong, and somehow I know I would be able to handle it. Because I am resilient! I don't have to be perfect to be worthy of love and happiness. And I don't need my morning to be perfect in order to love and be grateful for it.
You don't need to be perfect, either, to be worthy of any of the good things you may want. Here's to your happiness as well -- regardless of what your morning happened to look like.