Go ahead – start ticking off everything about them and their life that’s perfect. They have the perfect house (3 beds, 2 ½ baths in urban suburbia), the perfect job (work they enjoy + $$$$), the perfect family (2 kids – boy and girl), the perfect car (hybrid SUV, right?), the perfect vacation spots year after year (Hawaii, France, Iceland). They picnic in the park every Sunday, send their kids to private school, volunteer for a worthy cause, donate to the arts, bring their own reusable grocery bags to Whole Foods, and own a rescue dog that never sheds.
Oh wait, sorry – that’s not the person who has the perfect life. The person with the perfect life is single, has no kids, their own business, a flexible schedule, gobs of money, a great home to call their own, and jetsets all over the globe – often solo, mostly at the drop of a hat. Oh – and they’re fit and attractive and ever-stylish.
Oh wait, THAT’S not the person with the perfect life either.
See, this is what’s wrong with The Perfect Game. It’s that perfect is a) indefinable and b) therefore doesn’t exist, except in your own mind, a figment of your own imagination, meaning it’s completely possible – and necessary – to change your mind about the concept of perfect before you drive yourself mad.
Perfect is the result of one of two things – sometimes both: 1) comparing yourself to others because you’re blind to their humanity and believe that if you could just be like them, everything would be right in the world, or 2) imagining an existence with no struggles, no worries, no fights, no arguments, no money troubles, no sick children or sick parents or lost jobs. It’s actually believing that if you get something, get somewhere, have something or someone, you’ll arrive. You’ll have it all, and everything from that point on will be a cake walk or gravy or the icing on the cake, some food euphemism for having everything you need – and then some.
You’re probably familiar with this awesome quote from Theodore Roosevelt: “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Some may interpret this as a recipe for misery because it means turning a blind eye to your own blessings. They’d say we need to want what we have, rather than have what we want – or love who we’re with, not who we think we WANT to be with. But the real danger in comparing yourself to someone else – and then striving to mimic their every move in attempt to ensure the same outcome for yourself – is that you don’t know the whole story. People do an incredibly good job of putting up fronts (we can thank social media for that). And unless we’ve known someone for a very long time on a very deep level, we only know our perception of the story – which is often not the reality.
We also fall privy to the belief that because someone has what we want, they’re as happy as we imagine them to be. Or that we imagine WE would be, were we in their oh-so-fortunate shoes. And THIS is where we really get into trouble, especially if we decide we’ll associate with that person – make them our friend, colleague, partner – because somehow we’ll absorb their endless life satisfaction via osmosis. This is how people get put on pedestals and how relationships become lopsided, because one person is operating from a place of envy and admiration, as opposed to really SEEING someone, in all of their gristle and glory.
I’ve been in a friendship like this. I was spending time with a woman I felt could really be a true friend. We seemed to have much in common and were bonding and connecting over long, in-depth conversations – my utmost favorite thing in the world. But over time, I started feeling like more of a life coach than a friend. When I analyzed our time together, it became clear that much of our conversation was about me – me telling my life stories, me giving her advice, me standing on that damned pedestal and screaming from my megaphone. Me feeding her perception that if she could just be like me, her life would be perfect too. Don’t get me wrong – this type of relationship feels really, really good for a while because it’s an enormous ego boost. But at some point, you want a friend – someone who sees that, although you may have some stuff going for you, there are still things that aren’t right. Sometimes in big, glaring, four-color, glossy ways. You want someone with whom you feel safe when you’re in doubt, when your self-esteem is shaky, when you need to just fucking fall apart in a massive, heaving meltdown. When I had a self-confidence crisis of epic proportions in front of this new friend, she looked at me like I’d told her I’d just eaten a small child for lunch. I not only fell off the pedestal, I crumbled – exposing my doubt, my fear, my humanity – and shattering her perception of perfection. See? If she became like me…this kind of shit would still happen.
Then there was a conversation with another friend about an acquaintance who’s a successful singer/songwriter. My friend went into immediate Compare & Despair mode, lamenting about how he’d carved this great career for himself as an independent recording artist, doing exactly what he loved, making the music he likes, playing for audiences all over the world. I initially started to go down the rabbit hole with her, then pulled us both back to ground by reminding her that – in his eyes – he probably doesn’t have it all. Perhaps he’s not making the exact music he’d like to make. In any creative field, there are always sacrifices – from the studio, the publisher, whoever’s going to give the green light for production and distribution. I also know that his personal life suffers greatly, because it’s hard to hold a relationship together when you’re on the road 150 days a year. Having figured out that this is now something he wants, he’s trying to figure out how to continue doing what he loves in a way that allows a relationship to blossom. Not an easy task. No place for envy here.
And if not envy, then this perception of a perfect life is often pure imagination. I’m not one to shit all over setting intentions and creating a vision of how you’d like your life to unfold. I’m actually a huge proponent of both, having done them and garnered results. It’s the concept of “arriving” that makes me nuts. Instead, try thinking of life as a very long, winding road littered with mile markers that read differently for everyone, depending on where you want to go. But when people say, “It’s all about the journey,” it’s really not ABOUT the journey – it IS the journey. Because when the journey ends, you’re dead. That’s why it’s dangerous to think that once you arrive at a particular mile marker, you’ve indeed ARRIVED. Even if you think you have it all, you don’t. Something will either be given to you – or taken away – that will make you have to shift course, probably when you least expect it. So you actually didn’t arrive at your final destination. You arrived at the mile marker pointing to a fork in the road or an enormous flashing “Detour” sign. You may have a choice and you may not, but if you’re not dead, the journey ain’t over.
The problem with assuming that once we get this, have that, meet this person, do this thing, life will be perfect – is that you’ll probably get, have, meet, and do all this stuff and still not feel satisfied. Because, like I said up top, perfect is indefinable and non-existent. And also because when we assume perfect is even attainable, we forget about all that shit life throws our way that clouds our blessings, but also helps us evolve.
That’s why it’s not such a bad thing to be grateful for what you have and where you’re at. To stop setting goals for a while and love life for what it is, not what it could be. To embrace the Japanese concept known as “wabi-sabi” and find beauty in the imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete. It’s simple. It’s easier. It’s calming. And it’s as close to perfect as you can get.