Even when the sky is filled with clouds, the sun is still out and shining, you just can’t see it. I remind myself of this when I am struggling to find the good in a day. The truth is that nothing living can survive without rain, so even if we don’t like the clouds, we cannot thrive and grow without them.
With the flood of smiling faces and sunny vacations, the constant façade of perfect lives that we are presented with in people’s carefully curated Facebook feeds, we can feel as though the dull days of our lives are not the norm. However, when I sit in my office across from students whose lives are filled with clouds and rain, when I connect with friends, who are burnt out, exhausted, struggling with parenting, feeling like they don’t get time to rest or relax, I realise that what we think is the norm is not at all. What is normal is to struggle.
Well that sounds terrible! And to be honest, some days it is. But, if we can re-frame those struggles and also be sure to take the time to find the good in each day, it becomes much less depressing. It allows us to not just live for those exciting days off in the distance where we know we have a vacation planned, or something special coming up. It allows us to transform the day to day into something that feels more sustainable and even mildly enjoyable.
One of my favourite quotes about life was brought to my attention by Dr. Brene Brown, a phenomenal expert on vulnerability, courage, shame, and worthiness.
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat. Theodore Roosevelt
This paints a vivid picture in my mind of what a great life might look like. It is not remotely close to Facebook perfection. It is not someone who looks composed, well put together, with perfectly prepared and well balanced meals, exceptional study habits, impeccable parenting skills: someone who says and does all the right things at the right times, who is loved by all, and admired for his/her restraint and humility.
In fact, this great life, looks a bit more like I do at the end of a day: holes in my leggings, some sort of food spilt on my shirt, my hair tangled, the kids complaining about dinner, and lunch, and likely breakfast, someone at work claiming that I didn’t do something I was supposed to do. Then there are those kind words that someone says to me; I went for a walk with a friend; I totally destroyed (with three stars) that next level of candy crush; I shared a laugh over a stupid you tube video about a dog that bites his own foot and I told someone that I appreciated them; I made a student feel less hopeless, less ashamed, less like a failure. . . and there it is! My own small triumph. So, no matter how messy or unworthy of a post to my Facebook feed I can see that behind the dullness of the day, the sun was shining the whole time. I just needed to look for it.
If it were not for the complaining, I wouldn’t appreciate the compliments so much. If it were not for the less than perfect image, it wouldn’t feel as good to take the time to dress up and do my hair. If it were not for Kraft dinner and hot dogs, those well prepared fresh meals would not taste as good. If it were not for clouds and the rain, the sun would not feel like such a blessing.