Enemy of the Good
Things are returning to normal around here.
The suitcase is unpacked and the warm-weather clothes, still imbued with the briny odor of the sea, have been washed and put away. When I stirred at 5:00 this morning, there were two pit bulls instantly by my side, anxious for their morning walk.
It’s good to be home. Back to my dogs, my bed, my shower and the simple pleasure of having access to a stocked kitchen. Unfortunately, my mind is back as well, losing touch with the straightforward plans of a vacation day and beginning to become overwhelmed with everything I’m telling myself I need to get done.
As I walked the pups this morning, acutely aware of the refreshing crisp air on my face in contrast to the wet slaps of the south Florida breeze, a familiar phrase made its way into my mind –
“The perfect is the enemy of the good.”
I had to smile at myself, thinking of the to-do list perched on my desk back at the house, items filling the page, waiting to be completed and crossed off. And that I wasn’t giving myself permission to relax until the list was complete.
I was – correction, I am – allowing the perfection of a completed task list to become the enemy of the enjoyment of a life filled with blessings.
And perfection isn’t the only adversary that good has to overcome. Can you relate to any of these?
Resistance to Change is the Enemy of the Good
I largely took a break from social media while we were on vacation. Yet every time I checked my Twitter account, I felt my heart smile. I’m a part of an informal group on there formed from those who have experienced infidelity. Apart from that common thread, the group runs the gamut from those that have just discovered the betrayal to those who, like me, are years out. Some are staying in their marriages while others have decided to move on.
For many in the group, this holiday is one of firsts – first since the discovery of the betrayal, first since the end of the marriage, or the first without the kids. In other words, it’s a hard holiday season for many in this group.
So why was I smiling? I was so inspired by the make-the-best-of-it attitudes and vows to start new traditions that I saw on my feed. This year was different. And resisting that change would only keep them from appreciating the good that was to be found in the little moments of this year.
Because that’s how it works, doesn’t it? If we refrain from focusing on what was, we allow ourselves to appreciate what is.
Expectations Are the Enemy of the Good
For our recent trip, we flew into Miami and rented a car (a convertible Mustang just like every other person in south Florida, apparently). We took our time exploring the keys, staying in Key Largo and Marathon before ending up in Key West, where we immediately returned the car.
The plan was to rent bicycles in order to get around the island for the final three days of the trip. I was all-in, picturing quiet beach streets and wide bike paths without any treacherous downhills to contend with. I pictured us exploring the area on our bikes, the breeze in our hair and the sun on our shoulders.
I was right about the hills. And the sun.
But the rest? Not so much. It turned out that the trek from our hotel to the main area was three miles on a crowded sidewalk next to busy street with constant traffic (including lots of trucks which provided the only breeze since I was moving too slowly to generate any myself). I started off shaky, but okay. But after a couple miles, I entered into full-on panic. It was far from the expectation that I had for myself.
Bless my husband; he was so patient. And even while I was tearing myself down, he was expressing how proud he was of me that I kept going even though I was petrified. At the end of that evening, I took an Uber back to the hotel while he took back one of the bikes. Then, the next morning, he pedaled back the remaining bike and we rented a scooter (where I would NOT be driving!).
And it was wonderful. Different than I had imagined, yes. But wonderful.
Because that’s how it works, isn’t it? If we let go of the mental image of how something should be, we can enjoy it for what it is.
Comparisons Are the the Enemy of the Good
One of the reasons that holidays can be so hard is that everybody tries to put on a show and then we end up comparing ourselves to these picture-perfect families and celebrations.
On Monday night, we watched football from the comfort of our hotel room (go Ravens!). The commercials broadcast by everyone from the grocery store to the car dealership seemed intent on cultivating envy in the viewers. The message was clear – just buy this thing and you too will have a perfect family filled with endless cheer and devoid of worry.
And so for those watching either the commercials or the curated posts by friends, the comparisons are inevitable and easily heart-breaking. Their concern about finances seems overwhelming when held up against the free spending on their screen. Their family, impacted by addiction or estrangement or divorce, seems incomplete and lacking compared to the perfectly posed group in matching pajamas. And their loss seems alien when contrasted with the bounty portrayed to us.
We know that these images are not real. That they are scripted and acted. Yet we sometimes still them as ideal and achievable, even when we know what is happening behind the scenes. Yet we can choose to see them for what they are – images created to either prey on our own insecurities or alleviate the insecurities of others.
Because that’s how it works, isn’t it? If we refuse to compare our lives to others, we can be grateful for what we have.
And for me, I’m going to try to focus less on completing my to-do list and more on enjoying what today has to offer.
Here are a few pictures from our trip. I highly recommend the Florida Keys for anyone who wants a Caribbean feel on U.S. soil and is looking for a great excuse to slow down and enjoy each moment.