Tuesday, September 14, 2010

I Bet My Life on the Losing Side

The beginning of the school year... summer is officially over. My blogs have become scarce: not because I've suddenly nothing to say, but because I've suddenly no time to scratch my bottom, let alone write silly blogs that no one reads anyway. While driving my daughter to school today, I once again found myself disappointed in my apparent inability to complete all the tasks on my 'to-do' list. I meant to take a breather and write something obscure in this egotistical virtual space... I meant to finish reading Chandler's absolutely boring and incomprehensible book that has no immediate bearing on my own scholarship... I meant to be much more productive... And somehow time seems to slip through my fingers, while the list grows in size and overwhelms my puny existence.

Isn’t it just the same with pretty much everything in life? That thought brought me to the brinks of depression: if everything we do falls short of our own standards, we sentence ourselves to perpetual disappointment.

Let's have some examples. When my daughter was born, I wanted to feed her fantastic gourmet food, to homeschool, to turn her into a genius overnight--a Romantic reading machine that can spit out philosophical doctrines in a blink of an eye. Soon enough, I realized that perhaps if she were a rag-doll it would’ve been easy enough to manipulate her. But she is a living, breathing human being that resists certain efforts. She prefers a Subway sandwich over a succulent baked salmon fillet, Club Penguin over Mastermind, and iCarly over the Discovery Channel. She's got a mind of her own, and I've got a life outside of my parenting bubble. Then there are the mountains I want to climb: Labor Day weekend we were supposed to do the infamous Crestones. Mother nature decided to surprise us with some tempestuous winds. How am I supposed to climb a Class 5 route 45mph gusts? How about lectures? I'd like to audit some classes this semester, so that I can again pretend to have something in common with people at my own intellectual level, who have become alien to me by now. Perhaps, if there were 48 hours in a day, and two more days in a week, I could squeeze a lecture or two in. And there are the little tasks of quotidian life: washing my car, my dog, going dancing, climbing more, hanging out with friends... the list is endless.

The dark truth is that I seem to fail in every aspect of my life! My actual existence falls currently well below par of my ideal existence. It just doesn't seem to be humanly possible to do everything I would like to do. On the other hand, to stop trying, to give up, means to stop living altogether. How do you balance your aspirations with the cruel limitations of reality? How do you settle for less, when it is not within your nature, when every fiber of your being is screaming in defiance? Must we give up our lofty dreams in order to be happy? Or do I have the ‘princess’ syndrome: shouldn’t everything go my way?

If felicity depends on having our expectations satisfied, then the only way to live happily seems to require lowering one’s expectations, prioritizing, and celebrating each moment of triumph--no matter how insignificant--with a drink of your choice and chocolate. The thing about ideals is that their defining characteristic is perfection, and hence they exist only in our imagination. Admission of this simple fact is the first step to happiness.