I recently celebrated my birthday. It was a great day. In kickboxing class I beat the hell out of a punching bag, then I cooked myself a big brunch while watching ‘The X Files’ on Netflix. I sat on my deck and burned a sage smudge to clear my head, and then I took a nap. When my children and husband came home, they took me out for dinner, and I ended my day cuddled up on the couch with my husband, eating chocolate, watching ‘Dutch’ and drinking wine. A great birthday. Last year, my birthday was overshadowed by the government shutdown and news of the South Dakota blizzard that killed thousands of cattle near my hometown. I don’t recall truly celebrating. This year I treated myself to as much fun as possible. I could always save the hum-drum for the day after my birthday.
I am reading a self-help book right now — something I never imagined doing. In the book there is a passage about a man hung up on the idea of reliving his “perfect” day. He couldn’t imagine living an imperfect life day after day, having experienced one day of absolute flawlessness. He wanted that perfection every day, and it angered him that such an ideal could not be achieved to his satisfaction. When reading that excerpt, it struck me that I have been having the same problem.
This summer I spent not one perfect day, but one entire fantastic week in the Black Hills of South Dakota. After running wild through the hills literally searching for gold, going back to life as a housewife seemed pointless. The moment I set foot into my house in Kansas, I wanted to turn around, jump in my car, and drive immediately back to South Dakota! I was even tempted to formulate wild excuses in my head as to why I had to go back for an extra week, or month. Sound a tad neurotic? Maybe so, but I knew what lay ahead. Boring menu planning, unending laundry, pushing the vacuum cleaner back and forth, and pacing in my tiny yard, staring at nothing but cookie cutter rooftops instead of towering spruce covered hills. I wanted to relive my perfect days, but that would not be possible in Kansas.
Last night, my husband and I had a profound conversation. He is typically my more insightful half, but last night my self-help book and I came to the rescue. Frustrated with a negative situation at work, he described a rosier future scenario that he wants for our family. I recognized that like me, he is also suffering from the desire to live perpetually perfect days. After concluding a successful term as a company commander, he is now in limbo, and nothing else he accomplishes seems as gratifying. I told him that we were both at the same junction in our life together, but for different reasons. He had come out of a very successful point in his career and was realizing that for a while, his work would not be as perfect as he expected. I was trying to decide what to make of my life, and how I could guide my family as a matriarchal character.
” There is no such thing as a perfect day, but we like to think so, don’t we? We are at a point where we can accept that any good day is what we make of it. We can take control of some of the aspects of every day, even if we can’t make every day perfect. And, if we’re genuinely unhappy with the way things are, then we can make changes for the better. I hope that makes sense, I am kind of tired.”
“That does make sense, and it’s helping me feel a lot better!” my husband smiled at me.
“Really? Wow, I am so glad! I know that we are both going through the same things right now, which is kind of nice in a way, because I totally understand how you feel. And I know that you understand why I want to run away to South Dakota.” I smiled and patted my husband’s knee.
“Absolutely, I want to run away to South Dakota.” he stood up and stretched.
“Well, as long as you don’t run away to South Dakota without me!”
“I have to pee really bad.” And that was the end of our deep conversation.
There is an episode of ‘Parks and Recreation’ called Pawnee Rangers in which Donna, Tom, and Ben enjoy something called a Treat Yo Self Day. The first time I watched this episode, I remember thinking that it was cute, but not terribly realistic. The scene begins with Tom coming into the office and presenting cupcakes spelling out “Treat Yo Self” to Donna, thus prompting a celebratory atmosphere and a massive shopping spree. There are no restrictions, the characters purchase anything and everything that they want after embarking on a luxurious spa visit. While not exactly financially feasible in that context, the idea of having a Treat Yo Self Day is quite brilliant when considering mental health. I like the concept of applying a Treat Yo Self mentality to each day rather than expecting perfection. A Treat Yo Self mentality is forgiving and generous; perfection is neither of these. Treats don’t have to be substantial and expensive either. Sitting with a loved one and having a meaningful conversation, investing in a kickboxing class because it’s always been a personal goal, drinking a favorite cup of tea every morning, or just taking a walk to the mailbox can feel like a treat after you embrace the imperfections that make your life unique and special. And now, I must treat myself to sleep, and submit an imperfect post to the online community. And yes, I am happy.