Want the Perfect Life?: Embrace the Real World

“Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won’t either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself that you tasted as many as you could.” Louise Erdrich, The Painted Drum

To some this depiction of life is a given. You’ve lived through good times and bad and come out stronger on the other side. Others are shocked by this image of life. You believe if only you are good enough or deserving enough you can avoid pain and brokenness. I can’t tell you the number of people who come through my doors wanting a “perfect life.” No feelings except happiness, joy and peace. No vulnerabilities to hurt, pain, or suffering. My job is to help bridge the gap between the fantasy world in their head, and the (often) painful life they are working so hard to avoid. Erdrich’s depiction offers some of the same suggestions I use in sessions.

1. Start to see that brokenness and suffering are a normal part of life. Instead of avoiding–accept, feel, let go, and repeat.

2. Remember you’re not alone. Focusing on an apple tree (or family, work, friends) reminds us that we’re not the only one.

3. Turn to something larger than yourself, whether it’s the cycle of the natural world, a belief in a higher power, or a cause you’d like to support.

4. Give yourself a break. Leave the “shoulda, coulda, woulda” world and come into this one, the one where you actually did the best you could with what you had in the moment.

Although the fantasy feels good, we have to live in the real world to experience the richness of life.