By Lisa Earle McLeod www.forgetperfect.com
Do you ever feel like your life is nothing but one big, long to-do list? Remember when you were a kid, and you dreamed about growing up, and how you were going to do whatever you wanted, whenever you wanted? Well, how’s that workin’ out for you? If you’re like most of us, life often degenerates into what seems like an endless series of meaningless tasks; drive here, go there, pick up there, please this person, calm down that person – nothing but nonstop work. I’d liken it to a gerbil on a treadmill, except that at least the gerbil gets to take a break and lay down in the wood shavings when he needs a rest. But what effect does it have on you – and the people around you – when you get so busy going through the motions of life that you never give yourself permission to enjoy it? It’s a weird dynamic. We keep doing, doing and doing, getting more resentful and bitter by the minute, and then we wonder why other people don’t appreciate all of our hard work. As a mother and as a daughter, I’m pretty well acquainted with the martyr syndrome. We have a long-standing family tradition: All the mothers in our brood pitch at least three screaming fits per each year, marching around the kitchen, often wielding a vacuum or a wooden spoon, gesturing and ranting, “I do everything about here and you ungrateful snipes don’t even notice. I drive, I cook, I clean, I schedule and I swear I could fall off the planet and you people wouldn’t even notice until you ran out of underwear, food, gas, blah blah, blah.” I’ve said it and I’ve heard it, and as best as I can tell, it doesn’t make life better for anyone. Because here’s the deal:, if you constantly remind people that you’re absolutely miserable in your job, they won’t feel more grateful to you for doing it, they’ll feel less grateful. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a mother or a manufacturing rep, if all you do is complain about all of your hard work, you’re giving everyone around you the impression that you hate doing it. You can cook fabulous dinners, show up on time for every crummy job your boss assigns – and even do extra credit work like being the Daisy Mom or catching the red eye on Sunday night – but if you approach every task with weary sighs and groans, people are going to start to take it personally. In the case of a family, if you drag yourself around acting as though every task associated with your spouse and kids is a burdensome chore, it’s not too hard to imagine why they might interpret your weary beleaguered attitude to mean that you don’t like them very much. And if you think your boss is going to be impressed by you moaning about how much you do for the company and how little you enjoy it, you’ve obviously never had to manage a whiner. The reality is, anything worthwhile takes work, and effort. And I suspect our real problem isn’t that we’ve chosen the wrong jobs, but that we often lose sight of the big picture. We human beings are hard-wired with an innate desire to create meaningful connections while we’re on this planet, and to make a contribution that outlasts our stay on it. Yet, despite the lofty yearnings of our souls, we often get ourselves so mired in our own muck that we’re not fully engaged with the people around us and we completely miss the potentially larger purpose of our daily grind. It’s not just what you do, it’s the way you feel about it while you’re doing it. So buck up, quit complaining, and learn to love the life you’ve got. Because I can promise you, you’re not going to get another one, or a do-over on this one.
Lisa Earle McLeod is a nationally recognized speaker and the author of “Forget Perfect” and “Finding Grace When You Can’t Even Find Clean Underwear.” Contact her or join her interactive blog at www.ForgetPerfect.com. .
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