I've been thinking for a while about a chart which has all the elements of a perfect life with a kind of plus/minus/snakes + ladders rating system. Up the ladder plus 10 points for financial security, down the snake minus 5 points for a less than ideal marriage. Covering all areas of life it would neatly illustrate the opportunity cost of some of life's positives, and ideally conclude in favour of ladders not snakes. (which I hate so kind of weird they feature at all in this equation).
I started thinking about this tidy little life chart when a new friend commented that I was "living the dream". Our sons' are the same age and are the absolute best of friends. We're both so grateful for their friendship, and the fact that we genuinely like each other too. It was a Friday afternoon and we were drinking aperol spritzers on my front lawn while the boys splashed happily in the paddling pool. Chatting about life, she'd made the comment about how perfect mine was. I was genuinely surprised by her observation because there were/are numerous imperfect areas in my life.
But from the outside looking in, she'd assumed we owned the home we lived in (we're renting), she'd seen my nice car (granted, we own it, but it was bought with cash my husband earned, not me), she'd met my lovely, very easy on the eye husband (no one knows a relationship unless they're in it), she'd popped into my studio earlier in the week to buy some tees from my own label and my own business, (it was my only sale of the day and if I was reliant on bon to survive today I'd be homeless and very hungry), and she'd admired both my fitness and my style (two things which are really important to me but which I often let slip).
I contemplated it when she left and the snakes + ladders life chart popped into my head. Our lives look SO different from the outside in. What a great way to snapshot how imperfect they actually really are. Omg, I'm brilliant! I think I deserve another spritz.
On reflection, and I guess of no surprise to you, my chart idea is flawed. For many reasons, but notably (and not withstanding the fact I thought about after several drinks):
One, it would only ever capture a moment in time. A moment that could change in an instant. For better, or for worse.
Secondly, WHY? Well maybe to show people who are looking in that what they're seeing isn't the full story. But still, really, WHY?
And thirdly, finally, perhaps most importantly, the perfect life doesn't exist! It's the very definition of UNICORN. Why am I even wasting time contemplating it when I should be cooking a meal my son won't eat?!?
But I've kept thinking about it because I'm really feeling like I'm at that point in my life where it should be at the ultimate level of perfectly imperfect. And I'm not sure if it is. And I don't know if that's bad. Or just normal. Or just really lucky.
I can't blame this questioning entirely on menopause, but menopause definitely makes me dwell on it more. Hitting menopause, which to me, signals some kind of move into the 'very grown up and therefore should have your shit totally sorted/perfect life' phase of life has made me question what actually is the perfect life? Which, as mentioned above, I've decided actually doesn't exist, so thankfully I don't need to stress about achieving it or not having it. But if there's no such thing as the perfect life, what's the thing we strive for? What am I missing? What is the ideal level of imperfection?
It's obviously different for every single being on the planet (wowzers, that's a lot of imperfection), but maybe, if I could see the downside of perfection, it would make textbook virgo, menopausal me, content withmy level of imperfection. And show it to the world so that everyone else can see. If they want to.
So because it's been on my mind (since January!), and doesn't appear to be vacating anytime soon, I decided to do the chart. Here it is. I drew it. It's very imperfect.
Yup, I totally agree. It's not the ground-breaking chart I thought it would be either.
It's not perfectly drawn and coloured like the one in my aperol influenced mind. It doesn't actually achieve my goal of a tidy little summary demonstrating potential areas of opportunity cost which could benefit from a little improvement. It doesn’t say whether or not this level of imperfect is perfectly acceptable.
But I think I can draw a few interesting conclusions from the chart, and the process:
1. There's a few 'imperfect' areas in my life which I think have received a disproportionate amount of my attention. Writing the less than perfect things down and then seeing them in a little bubble with a little number kind of took the power out of them. Conversely, writing the good bits down with a little number gave them more power. I guess that's why journaling is so good. Maybe I should take that up instead.
2. I failed to note a few things which [i thought] are important to me. Home furnishings, clothes, skincare - the external stuff. In the analysis of my life, I didn't even consider those things. But on a day to day basis I think about them a lot. Maybe they get a disproportionate amount of my attention too? I don’t know the answer.
3. Without a doubt menopause amplifies the snakey side of my life. But writing this down, I did realise that when it makes those bad feelings worse it is [relatively] fleeting. It’s impossible to ignore flushes and feelingsuper pissed off or worried or anxious for either no apparent reason or about something that didn't really used to bother me, and sex that I want but that hurts, but all of these things are momentary. Temporary. My imperfect life chart won't even have that right hand column in a few years. It'll just be regular old snakey issues screwing up the facade of a perfect life.
4. It concludes that my life is pretty good. While containing levels of anxiety and frustration and generally less than ideal elements, deep down, I know my life level of imperfection is actually acceptable. I've recently been doing an intuition meditation from Krista Jane (it's amazing I highly recommend) and intuition is a pretty savvy guide. I don't think I need a chart to know what is a perfect level of imperfection. I just need to listen to my intuition.
5. If I took away all the snakes where would the challenges be? Where would the growth come from? Even though it would be filled with nothing but ladders I honestly think it would feel a little flat. And I fucking hate snakes. And where are all those ladders going anyway? I’m afraid of heights. What is it that’s up so high we need so many ladders to reach it?
Did I just say I’m afraid of success?!?!?
No, I think I’m actually saying that life is better with snakes. imperfect is perfect. in a really imperfect way.
Even that sneakiest of snakes menopause, which, for 6 of the 7 key areas of my life makes the little bad bits a little bit worse.
Holy shit. Said the woman who has beenpetrified by snakes her entire life : Snakes are perfectly acceptable.
I think they force us to stay alert; analyse what's really happening in our lives. And at the very least notice areas which are receiving too much, or too little attention.
Just not too many.
And all out in the open where our friends can help us keep an eye on them and our intuition can manage them.
And none with really vicious bites.
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