Photo by DeusXFlorida
Suddenly, just a few days ago, it hit me: January is half over, and I feel fine!
For more than a decade, January has traditionally been my darkest month. I wrote about it here, last year, in a post that included this:
I think of January 30 as my winter solstice—the darkest day of the year, the deepest depth, the turning point from which I can begin to look up and emerge into the light…
This year, the fact that I’m feeling fine surprised me just as much as my winter depression has every other year. Also, I am no closer to guessing what has caught and shielded me from my annual plummet than I have been from pinpointing what has triggered the descent in the past. It just is what it is, and I’m grateful for it.
That’s not to say life is perfect, though. Work and other responsibilities have me feeling overwhelmed; I have a cold; the house needs cleaning and sorting and fixing in more ways than I care to count. But without depression clouding my perspective, a life that isn’t perfect can still feel right.
‘Perfect’ has a way of deceiving us
I started thinking about the important difference between perfect and right yesterday, as I was responding to comments on my post “Why I believe there is a ‘right person.’” “I certainly don’t want to encourage people to have unrealistic expectations and think they’re going to find someone ‘perfect,’” I wrote in response to Alise, “but I really want them to believe they can find someone who is ‘right.’”
It struck me as a pretty good way to think about a lot of things: a day, a job, a blog post, a friendship, a church. They may not be perfect, but sometimes perfect turns out to be like one of those highly waxed, Red Delicious apples that have no flavor or crunch. They’re only good for a fruit bowl display or still life prop. The idea of “perfect” has a lot to do with how our expectations line up with reality.
“Right” is something altogether different. It isn’t a fixed destination or an epitome, it’s a place within a process—a place where you feel good about who you are and where you are; a place where hope and acceptance meet, apart from dismay and frustration. Being able to see what is “right” involves admitting that we’re not always so great at predicting what’s best for us—that we can’t know how the situations we try so hard to orchestrate will turn out (let alone what effect they will have on us).
‘Good enough’ is not a good enough alternative to perfect
But this movement away from perfect isn’t just about reality checks. There’s something important here even for those of us who have had our fair shares of reality checks in our lives. Sure, it’s great that we no longer expect perfect, and we’re more open to discovering the good in whatever life sends our way. But often we fall instead into the trap of “good enough,” and I don’t think that’s the best alternative to “perfect.” Accepting “good enough” often means selling ourselves short; seeing what we have as “good enough” can hold us back, pacified in a dull, day-to-day stupor.
Of course, we can’t always make things feel or be right. We just have to be ready to recognize what’s right when it’s there in our lives, and be grateful for it. That’s how I feel right now—in my head and heart, and about my life. I am not in a perfect place, but I am in the right place, and I feel thankful.