A lot of suffering is caused by trying to live up to someone’s ideal of how “it ought to be.” Or expecting them to conform to your model. Someone said, “The perfect is the enemy of the good.”
We all know in our head that there’s no such thing as perfection, yet we insist on it (from others). This can be especially true in families, where we really should know better. A lot of tough conversations could be made easier if we could value authenticity and drop our expectations that others can’t (or won’t) meet.
A care-giver friend of mine asked her siblings to contribute money for the expenses of their parents who were living with her. The siblings lived far away and could not give time. She thought that request was perfectly reasonable. They disagreed. She felt hurt and angry for awhile, then made a conscious decision not to let it ruin their relationship. They did come and spell her so she and her husband could take two vacations a year. It wasn’t what she wanted, but she appreciated the break and decided it was good enough.
Nursing old hurts with a less than perfect parent who now has dementia is not only futile – it’s cruel. And exhausting. When I think about how many mistakes I’ve made with my own kids, it’s easier to forgive my parents theirs. They wanted to be good parents. And they were good enough.
I’m working on letting go of my ideas of how other people should behave. I want to see their real beauty as they are and love them, warts and all. I want to find their faults endearing or, as my husband likes to say to young couples he’s about to marry, “You have to learn to trivialize each other’s idiosyncrasies.”