You know those people who are always negative? It is as if there’s a rain cloud following them overhead making it impossible to feel the warmth of the sunshine. You pass by them in the grocery store and casually hand out a, “Hi, how are you” (in true southern style), only to receive an unexpected dark anecdote about how their mediocre husbands, mediocre children, and mediocre careers are keeping them down in the most mediocre way. Regardless the beautiful blessings flooding their daily routines, they are always bursting with complaints, groans, and sighs. While they sit in waiting rooms to deal with their mediocre children’s mediocre health, they scroll through social media posts of their picture-perfect acquaintances’ picture-perfect lives and mumble to themselves, “ugh, I hate happy people.” You know these people, and if you’re honest with yourself, you’ve been some version of these Negative Nancys at some point of your mediocre adult life. The bleak reality is that you and I probably have every right to own a negative perspective on life many days. Life is hard. Surviving financially in a “things” driven society, achieving career success in a results/numbers driven work climate, maintaining a fulfilling social existence among a pool of individuals who fear commitment, deepening and growing a supportive marriage when divorce is the norm, rearing children who are not a nightmare to eat a meal with when cellphones and iPads are the most active parents in any public venue, and even finding motivation to love ourselves enough to eat something green can be exhausting. Of course we get bogged down by the hard things, but feeling like a mediocre survivor at best is no way to live. The world is filled with emptiness and devastation around every street corner and in every media outlet. Why not pour extra time and energy into the small things in life to help us find balance and identify something worth smiling about?
For the past several years, I have been fixated on birthdays. I believe the entire month of November is my time to celebrate the good in MY life. The more gifts and celebrations in honor of another trip around the sun, the better. My children describe me as a birthday fanatic. While I generally focus on simplicity in my parenting and relationships, that message is lost entirely when a friend, family member, or especially one of my children’s name pops up on the calendar accompanied by a birthday cake emoji. Years ago, my husband was grumbling and complaining (geez, how mediocre could he be) about my insistence that we celebrate his 30th birthday with a huge party. I just smiled and explained to him, “in a world full of so much bad, can’t we just celebrate the good?” Celebrate the good, we did! Our closest friends came over to enjoy one of the best themed parties I have ever experienced, Forever Young. This group of adults dressed like children, ate like children, and played children’s games with an adult spin, and we had a blast like children. My hardworking, passionate, and entertaining husband’s life is worth celebrating. Your life is worth celebrating, friends!
Our family throws big birthday bashes for each child. The birthday girl chooses her theme, and we run with it and invite way too many family members and friends to party with us in our tiny house and our sunny backyard. Our girls have experienced significant trauma in their past, but possibly the greatest hardship each of them would identify is loss. They have lived with 3 different families in their short lives, and they experienced so much grief before meeting their mommy and daddy at ages 7, 5, and 2. Of course we love the idea of throwing big birthday bashes simply because my girls deserve a day to celebrate their uniquely beautiful personalities, but more importantly, we place importance on their gains. While they have lost past relationships and significant memories, my girls have gained a huge support system overflowing with people who love them. We party in an exaggerated fashion for that moment when a little girl sitting in front of her birthday cake (or birthday snowball for my gluten and dairy sensitive child), hearing a roar of voices sing her name looks up to see a crowd of blessings. Through all the losses, the fears, the anger, and the sadness, each girl has an opportunity to see a mass of people (children and adults) who think she is one of the most precious and worthy individuals on the planet. Going overboard is worth it when relationships are the motivation because relationships are far from mediocre.
While our family opts for great gatherings for parties, my husband and I do not give our children birthday gifts (at least not in the traditional sense). They have plenty of toys. They’re not as materially spoiled as many while still more materially spoiled than most. Between gestures of family and friends, my children always have more toys than our tiny house can comfortably hold. Let’s be honest… even children I have known whose households are modest due to financial strain own plenty of toys. Instead of toys or electronics (my opinion on the childhood technology addiction being fueled and perpetuated by adults is a topic for another day), my children are given a special date for their birthdays. Anyone who has more than one child empathizes with my family’s struggle to offer quality one-on-one time with each child. As an adoptive family, my husband and I feel an even greater urgency to create space for this quality time due to “time lost” before we met our babies. We are able to grasp the occasional one-on-one time with one parent and one child present due to some carefully constructed tag teaming (teamwork makes the dreamwork), but we nearly never spend time with both parents and one child in our household. Nothing makes a parent feel more mediocre than realizing your child feels like he or she doesn’t know or relate to you. The fear of this mediocre experience led to our only child date idea. The birthday girl chooses an outing for three: mommy, daddy, and birthday girl. This outing might be a day at the beach, a day at the zoo, dinner and a movie, or some other day trip or exciting activity. During this individualized time, my girls don’t have to fight for a chance to sit in mommy’s lap or ride daddy’s shoulders. They don’t have to wait their turn to share stories and opinions with mommy and daddy. They don’t even have to take turns with every day moments, such as choosing where to eat or getting to pray before a meal. These dates are priceless, and the result is three humans left feeling happily exhausted and far from mediocre.
Life is often hard, heavy, and hopeless. While ignoring unpleasant feelings and experiences doesn’t lead to healing, neither does remaining fixated on the negative. Take the time to feel blessed. Take the time to be blessed. Focus on the good things in life that we often miss due to the painful chaos of our mediocre routines. If you’re feeling suffocated by the sad, I encourage you to invest your time and energy in constructing positive experiences and relationships. Celebrate life, reaching goals, and building strong relationships with the people in your circle. Don’t accept a norm of negativity and disappointment for the sake of being ordinary. Find your personal good and celebrate it. Just paint the room black. There is a loud beauty within the mediocrity. Find it. Bust the speakers. Never turn it off.