What is desperately needed by those of us who want lives of happiness and fulfillment is a new definition of perfection. One that takes into consideration the whole of our human experience as a great life experiment.
Long before we learned to compare ourselves to others as a way of gauging perfection and success, in our early childhood, it was enough for us to just be as we were. We were perfect. We laughed, cried, and played. We fought with our siblings, we made up. We got sick and then healed. We got punished and then forgiven. All of life’s possibilities were open to us to explore without the responsibility of forcing any kind of outcome, and we didn’t judge anything as failures or successes. All of our experiences were a process of deepening our character and of becoming unique individuals who were finding their place in the world.
As we grew and became more integrated into our societies, the natural feeling of individual worth eventually gave way to an idea of perfection that included the need to achieve in order to please our parents, teachers, and friends. We succumbed to the idea that there was a whole world out there of which we knew nothing and were completely unprepared to navigate. As we scrambled to catch up with everyone else, we forgot that we were once perfect just as we were with our naievete, our skinned knees, our fantasies and our disappointments.
We are called at midlife to finally embrace a mature model of perfection that transcends our adolescent reactionary one. We will need to redefine for ourselves through our gained experience and wisdom a vision of human life that contains the polarities of joy and suffering, gain and loss, love and heartbreak, and health and illness as components of a perfect life. These experiences happen to everyone to some extent, and if we want to call them imperfect, then we’re taking exception to the ways of the universe itself. We are actually saying that existence, which provides these experiences to each individual is somehow wrong and needs to be fixed.
The perfect life indeed contains the polarities of experience as well as a good deal of conflict and difficulty. If we can see that we actually need these things to grow and develop as authentic individuals, we would see that their absence is what would make our lives imperfect. We would have no way to challenge outdated beliefs, overcome perceived limitations, or expand our awareness of ourselves without them. In fact, we can thank the difficulties that we strenuously avoid for the potential growth that they can provide us. There is no amount of easy, outward success that can deepen us as much as encountering and overcoming difficulties can.
So in redefining the perfect life during midlife, using the life lessons we’ve lived through as valuable information, we can include every experience that arrives at our door going forward as part of the perfection of life instead of our perfect life. We will see that it is far better to move with what existence is sending us as perfect rather than trying to contrive perfection from a limited and fearful mindset. As we open ourselves to the larger possibilities of personal fulfillment and purpose, we will include our bumps and scrapes as well as our hugs and kisses as the perfection of a more expansive life experience.