with

Mike Bellah

"When our senses are primarily attuned to the biggest or the brightest or the best, we miss an awful lot of life."---Paula Rhinehart

 

 

 

 

 

So relax and live a little. Learn to treat the ordinary and average as good gifts sent from above.

Barbie at 50

In the late 1950s the Barbie doll captured the hearts of a whole generation of little girls. Barbie came complete with a perfect female shape, a good-looking boyfriend and a pink sports car. By my calculations, Barbie is now well over fifty. Sixteen at birth, she has lived another 35 years plus. Yet, in all that time, she has never gained weight, never sagged, never wrinkled, never aged. Barbie, according to Paula Rhinehart in Perfect Every Time, is perfect: "She is Murphy Brown in a doll with just the right clothes for work and home and play."

Barbie is a good metaphor for the idealism of today's middle-aged. It is an idealism Rhinehart says often keeps us from enjoying the simple pleasures of life. "The ordinary, the average, the everyday, is viewed with contempt," warns Rhinehart. "When our senses are primarily attuned to the biggest or the brightest or the best, we miss an awful lot of life."

But missing life is exactly what we midlifers fear most. We want to drink deeply from the pleasures of our remaining years. We do not want anything, including Barbie-like idealism, to keep us from it. Are you Barbie-like in your expectations? Following are some questions to consider.

  • When you entertain, does your home have to be immaculate? Or can you close off a few rooms (belonging mostly to teen-age sons) and enjoy your guests anyway?
  • If you are single and dating, do you have an idealized picture of Mr. or Ms. Right? Do unrealistic expectations keep you from imperfect but true love?
  • Are you always waiting for just the right time and place to begin new projects? Do you spend inordinate amounts of time waiting?
  • Have you ever skipped a class reunion because you didn't lose the 10 pounds you hoped to? Are you rarely satisfied with the way you look?
  • Are you consistently frustrated and let down by people? Does your family complain that they rarely can please you?
  • Have you completely given up on the ideal? Because you were unable to achieve the very best, have you settled for less that you deserve?

If you answered yes to many or most of these questions, you are reflecting a Barbie-like idealism, and you are missing an awful lot of life. So relax and live a little. Learn to treat the ordinary and average as good gifts sent from above. Embrace the everyday. Drink deeply from life's little pleasures. Always do your best, but know that even the best is not perfect. Cut yourself some slack.

Idealism is good, but too much can be suffocating. Remember, Barbie at 50 has never aged; she also has never lived.

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