Why Does Everyone Else Seem to Have It All Together?
Have you looked around, lately? With the fall season coming and school underway, the weeks have begun to speed up. I can’t tell you how many times I have already seen “pumpkin everything” advertised. There are only “x” number of days until Christmas.
Why does the time from September through December always seem as if it warps somehow into a fast-paced, crazy, roller-coaster ride?
And amidst all of this rapid-fire activity, we are supposed to enthusiastically be teaching our children and bringing out our fall wreaths, pumpkin and gourd displays, and singing merrily as we do it. Sports activities have begun in full force. Co-ops and art classes started. Music lessons picked up again.
It seems to me that every fall I would begin this way. I would enthusiastically begin our school year, with all my planning set up, new curriculum in hand, and hopes high.
Then things would get started.
And someone would get sick. Unexpected meetings would pop up. A child would get stuck in his math work and need to slow down the pace.
So then I play catch-up, all while trying to ride the rapid-moving roller coaster of life through the fall semester.
I would look around at other families. It always seemed like things were going as planned for them. The other moms were smiling; had their little travel snack bags ready to go for their children; had files of books in the back of their minivans, ready for a quick lesson when the day’s travels slowed down a bit.
Things always seemed to go so smoothly for them. Why was I always a mess?
I got my answer one day as I was sitting at the park while the kids were playing. The older ones were at football practice, so I let the little ones burn off some steam in the playground while we were waiting (and, yes, I had forgotten the little snack bags and water bottles again…they’ll have to use the germ-infested water fountain, and I’ll douse them with Purell).
There was a little pond nearby, and I watched as a duck slowly eased itself into the water. It glided along the surface, so gracefully, so intentionally. I began to marvel at how smoothly the scene looked. The water around that little duck was barely disturbed. How lovely.
Then my science-y mind kicked in.
Wait. That duck is able to swim so well because of its webbed feet. They need to paddle like big oars so that he can move his hefty body across the water. Non-water birds cannot do this. I began to think about what that paddling looked like.
If you’ve ever seen a duck’s feet from underwater while it swims, you wouldn’t quickly forget it. Here’s a link in case you are curious.
It is pretty much mayhem. It’s actually funny, too. Their feet need to rapidly fan out, capturing as much water as possible, then they have to scoop the water behind them. A duck’s legs are set widely apart. That is so that they can better propel themselves forward. Think of the spacing oars need on a canoe. They extend out because they get better forward thrust that way. Because duck legs are so apart, though, they look anything but graceful. They are all over the place, crazily moving around in seemingly unorganized directions, all for the purpose of propelling the animal forward.
So the graceful appearance above is only that way due to the chaotic, disorderly motions below.
I think that is what our lives appear to be to each other. We look at one another and see smoothly, organized, well-planned lives. We think that other families have it all together, because on the surface they “gracefully glide.” And we don’t think that of ourselves, because we know what we look like behind the scenes…under the water, if you will.
Yet, we ALL have a bit of craziness and chaos in order to move our lives along. It is way too easy to present ourselves as having it all together. Putting up a good face is not really difficult, because it isn’t hard to hide what’s going on underwater.
But it is there. We cannot expect to move forward without lots of work. There will be challenges, disorganization, and even setbacks, because life is messy that way. We are called to do the work set before us, training and raising our children as we love and serve our families. And we cannot expect it to look like a graceful duck, swimming across the water. That is why everyone else seems to have it all together. We are only seeing what’s going on above the water.
It will look more like duck feet, scrambling along, working constantly with a well-designed purpose of moving forward.
Graceful on top…and a planned, but crazily-moving performance below.