A few days ago, I was taking a break with a friend, sitting outside in a beautiful park, soaking up the sun.  I relished the chance to sit quietly in nature and catch up.  We got around to discussing our personal lives and the inner workings of our family dynamics.

We shared, laughed, winced, and sighed – at all the things that are going very well, and those things that we wished might have been different.  (It’s wonderful to a have a friend you can be truly candid and authentic with, isn’t it?) What a gift.

After sharing a bit about our perceived triumphs and disappointments, my friend said something that reached in and plucked a heartstring for me.  She said:

“Kathy, I’ve realized that in order to be happy and not drive myself mad, I have to love my kids and my husband for who they are, but also for who they aren’t.”

Wow, did that resonate for me.

My friend was talking about that fact that, despite everything we try to do for our family, and how hard we strive to shape them (and our relationships) in ways we think are healthy, happy and productive — they’re just not always going to be who we think they should be, or who we think we want them to be.

But rather than waste precious time longing for them to be different, it’s so much more peaceful and fulfilling to accept them as they are, and love them for who they and for who they are not.  It’s an easier and more joyful life when we embrace the idea that if parts of our loved ones were different – even tiny fragments or slivered dimensions — they simply wouldn’t be the people we love so deeply.

Our discussion reminded me of something my husband said to me years ago when we were first married.  I was picking a quarrel with him about something insignificant about his behavior (some imagined huge “flaw” of his that I was deeply annoyed about), and he said,

“You know, Kathy, I don’t view you and our relationship the way you do.  I don’t extract out the small, petty things I don’t like, examine them and make a federal case of them, or wish they were different.  I accept what is.  I look at you as a whole package that I’ve married – not something I can dissect and separate into little pieces that are good or bad.  I take the whole thing.”  

My friend and I explored this, and agreed that women seem to do more of this “separate, evaluate, and denigrate” thing.   We hone in on the stuff that we believe should be modified.  We magnify it and make it a huge bone of contention.  Men on the other hand, don’t seem to have this ever-constant need to pick us apart and talk to death about the stuff they wish were different.

Whether it’s a gender thing or not, I know this to be true – when I am able to fully accept my family (and everyone else I know, for that matter, including myself), my life goes better. 

My job, I realize, isn’t to play creator or “tinkerer” – it’s to be fully present, alive, loving and accepting, to the greatest degree I can.

When I’m able to do that, I realize that all is just as it should be.

How about you – Do you find more joy and peace when you accept your loved ones for who they are, rather than tinker with them to be someone else?