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The Restaurant Approach to Having it All

When I go to a restaurant alone, I order one meal off the menu, mostly because my stomach has limited capacity AND I hate to waste food.  Plus, there is the money factor.  And… you know… the normal thing when you go to a restaurant is that you order one or two items.  I think the waiter would look at me strangely if I ordered 15 entrées for myself.

So why don’t we look at our daily life in the same way?

restaurant

Image: Marcus Spiske via Flickr

In a restaurant, we are perfectly content to order one meal.  No one cries about how they can’t have it all — they can’t have the steak AND the chicken AND the fish.  I mean, could you imagine someone writing an op-ed about how unfair it is that we can only order what we can reasonably consume and pay for?  Is there really anyone who would say, “we should attempt to order everything off the menu at once and if we can’t do that, we have somehow faaaaaaaaailed!”

No, we accept the limitations, and in doing so, we enjoy our meal out.  We know our stomachs and wallets are finite, and we choose whatever appeals to us the most in the moment, and then we move on.  We don’t dwell on all the unordered items.  We console ourselves with the idea that we can go back to the restaurant again and order something else.  Or order the same thing again and again.

It’s mostly our choice as long as we stay within the parameters of the restaurant.

We can’t go into a vegan establishment and expect to be able to order a steak.  But luckily, there is a restaurant out there for everyone, and if you’re not in a restaurant you enjoy, you can take steps to try to reach a different restaurant.  But, once again, when you enter the next restaurant, I’m going to bet that you will order one meal off the menu.  Because that’s how we behave in restaurants; we dismiss the unchosen items knowing that we can’t eat it all.

Yet we don’t bring the same mentality to our lives despite having the same limitations.  I have X amount of energy and Y amount of time, but somehow I believe that I can parent the way I want to parent, work the way I want to work, volunteer the way I want to volunteer AND fill my free time with all the things I like to do in my free time (meaning, do ALL the projects at once) AND keep a clean house, cook, and get a yearly pap smear to boot.  When it comes to my life, I don’t treat it like a restaurant at all.  I don’t order one or two things off the menu and enjoy it and then come back the next day and order either the same thing or something new.  I berate myself for not getting everything at once; I mark it as a failure because I can’t get to it all.

And I can’t.

I mean, it is not humanly possible to have it all, all the time.  I can have it all in the same way that I can eventually order every item on the menu if I rotate through the options.  I can have it all if I want to pay the cost and only take a bite of each dish.  But will I enjoy it, living life like that, eating a meal like that?  Especially day in and day out?

I would be better off looking at life like a restaurant, and my menu consists of my job, my family, my responsibilities, my hobbies.  I can’t order it all at once, but I can order up a steaming plate of family for breakfast.  And I can order my job for lunch.  And I can order something off the hobbies section of the menu in the evening.  I can rotate through the various choices in each section of the menu, being happy with the meal in front of me rather than feeling like a failure because of all the other things I didn’t order.

Because we’d never look at a restaurant patron who orders sensibly as a failure.  We’d look at that restaurant patron enjoying her meal and think, “I’ll have what she’s having.”

16 comments

1 nicoleandmaggie { 01.28.15 at 8:16 am }

The way to have it all in a restaurant, as in life, is to share family-style with your village.

2 a { 01.28.15 at 8:41 am }

My husband (who is always doing something) always harasses me to take on new challenges, do new things. My response is always “Why? I’ve got enough going on.” (Well, my response is also, “I do – you just don’t recognize them as significant.”) I like to stay where I’m comfortable, branching out occasionally. I don’t want it all. I want some now. I will have something different later – or maybe more of the same…depends on my mood.

Or maybe I just define having it all differently. I have a job I like well enough, a house, security, amusement, and most importantly, my family. I’ve known for a long time that being with my family all the time is not good for me – everyone gets annoyed when we don’t get our space. So, I guess the idea of having it all for me has always meant small servings of the things I like best with a dash of the new and interesting every now and again.

Although, nicoleandmaggie up there has an excellent philosophy too.

3 Catwoman73 { 01.28.15 at 12:36 pm }

Its so funny you should post this today- I just started working on a post that I plan to publish on my bday, and this was one of my points. We can absolutely have it all- just not all the time. We have to prioritize, and what is at the top of our priority list will change with time and circumstance. The very key to happiness is learning to accept this- we don’t have to be perfect at everything we do all the time.

4 Ana { 01.28.15 at 2:03 pm }

I’ve heard this said in many different ways, and agree completely. though I also like nicoleandmaggie’s take on it

5 Northern Star { 01.28.15 at 6:46 pm }

Ya! I really like this! Very timely in my own life right now too.

6 Mali { 01.28.15 at 8:21 pm }

I really love this. It is my philosophy on life these days. Especially as – sadly – most of us don’t live in societies or geographical locations where we can share it family-style with our villages.

7 Gypsy Mama { 01.28.15 at 8:48 pm }

Oh my gosh, yes! Love this…

8 Claire { 01.28.15 at 9:15 pm }

So how does the all you can eat buffet fit into this metaphor I wonder? Because I know it does, somehow. Especially in the USA. It’s funny because these types of buffets are wasted on me as I can never eat much. But I like the variety of tastes on my plate if I can stomach the idea that millions of dirty hands have gone near or touched the food before me!

9 Lori Lavender Luz { 01.28.15 at 10:23 pm }

I love this way of thinking about it.

I’ll have what you’re having.

10 Karen (formerly Serenity) { 01.29.15 at 8:26 am }

Haha this is a great metaphor. And I can tell you that I struggle with having to make choices at a restaurant because I do want a little bit of EVERYTHING. It’s why I love tapas; because I can order a couple of small plates. Or I will order an appetizer and soup.

I am working on this right now, though. And I can tell you this is TOTALLY applicable to me and my life. Thanks for posting this.

11 deathstar { 01.29.15 at 12:50 pm }

Right now in my life, I’m rolling around trying not to feel a sense of lack. I hate to admit it, but I feel that I’m stuck at McDonald’s, and on the value side of the menu. I hate McDonald’s (except for the dubious chocolate sundaes) and I would rather be at some fancy schmancy seafood/tapas/ fancy cocktail restaurant. My idea of having it all includes an appie, a main and dessert, with a fancy cocktail and 2 glasses of wine. And I would love the company of family and friends. Now that I am completely lost in this metaphor. I think what I wanted to say was though I can survive on the value menu, I kinda hate it and would rather go tapas style and try EVERYTHING DAMN THING one the menu with cocktails AND wine.

12 torthuil { 01.30.15 at 12:24 am }

I feel like I’m in a restaurant that is full of things I’ve never seen or heard of before, and I am just trying to figure out what to have and how much!

13 Ann Z { 01.30.15 at 5:32 pm }

I’m really struggling with this right now. Trying to choose what things I want to focus on at home – there are simply too many things that I would love to spend my limited time and energy on. Thing is, I really do struggle at restaurants when there are a lot of things on the menu that I want to try. I do regret those unordered dishes and when I come back to the same restaurant, I agonize over whether I should stick with what I know I love or branch out to try something else that sounds great. I’m no good at this.

14 Justine { 01.30.15 at 11:37 pm }

Maybe I don’t go to restaurants alone often enough. And I approach shared meals badly…if I’m with someone I know well enough, sometimes we order two things to split, so I *can* have closer to “it all.” When I’m home cooking alone, I graze from the cabinets. Not healthy. But at least I *know* it’s not healthy … where when I graze from life, I ignore that fact.

Your metaphor makes perfect sense, though. 🙂

15 Cherish { 01.31.15 at 7:38 pm }

This is fantastic. I love it.

16 Kasey { 02.09.15 at 3:38 pm }

I love this post. I actually don’t want it all and I hate that our society makes it feel impossible to step back. I’d love to focus on one thing at a time, but worry that doing so will mean lost opportunities in the future. Or maybe I need to keep shifting my thinking.

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