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?
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.”