Mindful with Irene (1)

Irene Smit (46), together with Astrid van der Hulst, is the founder of Flow Magazine. Irene lives with her children (9 and 13, co-parenting) in Haarlem, the Netherlands. This blog is about how various Mindfulness lessons apply in daily life.

That ideal life that you have in your mind: I’ve pictured mine for a long long time.  Ever since I was thirteen, in fact. It went like this: I would have a good job, something in journalism; live in a Villa Villekulla-like home (you know, the one that Pippi Longstocking had); I’d get married at around 30; have two kids—one boy, one girl; and I’d spend every summer at a French campsite, contemplating how wonderful my life is while sipping on a glass (or two) of fine French wine.

The good news is everything pretty much worked out as planned (okay, maybe not the Villa Villekulla, but hey…). The bad news is that it only lasted for a moment. For, in striving so hard to create this perfect life, I came to feel rather hollow, cracks started to form in my relationship, and ultimately, life didn’t run as smoothly as I had imagined it would. Before I knew it, I was divorced and a single mom of two kids aged two and six.

That was seven years ago, and of course I’ve dealt with many practical issues in that time, but there was one that was the most difficult to deal with: that of letting go of the perfect life I had pictured for myself in my head. I fought with it for a long time and I thought about it millions of times: but I did not want to let it go. Until, that is, I finally found peace after many Mindfulness courses and books. “It is as it is,” is a beautiful Mindfulness belief. But there was nothing I could do with that notion for a long while. Until I really started to feel it. And then I noticed that, as I looked at my life without comparing it to my original ideal, it actually looked pretty good. And that’s how I came to feel so satisfied this summer in Valencia with my kids. As we sat on our roof terrace, reading, I thought about that campsite in my “ideal world.” And yes, glimmers of glumness began to seep into me because—oh dear—I wasn’t in this wonderful French campsite sipping on my Chardonnay… But then, the three of us went to eat tapas, we strolled through small streets, we visited a beautiful church, and we went for a dip in the sea. And I realized that this picture—the one I was experiencing right there and then—had never been in my head because I didn’t know that such a vacation could exist. With that awareness, my gloom disappeared. And the image of my ideal life slips further into the background each day. Life is now. And it’s good as it is.

Illustration: Marloes de Vries