Whack that mole!

Life is a giant, unending game of Whack-a- Mole. Amazingly happy given what's happening.

You've played Whack-a-Mole, right? It's an arcade game where little plastic rodents stick their little plastic heads out of nine holes on a table, one or two moles at a time, then quickly duck back in again. Your job is to whack the living chipmunk out of them using a big soft mallet before they can scurry to safety.

You get 10 points for every mole head you bash back into its hole. The game lasts 60 seconds, and by the time the flashing light signals the end, you are so jacked up that if the mallet weren't chained to the table you might just bolt for the arcade kitchen in search of more rodents to bludgeon.

The goal is to get a perfect score, whacking every single mole head that pops up during that time. This is fun and invigorating when it lasts 60 seconds. It begins to get a little old when it lasts a lifetime.

Recently, after a very long week of trying to keep up with the ballooning number of tasks requiring attention in our lives, I decided that life is a lot like Whack-a-Mole. It feels like every big and little task that pops up in our days is one of those rodents, and even after we bash one back into its hole, another one (or two, or three, or four) pops up out of another hole.

There is the whole going to work thing which, as I've explained to my kids, is the only way I can get the company to give me money. Then, there is paying quality attention to your significant other, which is a significant activity, hence the title. Pay the bills, clean the garage, vacuum and dust, do the laundry, fold the laundry, put away the laundry, take out the trash, bring down the recycling…

Then, there are the family responsibilities. As my friend Brad says, each new member of the family increases the chaos exponentially. There's feeding the kids - I swear, it's like they want to eat three times every day! Then, these little people want to interact! Don't forget helping on homework with flash cards that include nine different questions for every one answer (Who led Jamestown? What Jamestown leader worked with Pocahontas? Who instituted the "no work/no eat" policy in Jamestown? Who provided strong leadership for Jamestown? What famous Jamestown resident's first name was John and last name started with S? Who lived at the Smith residence in Jamestown and was known as "John"?)

Then, get ready for Halloween, then get ready for Thanksgiving, then get ready for Christmas or Hanukah or Ramadan or Kwanzaa (or some combination of these), then get ready for the credit card bill… Can't we combine this three-month holiday period into one month and streamline the prep process? (Honey, I'm hanging fruits, nuts and bags of M&Ms on the tree - can you check that the turkey will be ready at sunset and help the kids with their pilgrim costumes?)

Cut the grass and fertilize the lawn and rake the leaves and clean the gutters and exercise, and my arm is getting tired from bashing all these moles, and when is this game going to end??? It's enough to make you want to turn the big soft mallet on yourself.

Four thoughts on keeping it sane:

1. Just accept the fact that life is going to be a giant game of Whack-a-Mole. Half of the secret to happiness is having appropriate (not low, but appropriate) expectations. By the way, the other half of the secret to happiness is ice cream.

2. Whack the most important moles first and get to the rest ONLY when and if you can. Unlike the actual game, a perfect score in life is not only impossible, but unhealthy to attempt. Family and friends are important, but dust bunnies don't make the list until they're literally as big as bunnies.

3. Don't do things that cause life's challenges to multiply, like spending more than you make or yelling at the kids because there's a lot of work to do. These actions are the equivalent of sending the moles a gift basket of alcohol, Viagra and Justin Timberlake/Barry White/Frank Sinatra CDs (pick one based on your age).

4. And most importantly, the advice my mom and dad always gave us growing up: just do the best you can. It's not a great company tagline (Hansen Industries: We do the best we can), but it's the only sane way to approach life (and for that matter, New Year's Resolutions).