On Comparisons

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There is often a different persona we portray in public than the one we maintain on a daily basis. The you who takes the kids to school in dirty jeans and the you who cooks frozen vegetables and the you who picks up the house with a deep-throated sigh is the SAME YOU who does wonderful and meaningful things.  But sometimes, it doesn’t feel like the wonderful you is enough. You can map out your days by dumping kitty litter in the trash and washing off plates.

We are attracted to people whose online life is pleasing.  They make us laugh, they have a way with words or photos, they calm us somehow. We think “Good gracious, woman. You really do bake bread from scratch.” Like there is some imaginary point clicker and that lady just got a point. We scroll from morning until night.  Funny people.  Beautiful people.  Interesting people.  Pots of herbs sitting on a soapstone countertop. A laundry room with all those pretty little hooks for backpacks.  As for you? You’re off to the grocery store to buy chicken for dinner. There’s nothing photo-worthy in the mundane.

But here’s the deal.  We are all lovely people doing wonderful things, and living our best life, and kicking total ass, sometimes. If we are lucky, most of the time.  And yet other times we struggle, and we need to support each other through all the various seasons.  Sometimes we pick fights and have ugly under-eye circles.  We suck at organizing and leading and teaching.  We eat plain old bread from the grocery store. But you woke your children up with love.  You made a lunch.  You made it to work and are doing a job that needs to be done.

You have value.  Intrinsic, whole-hearted, deeply-rooted value in the world.

I invited a counselor to coffee a few months back, simply because I read online she uses humor in her approach to therapy and I was intrigued.  I didn’t know her at all but I emailed her out of the blue and she was gracious enough to meet me.  I use humor as a coping skill to get through all major life issues so I wanted to learn from her and hear her story.  She told me her client base was women, all of whom suffer from anxiety or comparison issues.  I was astounded that this therapist spends every day listening to women think they aren’t good enough, or can’t cope with the reality of life given their skillsets and talents.  “This is literally all your clients?” I asked.  She nodded.

I went for another cup of coffee at that point, because life is short and this news was depressing. Also I have a coffee problem, which I’ve determined is better than a wine problem, but not quite as great as a working-out problem. I don’t think that last one is a problem at all.  If you tell me you have a working-out problem we won’t be friends.

We talk a great deal about comparisons, but often but in that general way, like “life isn’t always like pinterest!”  But in reality we’re ripping labels off water bottles so that they have little red banners on them that look like bandanas for our kids’ western-themed birthday parties. And when the party goes well, we let out a sigh of relief.  Because we made it through another day.  We did what we are expected to do.  We are being the mother we are destined to be and/or some online world would be proud of.

To be fair, you didn’t set these standards.  Society has set these impossible standards.  Social media and advertising want you to be on the cusp of happy, but not quite.  They tell you that scratch-made food is better, pottery barn sheets are softer, kind gentle tones to your children is wiser, Instagram filters are magical, candy in tall apothecary jars is more beautiful, carrots straight from the garden is more nutritious, and having friends and parties and lots of events is a more desirable way of life. If you can’t do all these things, you’ve failed.  You’ve not reached MASTER LIFE STATUS.  You really need to just curl up and eat cocoa pebbles in a state of clinical depression.  You’ll never make it to ninja warrior life status at this rate, so why even try. Man –  just writing this makes me want to unfriend you.  You’re a disgrace.  You have a pudgy middle section.  Look at you, eating sugary cereal.

You get my drift.

The only thing above that really matters is the kind and gentle part, but it gets buried in the rubble of all the things and the rules and the flowers you can make out of paper and the shame we pile on top of ourselves like heavy blankets.

We are getting smothered by it all.

I believe fully that when Jesus walked the earth, his message was primarily that we are fully and completely loved, and a dependence upon God isn’t a negative submission but complete freedom, to be ourselves and be wildly loved for who we are.  And who we are is not the same as the person next to us on the bus or the best friend who always makes fresh tomato and basil sandwiches.   When it all boils down to it, no one at the last stages of life gives two shits that you had soapstone countertops.  When you’re about to leave this earth, you won’t be thinking fondly about the time you set out a cheese board with four different cheddars you flew in from England. You think about love, and connections with people, and family.  Okay you might be thinking about that cheese plate a smidge.  You really flew in cheese from Europe? That’s badass.

My name is Amanda.  I love to cook things, and laugh at things, and create things.  I am not shy about saying that I am good at a lot of things. I’m confident and have a good sense of who I am and where I belong.  I am a lawyer, which I’m proud of.  I am a mother, which I’m proud of as well.  I am a weaver of words, which brings me great joy.  And I am a hope-giver, which is even better still.

But I am also a stepmother, which is terrifying.  There are times I feel like I want to run out and grab a suitcase on the way out, because I don’t know how to navigate this world of teenagers that aren’t even mine.  I’m terribly disorganized and I use a cardboard box as a trash can in my office, and every once in a while my husband has to come in and gather up the seven coffee mugs that are in various stages of mold.  And almost every day I think things like “why can’t I be funnier and why can’t I find time to write more and why can’t I get this book published.”  I don’t discipline my children as well as I should and end up telling them to put on their shoes seven times. I am not a perfect person, despite the fact that I bake a damn good loaf of honey wheat bread.  Yes, from scratch.  I ain’t gonna lie.

And yet I know that tomorrow is a new day, and there is sun peeping over the horizon.  I know that I have talents that not everyone has, a voice that some need to hear, and hope that can be sprinkled into the world like snowflakes.  Upon every traumatic event, after every negative thought and every spot of the mundane.  After cancer and divorce and nearly dying, or just after a trip to the veterinarian.  I remain hopeful.

It takes all types of us in the world to function well, and to blend into a society that moves and breaths and lives.  Because the fact is, there is no real life and online life. There is only life.

And it’s so valuable.  Why? Because it’s yours. Go make a dent in the world, one trip to the grocery store at a time.

Photo:

(threew’s).www.flickr.com/photos/87744089@N08/36300377805/in/photolist-XiJVCR-n6JFQ2-Wvtm1J-Usqj7V-dssJQx-u797e-V4LqSA-JmbbEa-yUpbQ-4qskK4-653TQi-6LbWZ8-9d8EhK-4qJFWS-5W1tdH-pHP8Jp-23Aejhd-PfhKkR-cXaXZ-9d8Azp-9d8Dmc-iR3aHN-qvruHd-23NeufC-9H8Sjr-9d8FDc-UPBhgU-pM6pzx-aCSf8F-6b6xwi-8gDnWk-cgcF7J-cXAiqw-HVyCrh-6adFEd-LuBcs-9d8B8c-4TrouX-pNbfk-3LyLx-9d8D9r-sUrLv-t5yn2-9dbL4C-an2fkP-oRRqok-5eDe53-8zsf8Z-V4LsH9-8KNWeL

Comments

  1. The Internet’s post of the year.

  2. LOVE THIS!! Standing with Jay.

  3. I love this, Amanda. And needed to read it.

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