I saw them this morning.
Even though they’ve been hiding, I know they’re there. I really like them. And I miss them. That’s why I keep moving them.
MY BK pants … you know, Before Kids.
Since having kids, we’ve moved five times. All within a half of a mile radius. Jon and I aren’t picky, and our moves have almost always been based on space issues, as in several wonderful additions to our family. Basically, we grew out of our homes as my body grew and shrank and grew and shrank through multiple pregnancies. As the number of kids increased, my age increased, and the shrinking didn’t come as swiftly as it did on the first few kids.
Still, with every move, I’ve boxed up and carted those pants. I can’t wear them, but I keep them just in case.
I don’t know why I do it. I’m fairly confident, not in some defeating way, that I will never wear them again. My goodness, I wore them seventeen years ago. No need to go into the fact that “out of style” would be an understatement. But I love those pants.
And, I’m really okay with those pants staying in my drawer. Because, at the deepest part of my heart, I’m happy with myself. I’m healthy. I’m fit (sort of), not svelt or anything. I’m just regular. I’m okay, never totally satisfied, good enough. … Well… except on the days that Jack ignores closed doors and stands in front of the shower begging for something. And I yell, “Get out! I’ll help you in a minute!” Then I mumble, “Can’t a woman get a moment alone around here?” all while praying that he can un-see whatever I hope didn’t see and that his memory won’t be seared forever.
Yeah that, and when I see something like those pants that remind me of who I used to be. And then I start to compare myself with me and feel my joy being sapped as I tip to Less Than (as in less than I think I should be) and I fall up short. And then I remember that even when I wore those pants, I mourned for something I wore in college… falling up short again. It amazes me – the hamster wheel has no end.
So this morning, when I saw the Movers, those pants that keep following me, I shook my head. Comparison is brutal. It surrounds us. It’s a part of life like air – we can’t always see it, but we breathe it and take notice when it storms. We expect it in Jr. High. We expect it in the workplace, in sports, in academia. We’re blindsided when it shows up in something like competitive parenting or in my drawer. But doesn’t it stop somewhere along the way?
This week and next, I’m determined to finish the new book I’ve told you guys about that addresses society’s OCD – Obsessive Comparison Disorder. As of today, the title, that could always change, is “I’m Happy for You … sort of … not really: Finding Contentment in a Culture of Comparison.” And, in an effort to hit my deadline, I took a road trip this weekend to work on the book. I decided to read what I hope will be the first chapter to Snopes and her friend (they’re 15) who tagged along, and was a tiny bit surprised as I watched it sink in.
Snopes’ friend offered up some honesty herself, “I totally get what you’re talking about.” She thought for a minute then added, “In Ballet, even though I’ve been dancing since I was three, I’m just not flexible. So when we stretch, I can’t help but look at the girls that can stretch further than me and I want to be them. I want to be better than I am. And I wonder what it would be like if I could stretch like any one of the other girls…. It takes a lot of the joy away from what I love. I don’t know why I do it.” I nodded and looked at my daughter, reading her thoughts that I’m sure didn’t care at all about flexibility but wish for willowy thinness like her ballet friend.
My daughter’s friend had summed it up in a nutshell. “… it takes joy away from what I love.” And as she shared, I tracked with her, thinking – yes, I get it. Me too.
Later, after getting home, Jon & I raced to Community Group. In our group are some friends who recently moved back to Dallas. They’ve been living in a small back house as they update their new-to-them but old home. The husband started to share some of his insecurities as we stood in our host’s lovely living room. “We love where we’re living, but we drive over here and see kids playing outside. Then I think about our neighbors, the youngest of which is… um … around 90 and I start to worry about our kid having friends to play with. Which I know is ridiculous since he’s almost past that age. But, then I look at this house which is larger than ours and our perfect-for-our-family-of-three home seems pretty small – which is silly because it’s fine. More than fine. … It’s crazy how quickly thoughts can travel to discontent even when our provision is more than sufficient.”
He’s right. I had just been eye-ing our host’s art. Wondering if the Community Group notices the prints on our walls rather that aren’t real art. But, what does her art have anything to do with me?! Why can’t I just appreciate it rather than bite into the temptation to make it about me? It’s crazy. I know better.
And truthfully, I do know better. I caught myself in that art moment. And did one of things that actually dispels comparison. I quickly re-booted and was genuinely happy for my friend, our host. And when it’s not about me, I can appreciate her great taste and the beauty of what hangs on her walls. Which makes the moment full rather than leaving me empty.
The truth is, I might be looking at my Mover pants, or art, or fill in the blank when I’m sixty because I’m not sure the comparison thing ever stops. But I hope not. I hope that through honest discussion, we can encourage each other as we consider practical ways to tame comparison pressures. Part of that is sharing so we don’t feel alone.
So, where does it hit you? Where do you feel the comparison pressure? I really want to know. Because it can have an end … or a least pauses. I hope to include YNAs (Your Not Alone call-outs or sidebars) from you guys to help us pause. Because pauses often offer perspective.
If you feel comfortable commenting, please do so below. Or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Confronting comparison opens the door to a path toward contentment. I hope the book will offer hope through practical steps we can take steps to lessen comparison’s strongholds in our lives – together. No road should be walked alone.
Thanks for walking it with me.