we are people, just like you. we eat, sleep, go to work, raise kids. we clean toilets & make lists & feed the cat. we are people, just like you. except when we’re not.
like, I forget that other moms have hair. or I forget that I don’t until I notice a little girl in the grocery store beside the chex mix staring up at my bandana. what is she looking at? OH, that’s right!! I completely forgot. i’m bald. she’s probably never seen a bald woman before. I smile at her to ease her nervousness.
obviously there are tons of places where we are different. I live in the woods, you live in the city. you go on vacation, i go to north dakota. you have a jumbo garden, I have a few rows inside some chicken wire. your kids go to school, my kids stay home. I drive a minivan, you don’t have to drive a minivan.
these places where I am different from you are great. the best, even, i’d say. we can learn from each other! we can grow! they are the pieces we should hold out to each other & say, “hey, look at this! isn’t it interesting? would you like to try a bite?” as though we were offering a sample of a sprinkle cupcake. like, I live in the country. would you like to come have a bonfire & dig around in the dirt? or, we homeschool here, & can I tell you, I don’t actively teach my kids to read? “yes,” we could say to each other. “that’s interesting. I’ve never thought of that before. tell me about it.”
the problem is, instead of offering up our differences, we tuck them down inside our shirts & pretend they don’t exist. I don’t want you to think i’m strange; I want you to like me. if you think i’m too different, you might not like me. so I want to be unique, but not too unique. all those years of school with the cool kids & the me-not-so-cool did wonders for my different-o-meter. I don’t think you need details. you were there, too.
OR, we see another woman’s differences & instantly & insanely covet them. this was me yesterday. my day was over before it started, which was unfortunate: it had started so well. i’d managed out of bed before the kids, made my tea, lit a candle even. I read my Word for the day, & then, since no one was up yet, tucked into my novel. happy, contented me, sitting in my old, gruffy glider by the window as the sun came up, reading. postcard from my ideal vacation.
but there sat my phone. “i’ll just check my email quick. that way i’m not on a screen when the kids wake up.” (I tell myself this all the time to assuage my screen-addiction guilt.) so i’m scrolling through a blog about being our authentic, artistic selves (ironic? I think yes.), & click on a new writer. her words are amazing. she’s posted an ultrasound, is having a baby. I click on her “about” page, & that’s where everything goes wrong. as I read about this lovely lady’s small children & all her accolades, all the christian websites she’s written for, the books she’s written, my innards began to unravel. I haven’t written anything like that. I have a degree in creative writing, & I can’t write like that. I can’t write with tiny kids like she can. H*ll, I can’t even get out of bed in the morning.
then (because that wasn’t enough), I click over to another blog about travel & read about all the airplanes this woman’s children have been on. whaaaat. let’s just drive the envy knife down deep, eh? you all know my stance on travel.
there it was. a complete & downward spiral into the gory pit. my contentment flew out the now-open window of comparison, & I was jealous. jealous. what am I, five? yes, it turns out. a five-year-old sizing up her girlfriend’s cupcake & being dazzled by all the sprinkles, harrumphing at her own bland hunk of flour.
& this discontent stuck with me, too. as if I’d tattooed the words I was now applying to myself on my forearm with a shame-colored sharpie: wannabe. poser. never good enough. they were there, & I wasn’t even taking the rubbing alcohol to them to try & scrub them off. the entire color of my world shadowed & grayed. I was irritated with my kids, with my own inability to carve out creative time, with my need for sleep! who gets irritated because they need to sleep? I did, because yesterday, I saw someone else doing what I thought I should be doing & wasn’t. I had measured myself & come up lacking.
the sad thing is that I didn’t actively try to get myself out of the slump. I just took it as Truth: I am less of a woman, less of a writer & mother, because I don’t look like her. I have failed. look at me, I have failed.
I think we women, we people, we everyone circle around envy our whole lives. I used to gaze longingly at my friend’s car, then her boyfriend. when I was first married, I wanted a legitimate job, not substitute teaching. now that I have kids, I covet other families’ RV adventures, envy their hobby farms with the baby chicks & wooden fences, dream about having my name mean something big as an author.
for you it might be her house, her countertops. or how clean she keeps it. it might be his (seemingly) well-behaved kids, or dog. for you it might be her waistline. or her brownies. or her brownies that don’t contribute to her waistline. if you’re online at all, you automatically amp up the comparison a hundredfold. the internet is a dangerous place if i’m there too much & without a hefty self-preserving filter.
fortunately. . .& this is big. . .fortunately, i’m never left to my own devices. throughout the course of this gray day (did I mention it was rainy & overcast? of course it was.), Jesus showed up. I couldn’t manage myself (& was doing poorly with the house & kids), so the Savior of my soul stepped in & showed me myself. through the afternoon, He kept pointing out to me: see? this is who I made you, this mother who stays home every minute with her kids. look at them. do you see how they’re growing? do you see them smiling? that’s because of you. well, you & Me, but you need to know about you right now.
little by little, I felt myself sinking back into the contentment edging my own life. we played chess in the afternoon. we hiked down by the river & I dredged a floating shoe out of the water, stepping into the cold water in my sandals, when one of the boys dropped it. I saved the dried up dill plant from the garden & brought it in the house for the kids to shake the seeds off, to save for next spring. I made dinner. I let them eat dessert. I rocked the little one to sleep in the middle of the night because he was crying & couldn’t fall back to sleep without me. I also yelled, forgot to start the laundry, got mad at the toddler who was so chipper at 9 pm. this is it. this is my life.
& today? it looks better. I didn’t start off with sabotage. my phone is still sitting on the nightstand in our room.
& here? in this life? i’m getting a grip on it today. because really, I don’t want someone else’s life. especially when all i’m comparing to are the glory bits. the sprinkles. nobody posts her gore on instagram. I want my own life. I want my pseudo-minimalism, my homeschooling, my food, my kids, my river, my self-employed husband. I want to be me, & I want to be superfantastically okay with being me.
i’m making a vow to you, then. to bring to this place my honest self. to not be scared that you will judge me in my idiosyncrasies. to hold out my hand of different, offering you a sample.
& to stay off my phone first thing in the morning, for the love of all that is good & holy.