Social media sites bring new meaning to Mark Twain’s “Comparison is the death of joy.”. Teddy Roosevelt used the word, theft but it doesn’t matter for if comparison and joy were included in the rock/paper/scissors game, comparison would trump joy. The comparison range used to be limited to the physical realm, but now the world, so it’s easy to find myself lacking and what’s joyful about that? My house is smaller than yours, my wrinkles more abundant, I only have 72 friends, and I’m not a size 2. What I see now pretty much portrays the great stuff. What I don’t see are the struggles, the imperfect parts of life that everyone experiences, the parts that are camera shy, more comfortable hiding in the dark. It’s not that I want to see it all, but I need to find a way to remind myself that what I see is only snippets of their reality, I don’t have to meet or exceed all I see, I’m not lacking, and I can find joy in their joy. It’s not about what others have, do, or look like, but all those things about me, comparing them to what I want them to be.
I spent 26 years in my careers working with debits and credits; positive and negative numbers that are used to record financial transaction in the world of accounting. Many transactions had multiple debits and credits that didn’t zero each other out, but rather offset each other. They existed together, with their sum equal to zero. Life is full of debits and credits too; positive things that exist and happen and, unfortunately, negative things too. They exist together, but their sum rarely equals zero. The birth of my grandchildren are two terrific positive things life gave me after my husband died, but his death was the greatest negative. They both exist in the sum of my experiences but the one doesn’t offset the other. The one doesn’t wipe out the other. When I arrive at the end of my life, I don’t want to look at the balance scale of my life and see that both pans are at the same level – the wonderful equivalent to the terrible, as if the sum of the joy is equal to that of the sadness. I want to see clearly, that one pan is heavier than the other – the one with all things positive!
Re-reading what I wrote in August, “What’s wrong with here?” prompted what’s wrong with me, with now? Here; this place, this home, this moment in time. I could answer everything (he’s not here) and nothing (beautiful, comfortable, content) at the same time. Me; my lifestyle, my appearance, my friends. I could answer everything (he’s not here) and nothing (independent, it’s what I was given, amazing support), side by side. Now; single, retired, alone. I could answer everything (he’s not here) and nothing (more so than widowed, still active, not lonely), in competition. Everything’s wrong focuses on he’s gone, not on purpose, not anyone’s fault, but he should still be here with me; that which gets in the way of seeing all that’s right. I live where we planned to live in our retirement, in a comfortable home, not wanting for much. I was always capable of upholding myself, and still do, even though I’m heavier without his support. I no longer look my best for him, but for me. I have friends who listen, care, and support me. I no longer want widow to define me, love the gym, and am rarely lonely. All that’s right with here, me, now.
I’ve been cleaning out and organizing, making quite a mess as I pull things apart to examine what’s worth keeping. Oftentimes I can re-arrange what’s there, making it tidy, but other times, when things are crammed in and in disarray, it’s best to pull everything out, spreading it out, in order to re-organize the good stuff and chuck the rest. I have to do that with my life sometimes too. My careers weren’t always perfect so when I’d think about selling bras at JCPenny, I’d pull out everything wrong and right, addressing the wrong, and setting the right on top. My marriage wasn’t always perfect so I’d step away to lay it all out, fixing priorities, and setting love on top. The hardest and longest cleaning out I faced was the tearing apart of my old life and vision of my future, and re-building new ones, not chucking everything, but all that could no longer be, making room for all that could be. I still have some cleaning out to do, like anger when chores without help overwhelm me. But I have space to fill too, with what I don’t know, as long as it’s not just any old thing.
“. . . those who’ve taken flight, but never got off the ground.” (Alison Krause) Lots of things take flight every day, but do they get off the ground? An example is chickens – they have wings so they can fly, but can’t soar to great heights or maintain flight for even a minute. I’ve taken flight from single, no children, college, and marriage, towards a wife, mother, career, and widow. My kids have confirmed I was a pretty great mom and I enjoyed a couple of fulfilling careers, but found it impossible to soar equally high for both. I might not have soared to 30.000 feet in my careers, but I also wanted to soar for my family. I wasn’t willing to sacrifice one to soar amazingly high for the other so I managed two flights, soaring well but at lower heights. I know people who take flight to work every day, but have yet to get off the ground. Instead they soar for their family or hobbies. Fulfillment can come in all kinds of ways, so find something worth getting off the ground for. Something you don’t just do, but really enjoy; in other words choose to be something other than a chicken!
I overheard a conversation yesterday about husbands who don’t have much to say, and about how so many couples don’t have the same vision of where they’re headed. I couldn’t relate. My husband always had lots to say and we did have the same vision, just different ideas about the trip, not always agreeing on what to bring along with us; spending lots or being frugal, alcohol or anything but, lots of words or few, roughing it or a little luxury, fly by the seat of your pants or having a plan. There would be differences in when too. Now, so don’t think; waiting for some event or milestone or because of uncertainty; or someday because we’ve got lots of time. It’s possible to have the same vision (foresight) without having the same vision (eyesight). We can agree on where we’re headed, but it’s not possible to see the trip though the same eyes, eyes that project what will be from what has been and what is. Eyes that see the world based on our own small, individualized world that’s formed through unique and diverse experiences, events, and examples. What we bring, not nearly as important as where we’re headed.
We recently turned the clocks back so we gained an hour, but just until March when we give it back. How many times do I wish I could do just that – turn the clock back, even for a few minutes, and then zip it forward to real time. It’s just a couple of minutes to try again, but it’s too much to ask. I ask my DVR to do it all the time and I do it when I write, but there’s no such thing in real time. I used the wrong words, I said nothing or too much, I didn’t look, I decided it didn’t matter or it did, and on and on. I would add, made the wrong choice, but to know that usually takes much longer than a few minutes. I rarely take enough time to think before I speak, act before I consider, choose before I’ve thoroughly considered all the options. Why is that? What’s wrong with a pause, letting my brain work instead of my mouth. What’s wrong with hesitate? Is a few minutes of silence too much to bear? We need to expand the use of “Wait for it!” to include pondering, churning, considering!