But as I lay down to sleep, I remembered this passage from Thoreau’s Walden: “I say beware of all enterprises that require new clothes and not a new wearer of the clothes.” Walden reminds me that when I feel lacking- I don’t need new things, I need new eyes with which to see the things I already have. – Momastery, Give Me Gratitude or Give Me Debt
You lack nothing.
I’ve spoken to several people over the last few weeks who have admitted to looking at their lives–and themselves–through the joy-less lens of comparison.
Whether on Facebook or in real life,
they find themselves lacking.
I look at each of them and think:
Don’t you see what I see?
There is no other you!
that way of being
those beautiful eyes!
And no one else can be this exactly as you are or live this exactly as you would.
I’ve written about this once before.
Why do you punish yourself with unworthy comparisons?
no one person’s life is the sum result of what you see on the outside,
whether on Facebook or in real life.
This I know to be true.
I was once at an introductory session for the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program offered through the University of Minnesota.*
I was not there as a mildly interested auditor;
I had signed up for this class–despite my obvious shortage of time and money–because
I felt truly desperate.
I had been living through a couple of years filled with personal hardship of an exceptionally stressful kind.
My husband had experienced a sudden health crisis that led to emergency surgery, a long recovery, deferred law school and high hospital bills to pay;
I was struggling with working full-time and being a first-time parent, still crawling out of postpartum depression with my usual mix of anxiety and depression providing a crumbling foundation underneath;
I was a relative newcomer to this country and to this city, struggling to feel at home anywhere.
As the teacher asked us to share why we had signed up for this class, each person in the big circle of perhaps thirty shared an illness, a stress, a life transition that had led him or her to being there.
When it was my turn, I didn’t sugar coat things.
I described my nearly 30 year struggle with untreated mental illness, my husband’s life-threatening illness, our financial struggles and fears about my ability to parent our two-year old while working full-time to provide for our family. I told them that I had signed up because I knew that I had a good life in many ways but I had absolutely no capacity to truly enjoy it.
I shared that
I didn’t have any idea how to be a joyful participant in my own life
and that this made me deeply sad.
So sad that I had often wished that I could just disappear into nothingness.
Yet, when this sharing time ended in a short break, the teacher sought me out.
“Well in spite of everything, you seem to be doing really well,” she said, with a bright cheery smile on her face.
She spoke to me in a colleague-to-colleague tone, looking as though she might like to ask me to join her as an assistant in the class!
I don’t remember how I responded, but as this interaction sunk in, I found myself with a new clarity regarding the way that I must be perceived.
No matter how low I feel, no matter how honest my words are, no matter how much I say that I am struggling, my public persona appears to communicate that I am “ok.”
THAT person over there is suffering, but
Rachel…she’ll be ok. She’s always ok.
Which is not true.
And is not how it feels.
But explains why–throughout my life–it has often been difficult to get even my doctors to take my struggles seriously.
Apparently I seem pretty darn ok much of the time.
Which just goes to show that
we simply do not know how it feels to be in someone else’s skin. Or life. Ever.
And this is also why I often ask even people I don’t know very well–if they will give me the permission and space to do so–how they are doing.
I mean…really doing.
Because sometimes you have to probe a little deeper if you are going to give people the opportunity to share the truth.
And if you want to help, you have to ask.
You know what I am talking about. I know you do.
The woman who has a perfect home and teaches yoga and holds a fantastic, high-paying job and posts on Facebook about the academic and athletic prowess of her three fabulous children.
It’s not schadenfreude to wonder what there is that you perhaps don’t see.
It’s not a wishing of hardship upon someone you envy.
It’s simply an acknowledgement that everyone carries some burden or insecurity.
It’s a form of compassion to endeavor to see beyond the external construct to the whole person.
And it maybe hasn’t occurred to you, but you really should extend this same tenderness to yourself.
You are not who you seem.
You are not your feelings.
You are not defined by this thing you wish you had done or that gorgeous kitchen you wish you could afford or that big paycheck you get every two weeks.
Acknowledge your gifts, both internally and externally.
Reject comparison and envy.
Your soul deserves so much more.
So much love to you all.
Hey, I’d love to hear from you…your thoughts and experiences.
Please share your comments below.
* P.S. The MBSR Program helped me a TON. Read more in this previous blog post.