Comparison is the Thief of Joy and other lessons I should have learned by now

Me comparing myself to strangers is nothing new.

When I was a kid, I became obsessed with characters in movies, books, and TV. And when I was old enough to realise they weren’t real people, I became obsessed with the actors who portrayed them. And once I was old enough to realise they weren’t real people, I… uh, yeah. I was still obsessed with them. When I was about 10 or 11, I discovered my mom’s high school year books, and became fixated with people in the pages, imagining what their lives were like, giving them back stories and pairing them off. I loved other people’s photo albums, other people’s year books, for the same reasons. And when I became a young adult and blogs and social media became not just A thing but THE thing, it was like realtime photo albums and year books – but for real people. Seemingly real people in my stratosphere.

I just liked learning about other people’s lives. And what came along with that, rather insidiously, was endless comparison. What me and my life looked like stacked against every one else’s.

You guys, I’m in my 30’s now and nothing about the above has changed. In fact, it’s only gotten worse. Thanks to social media, I’m always often distracted by Other People’s Lives to the point where it’s detrimental to my own sense of self (says my therapist).

People on the internet have it all together. There’s nothing like perfectly imperfect curated feeds with consistent, matching over exposed and slightly pink but not obviously pink filters; lovely and perfect pastel or colorful and gold tone sparsely placed flat lays; homes with elegant but casual decor – the effortless but unattainably chic blend of “quirky” knick-knaks and high end modern furnishings and beautifully “messy” rooms; “I woke up like this” artfully tossled or thrown up hair seflies; impossibly organised pantries with chalkboard labels and mason jar storage in copper wire baskets; perfectly comfortable, perfectly ripped and perfectly rolled jeans with amazing shoes; blasè mentions of brilliant careers or stay at home mom projects; workspaces with industrial stationery and expensive technology; kids that will be smarter, funnier, and better dressed than you or yours will ever be; outings with friends that will be 800% more joyful than anything you’ll ever do with your friends; captions that are effortlessly funny or ridiculously relevant with well timed emojis, hashtags as punchlines only; and 678 likes in 24 mins to make me feel like I need to throw out my life and start over. That make me overthink 99% of all my posts. That make me second-guess what I actually want, what I actually like, where I’m going with my life.

Before I know it, I’ve wasted 3 hours of my life falling into a black hole of Instagram posts and Pinterest boards trying to curate a life that I think I really need and want — because @put_together_pipers_mama decorated her room in blush pink and pastel geometric shapes with deer heads and natural wood furniture and damn that looks good on her post so now I’m convinced I need ALL THE THINGS even though I know in my deepest heart of hearts that I don’t own pastel, geometric, marble based ANYTHING because it makes me gag.

But shit, it’s hard not to fall prey to comparison when every time you open a social media app, you’re inundated with people’s high light reels. And people’s poetically phrased fail-reel. Because once you think someone is better than you, even they even seem to fail or fall on hard times, they’re doing it better than you. And it all can make you feel like a wet fart.

Humans are social creatures. We compare ourselves to each other because want, nay need to be liked (this is another soothing bit from my therapist). But what’s happening lately is we’re becoming so consumed with comparison that we’re losing sight of ourselves, with what brings us joy (thanks, doc). So whenever I’m drowning in Not Good Enough, I have to remind myself that these people have shit in their life, too. And not glamorous shit. But real, every day, life draining shit.

They’ve let the laundry pile up for 3 or more weeks.

They’ve spent $200 on groceries just to come home and order $75 worth of pizza.

They’ve waited 3 or more weeks to do laundry and instead of doing laundry, bought new underwear.

They’ve moved the bits and the bobs and the piles of crap and the stacks of shit from one side of the room to the other so they can take a picture of the clean, organised area of the room.

They’ve been alarmed at how bad their arm pits smell. In the middle of the day.

They’ve been sitting in a meeting, mindlessly touching the edge of their chin and found an inch long whisker that sprouted out of nowhere.

They’ve gotten pimples in their ear and only realised it when they put the phone to their ear too fast and with too much pressure and yelped out loud from the shocking pain.

They’ve had explosive diarrhoea in the middle of the afternoon from eating too much dairy.

They’ve done a Google search for a sweater Kristen Stewart wore in Breaking Dawn.

They’ve had diarrhoea and put their feet up on the door when someone used the stall next to them, lest they be recognised by their shoes as Someone Who Has Diarrhoea in the real world. (Why is knowing someone knows you have had diarrhoea the worst thing in the world?)

They’ve gotten awkwardly teary at work when “Must Have Been Love” by Roxette started playing on the radio at work because damnit Vivian just wanted to be loved.

They’ve left a blog post unfinished for 4 weeks only to delete it later.

They’ve failed Alegbra II. (twice!)

They’ve let the one table top surface become so covered in bullshit that they forgot there’s a table underneath it.

They’ve come up with a great come back, 6 weeks later.

They’ve gone to the grocery store specifically to get coffee, milk, and bread, and forgot to get coffee, milk, and bread.

They’ve suddenly come to, only to realise they’ve lost nearly 3 hours and have scrolled 6 years deep into Jenelle Evan’s Instagram.

They’ve had a serious emotional crisis in the grocery store deciding between shampoos.

They’ve waffled between 6 critically acclaimed, award winning, culture shifting movies and ended up binge watching both seasons of The Ashlee Simpson Show. Again.

They’ve spent 40 mins banging out paragraphs of contrary view points, laced with vitriol, in an email or a text message only to delete it all and type “ok that’s fine.” as they grind their teeth to nubs.

They also can’t parallel park without help.

They’ve, on a whim, followed a recipe to a T. They took no photos and put in no pizazz, and the recipe turns out great. They repeat the same recipe to a T on a staged surface, photographing everything, only to have it turn to shit.

 

They’ve almost shit their pants in public. They’ve had a side booger and no one said anything. They’ve felt frumpy and old standing next to someone better dressed, or someone who took a shower that morning. They’ve worked or are working bull shit jobs, they’ve been or are still being rejected. They’re facing heart break. They’ve felt small and neutered. They’ve known that this wasn’t their best, but they did it anyway. They’ve watched loved ones deteriorate from bad decisions or bad luck. Shit, even Beyonce was cheated on.

We are all people. And there’s no escaping the bullshit.

 

 

*they’ve also made an entire blog whinging about First World Problems, that, when compared to say, a child kidnapped and forced in to war, are probably the best problems to have.

 

Parallel Parking: or, easy ways to die

So, I really hate parallel parking.

I hate it in the same way that I hate pool. Because pool and parallel parking are all about “math” and “spacial reasoning” and other literal, non-abstract, clear-cut ways of doing things that I DO NOT excel at. I don’t like things I can’t bullshit my way out of. (I do, however, like ending my sentences in prepositions.) Continue reading “Parallel Parking: or, easy ways to die”

Catchup.com – uh, November?

Helloooo, blog land! And by that I mean, helloooo Mom (thanks for reading!). I had planned to do Blog-Tober, where I post every day. Then I was all “well, I’ll do Blog-Vember, since I missed Blog-Tober.” And then, I did nothing. Continue reading “Catchup.com – uh, November?”

My bed, my choice

Last September — no, it goes farther back than that.

Back in October 2015, I got a slightly better paying job, which meant I finally had the extra scratch to re-do our bed linens: new sheets, new pillows, new mattress pad, new duvet cover, and it was basically the best day of my life. Continue reading “My bed, my choice”

Surgery and Recovery

I went in for surgery on Thursday, for my (hopefully one and only) laparoscopy (and hysteroscopy, excision of endometrial tissue and pap smear – I had to confirm my procedures and allergies with 8 different nurses – Aussies are nothing but careful). Continue reading “Surgery and Recovery”

Twinkies (or, Notes on Inadequacy)

I showed up to my writer’s group tonight and couldn’t wait to share how productive I was last week – an outline! Research! Narrative! Character design! I AM PRODUCTIVE! Continue reading “Twinkies (or, Notes on Inadequacy)”

Hodge Podge – Wednesday

We had a hot one today, folks – so hot that I went to work simply so I could have air conditioning (that’s serious) even though I really wanted to stay home and smother myself in aloe (my sunburn still really, really hurts). Continue reading “Hodge Podge – Wednesday”

Back at it

And lo, it was a beautiful month of no work and very little responsibility, but my time as a housewife finally came to an end. Woe is me.

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Home is where the sweatpants are.

I wish it could have lasted longer, but them’s the bricks sometimes. And having any time off at all is nothing to piss and moan about. And I can’t adequately put into words how close I was to losing every ounce of my rapidly fraying shit, so I’m so thankful I got the break I did, and that I was able to find something new pretty quick.

And last Monday, I started a new gig. And last Sunday night, I wrote in my journal a list of habits I started during my time off that I was going to keep up now that I was working again – because I felt really positive and charged after my mental health break, and even though I was nervous about starting a new job, I felt good about keeping up this Awesome Person I was tricking myself into being.

What I had planned to keep going: 20 minutes of free writing every day, hand journaling at the end of every night, 2 blogs, go to a new writer’s group, read my book on the way to work, keep the apartment clean, and no  watching trash tv.

What actually happened: radio silence. No writing, no journaling, no blogs, blew off writer’s group and felt insanely guilty, read Facebook on the way to work, destroying every square surface of the apartment and blanketing the bedroom floor with all the shoes and all the clothes both clean and dirty, watching all the trash TV and crying at everything.

Alright, so I might not have been as productive as I thought I would be. I might have come home almost every night and taken a nap before getting out of my work clothes. And I might have woken up early to watch TV and convince myself to get dressed. And I might have come home one day in tears wondering if I’d made a horrible mistake and if I’d ever be happy again. And I might have had bad dreams and terrible sleep nearly every single night. And I might have left a bag full of sensitive information and my passport ON THE BUS and it might be lost forever, and I might have thrown an internal tantrum and watched Bojack the Horseman all night in silence while wrapped in a blanket. These things might have happened.

SO YEAH. I’m doing really well. That whole “I expect too much of myself and I should give myself reasonable goals” wave of clarity I had receded waaaay far back into the horizon, and I’m giving myself a fat face palm.

To my credit though, I did manage to shower almost every day. AND today I forced myself out of the house and out to a cafe where I did write the intro to the story I’m starting (without the help of my notes, which were written down in the awesome Action Book that was also in the bag of shit I left on the bus. UGH) – which is something I didn’t see coming, and something that gives me hope for the coming week. And I managed to deep clean the apartment while running in and out a PMS fueled festival of hormones and terror (and baked cookies – yum)

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Otameal chocolate chip cookies made in messy tiny kitches 4eva

SO YEAH – bring it on this week. I have cookies and ice cream and an urge to write.

 

**ps. Bojack Horseman is the best show I’ve seen since Arrested Development. It’s goddamn brilliant.

 

to do, to do, to do

To-do lists? Fuck yeah. I love making a to-do list and scratching off items. It’s fantastic because I get to be all YES I AM THE MOST PRODUCTIVE PERSON EVER and it makes me feel like I’ve made the most of my day and consequently, my life.

But when I haven’t finished everything on my to-do list because I got distracted Googling Jenelle Evan’s latest pregnancy (confirmed via police report!) or by something else equally important I feel twice as worse, 1) because I didn’t finish the list and 2) because I didn’t make the most out of my rapidly slipping time.

Making the most of my time. Time. You bitch goddess. When I’m sitting at my desk trying to make it through a day so painfully bad that I’d skin puppies alive just to go home, the clock almost moves backwards. When I’m at home and it’s raining and we’re just lounging and having a good time, it’s goes from 11 AM to 8 PM in the blink of an eye. The relativity kills me, because I’m obsessed with the idea of making the most of my time, trying to live each day to its fullest, trying to live each day in a way I would be proud to look back on.

Notice how I said “obsessed with the idea of” because I definitely don’t practice it. Well, I mean, I don’t practice it in the way that would typically mean “living life to its fullest.” I’m not out sky diving or skinny dipping in shark nets or travelling the world or exploring every knook and cranny of my new country. I’m sitting on the couch with Joel eating an amazing dinner and watching a great movie. I’m hitting publish on a blog I’m particularly proud of. I’m thinking of projects I would love to do one day. I’m making crafts or plotting re-decorating strategies. I’m meeting friends for dinner and then coming home at 11 PM to sweat pants and bad TV. I’m obsessively cleaning or re-arranging. I’m looking up animal videos and comics on the internet. It’s not sexy and it’s not glamorous, and most of the time doesn’t even add up to good blog material, but it makes me happy.

But it’s this constant battle of “I’m totally happy – but since I’m not doing more, I don’t feel like I should be happy.” Because regardless of how you define living life to its fullest, happiness is the end goal. Yep, I’m a pretty lame home body who enjoys an occasional adventure or weekend night of too many glasses of wine. I want to do that stuff and I want to write. That’s basically all I want to do, what makes me happy. If, at the end of the day, I can say I accomplished something, I feel like I’ve made good use of my time. And when I can look back and I don’t hate myself, I feel like I’m making good use of my time, and living life to its fullest. Double whammy.

That being said, I’m on the fence of how efficiently I’ve spent my time off. I made the mistake of falling off the deep end with my goals and decided I would read 3 books and write 2 stories and 14 blogs and attend 5 meet up events, keep the damned table cleaned off every single day, completely rid myself of every bad habit ever and get myself on a schedule that includes daily writing, posting, and washing my face 2x a day, deep clean every square inch of our apartment, make a quilt, and catch up on seasons 5 and 6 of Downtown Abbey.

While I didn’t completely rid myself of every bad habit ever, I did wake up at 7 AM almost every day. And I didn’t get myself on a schedule, but I found work, read most of a book, started free writing again, stayed on top of the laundry and dishes, found a writing group and a book chat club, had two hair appointments, re-organised my closet and our desk, had phone chats and skypes with my nearest and dearest, made an earrings board, did lots of grocery shopping, made lots of meals, deconstructed a dress for it’s fabric, and I’ve taken like 5 bubble baths.

But because those few boxes are left unchecked, I feel like this has been a wasted opportunity. Forget that I actually decompressed and had a lot of “ah-ha!” moments and some hard talks with myself and some good journaling time and got lots of inspiration and the re-charge that I desperately needed, because I didn’t come out of this holiday a well-read, published author with 100 adventures documented and a finished quilt and a completely clean house, I feel like a failure.

You know what though, fuck it. I started writing this entry yesterday, and today, I don’t feel like a failure. I take it all back. This has been a great, much needed resting period. I’ve gotten a lot of my shit together. I may not have accomplished as much as I expected, I did accomplish. And I don’t hate myself over it. Just because I didn’t do everything doesn’t mean I won’t ever have the chance to do it another time. The hardest part of getting out of this depressive stint is not beating the shit out of myself when I don’t perform as well as I want to, as well as I expect myself to. I really wish there was a way to pause my notion of “expectations” until I feel like I’m capable of meeting them, but them’s the bricks. And in the mean time, I’ll just have to try and manage those expectations as well as I can.

And we get to have burgers and ribs for dinner last night because Joel is awesome.

 

And as of this morning, I finished that book I thought I would have finished last week. Sheeeeit. Time well spent.