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?”

Catchup.com – September

Sooooo – how about September, huh? It’s like the whole month happened, and I slept through most of it. Today is the end of the month, and since it’s been a bit quiet around this corner of the internet, I thought I’d write a little catch up post. Mostly so I can figure out where the hell the time went. Continue reading “Catchup.com – September”

Catchup.com

 

So here we are, at the near-end of another month, with another catch-up post. But there’s actually not a lot to catch up on, because I’ve spent most of this month brain dead and trapped inside a leaky apartment.  Continue reading “Catchup.com”

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)”

Don’t be dick to yourself – and other New Year resolutions

On New Year’s Eve, our group started talking about resolutions. My friend Michael asked me about mine. I proudly said, “I resolve not to have any resolutions.” to which he said, “but that is a resolution.” and I was all “Well, shit.”

As I’ve said before, me making a list of resolutions is like me making a list of things I’ll only get worse at/not do. But this doesn’t stop me from thinking about them. And they’re always the same goals/desires:

  • spend more time pursuing dreams, less time worrying about day job
  • eat better so my arteries won’t crap out by the time I’m 50
  • move more so I don’t go into cardiac arrest when I’m climbing stairs; also so pants will stop not fitting
  • take better care of my skin so I won’t look like I’m still in puberty
  • read more so I don’t rot my brain
  • do more so I don’t one day die with regrets (spoiler alert: likely to happen no matter what I do)
  • make a billion dollars so I can stay home and not have to worry about putting on real pants

2016 was, for the most part, an extremely hard year. Going into January, I was super confident. I thought, “this is going to be a good year. I have my new, awesome job where I get to contribute creatively and work with great people, my hair is growing out (this is important), my office is organised, I have a writing plan, and everything will be gravy. I’m happy, I’m content, and I feel like I’m on the right track.”

And then, it hit me. I woke up on the last day of my Christmas holiday with an unshakable sense of impending doom. And on January 4 I woke up in an anxiety attack that didn’t dissolve for almost a week. So I went back to the doctor for a benzo script, after close to two years of not needing xanax. And that sucked.

I thought I was just anxious because we had a big month at work coming up – there was a lot at stake, so I was nervous/excited to be a part of it. But January blurred into February and February blurred into March. March blurred into April. April into May. It never got easier. I wasn’t sleeping without having nightmares. I dreaded every single day. And at some point I came to and realised that all my savings had been burned through, the apartment was constantly a mess, our bills were late, and I found myself paralysed without my phone, jumping at every notification as if someone’s life depended on it. It was easier to count the days that didn’t end in some form of panic. Every weekend included some sort of sobbing breakdown, either to Joel or to my Mom or in text messages to my friends. I just couldn’t control myself.

It was hard to admit to myself that I was back in a shit place. I spent so much of 2015 in denial that I was so homesick it spun me into depression, and there I was, robbed of 6 months because I refused to admit defeat. I mean, I knew I was good at standing in my own way, but it turns out I’m really good at putting myself in harm’s way to prove a point to no one.

After I quit my job and took some time off, I realised my two rough patches were the result of me pushing myself for a career that I knew I wasn’t suited for, but that I felt I needed to be suited for, and thusly wouldn’t let myself quit.  I realised I have to listen to my own red flags – it doesn’t matter how cool your job is, how awesome the people you work with are, if the stress makes you go back on medication and back into therapy, it’s not a good fit.

So this year, I would like to focus on one things only:

do not be a passive aggressive asshole to self

And really, that’s it. I don’t think of this as a resolution, because it’s not like losing 20lbs or drinking less alcohol. It’s the “be kind to yourself” bullshit that’s not actually bullshit but a really important life skill.

Naturally, I want to develop better habits and achieve things, too. But I’m not going to make a giant posted list, because I’ll feel like I have to achieve them all RIGHT NOW or I’ll be a failure. So I’m going to take it one step at a time and you know – not be an asshole to myself about it. I need to get myself to a place of stability and consistency before I can stack myself full of expectations and plans.

I’m taking this year one month at a time. For January, my goal was to find a more interactive writer’s group and a class of some sort. I got the Master Class for Christmas and I’ve already started it, so now all I need to do is find an additional group to join. I don’t know what my goal is for February, because I haven’t gotten there yet. That’s February’s problem.

See? I’m already applying my resolution. (ha)

ALL THAT BEING SAID – here are things that Joel and I plan to make happen and that I’m REALLY EXCITED ABOUT for 2017:

  • ADOPTING A DOG
  • Taking driver’s safety course and getting more experience on the road so that we can
  • Go on non-staycation holiday! (although Joel and I had 4 uninterrupted days together for the first time in 2 years and it was fabulous. I’d rather have the time in the Blue Mountains or on a beach somewhere tho)
  • ADOPTING A DOG
  • Upgrading to a queen size bed
  • ADOPTING A DOG
  • Becoming an Australian resident and finally putting all the visa jibba jabba behind us (fingers crossed this happens around July)
  • ADOPTING A DOG
  • Investing more time in myself
  • ADOPTING A DOG (my biological clock is barking)
  • make a billion dollars so I can stay home and not have to worry about putting on real pants

I mean, not having to put real pants on every day is the dream.

Set the bar high, folks. And be nice to yourself.

Happy 2017!

 

 

Waiting for the Butter to Soften

Last week, I set out to make cookies. And by set out, I mean I had a sudden attack of restlessness and felt an obsessive need to make something – anything – just as long as it involved measuring and baking. I landed on cookies because they’re the easiest thing to make when I’m scattered and NEED TO DO SOMETHING. Thus, I set out to make easy, no fail, made them 500x, have the recipe memorised chocolate chip cookies.

I didn’t have a lot of chocolate chips, and only half the butter I needed, so instead of going to the store (which would take too long), I decided to only make half a recipe. I weighed the butter and cut it into cubes. I knew the butter wasn’t soft enough and if I didn’t wait an hour, I’d make a giant mess of sugar and butter crumbs when I tried to cream it (oh, the perils of hand mixers and shallow mixing bowls). So I waited maybe 5 minutes while I measured everything else and prepped the pans. And then I couldn’t wait any longer so I got to creaming.

As predicted, butter and sugar went flying. Instead of waiting for the butter to soften, I mashed it with the potato masher, and tried to “fold” the sugar into the butter. It still made a mess. Instead of waiting for it to soften again, I added a bit of milk. Bingo. The sugar and butter creamed without making a mess, and I didn’t have to wait an hour (even though by this point I had already wasted another 15-20 minutes). I mixed in the dry ingredients, the chocolate chips, and scooped them into the pan.

I thought something was strange when the dough was sticking to my fingers, and not really staying in a ball like shape. That’s weird, but whatever. I put the pan in the oven to bake, and 10 minutes later, was welcomed to this:

IMG_8120
sexy.

A burned disc of butter sugar shit. And the next pan was the same.

The disappointment was palpable.

I quickly realised what happened – in my ADD MILK haste, I needed to compensate with a bit more flour – which I didn’t. I also chopped it up to being bad at math and not reducing the ingredients correctly. I reduced the flour from 2 1/4 cups to 1 cup, 2 tbsp, which Google and a quick fact check by Leah confirmed was correct. But later that evening when I was washing up, I discovered that I used a 1/2 cup measure that I thought was a 1 cup measure. So really, I’m good at math, and bad at reading.

Small mistake. It sucks. If you’ve been following along the blog recently, I haven’t exactly been batting a thousand this year. I’ve felt more way failure than win, like a lot more failure. And as I looked at this pan of greasy, dried elephant dung that I created, something that I’m normally amazing at, and yes, shamefully scooping it up with a fork and eating it in much the same manner as the way a dog eats its own vomit, I knew I really need to get my own shit together.

I make small mistakes that avalanche into big mistakes because I rush. Because I’m ridiculously anxious and impulsive. It’s OMG I HAVE TO DO THIS NOW I DON’T CARE IF IT’S NOT READY inside my head and then FUCK WHY DIDN’T I JUST DO THAT THING I NEEDED TO DO when it turns out badly. It was like this pan of baked diarrhea was a direct metaphor for my life – hurrying and making small mistakes just to get it done rather than taking the time to do it right.

If my internal failure cycle were an Ouroboros, it would look like this:

Screen Shot 2016-06-25 at 6.09.02 PM
artist’s rendering

 

It’s a vicious, vicious cycle. Anxiety > Rush/Stall > Small Mistake Avalanche > Fail

Most of the time, I’m of the “OMG, I really need to do this, but I see these issues will prevent this from being the best it can be, so I’m going to take X step and X step so I don’t make a mistake.” persuasion. For the past few months though, I’ve just overlooked all of that so I can get something done and feel some sort of personal gratification or sense of accomplishment. I’ve fallen into this “oh it’s just a small mistake so it won’t matter” kind of thinking that just doesn’t work at all. Because small mistakes turn into an avalanche. So even if I’m accomplishing things, those things aren’t the best – or they’re just wrong. Which makes me feel like more of a failure.

And I’m desperate to learn how to derail the cycle. How to instil thoughtful, deliberate, mindful actions in everything I do, instead of rushing to get to the finish line. After all, I’m not winning any ribbons by finishing projects, goals, or baked goods that look like shit – literally.

So on Sunday, I decided I needed to regroup, since Saturday was a panicky waste of good breathable oxygen. So I made of list of everything I needed to do, gave myself time frames to do some chores while Skyping with Cara, get a giant chunk of work done, and then I went to the store to buy more cookie ingredients. This time, I measured everything carefully, I let my butter soften on the counter, I made way less of a mess, and the cookies turned out crispy on the edge, soft in the center, all over golden, and delish:

IMG_8135

I was even able to finish my weekend work with a little more satisfaction than I normally have. And I think it’s because I took my time to slowly and considerately do everything. The cycle of OMG GET IT DONE is a hard one to beat, and over the past week, I’ve realised I just need to take it one day at a time. Of just being careful and aware – I mean, I want to be HIGHLY AWARE, but I’ll accept general awareness and perseverance for now.

Basically, the point of this blog is I learned a lesson:

If you don’t wait for the butter to soften, you’ll end up with shit.

Also,

Eating half a pan of melted butter sugar dough will make your pants suddenly shrink over night.

#lifelessons

Bob Ross to the Rescue

I love Bob Ross.

I love the simplicity of his show. I love how the sound of his voice is like a someone wrapping a warm blanket around you. I love his positivity, his “maybe… maybe…”. I love the way he says “whiiiish wiiiiiish wiiiiish” when he uses the fan brush to make waves. Every touch and every sound he makes is soft, gentle, and deliberate, no matter how “accident” he says they are. Whenever I’m watching The Joy of Painting with Bob Ross, I’m transported to a rainy day in elementary school, watching him in art class while we waited out the clock for Christmas Break. The whole show has a calming, tranquillizing effect on me, and I couldn’t be happier that there’s a whole heap of them streaming on Netflix.

I’ve had one of those days – can’t get out of bed, can’t have 1 thought without 47 thoughts behind it, can’t find a coping mechanism besides sleeping that helps, just feeling restless and anxious and essentially paralysed. Eventually, I convinced myself to take a shower, and I sat down to scroll through Netflix, desperate for something to take the edge off. And I saw that Beauty is Everywhere collection of Bob Ross episodes. And I was all HECK YES.

Five minutes into the first episode, he was painting some clouds (using the number 2 brush in a circular motion so that “it looks like there’s a lot happening”), and he said it was going to take a while to finish. Then, he says “… while I’m doing this, I want to show you a video of some little characters that are living with me – baby squirrels. And I want to show you how we feed them.”

And then there was a video of Bob Ross holding baby squirrels and feeding them from a syringe attached to a creepy looking extra long nipple.

IMG_8089

BABY SQUIRRELS.

I g-damn love squirrels. They’re wiley, they’re fluffy, they make really questionable decisions, and they’re adorable. When I was 14, I created a character called Squirrel Man, a Jewish Crime Fighting Squirrel who wore tighty whities and a red cape, and never went anywhere without his truth seeking acorn. I have a bit of an obsession with them. And very sadly, they’re not in Australia.

Bob Ross and baby squirrels. Two of my most favourite things. It was like God reached down, patted me on my head and told me, “everything is going to be ok.”

And it was. For a little bit anyway, which is cool.