Nothing kills joy faster than...
Comparison. Comparison is the antithesis of peace. Funny how peace and joy walk hand in hand down el camino real. But there lurks the comparison hobgoblin, waiting patiently, with the uneven sidewalk segments to trip them both up and separate them. And then steal their wallets and then kick them in the ribs and then insult their mothers. And then spit on them and then..
There has been a lot of discussion on facebook and the blogs I follow about this very phenomenon. So I know I'm not alone in this internal conflict. Often the comparison buzzes away in my mind just below true conscious awareness. There, it can do untold damage to my sense of belonging, peace, tranquility and acceptance.
I know this because I was held hostage by comparison and brutally abused by it all of last year. And this is the inexcusable part: I was comparing my sweet kids to other peoples' kids.
My kids measure up just fine on all the important metrics. They're kind, gregarious, bright, engaged and engaging, mischievous, funny, loving, energetic and most of all healthy (Thank God, Thank God, Thank God). But for the entire time we were enrolled in a private preschool (and for the time we were in conflict with a member of our extended family who is not terribly, shall we say fond of our kids), I fell prey to the comparison trap. Ugh. It was excruciating.
I had to gnaw off my metaphorical leg to get out of it.
What I mean is that I had to kind of get to the attachment point. I mean where did this thing have a hold on me? Well, I found it right at the "not-good-enough" juncture that connects inside my left temporal lobe and stretches from inside my brain down my neck, strangling my heart and penetrating my soul with a desiccating pulse of freeze-rays. One day in the Plum Market parking lot, I realized the extent of the reach of this tumorous thinking. I stood paralyzed by the fear that I had burdened my children with my own non-good-enoughness by comparing them to other kids. And I began to weep. Uncontrollable sobs. In public.
I resolved then and there, walking as I was into Plum Market talking to myself and muttering to the kids to cross quickly, to say, and please pardon me for saying this, "scr*w the world. Scr*w everybody!! I'm on my kids' side. Because if I'm not, who will be? You all, you comparison mongers, you can go to h*ll. If that's what this whole parenting thing is all about--your kids being brilliant and beautiful and most importantly: better than mine and them getting a 2000 on their SAT in 3rd friggin' grade--then p**s the hell off. We'll stay here in our smelly freaking basement playing Legos in our recently-but-I-can't-tell-you-exactly-how-recently-washed, ill-fitting sweat pants and semi-soiled t-shirts singing nonsensical songs and pounding on our drums with no particular end in mind. You all can rush off to get another belt in TaeKwonDo, play a 3rd instrument, learn Mandarin, origami, chess, space camp, long board techniques, swim team, etc. But please, by all means, leave us in the relative peace of my messy office where sit my late-as-hell thank-you cards, and all the rest of the evidence of my absentmindedness and depressive and anxious episodes, such as my messy and unkempt hair, house, garage, truck, etc. Oh yeah, don't forget just down the road: my smelly and fuzzy horse whom I adore despite his many challenges. We are more on the real (and a bit gamey) side in this endoit. Less jazz-hands, less Tiger-Mom, more fend-for-yourself-I'll-love-you-no-matter-what school of thought/parenting. Later Compari-bots. I'm OUT!"
The only thing I can now compare my kids to is the absolute emptiness that was there before them. I hope I do them justice. But in the end, it's going to be up to them to live their lives. Not me. I hope I fill up my own life with good-enough-ness enhancing pursuits that render a decent example for them of love, connection and vulnerability--and authenticity. And I don't mean that cheesily. I mean it for-realzily.
You cannot compare your insides to somebody else's outsides.
-- The Courage to Change