Dare to (not) Compare

The end of a long day in the stretch of days that is Christmas Break — well that is no time to start analyzing your life. Results may include crying, wailing and gnashing of teeth.

Sadly, I forgot this important rule recently when I found myself doing just that — tallying  my trials and tribulations (so vast were they!) at the end of a long day. But it wasn’t just any long day; it was one of those days in a series of long days. I love Christmas Break, really I do. But you combine the need to get things ready for Christmas with the need to stay sane and it can be quite challenging.

It all goes back to that essential life lesson with boys that is: boys do better when they have stuff to do. This should generally not include watching large quantities of television or playing large quantities of video games. Stuff for boys should include being outdoors and doing the two things they love best: building things and destroying things.

But I fell into that trap of bad weather and lots to do and feeling a little overwhelmed I just let people channel their inner couch potato and the results were none too pretty.

In the midst of this, my brother and his precious, sweet not-yet-one-year-old son were over for the afternoon. That visit ended up including dinner, and my mom and dad also joined us. So there I was entertaining guests (who aren’t really guests but are people in my home and I want them to feel welcomed) in the midst of dealing with my crew of rowdy boys.

And lo and behold, I started feeling sorry for myself.

“My life is so hard,” I mentally whined, “everyone else has it so much easier than me.”

And in that moment, maybe I was right. I was trying to feed people and calm people down and deal with tired people and hungry people — and I was *this close* to losing my patience.

Somehow — God’s grace — I made it through. In the end it was an hour, maybe a little more, that I suffered so terribly. After that, people helped with dinner clean-up, the little ones went down for bed, the big boys went outside to shoot hoops and I got a clearer vision of how much better things seemed on this side of the evening.

It’s never a good idea to take stock during a crisis — it’s fine to admit this isn’t your best moment ever. It’s important to recognize the ways you could make things more peaceful next time you’re in this situation. But comparing yourself to someone else, looking at why other people have a life more charmed than your own — you will never feel good about yourself when you do that.

A friend of mine once shared about the dangers of comparing our interior life with someone else’s exterior life. This is what we do whenever we compare. We’re stacking up the way we feel inside, our frustrations and exhaustion, and we’re putting it up against our perceptions of someone else. That’s not a fair (or smart) comparison.

Our best option is to avoid this trap altogether by praying for a heart of gratitude for our own circumstances, whatever they may be.

About a week later, I found myself on a hike with one of my dearest friends. There we were, me with my six children, she with her seven, and we watched our big boys lead the way in exploring God’s creation. She pushed a stroller and I carried someone on my back, and we soaked up the December sun and enjoyed ourselves.

That was probably a better time to analyze my life — when children were happy and in an element that best suited them. We were outdoors where we could be as loud and fast and free as we needed to be and I felt grateful.

Grateful for this life and these children and this fun, fast-paced scene I’m lucky and blessed to be a part of.

This originally ran in The Southern Cross.

 

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Comments

  1. Thank you so much, Rachel, for posting this! I really needed to be reminded of this, and God has a way of sending reminders right when we need / are ready for them! Thank you for being God’s helper in my life today!

  2. Best quote ever: do not compare your interior life to someone else’s exterior life. Whoa. Seriously. Whoa.

  3. Good stuff Rachel! I need constant reminders about not falling into that comparison trap. And, I agree with Keri, that may indeed be the best quote ever.

  4. I love reading your blog, Rachel, even though my “kids” are in their twenties now, it’s all too fresh those days when I was home with them and chaos abounded at times. I wouldn’t have traded a day and that’s not amnesia speaking! It was crazy, mind numbing and the most awesome experience I was graced to receive as a mother! Enjoy your motherhood and all the good and “bad” days! You will never regret being there!

  5. Thank you so much! This perfectly captures the way I felt near the end of Christmas break. I feel guilty for being so relieved to be back at work and school and routine, but the truth is that the boys need structure, and so do I!

  6. My husband told me that St. Ignatius, in his talk about consolations and desolations, says never to re-evaluate and change things during a desolation (hope I’m repeating this correctly). You just summed that up perfectly. I struggle with this temptation too when it’s the middle of a rough time, only to feel completely differently a few days later. Thanks for sharing!

  7. Thank you! So much greatness in this post!

  8. Our boys are only 7, 4 and 1 (surely more to come eventually too) and I always sigh an immediate sigh of relief the minute the van doors slide open the boys run and jump down the side walk to get to the park. Finally, a place where they can be themselves and I don’t have to worry about how it impacts the rest of the world! 🙂 Being outdoors has a way of fixing everything I think. Thank you Lord for revealing yourself to us in creation to remind us that no feelings are too big for us to share with you! 🙂 Thank you for your honesty about life with boys!!!!! 🙂

  9. Praying for that heart of gratitude right now. I wish that was my first impulse, instead of the pity-party!

  10. Jennifer G. says:

    Thanks for that! I needed to hear that!

  11. I traipsed back here to find some key phrases to soothe my (temporarily) tangled state:
    “It’s never a good idea to take stock during a crisis —”
    “… the dangers of comparing our interior life with someone else’s exterior life. ”
    “… avoid this trap altogether by praying for a heart of gratitude for our own circumstances, whatever they may be.”
    Amen. Amen.
    Thanks for your truths and inspiration, Rachel. This is a balm and a blessing.