On Comparison

Today is Thanksgiving, and I’m sitting here in my warm house, in front of glowing candles in the fireplace and – in my eyes – a Better Homes and Gardens-worthy mantel, reflecting on the day.  We went to my brother-in-law’s beautiful new lakeside home to celebrate our first Thanksgiving since losing my mother-in-law just last week.  She was a timeless hostess.  She’d stepped back from doing the big meals the last few years, but it didn’t matter today.  She and her ever gracious hostess presence was warmly remembered around the table and more than a few tears were shed.

Now, my little family does NOT live in a brand new lakeside home.  We live in a 1926 Tudor in a beautiful neighborhood in St. Paul.  When we moved in, it felt palatial.  We’d lived in a matchbox of a 1917 bungalow with an awful layout and really lived in about 600 square feet of it and deposited our junk in the other 300 barely usable square feet upstairs.  So to get a 1400 square foot house felt amazing.  But when I go to my brother-in-law’s, the thoughts of comparison start marching through my mind . . . I wish I lived on a lake.  No cracks in the plaster here.  I bet he pays less in property taxes on a house twice as big.  They have so much space!  The fact that he has to drive an hour to work is kind of lost in all the comparison.  Or that they have to clean that whole place.  Or pay for it . . . for how long?

Emotionally, life’s been a little hard lately, and so also lately, I’m kind of obsessing about home improvements – stuff that should be low on the current priority list.  Painting the living room/dining room/sun room/stairway.  Getting a big girl bed for my daughter who I’d really rather keep in the crib anyway.  Scraping the popcorn coating and skimcoating the ceilings because it’s clear WHY they put that popcorn up in the first place – to cover the humongous fissures in the plaster.  (See how I wrote “should be low on the priority list?”  Bear with me.  That’s important later.)

I suppose it’s easier to window shop online and browse Pinterest for paint colors than to be sad that my mother-in-law died, or to face that I’m really not committing to losing that weight, or to admit that no matter how bad I would like to be a self-employed person I’ve taken no more steps toward doing so than making some lists of ideas in my journal, or that it’s generally grey and dark right now and I’m kinda sluggin’ it up around here.

So I’m starting to indulge in this dangerous game of comparison.  It’s a thief of joy, or should I say of feeling my emotions fully?  Because I’m not really trying to escape joy here, am I?  So then I’m letting these thoughts of envy lead me into activities and thoughts that distract me from feelings I need to feel.  I’m letting it lead me into imagining it would be better to trade up the whole house rather than spend a few hundred bucks on a paint color I like better and that we could actually wipe clean or maybe a few thousand in getting properly sized furniture for the quirky layout of the living room.  AND WHAT IF I MISS THE BLACK FRIDAY DEALS ON THE BIG GIRL BEDS?!?!

I’ll allow myself to make my home the way I want, but I’m gonna force myself to make a decision.  No more bed browsing.  Now I know that the bed I want exists, and when it’s time to get it, we will.  No need to worry about Black Friday.  There will be another sale.  No more fantasizing about paint.  I’ll buy it and hire our handyman to paint, or move on.  I’m getting better at this decision making stuff.  It’s all a journey.  I’m learning how to recognize when I’m envious, when I’m distracting myself from needing to feel, and when – gosh darn it – I’m just actually really tired of the handprinted, penciled up paint color and want something fresh and new on the walls.  And it might cost money.  And that is allowed.