Friday, July 11, 2008

152.2 - The 11th Comandment (warning: this is a long and whiny one)

There should be an 11th Commandment: "Thou shalt not compare thyself to others."

My niece-in-law Kate, who ran the Indy Mini Marathon this year and finished in 1:59, is one of the brightest stars on the planet Earth. Seriously, the woman needs her own solar system she shines so bright.

The first thing you notice about Kate are her beautiful blue eyes and soft, light auburn hair, which is long and she usually keeps pulled back in a relaxed pony tail. And then, her friendly smile and effervescence strike you like sunshine in June. She's got a great body--she's 5'5'' and weighs (yes, I asked) 125 pounds. She's always intrigued by who she's talking with first, before she ever puts forth her own concerns or interests.

And then there's her family life. Two brilliant and beautiful kids, a son age 10 and a daughter age 8. Her husband of 15 years is a new attorney (he and Kate used to both work for Oracle in California, but moved to Indy after they had kids, and when her husband was far from enchanted with his Indy tech employer, he went to law school and recently passed the Bar Exam), and although he is working a lot of hours, he loves his new law firm.

She's educated and intelligent, speaks German fluently, having studied there for a year during college (that's where she met her husband). She has a fabulous 2 story house (Sophie asked me, "Mommy, does cousin J. live in a mansion?), in a neighborhood that has its own pool.

Kate works outside the home at a very demanding job. Yet she doesn't have cable or satellite TV (never has!) to babysit her kids, cooks real meals for her family on a regular basis (her children eat their veggies at meals!), and anytime we've visited her house it's pretty much immaculately organized & clean.

Now, I know that she's not perfect. She struggles with all kinds of demons, I know she does. Her childhood was certainly far from perfect. She has family issues, with parents & grandparents, just like we all do. And if she read this she would be rolling her eyes and punching me in the arm and telling me "Laura! You are SO WONDERFUL!"

But, somehow, when I look at her and all the external stuff that is visible in her life, I can't help but compare my life to hers.

And last night after spending several hours at our cousin's pool with her and all of our kids--with the help of good ole' PMS--I came home and face dived into a Hershey bar, a bagel with FF cream cheese & apple butter, and whatever was left of the vanilla wafers (seriously? maybe 20 or 30 of them, ugh). Because I felt utterly inadequate next to this Goddess of beauty, success, and all things domestically perfect.

I realize, 100%, that I am being irrational.

I realize that her life is not perfect, and all I am comparing myself to is the outward signs of success, without taking into account her own personal turmoil which I know she has.

I realize that there are probably women who look at what I have--on the outside--and envy me.

I realize that I am being the Queen of Self Sabotage and am a complete dumb ass for letting my feelings get the better of me, yet again.

And I'm ashamed of all this. Ashamed for feeling that what I do for my kids and family isn't good enough. Ashamed that I don't feed my kids the right foods all the time. Ashamed that my house is a wreck 90% of the time. Ashamed that I frequently use the TV as a babysitter. Ashamed that we have substantial debt (not even going there, but it's an issue that weighs on my heart) and aren't saving for our kids' college funds.

I remember when I was a kid, feeling inadequate next to my friends. We lived in a trailer until I was 14; my girlfriends all lived in houses. My parents were blue collar and my mom worked full time; my girlfriends' moms stayed home. I was chubby most of my adolescence and in high school & college; the skinny girls got the cute guys and were popular.

I had a mess of a life from about age 12 until age 23 (that's a whole other post and a year's worth of therapy). I was/am a perfectionist--I got straight A's in high school, afterall--but I always, always felt like I wasn't living up to what I was supposed to be doing. I was yearbook editor, but didn't finish the yearbook before I left for college; I was on the English academic team, but didn't read Moby Dick like I was supposed to; I got a full ride 4 year college scholarship, but took 5 1/2 years to get my degree.

It just goes on and on and on.

And apparently it still does.

This compulsion I have to compare myself to others who are "better than" me is something I'm sure needs some massive psychological analysis. I've been to counseling, several times, but never have we gotten deep into anything like this. Which I'm sure explains why it's still an albatross around my neck.

More than anything, I don't want my dysfunction to wreck my kids' lives. Either their present lives or their future ones. There are a lot of things I do right--a lot of things I do exactly opposite of how my parents raised me--but I know there are things I'll fail at, am failing at.

And I don't want it to (continue to) wreck my own life.

I don't expect perfection (well, okay, yes I do, but I know that's whacked). I just want to give my kids the life I never had.

Hopefully, I've learned enough about myself to at least know I have these issues. And hopefully that means I'll at least do a half way decent job of raising my kids into more-highly-functioning-than-their-mom-is adults. Although I'm sure they'll grow up with complaints and lots of stories to tell Oprah, just like most kids do.

I don't have any answers of how to enforce this 11th Commandment. I just needed to get it out there today.

If you're still reading--and I'm sorry to be such a downer on a Friday--please don't feel like you have to pump me up and tell me how fantastic I am (or, conversely, please don't tell me that, yes, indeed, you're a POS mother for feeding your kids McD's and letting them watch more than 2 hours of TV a day, LOL). I'm just dumping this shit here, because it's the only place I have to dump it.

Now, someone pass me a margarita.


debby said...

awe, Laura, don't feel bad. I don't have a quick fix for you, but I really do think you are beautiful, gorgeous blue eyes and such a stunning smile. And don't forget, you are loved and accepted by a group of people who know you very well through your writing.

Keep looking up.

Vickie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jess said...

And you're welcome to dump it here -- it's YOUR blog.

But I think you touch on something everyone can relate to. It's easy to look around at others and imagine that their lives are better than our own; I think it's a natural human tendancy. You're just human, Laura.

Vickie said...

delete was me - I'll try again.

what you write - I have felt many, many times.

sort of a roller coaster of woulda-shoulda-couldas.

it used to hit me HARD over the holidays.

sort of nothing ever was right that happened to me - so I couldn't possibly be doing the right things for my kids.

I have waves of it - that sort of splash over me now. But I do NOT have days and days and days of it - like I used to.

I have always wondered if EVERYONE else does this too? Or is it just US?

It is that darned notice everything and remember everything - being slightly dumb has appeal to me at (my own) moments like this. . .

Running Knitter said...

You already recognize the commandment, and so that's half the battle. What you are feeling is normal, and we all go through it at some point. You're not alone. :)

MCM Mama said...

I can so relate to what you are saying. It's hard to be comfortable in our own skin and never compare ourselves to others. It's even harder when there's a person (or two) in our lives that seems to have it completely together when we don't. If you ever want to feel better, I'd be happy to send you a picture of what my dining room or the playroom look like and a list of which shows my kids have watched that day... I can guarantee you the room will look like hell and the list will be long, but I still think I'm a pretty good mom. :o)

Shauna said...

margarita and a hug for you, luvvie.i can relate to this one! on the other day i was oggling your latest photos and dying of envy of your toned and tiny bod and foxy arms!

sure it may be irrational but it's human to have these feelings :)

Marcy said...

I absolutely agree with Jess! It's only human nature :-) 95% of us do it as well ((HUGS))

Jill said...

*hands Laura a margarita*

Girl, come sit next to me, we are soooooo much alike.

Especially this:
"And I'm ashamed of all this. Ashamed for feeling that what I do for my kids and family isn't good enough. Ashamed that I don't feed my kids the right foods all the time. Ashamed that my house is a wreck 90% of the time. Ashamed that I frequently use the TV as a babysitter. Ashamed that we have substantial debt (not even going there, but it's an issue that weighs on my heart) and aren't saving for our kids' college funds." I'm beginning to think you pulled these thought right out of my head - and the debt part is what keeps me awake at night. Stupid frickin debt!!

I know how you feel and I do it too. ALL THE TIME. I'm constantly comaparing myself to everyone else, wondering if I measure up.

I don't have any answers as to why or how to stop. I often tell myself, "my life is what it is, and I'm doing the best I can with it." Sure, there's always room for improvement, but I love my family and I do what I can for them. I know you do too, so give yourself a break. You are fabulous and wonderful, and although you said you didn't want us to pump you up, screw it I'm doing it anyway!! You are great, Laura. Really you are.

Now, go refill our margaritas and get on with your fabulous self!!

L.G. said...

Laura, I think many women feel like a fake and have many of these "if they only knew" feelings.

You are beautiful, you have beautiful eyes, you run! you take care of your babies. Are you perfect? No, but then no one else is either. Your niece in law sounds like a lovely and wonderful and interesting person. I can see why you would compare yourself to her. What's interesting to me is that you're focusing on things that a lot of people might not even pick up on (her personality, her interest in other people, languages, etc.). Looks are the least of it. That says a lot about YOU and what YOU value and care about. And in this day and age, that's something to cherish. Maybe that's why we all are here reading you. :-)

G.G. said...

Well, for what it's worth, there have been moments I've read your blog and been jealous of things YOU have (not something to admit, but I hope you don't mind), so it's all relative, right?

The drive to compare is such a poison, isn't it? So insidious, and easy to fall prey to! And perfectly human!

I feel like I've been saying this on everyone and their sister's blog tonight, but I can relate to so much you say, including the trailer thing, the blue collar family, the working mom, some of the academic stuff--you name it.

Lit degree aside, I still haven't read Huckleberry Finn. Or Middlemarch. Can you believe it?