Saturday, October 11, 2014

Don't let comparison steal your joy

I have a wonderful old pair of slippers that I have had for several years. They were once pristine white with tiny pastel flowers on them; a Christmas gift from a very good friend from my past: Gina Fox. My slippers are very comfortable and warm, and they are the first thing I slip on when I arrive home anxious to get out of my heels, or when I slide out of bed. My feet are numb and painful the majority of the time due to neuropathy, and these old, beat-up, faded slippers provide insulation between my feet and the ground. In addition, they represent “home” because I typically don’t wear them out (although my neighbor might dispute that one ….shhhh… :-) ).  In any case, my slippers represent security, peacefulness, safety, and comfort. Even though I could simply buy a new pair at any time, I will be hard for me to part with those slippers when they finally need to be replaced.

Before checking out of the hotel yesterday morning, I took one last bubble bath in the large Jacuzzi tub in my suite. This was such a special treat for me for a number of reasons; first, because I was unable to get in a tub for many years due to my size and physical disabilities, and second, because my current home does not have a tub; just a walk-in shower.  I’ve shared before that the simple act of taking a shower used to be an exhausting task because it was difficult to stand up for more than about two or three minutes before succumbing to the pain. There was a day when I would have to get out of the shower, completely covered in soap and soaking wet, and sit on the toilet in the middle of taking my shower just to rest a few minutes; water dripping all over the floor.  I couldn’t even use shampoo AND conditioner because it took too long to use two separate products: I switched to an all-in-one product.  While some days are harder than others (Rheumatoid Arthritis does NOT go away with weight loss; it merely becomes easier to function without the extra stress on the joints), I can typically shower or bath these days without much difficulty.  In fact, took FOUR bubble baths in the 2 ½ days I was at the hotel: just because I could!

Yesterday, as I stood up to dry off after a bath, I looked down at the bathroom floor. The hotel  bathroom was huge and at the base of each of the vanity sinks was a thick, plush white rug; the kind you just sort of sink into when stepping on.  There, sitting on this rug, was my pair of beat-up, old, no-longer-white, but rather a dingy gray, pair of slippers that I love.  I looked at them and felt a bit defeated, perhaps disgusted, for a minute. “Goodness; those slippers look AWFUL. It’s a good thing none of my colleagues saw me in them”, I thought. “I’d be SO embarrassed.”  What? Embarrassed: Why? Those are my favorite slippers and I love them so much that I packed them to take with me; not because I don’t have any others because I have a brand new pair in the drawer, but because they are mine; they represent comfort and friendship; they are on my feet during my morning prayer/reflection/writing time each morning and at the end of the day when I express gratitude for the blessings I’ve encountered. They have been part of my journey, the one THING that I haven’t out-grown as losing weight. (Did you know even your shoes will become too large when you lose a lot of weight?  I lost a full shoe size.)

For a moment, these well-loved and perfectly fine slippers stirred up negative thoughts and caused me to feel embarrassed at the thought that someone might see me in them in the midst of that big fancy hotel.  Hmmm…..WHY?  The answer is simple: Comparison!  I never noticed that the white slippers had become dingy gray….until I compared them to the pristine white of the fluffy rug. I never noticed the wear and tear….until they were laying on the like-new, perfect plush rug.  What was once acceptable and desirable to me, almost became, “Yuck…I need to throw those disgusting things away”, simply because I was comparing them to the rug.  What a silly girl…and yet…we often fall into the trap of comparing what we have with what others have, and yet, we know that things and people become more precious and valuable to us with age because they have been part of our journey; our history; our life.  Ask any couple married for 40 or 50 years…I’m betting they say they love each other more today than when they married. When we love from the heart, we overlook the flaws and imperfections, and see beauty and value…until we compare what we have with what someone else has…. A younger model? A better car? A bigger house?

This is so true in our personal journey to wellness.  Perhaps this is you:  You lose 10, 15, maybe even 25, pounds and you feel really good about yourself. It is really hard work and you are so proud of your efforts, and you attend a wedding or holiday event, and you run into a relative or friend you haven’t seen in a while…..and discover that he/she has lost 50 pounds!  WHAT?  You didn’t even know he/she was trying to lose weight….and suddenly….instead of being overjoyed at your own progress, you’re disgusted and jealous because your friend has reached goal or lost more than you.  That ‘wow…I feel great….I’m so proud of my own journey….happy feeling of accomplishment’ vanishes because you compare your progress against that of another. Comparison is a kill-joy and a determent to your journey! 

The same thing can happen if you belong to a weight-loss support group, if week after week, someone in your group loses more than you. Maybe you and a spouse or friend is on a weight-loss or fitness plan and one is making faster progress and the same situation occurs.   Perhaps you’re making steady progress, albeit slow (maybe only a pound or less a week) and someone else is losing 2 or 3….perhaps more….EACH and EVERY week.  Instead of doing the “happy dance” at your own progress; you feel defeated and somewhat jealous because it isn’t happening FAST ENOUGH.  It is even worse when you hit those dreaded, but inevitable, plateau weeks when the scale doesn’t budge, or you have an ‘off-week” and gain a pound or two.  Comparing YOUR journey and YOUR progress to someone else’s, and the negative thoughts that can often accompany that comparison, will cause you to stumble faster than eating a Krispy Kreme donut.  It’s never a good idea!

We do this is ALL areas of our life. Perhaps it’s the human tendency to always want MORE….to always think that someone else has something better than us.  There will always be a lot of people that have more money than us. There will always be people that have fame; fortune; knowledge… nice cars, live in big houses, take fancy vacations, have prestige, power, health……but so what? There will always be people that lose weight faster, can run farther (or even run at all), look better, weigh less….etc….­­­­but so what?  Does that make what I have any less a gift?  Does that make my progress and my journey any less a miracle?  Does that make YOU any less a person?  I don’t think so!!!!

Certainly, we can have aspirations…and dreams…and goals that motivate us to do better and work harder. Those are good, but when we allow anyone or anything to diminish our self-worth, we quickly move from a life of GRATITUDE to one of ENVY and JEALOUSY, and before long, it’s more than our faded, worn-out slippers that become UGLY. Our spirit, our hearts, and our attitudes quickly follow…..and when that happens, it won’t matter how thin you’ve become; how rich you are; how often you get to stay in luxury suites, or how white, plush, or thick your slippers are…. You will still be ugly!

I am currently wearing my worn-out, dingy slippers because they still have value. They’re as warm today as they were yesterday. They’re as comfortable now as they were a couple of day ago. They’re as useful and priceless to me now as they’ve always been….because they are MINE…and yes, certainly, there are others who have far nicer slippers…..but I am grateful for these….because there are many who are cold and barefoot this morning who would be thrilled to have them. 

My journey; my life….and all that it entails is a gift from God; so is yours. Be grateful for your progress, however, slow it may be. Be grateful for your blessings; however meager they may feel. Be grateful for your life; however flawed you may feel. The only comparing I will do today….the only longing I will have in my heart, or the goal I  will aspire to today is to be kinder than I was yesterday; to be more peaceful than I was the day before that; and to be more loving and walk closer with God tomorrow than today.  

Have a wonderful day today!!!