For nearly 45 minutes the children blissfully colored together in peace. At one point Ruby looked up to compare her work to big brother’s page. Her page had more scribbles, more coloring outside of the lines. This didn’t bother me or him, but her reaction was, “Dylan, yours is the best.” Immediately, I pulled out a lie that I deemed useful enough to overshadow the downside of lying to them because I was going to teach them something. I do this way too often as a general parenting strategy and am sure it will come back to bite me in the ass someday but for now I have no problem telling them they build instantaneous muscle mass when they eat broccoli. Whatever.
Anyway, I told them that the ancient Buddhist monks who designed the mandalas they were coloring (versus going to printmandala.com) teach us that beauty and perfection are entirely different concepts. That only you know what is beautiful because that is a deeply personal and individual thing and it is found not by comparing yourself to somebody else, but only by asking yourself if you think your work matters.
As I listened to myself lecture on how comparison is the thief of joy, the utter ridiculousness and irony of me teaching this lesson wasn’t lost. This is particularly true given that as of late, I’ve been stuck in a joyless, nasty comparative loop created entirely by my own neuroses.
A week or so ago a not so covert group began to form via social media comprised of a large number of insanely talented writing and publishing phenoms. Every day, women chime in to introduce themselves to the larger group which is awesome and they say things like, “29 and finishing my second book. So excited to meet everyone!” And rather than feel inspired by these incredibly talented women, I inexplicably binge eat Twizzlers and feel bad about myself. It’s a self-defeating, if not bloating cycle.
In a group designed to lift women up and support each other, more than ever I feel filled with just a total sense of deflatedness about my own story, envious of their relative success. Intellectually, I know their achievements do not limit my own abilities. Only I can do that.
And then tonight I got served up a true piece of literary karma courtesy of Lisa Jo Baker (you can read more her lovely piece HERE). Lisa writes: “Our DNA is desperate to be recognized. To be heard. To be valued. And while we might write all day in our heads, our fingers hesitate to type it out for fear no one else will recognize what it cost us, what it means to us. So we hide our stories where no one can ignore them but ourselves. Here’s the thing, though, your story doesn’t matter because of who reads it.”
And so I stand: the blogosphere equivalent of the falling tree. Regardless of whether you read me or hear me, Lisa reminds me that my story matters. Only I can tell it and only I can convince myself its worth being told. So here’s my story: today I am wrung out. I am sick with an excessive amount of red dye from the licorice that accompanies all my unexplored and super ugly feelings of jealousy. My story is often about a woman in her 30s desperate to love her young children while maintaining a shred of mental clarity. Sometimes my story is about a woman who is also a wife and mother at war with herself over how to balance these pieces of her in a way that feels complimentary, not pointy and out of balance. Perhaps most importantly and as a final note to self: my story fundamentally can never be about who or what I’m not. It’s about where I am, where I want to be.
Approaching Camp Mommy day 3 with a big sense of possibility and a lock on the candy cabinet. I can do this. This summer there will be green everywhere, but mostly only under my toes. Not a stitch on me.