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Have you seen my scissors? I need to cut myself some slack.

Have you seen my scissors? I need to cut myself some slack.

We’ve all heard that expression “comparison is the thief of joy.” It’s generally used in reference to shiny, glowing social media pages, as a reminder not to compare our lives to the curated glamour we see online. Let me tell you what else comparison is the thief of:

Sanity. Peace. Rest. Confidence.

I know this, because I’m sitting here at 1 am, taking a break from what I affectionately call “second shift”– the hours after my kids go to bed when I sit down at my computer again to systematically work through anything on my to-do list for that day that isn’t crossed off.

I am maniacal with my to-do lists. I go all cold and clammy without them. Sure, they keep me organized and on track, but they also rule my life sometimes.

How did I get to this point of letting a slip of paper, designed to make life easier, make me miserable instead? My obsession with my mountainous, masochistic to-do lists was born of comparison. 

Let me explain.

I have a pretty sweet job in marketing for a software startup that is growing by leaps and bounds and doing some really cool stuff in our industry. I love it. It’s challenging and creative and forces me to jostle the dust off of corners of my brain that I haven’t touched in a while. And please pardon me a brief flash of ego, but I believe I’m very good at it most days.

Sounds great, right?

Now let me tell you what else I have:

An equally busy husband who is navigating his own job stuff.

A freelance writing career on the side that is producing more work than I can handle most days.

Two bio kids and three stepkids.

An acre lot with a home that never fails to produce a “This Old House” sort of project.

A cherished role as the pianist in our worship band at church.

A commitment and desire to read my Bible and pray and do the same with my children.

Two dogs, two cats and nine chickens who follow me around like a little gang, alternately making demands and rewarding me with undying love.

A chronic GI illness that I’ll have for the rest of my life.

And then add to these “big list items” all of the things that float in around the cracks and fill in any spare moments like lava—volunteering, family time, running, cleaning, cooking…

Nearly every one of these things is a huge, audacious gift. (minus the GI thing, obviously. That guy is a jerk.) But some days, I feel like I’m failing at every single line item.  Why? Because I compare myself to everyone else.

Let’s start with the fact my “everyday life list” is so long. Could I whittle some stuff down? Sure, on paper. But in reality, my life would not be my life if every one of these things was not a part of it.

I love my husband and my children beyond words.

My high-maintenance, mid-century home is cozy and warm and original–nothing cookie cutter about it.

Music and my relationship with God are part of my very being. Non-negotiable.

Our pets are a three-ring circus on a good day, but let me tell you– until you’ve been heralded like a returning war hero by a flock of chickens when you return from a run around the neighborhood– well, you just haven’t lived.

The GI stuff…well…that’s my Biblical “thorn in the side.” Whatever. I’ll survive.

And writing. Writing and I have the classic love-hate relationship. I believe that the ability to write well is a gift. I cherish it. But as of late, I’ve written myself into an odd corner with my repeat clients. No joke, I have somehow earned the reputation of being the foremost authority when it comes to whitepapers and blogs about the following:

Propane safety.

Personal injury lawsuits.

The supply chain industry.

Doesn’t get any sexier than that for a writer, folks. So why not quit? Here’s the thing: I am obsessed with having a fallback plan in case something crazy happens with my day job. I need to know that if I wake up tomorrow and my company closes its doors, that I can still feed, clothe, and house my family. Writing is that assurance and insurance. 

Yes, I believe wholeheartedly in the truth that “My God shall supply all my needs.” He does. He has. He always will. However, I teeter on an incredibly fine line between that truth and “God helps those who help themselves.” (Yes, theologians– I know that’s not in the Bible. Calm down).

God gave me the ability to write about propane safety and get paid well for it. So, write I do. Onward and upward. Next time you fire up the grill and don’t go up in a mushroom cloud, you might just have me to thank.

So here’s the comparison part.

No one else on my marketing team seems as…stark, raving mad as  I feel on any given day. Oh, I never let on to them that I’m one conference call away from losing my ever-loving fluff. But some days, I am so very close that the dogs even steer clear of me– having seen the glint of momsanity in my eye (I work from home full time– you may either insert pity or jealousy here. Either works).

I honestly don’t understand how everyone else seems so calm about their to-do lists and I am just one flu bug away from flying off the rails (Which totally happened this week. Another story for another day.).

But do you know what I realized tonight? Just NOW? I am constantly comparing myself to people who aren’t living MY life.

(Don’t go. I promise there is an actual epiphany coming. You’ll like it.)

Here’s what hit me like a ton of bricks. No one else on my marketing team is raising young kids. Or even old kids. Or any kids in most cases. No one. And let me assure you that not a blessed soul on my team has a needy 1950’s house, nine chickens, or is running a burgeoning side hustle as a propane expert.

When my colleagues book a business trip, they saunter into the home office refreshed, like they just emerged from a spa vacation. I, on the other hand, have split the space-time continuum, solved at least nine of the great mysteries of the Earth, and broken 17 Guinness World Records just to keep the plates spinning while I’m gone.

(And the litter box still won’t be clean when I get back.)

By the end of my trip, I fall exhausted into my window seat, too tired to work on the flight home, but still dreaming about work as if I had. And then I get home and I jump right back into my life and my to-do lists and I wonder and obsess about why my co-workers seem so much more in control of everything.

Please don’t misunderstand me– I know they all have busy, full, rich lives. They are wonderful people. Their brand of chaos just looks different than mine and they manage it privately, just like I do.

When I compare my inward definition of chaos to their outward appearance of calm, it amplifies everything that seems to be swallowing me whole. I let comparison whisper lies that weave into my brain like the tendrils of a weed.

“I should be able to manage ‘it all’ without feeling like ‘it’ is managing me instead.”

“I’m not doing enough for my family…my career…my church…”

“I’m not good enough at any of it and someone is going to find out and call me a fraud.”

Comparison is the bully behind it all. It doesn’t just steal my joy. It steals my light and my lightness. It makes me heavy and sluggish with dread and fear.

You don’t have to have a list that looks exactly like mine to fall prey to comparison’s trickery.

Maybe you are taking care of aging parents.

Maybe you have a family member with special needs.

Maybe you’re struggling with an invisible illness.

Maybe you’re a stay at home mom trying to keep a busy household afloat.

Maybe you’re struggling to make ends meet while the bills keep rolling in.

Our lists are different, but our human tendency to compare ourselves to others and imperiously declare to our own minds that we are not enough is exactly the same.

Enough is enough. I am enough. You are enough.

Comparison has stolen far too much from us already.

You’ve Been Rejected

You’ve Been Rejected

Every quarter, we have a blood drive at our office. I always sign up to donate, having received blood before and knowing that I will likely need it again in the future, given my frequent visits to the hospital for my GI problems. Seems like a sound investment. As I was filling out the questionnaire today, I checked the box that asked if I have recently traveled outside of the United States or Canada. As the rent-a-tech du jour, Blood Collector Chuck was going over my answers, he asked where I had traveled. I absently said “Mexico” as I scrolled through my emails on my phone. Mayhem ensued.

“MEXICO?!?” shrieked Blood Collector Chuck.


“Well, are you FEELING okay?”


“Do you know that you can get MALARIA in Mexico?”

“Um…yes, but I—“

(whispering) “—you can get MALARIA.”

This last “malaria” was said reeeeeeally close to my face. I could almost feel each syllable on my skin.

“Look, Chuck—I wasn’t like in Mexico. I was at a resort with my husband, and we didn’t drink the water, or machete our way through the uncharted jungle, or hang out in any murky pools of mosquito-infested swamp water or anything.”

He looked at me with one eyebrow raised, and then dramatically slashed a huge “X” on my questionnaire, writing “REJECTED” at the top of it.  As if that didn’t communicate the point clearly enough, he sat up straight in his judgment chair and said “You have been REJECTED today, but don’t give up.” Having delivered this swift blow of blood-rejecting justice, he put one hand on my shoulder, gave me a little squeeze, and whispered “Don’t give up.”

Give up? On what? On WHAT, Chuck?

Alas, before I could implore him to give me the answer, he had moved on to the next donor, eager to find out what horrible disease they were plotting to bring down on the blood-receiving community.

The receptionist handed me a brightly colored “We Don’t Want Your Disgusting Blood, You Creep” letter and a pity gift card as I shuffled off in my cloud of rejection. My co-workers smugly looked on from their donation tables, no doubt wondering which one of the questions had rendered my blood unworthy. I wanted to shout “I just went on vacation, people. I didn’t #11 (engage in unseemly activity with a male prostitute). Settle down!” Instead, I defiantly grabbed one of their stupid stale cookies and a juice box and made my way back to my office with all of my blood intact.

As odd as this particular donation experience was, I was forced to think about Blood Collector Chuck’s sage advice. “Don’t give up.” I tend to beat myself up when things get rough. I continually press “rewind” on conversations and experiences and chastise myself when something doesn’t go exactly as planned. There are days when I feel rejected as a parent, employee and human being in general, and I tend to focus on what I could have done to avoid that sting of rejection. There are far more days, however, when I feel blessed and encouraged by my children, employer and the general population. Why do we choose to focus on the days that bring us down, and gloss over the days that build us up?

I recently took a social media challenge called “100 Days of Happiness” in which you were required to post a picture of one thing that made you happy, every day for 100 days. I discovered that my challenge wasn’t in finding something that made me happy. The challenge was picking only one thing. If you would have asked me prior to starting that challenge if I was happy, I probably would have given you a “yes, but…” answer. “Yes, but I wish I didn’t have a GI disorder.” “Yes, but I wish I had more hours in the day.” “Yes, but my job is really demanding.” You get the idea. As I focused on the good in my life, I realized exactly how much good there is on which to focus. What a blessing. Why do I let the days when I experience a little rejection overshadow the days that are filled with so much that is good? I clearly need to knock that off, for Chuck’s sake.

Hoping your day is free of rejection, but if it’s not, I hope you at least get a juice box.

This one’s for you, Chuck.