The Soul Sucking Comparison Game

I’ve never been a showy person, at least not in the monetary sense.

Ask all the guys who showed up in their fancy new Pontiac Firebirds (hey, I thought that was cool back then!), to take me on a shopping spree date, and end the night with a spontaneous trip to Disneyland. That was true luxury for me…. and I fled from it as fast as I could each time it was presented. The showy life just wasn’t for me.
No, instead I picked the guy who told his future in-laws that sometimes he considered how nice it might be to be homeless by choice. This is the same guy who thinks the solution to a broken pair of flip flops can be found not in a store with new flip flops, but in his toolbox with a few nails and a hammer. Yep, that’s my husband. And that’s sort of the reason I chose him (although I WOULD prefer to furnish our apartment via IKEA rather than our neighbors’ dumpsters, but I have to pick my battles).
So I’ve always prided myself on not being the keep up with the Joneses sort of person. Because of course, I was better than people who did that! And there it is, the real truth. That even if I didn’t use having money as my measure of comparison, I was still playing the comparison game. I was still priding myself on how much better I was than others, while constantly trying to find flaws with people who I thought were better than me.

And recently I’ve had a slow awakening about just how strong this whole comparison thing is for me.

In fact, it may be just about everything to me. Every way I judge the value of myself, of others, of accomplishments, of my body, of what defines success, and even of what my extraordinary life is. I’ve been slowly becoming aware of how many times I think about how something will affect my “ranking” both before and after I do something.

Is it time to re- decorate my living room already? Well what would so and so think of the style I choose? Not good enough, I better pick something better then.

We just got the coolest clients for a photo shoot, I can’t wait until so and so sees it.

That was an exhausting party but I still have a little energy left so I might as well start cleaning up. I hope so and so sees it so they think I’m so thoughtful and caring.

I feel like wearing this shirt today but I’m going to wear this other one because I think it will make the people I’m going to see today think more of me.

Do you think I’m crazy yet?

You will when I tell you that these were just a few of the many examples of thoughts I’ve had in the last 24 hours!!!! And most of them happened in the last 12! I KNOW I’m crazy, because I’ve driven myself crazy over years of thinking this way.
Even putting up this post has got me worried about how people will view me. I feel like a childish idiot that I’ve let so much of my life be driven by the game of comparison, so of course I don’t want to show that I’m an idiot or else all my hard work to show everyone how much better I am than them will be wasted!
Yes, this is the kind of crazy, circular, and backwards thinking that is my daily life.

I’m tired of it.

I’m tired of wasting so much energy on this. I’m tired of worrying instead of really living. I’m tired of me being the one most guilty of stifling myself. And I’m also just tired because I’m tired! Keeping up with every single person in the world is exhausting!

But the problem is that I don’t know how to LIVE without comparing!

I don’t know how to determine how I feel about people, actions, or things without using my normal measuring stick of “good enough” or ‘better than”. So the thought of having to give up this life long impulse, is terrifying to me.
I feel like I’m giving up my baseline for measuring life. All the rules I knew are out the window. How will I be able to judge the quality or significance of my work if I don’t know whether or not it will make someone else jealous? How will I know if I am good enough to fit in with those around me? And of course there’s the most deeply rooted question that is the reason I struggle with this in the first place… how will I know if I’m valuable?
Of course, to know you’re important/valuable/significant as a person, you gave to know that you’re bringing the world gifts of yourself that are better than what others are bringing right? You know because the masses say so, right?
Wrong. I know it’s wrong, but I’m still a little confused about what is right!

How do I change something this big?

I’ve only known one way to live and now I’m supposed to just throw it out in one giant trip to the trash, and simply pick up a new way of living and a new way of thinking?! I want it to go away, to be able to live a life based on truth, intrinsic value, and all those other good words you hear spiritual gurus throwing around like magical fairy dust, but HOW do I get there is the question? How do I just stop thinking the way I’ve always thought?
I’ll have to let you know if I ever find the answer, because I am definitely going to seek it out.

The truth, is that living for others is the opposite of extraordinary.

The ordinary thing to do is to play the comparison game. I know that if I am only living the life that looks the best when compared to others, then I’m most likely not living the life I’m meant to live. If I’m not being real or honest with who I am and what I deem to be valuable, then how could I expect to be honest about what I’m meant to do with my life? I can’t. I won’t know what I’m destined for as long as I don’t know who I’m really destined to be. So it’s time for me to stop comparing, worrying, and changing and just start living as me and who I’m meant to be.

Wish me luck.

 

post 47

Is Los Angeles the place where my dreams will come true or where my children will get stabbed?

Lately I’ve been finding myself in all sorts of mental conflicts.

Work or sleep? Re-read “Hunger Games” or jump right into “Intro to Being a Better Human Being and Fixing Everything in Your Life Through Painstaking Work and Exhausting Effort”? Go out and make new friends or decide to sit at home feeling fat instead?

You see, life is a pickle! Decisions, decisions, decisions!

I think I have decision-block.

I’ve had writer’s block lately and I think that it has to do with the fact that the very thing I write about is the very thing I’m blocked about. I’m re-thinking my decisions, which for me means questioning whether I’d rather spend my days relaxing on the porch with an extra large glass of sweet tea and my 3 legged old dog while we watch the fireflies land and count our days by how high the tulips grow in the front yard? Or by laying on my horn in traffic as I rush late to my next meeting, while trying to cram a meatless, gluten free, double fiber stick of something or other down my throat and yelling into my speaker phone about the ice cream cake I’m picking up for that thing tonight, while trying to learn Mandarin on my iPod and squeezing my glutes for added toning at the same time. (Think Michelle Pfeiffer’s lawyer character in “I Am Sam” who survives on handfuls of jellybeans and non-fat lattes).

Why is the answer to that question even a question? Oh right, because I’ve actually chosen the awful sounding second one.

Yes, I have moved to Los Angeles, California. It’s the land of concrete and smog where the green grass only grows up between the sidewalk cracks and where when you hear someone say the word crack you think about either Charlie Sheen’s tiger blood or Brittany Spears’ coin slot before you think about the sidewalk.

Here I must compete, always. I must make more money to stay afloat, always. I must know how to enter a restaurant with no visible sign or apparent, always. I must hurry, always. I must know all about Ryan Murphy, Ryan Gosling, and all the future famous Ryans who aren’t even born yet, always. I must look good, but try not to look like I’m trying to look good, always. I must know not only what they are, but also 10 different ways to prepare and ingest kombucha, kale, or kimchi, always. I must avoid walking alone at night, always. I must carry quarters on me for parking, laundry, and bums, always. I must work out 3 hours a day, 10 days a week (yes, 10), always. And people will continue to ask me what I was thinking when I decided to move here, always.

But I know why I moved here.

I moved here for the ocean, the community, the culture,The Chelsea Lately Show, the art, the potential, the bike rides, the entertainment, the celebrity neighbors, the abundance of french bulldogs, the old Hollywood history, the diversity, the great weather, the walkability ratings, the chance to see my front yard on my favorite TV show, the inspiration, the excitement, the creative collaborations, and- let’s just admit it- the white truffle aioli sauce with candied bacon, creamy burrrata, and lemon zest had a little something to do with it as well.

I know why I’m here right now, but the new question I’m asking myself is- do I want to be here forever?

Do I know that I want to raise my kids here? Do I know how I will juggle my freeway captivity and Botex injections with my kids’ Pilates and french cooking classes? Maybe having my kids skateboard to school while I Feng Shui up the house isn’t the lifestyle I want for my family. Maybe I’d rather have my kids walk home from school with their friends while I await them with a plate of fresh baked cookies and a Bible story to tell them that I heard in my knitting club. Having time to play, garden, relax, sleep, talk, and go number two isn’t such a bad thing is it? Maybe moving to small town USA where I’d just go to a regular old job and my kids would come home from school to a regular old mom in mom jeans, and going to regular old church potlucks on Sundays and listening to old Uncle Joe tell that same story about the cat with angina for the hundredth time isn’t such a bad thing? Why do I feel the need to fight it and do the opposite?

I found out why when I was visiting my dad’s small, mid-western hometown.

As I watched people have time to enjoy life and found myself longing for some of the small pleasures of the simple life that they had (mostly the lard), I met a young girl who had a different kind of spark in her thick black eyelinered eyes. Even though she didn’t say it out loud, everything about her and about the things she DID say out loud, just screamed to me that she was going to leave this place one day, this place with 4 generations of her family all living within 5 miles from each other. It’s not that she hated it, it’s not that it was bad. It just wasn’t HER and it wasn’t what she was meant for. And I saw myself in her in more ways that I could count.

It was at that moment that I realized, this thing about destiny is so much bigger than my own finicky desires.

It doesn’t matter where I want to live or what I want to do because I know that what I want more than anything is to do what I’m meant to do with my life and I’ll live wherever I need to in order to accomplish that. So even though a small town sounds kinds of nice right about now, it’s just not where I’m meant to be… just like I can tell that young girl is meant to leave one day. Maybe I’m meant to end up in the middle of a corn field one day… but for now I KNOW I am right where I need to be. Right in the middle of the action, the opportunity, the thrill, and the challenges that come with LA.

I don’t know if my kids will be the ones with thick black eyelinered eyes who are meant for LA…

…or the ones with an affinity for growing crops and wearing Carhart overalls who are meant for a small potato farming community in Idaho (or in Ireland if I’m lucky, because then I can visit them in Ireland instead of Idaho). It all goes back to extraordinary living and how by definition of it, we all have different sorts of lives we are meant to live. I don’t know if LA will be best for my family. Some of you just choked on your corn chip when heard that I’d even consider that LA might be best for my family! I DO think there actually are benefits to raising your kids in the big city- like how they can always find a hotdog stand when they are hungry! Of course I know there are many downsides as well- like how they can’t sit on benches because the homeless people pee on them. I kind of like the drive and desires that a fast pace competitive city can put in you… those are the kinds of things that can lead a child to grow up and change the world. I also like the down time and support system that a slow paced small town can provide you with… those are the kinds of things that will allow a child to grow up investing into things that are extremely meaningful like relationships and helping other people.

There are pluses and minuses to both sides.

You just have to decide which you believe is best for you, your child, your family, your partner, your dentist, your therapist, your dog walker, and all the other people who stand to be affected by your decision. And even if you make yourself crazy trying to decide (as I do every night at 1am when I go frantically re-reading and continually re-commenting with my non-nonsensical night time thoughts on Teresa Strasser’s blog post related to this), you’re still pretty likely to be wrong in the end anyways! So my final say on the matter is that I am where I need to be now in order to live my extraordinary life, but when I have kids, I will re-consider, weigh my options wisely, and then make a decision that I will stick to- until my husband tells me I’m wrong, or until my kid ends up in college or prison, at which point I will find out whether or not I made the right choice.

Bright Colors Aren’t For Everyone

I’ll never forget the girl who said it to me.

She was one of those super unique people who’s talents are extraordinarily strong and who’s weaknesses rival the strength of the talents. You look at her and say , “whoa, that girl could go places that most of us could never dream of and she’d be so fun to have at every one of my parties, but man… would she be difficult to work with!” Don’t get me wrong, I loved this girl with her strong personality and all. But as she pointed out to me one day, not everyone does.

We were in a class together that was part of our program to get our master’s degrees in counseling. This was the most soul searching and heart exposing class that I’ve ever been a part of. It was a public gut wrenching of sorts that took everything inside of you out and laid it on the bloody table for you (and your classmates) to examine so you could see what was really going on inside of you from a much clearer perspective. So it was during one moment of excessively vulnerable sharing, this particular girl said,

“I’m a bright color and not everyone likes bright colors, but I’m OK with that”.

I was stunned, not only was I amazed at how perfect the analogy of a bright color was for her (she’s the kind of girl who has probably dyed her entire head of hair rainbow colored at some point), but I was astounded that she had come to accept her relationship between herself and the outside world in such a clear way. The thing that struck me the most was that I could tell by the confidence with which she said this that she not only absolutely believed it to be true, but that she was completely comfortable accepting it.

She felt truly free to be herself in a way that I have seen in no other person before that moment or since.

Sure I’ve seen people who are quick to declare that they don’t care what others think of them. But most of these people do it out of an angry heart that’s been hurt by people- sort of a “screw you, I don’t need you and your opinions”- where this girl did it with a spirit of calming peace. Which is the part that I still truly envy to this day.

As I’ve proceeded on my journey of extraordinary living, I still haven’t got used to the strange looks I receive.

Particularly the ones that come when I explain my plans for the future, or sometimes, my lack thereof. I especially can’t get over the straight up disapproving facial expressions directed my way when I express one of my more uncommonly held positions on something. I have definitely learned how to hold back on my real thoughts around most people… a lot. It’s so much easier to only be my true self among people who I know either agree with me or who I feel really “get me”, you know?! Of course this is not only lessening any sort of positive impact that my different sorts of thoughts could have on other people, but it is also extremely destructive to myself. And the same is true for you.

As you begin to pursue a rare existence please remember that it’s OK if you’re a bright color.

You may even be neon, but that doesn’t mean you are inherently flawed because of it – as you may often feel. In fact I believe the exact opposite is true. I believe you there is a specific reason for your neon blinding brightness and that if you choose to hide it you are both destroying your potential for yourself and limiting the impact you could be having on the world. I mean really, there are very few people who adore fluorescent green, but it still continues to stick around so there’s obviously a grand purpose for it’s existence in the color wheel… maybe you should be the one to figure out what it is!

What color are you? Do the people around you know that?

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