Comparing Yourself to Others Never Ends Well

Spending the week in Shangri-La was rejuvenating. The view from every deck and window, including the window next to the toilet

looking to the right off of the deck

in my bathroom, overlooked marsh lined channels leading out to the ocean where fishing boats dotted the water early each morning. The house was comfortably elegant with dark wood wainscoting, hard wood floors, comfy furniture and an eclectic smattering of master pieces hung with distinction next to Debbie’s quirky sense of decorating humor. This included schools of fish, made of different metals, clay, and wood, swimming mostly in the same direction, except for a few free thinking swimmers going the opposite way, arranged on two adjoining walls in a bathroom, jars of wonderful old marbles, interesting woven baskets holding porcupine quills, clay sculptures with imaginative faces…you get the idea. When I wasn’t admiring the view, or lost in conversation with my dear friends, I was amused by the subtle humor tucked into little nooks just waiting to be noticed.

 

And to the left toward the ocean

Spending the week in Shangri-La also had a dark side, and mine showed up big time. I began comparing my life circumstances to that of my friends. I tormented myself with, “Where did I go wrong? What if I had gone to a better college?  Maybe followed a different career path.”

 

Then I moved into what I call Cinderella questions. These have to do with a man rescuing me. “Should I have married a rich man, someone who could have provided paradise?” And if so, “How come I didn’t?” My answers were not pretty. My inferiority was in full bloom. She straight-out informed me that I could never have landed a rich man. I am not good enough. Not smart enough. Not pretty enough. (I’ll end here if you don’t mind; this is depressing.)

 

I thought about my middle class family of origin and how I learned limits. How not to expect more than there was. How to be happy with what you had. These are lessons I respect but as I wandered the rooms of this magnificent home, I began to challenge them. What if I expected more? Wanted more? What if being dissatisfied led me to more? Would this be my house?

 

The onslaught of questions left me uncertain of me. I was knocked off my center. However I knew, from past encounters with my darkness, that these shadow sightings are often a good thing…in the end. I trusted if I could stay present to myself long enough, listened to my self judgements until they were hoarse and was honest about this predatory side of me, I would land back on my feet with a greater love and trust for myself. (At least that is what I told myself.)

 

This was risky business-listening to me compare myself to others. I noticed how comparing myself never ends well. When I compare myself to people who have more I feel less than and when I compare myself to people who have less I feel guilty. It is a lose/lose proposition.

 

Returning home to my no longer newlywed husband I find myself feeling satisfied as I look around my surroundings. I feel at home in our space. I love our 7’ x 9’ deck overlooking enough trees that one might think it is woods, but it’s not. I like the simplicity. I welcome the familiarity. And I adore the man I picked, and would pick all over again.

 

So perhaps in the end it is all good. Both Shangri-La and middle class are wonderful gifts to be fully enjoyed.

 

It is comparing yourself to others that limits what you can love, mainly in yourself.

Getting Away is Good

Tom and I are visiting his mom who lives on Tybee Island, GA. We come every year to visit her and to get our “beach fix.” I have been to many beaches, but none draws me back like Tybee. The island remains untouched by fast food chains and high rise resort hotels. It is small enough to ride bikes from one end to the other and from ocean to marsh. We bike for milk shakes in the afternoon and margaritas in the evening. I love to bike for food.

 

At Tybee the tides dictate the day. They must be consulted before venturing very far. Rip tides are common. Going to dinner by boat is cancelled due to it being “dead low” tide. You can get stranded or worse on Little Tybee, an island that exists only at low tide. The ocean here is unpredictable and often dangerous. She demands my respect.

 

So, for my 5th year in a row, I find myself being with this beach, versus on it. I  feel that subtle difference. This beach is a teacher and I am her willing student. Hers, of course, are not new lessons. Nothing is new, just restated. Sometimes though, when It is restated, I remember.

 

I offer to you what I learn and relearn every time I am here.

 

SOME THINGS YOU JUST CAN’T KNOW…

 

The thing I love about Tybee is the beach changes dramatically with the tides. At low tide little islands emerge from the sea, inviting us to explore them. We just have to walk or swim to get to them. For the last two days, Tom and I have explored these temporary islands. The newly exposed sand is unpredictable. Some stretches are like walking on concrete, sending shock waves up my spine. Other spots are soft, treacherous quick sand reminding me of a Johnny Weismiller Tarzan episode in which he rescues Jane from her near death. Then there are the deeply ridged areas that just plain hurt to walk on (I tried to tell myself it was like reflexology, but it isn’t.)

 

As we traverse these newly presented sand masses, checking the tidal pools like treasure chests full with sand dollars, sting rays, crabs, or flounder, my attention is captured by the amazingly beautiful terrain. The contours and colors are works of art. I am inspired and in awe. Natures art. It is simply breath. Tom and I discuss theories of a higher power being responsible for this beauty and/or the natural elements of water, sand and tide creating this art independently and exclusively. As our conversation wanes, the origin of this beauty no longer of interest, we drop our need for intellectual conclusions, that drain the beauty of a sunset, and enjoy not knowing.

 

 

 

COUNT ON CHANGE…

Continuing in the same vein…or ocean if you will…walking these low tide exposed beaches is a moment in time that will never be repeated. I will never walk on the same land mass again. Tomorrow it will be a different walk, with different pools and mounds. Different sea life resting in the deep pools, waiting for the tide to rise again to carry them back to the ocean. Tonight, where we walked will be ocean again. Our footsteps long gone, unnoticed and unimportant in the life of this island. I am comforted and distressed by this knowing. And, truth be told, what I feel about it doesn’t matter. It will still be different tomorrow when we walk, whether I like or not.

 

 

LET GO….

In one of the deeper channels we floated. Heads back, arms out. Tom started it. I found him floating (he was so relaxed it was a good thing he was face up or I would have been scared). I have always loved to float, it is the ultimate letting go.  I grew up on a lake in NJ and raised my kids on a lake in western PA. I discovered, early in my life, floating was the antidote to stress. There were many dynamics to manage in my family of origin; watching my back (because no one else would), keeping the peace, and hearing the unspoken so I could avoid the ensuing ship wreck. The lake always saved me. When I got on the water I let go. I trusted the water had me, and it always did, as long as I let it have me. (If you resist the water you will sink AND if you don’t breathe while you float you will sink as well-good to know.)

 

So today, on this magical, space-in-time island, I knew I wanted to float. I knew I needed to float, to allow my body to yield to the water. I needed to let go of my management of my life, my expectations of myself, of others, my illusions of control, my disappointments. I walked into the water, my mind taking a minute to adjust to what it needs to do-get the hell out of the way- and laid back. A minute later I am floating, breathing deeply, arms out, head and neck held by the water, floating. I feel my yield in every cell of my body, I find my faith in the water to hold me, to not let me go or drop me. I trust the water. It has me and that is a really good feeling. My body needed to float so I could remember.

 

When I put my feet to sand again, my shoulders are dropped, my back looser, my  breathing easier and my body satisfied. It is necessary to feel well held in order to let go.