When Everyone’s Life Looks Good Except Your Own

Sometimes I get jealous of horses.

When they’re out and about, racing or pulling buggies, they get to wear blinders. According to Wikipedia, “Many racehorse trainers believe these keep the horse focused on what is in front of him, encouraging him to pay attention to the race rather than other distractions, such as crowds.”

I could use some blinders for life.

Photo Credit: Flickr User emilio labrador, Creative Commons

Photo Credit: Flickr User emilio labrador, Creative Commons

It is frighteningly easy for me to lose focus of what’s in front of me, of the goodness and beauty and light in my life, and instead look to the side, getting distracted by the flashy, clamoring, noisy crowds all around me. Then I see what they have, their neat, shiny little lives full of the things I wanted and planned for my own life, while mine just looks…well, the way it does. A little flat, the polish wearing off, rough around the edges. Suddenly, everyone’s life looks good except my own.

This comparison, this nagging envy, is like an old friend–or enemy, rather. We are far from strangers, certainly. Though I have learned there are ways to head it off, by avoiding certain places or groups or books or movies, there is no way to perfectly avoid it every single time. It is an insidious creature, lurking in from back hallways and hidden doorways, just out of sight but there at a moment’s notice.

And when it shows up, whether in small ways or looming large, threatening to overtake me, I remind myself to be content. I could make lists of the things in my life I am thankful for (nieces and nephews and friends and church and job and books and music and dessert), and while they fill my life with so much wonderful, they cannot completely fill the spaces that are left from the things I want but do not have. Contentment is something single people in particular are reminded of a lot, but even the word itself is deceiving. It sounds so gentle and calm, bringing to mind a hammock swaying in the light breeze coming off a peaceful lake.

But the truth is, contentment is a battle. It is a constant struggle, a back and forth, a conscious decision time and time again to put on some blinders. I must continually keep turning my head away from all the noise that flashes what I don’t have. I know that most people don’t really have it together the way it looks, but oh, those looks can be appealing.

Except it doesn’t make my life, it doesn’t make me any better to be constantly looking around, getting distracted by everyone else’s lives. They are not mine. 

The only life I have is the one I’m living.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. Have you ever needed to tell yourself to put on some blinders?

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The Enduring Fight of Singleness

One of the most difficult parts of being single is that I feel like I’m always fighting.

Photo Credit: Flickr User Travis Modisette, Creative Commons

Photo Credit: Flickr User Travis Modisette, Creative Commons

Fighting to be content.

Fighting to remember my life is now, not if or when I walk down the aisle.

Fighting to not compare.

Fighting to know there is meaning and purpose in this, the here and now.

Fighting to not be mad at God.

 

It gets tiring, to be fighting all the time.

I want to hang up my boxing gloves, lie down on the mat, and just be. 

 

If I knew how to do that, I would’ve done it by now.

But even my attempts to stop fighting are, themselves, the source of the fight–the fight to be content, to remember my life is now, to not be mad at God.

 

That last one is the biggest problem, of course.

It’s not, objectively speaking, God’s fault I am single.

 

But I do believe God is all-powerful, listens to prayers, and hates to see his children hurt.

Which I struggle to make jive with my reality, in which I am single, it hurts, and God has the power to change it but hasn’t.

 

I trust God and that he has a plan for me, for each part of my life.

But I don’t think trusting him takes away pain or hardship.

 

So I don’t know exactly where all this leaves me.

I’ve tried to stop fighting, to just be, and yet getting there is its own kind of fight.

 

Singleness seems to be an enduring kind of fight.

A refining, lesson-riddled, challenging, sometimes freeing and rewarding fight.

But a fight all the same.

 

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. Do you ever feel like you’re fighting to be content with where you are?

Dear Me: A Letter for the End of 2014

{Instead of writing a list of resolutions I probably wouldn’t actually keep, I’m writing a letter to myself for the end of 2014.}

Well hi there self,

I’ve written to you before–to the 16-year-old version and the 28-year-old version, but never the you only a year away. It seems more intimidating this way, to write to the you only 363ish days away.

I wonder what you’ve seen in those days. You’re going places soon–Denver, New York City, Nashville–the dates are on your calendar, your new suitcase waiting to be broken in. But maybe that’s just the beginning of the list. What other places will that suitcase see this year?

Photo Credit: Flickr User Muffet, Creative Commons

Photo Credit: Flickr User Muffet, Creative Commons

More important than where you went, though, is who you became. What have you learned in this past year? Have you let go of some lies? Have you held onto truths? Have you loved as well as you can?

Have you let God be the center of it all?

Whatever goals you did or didn’t accomplish this year, whatever good or bad happened to you that you could or couldn’t control, I hope you know that who you’re becoming matters more than all of it.

 

Maybe 2014 was the year it all seemed to go wrong, and you were left hanging onto shreds of what you thought you knew.

Or maybe it all (or mostly) went right, and you stand looking into 2015 from a mountaintop of glee.

Whatever the case, I’m wishing you well for wherever you are.

 

I think we both know that your biggest hope for 2014, as it has been for several years now, is that you will find a Somebody. A Jesus-loving boy who will help you love God more each day; not somebody who will “complete” you, because you are not incomplete, but somebody who will encourage you to be more you than you’ve ever been before, who gets that God is always my aim because God is always his aim too.

If that hasn’t happened, I hope you still know that you’re completely wonderful, excellent, and worthy all on your own.

 

Maybe in this past year you’ve gotten better about comparing yourself to others, but if you haven’t yet, here’s a reminder: It’s not worth it. Your story is not theirs, and that’s okay. Look for the goodness in your own, and let them have theirs. Life, and especially this funny time of young adulthood, looks different for everyone. Embrace it. Learn from it.

 

Most of all, I hope you’ve held onto hope.

 

Happy 2015, self.

Sincerely,

Me

p.s. What would you like to tell yourself for the end of 2014?

 

Found in Translation

There are nearly 100 translations of the Bible–in English alone. Maybe more, as it was hard to find a complete list. So it’s easy to see why people put up a fuss about how they were done, who wrote them, which text they used to translate them from or is it just a paraphrase, what was the translator’s purpose of creating yet another translation…and on. It seems like the Bible might be more credible if we could decide on just one English translation.

But sometimes I appreciate them. I’ve read Galatians 6:4-5 a slew of times in my years, but it has never stuck so deeply before.

Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life.  –Galatians 6:4-5, The Message (emphasis mine)

Sinking myself into what is before me is something I need to hear right now. Not dwelling on aspects of other’s lives I may desire–I am not equipped or called to handle the work in front of others, whatever that work may be. It’s not that I abandon others or cease to help them, but an acceptance that my main responsibility is me.

The work God has entrusted to me.

The troubles God has entrusted to me.

The life God has entrusted to me.

 

And Galatians 6:4-5 has never meant so much to me before.

So I understand the translation battles. But today,  I am thankful for a new perspective.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. Do you find having multiple Bible translations to be helpful or not?

Getting Smug at Starbucks

Photo Credit: Flickr User this seat's taken, Creative Commons

Photo Credit: Flickr User this seat’s taken, Creative Commons

Starbucks hadn’t even been in my plan that day. A friend called, saying she was coming by to pick me up and to be ready in 15 minutes. After browsing a few stores, we made a quick stop at Starbucks.

We placed our orders, and as the baristas made our drinks and readied orders for the drive-thru, I realized I had been in a few classes with one of them and we had graduated at the same time.

And as this former classmate prepared lattes and tea, a bit of smugness worked its way into my head.

I too was working part-time jobs at the time, but, as I reminded myself, both of them were somehow related to what I had studied in college. We may have graduated around the same time, but if life is a game of getting ahead, I was winning.

 

I should have slapped myself.

 

Comparing myself to this former classmate is exactly the type of thing I hate when people do to me, even if they never say it out loud. It puts one party in one camp that is somehow superior to the other, and ignores that different can be just that–different. Not one that is better than the other, just not the same.

It isn’t really about the former classmate. This thought can pop up in a variety of circumstances, but in all of them, comparison is the problem.

In her book Bittersweet, Shauna Niequist writes:

When you compare yourself to another person, you always lose, and at the same time the other person always loses, too. Each of us has been created by the hands of a holy God, and our stories and the twists and turns of our lives, the things that are hard for us, and the things that come naturally, are as unique to us as our own fingerprints. One way to ensure a miserable life is to constantly measure your own life to the lives of the people around you.

Even though in this instance I deemed myself the “winner,” my comparison immediately makes me the loser and strips the other person of their worth.

My smugness invalidates the importance of the work others are doing. My smugness leaves no room for my own insecurities and trepidation over what I am doing. And worst of all, my smugness can’t appreciate the beauty in each person’s unique story.

This is not the first time I have had unsavory thoughts regarding others at Starbucks, but it’s not the coffee shop that’s the problem.

I’m the problem.

This is not a story with an ending. I am continually at work in the quest to not compare. Though I do think my age breeds it more easily because the lives of my peers are in dramatically different places, I am learning that comparison plagues people of all ages and life stages. In all of them, it is ugly.

And in all of them, there is room to grow. To learn and find a better way, one of appreciation for our own story, and of the beauty of the  differences between ours and the person next to us.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. Have you ever gotten smug from comparison? What helps you not compare?

Shoving Strangers at Starbucks

Several hours we sat there, mere feet apart, enveloped in our own little words. She typed on her iPad, her iPhone sitting next to her, a stack of books on the chair. Our only interaction was a “Cute shoes!” she offered me as she got up to leave.

For an hour or so, she Skyped with an unseen, unheard party. Though she had headphones in, I heard every word of her side of the conversation (the tables at the Starbucks I frequent are placed quite close to each other). I don’t know the name of this Random Girl from Starbucks, but I know a lot about her.

Photo Credit: Flickr User ND Strupler, Creative Commons

I know she recently got married. She’s still in school, which I gathered both from the books on her table and from her conversation. Life is really good for her right now. She feels content, happy, and like God is telling her she’s right where she’s supposed to be right now.

 

  I wanted to shove her off her stool.

 

Because my current reality is vastly different from hers.

It’s not her fault; she seemed like quite a nice person.

But her chatter of marriage, contentment, and joy in knowing she is where she’s supposed to be right now are in glaring contrast to my singleness, restlessness, and uncertainty.

I know I shouldn’t be comparing my life to the lives of others; but that is a continual lesson, one that I’ve been failing at rather miserably in the past couple weeks.

In the 6 months since I’ve graduated, and in the months leading up to that momentous occasion, I feel as though the boat I’m in has been rocked and swayed, and, in moments, nearly capsized. From what I’ve heard from other twenty-somethings, this is not an uncommon feeling; this turbulence, uncertainty, and searching for the calm. So to sit so near to someone who looked to be about my age, and hear of her good fortune and joy…it grated on whatever already-thin, often fleeting, sense of calm I may have had that day.

I did not shove this girl I’ve never formally met off her seat at Starbucks.

As soon as the thought crossed my mind, I chastised myself. “This is no way to respond to the blessing someone else is experiencing right now.”

Instead, I am working on viewing this as a reminder. I have no idea what that girl has gone through in life to get to the point she spoke of that day in Starbucks, but she is seeing this time as a gift from God. A time to rejoice and enjoy the things he has done in her life and the circumstances she has her in.

I may not be able to do exactly the same right now, but my time will come again.

 

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

Side note: I don’t make eavesdropping a frequent activity in my life, nor do I recommend it. However, in this instance, it was nearly unavoidable, seeing as she was sitting just feet away, and I actually got quite a lot of good thoughts out of the conversation. Not that that necessarily justifies it, I know.

p.s. Do you ever struggle with comparing your life to the lives of those around you? How have you learned to be content in your circumstances?

Facebook Envy

Today, my piece “Facebook Envy” went up over at Relevant Magazine.

If you clicked over from Relevant, first of all, thank you. For reading there, and for stopping by over here.

That being said, I want you to know…I wrote that piece more for myself than anyone else. I cannot tell you how many whiny, ranting, bitter drafts I wrote. Finally, I realized my writing cannot become a rant against other people simply because of my own insecurities. Only then, by writing of my own struggles, did the rest begin to follow.

Those suggestions I offer, particularly the one about finding my worth in God? I’m not there today, I won’t be there tomorrow, and I won’t be there a month from now. I’m not sure we ever completely “get there.”

So here’s to being a work in progress. To writing of messes and insecurity and uncertainty, and how God is in and through it all, even when I fail to see it. I’d love for you to join me.

Here’s a snippet from “Facebook Envy”:

“We’re often warned of Internet pitfalls: pornography, illegal downloading, addiction to video games or social networks, neglect of real-life relationships and more.

Yet there is another insidious Internet predator we don’t often talk about.

As I scroll through my Facebook news feed or Twitter home page, I’m bombarded with pictures, status updates and blog posts from my peers. Many people in their twenties, like me, are still figuring life out. They’re off on adventures, exploring the world and learning new things, figuring out love and friendships and what it looks like to follow God in this stage of their lives. As I browse their posts, I often find myself wishing I could be in their shoes, living their lives. Glamorous lives, it often seems.

In other words, the online realm sets up the danger of comparison.

Road trips. India. Beaches. Paris. Weddings. Mexico. Celebrities. Babies. New York City. Skydiving. Grad school.

My life currently includes none of those things, and it is all too easy for me to wish my circumstances could be otherwise.

In small doses, comparing our lives to others doesn’t seem so bad—it seems only natural to see and analyze what others our age are doing. At times, it may compel us to work harder to achieve what we desire, or provide perspective when we find our circumstances overwhelmingly bleak.”

Read the rest, over at Relevant?

Thanks, friends. =)

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. Is Facebook envy something you’ve struggled with? How do you deal with it? I’d love to hear from you–leave a comment here, or at the original post. You can also find me on Twitter.

The Comparison Game

“Life is never as good or as bad as it seems.” -Cameron Strang, founder of RELEVANT Magazine

I like this thought. Even when things are going exceptionally well, when everything is coming up roses and daisies and tulips, and you’re on cloud 9.7…there’s still something, even something tiny, that’s going to be a little off. Not quite as perfect as it could be. Which could be a little depressing–no matter how hard you try, things will never be perfect.

…but on the more uplifting side, even when things are going terribly, terribly wrong, when every piece of life seems to be falling apart, when work is stressful and relationships are broken and painful and you feel like you’re going nowhere…there’s still something, even something as small as finding a really good book or enjoying some nice weather…that goes right.

The problem comes when we play the comparison game. Which I am quite, quite good at. Because even if things are going right, there’s also someone who seems to have more pieces of their life together, or maybe just particular pieces that I am envious of. And if things are rough in my life, there’s seems to be even more people around who seem to have everything together, even though really, they don’t.

“If we only wanted to be happy, it would be easy; but we want to be happier than other people, and that is almost always difficult, since we think them happier than they are.” ~Montesquieu 

Comparison is not the way to a happy, fulfilled life. Instead, I’m learning (and experiencing) that it is a fast track to a not-so-pleasant land of discontentment and frustration.

Because yes, it’s true that I do not have a full-time job. It’s true that I live with my parents. It’s true that I’m single. It’s true that I don’t have very much money to do many of the things I’d like to. And when I compare myself to people around me, be it family, friends, fellow church members, or the other customers at the coffee shop, I will see people with full-time jobs, apartments and houses, fiances and spouses, and money and opportunities that I do not have.

But where’s the point in that? I am being continually reminded that the life I live is mine, and mine only. It is not the life of the people around me. We have different paths, and that is okay. That’s the way it’s supposed to be. If we all did things exactly the same, the world would not be a very interesting place. And if we did a little less comparing, and a little more living, I think we’d all be a bit happier.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~