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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(In)tangible Christianity

Christianity is filled with phrases like, “Give it to God,” “Don’t fear, “Trust Him,” “Don’t envy,” and countless other “do’s” and “don’ts.” For the most part, they’re noble, well-meaning suggestions, but difficult to wrap my mind around. I find myself questioning what they look like in 3D, in the world I live in of going to work, eating supper, spending time with friends, blogging, or reading.

What does “Give it to God” look like when it has bones and muscle and skin, all the parts that put the words into true action that shapes how I live my life? I can’t physically remove my uncertainties and doubts and place them in a helium balloon, watching them float away into the sky.

And when something ugly has begun, when I am fearing and envying and any other number of things, how do I begin to get rid of them? It’s not like a vegetable garden, where I can get down on my hands and knees and rip the weeds out. When something dark and sinister takes root in my heart, I can’t buy a shovel and dig it out.

The correct Christian answers here are to read the Bible and pray. Those are absolutely necessary for any sort of spiritual growth; it’s not that I don’t believe in the point of them. I do. But sometimes they don’t feel like enough. Reading some Bible chapters and saying a prayer often don’t feel tangible in the face of daily realities, with real people and real lives and real messes.

Maybe it would be nice if I could hold a prayer in my hand, a touchable, 3D thing. Perhaps it would shimmer a bit, a white wisp, and as I spoke the words off it would float, and I would be able to see my prayers for just a moment.

Instead, I suppose it’s an element of faith to believe that these intangible practices will manifest themselves in tangible ways; that my prayers and Bible reading will be given bones and muscle and skin in the way I work, eat, talk, blog, or read, and the weeds will be unearthed and replaced with something good.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. Are there parts of Christianity you struggle with because they don’t seem tangible enough?

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.

Green Is Not My Color

Facebook is a wonderful and terrible thing. Wonderful in that I like it–probably too much. It allows me to keep in touch with people, to share things that amuse or irritate me, and, because my job deals with social media…yes, I get paid to play on Facebook.

It is also a terrible thing, for reasons other than being a giant time suck. (which it is)

Because it allows me to keep in touch with people, and I have slight hoarding tendencies (even when it comes to Facebook friends), I’m still friends with a lot of people I haven’t talked to in real life in ages. Quite possibly I will never speak to some of them again. Yet occasionally their posts happen across my news feed, and I see pictures and status updates and blog posts from their lives. Glamorous lives, it often seems.

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

Some of these people are more than casual acquaintances–these are friends I know and love and laugh with, and they are having opportunities to go and see and do amazing places and things. If I were a better person, I’d be happy that these people are getting to have such great experiences. And some days I am.

But other days I’m not. Other days, I am bitter, resentful, and envious. A little green. Or in moments, a lot. Yes, I’ve had some adventures of my own–small scale road trips, fun outings with friends, a trip to the UK. I loved all of those things. But when I fall into that trap of comparing, they don’t begin to match up to the experiences of others. It’s not that I don’t WANT to do those things, though at one point I may have said that. Now though, I would love to be able to go and see places, have more adventures of my own.

Right now though, that’s simply not an option. My life right now is working twenty hours a week, sleeping, Facebooking, and reading more than I should, and trying to become a better manager of my time so as not to waste all those hours when I’m not working. And more often than not, failing at doing just that.

In other words…not very exciting. Not very adventureful. Even boring maybe.

Green is not a good color on me. Though envy may be a feeling I can validate, it is not productive. No good can come from clicking through my Facebook friends’ photos, wishing I could do this or see that or go there.

At its worst, this envy makes me irritated with God. Causes me to question why I am where I am right now, instead of somewhere I deem more glamorous, doing something I deem more exciting. Not that I believe where I’m at right now is outside of his plan–he wants me right here, right now. But that doesn’t mean I always understand why.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~