Or, comparison is the thief of joy….
The feeling that swept over me was familiar, too familiar. I read the post on Facebook and that feeling wriggled up from my gut, through my chest, clutching my throat and scraping the sides of my trachea til it reached my brain. I hate that envy. I hate it a whole lot.
But I have it. I hold it deep in the recesses of my innermost self someplace so that in moments when I least care to experience it, it rises up and strikes. I might even, at that moment, say things aloud like, “This is stupid” or “Knock it off!” but it doesn’t always help. I try to resort to praying for the object of my envy, wishing him or her success, happiness, all the donuts a person can eat and still stay in the best of health.
Have I mentioned my deep and abiding love of donuts? If not, consider it mentioned.
This is not a non-sequitur, I promise. Bear with me.
Not long ago someone gave me grief about donuts, but not actual donuts. This nice friend of mine said that I spelled donuts incorrectly and that, in fact, it ought to be doughnuts. That makes sense I guess. I googled it in any case. It came up as correct in both spellings. I imagine that “dough-nuts” is a more accurate word. I’m not sure where “do-nuts” came in. The thing is that no matter how you spell it, doughnuts are donuts. It’s all the same. They’re all equal in the eyes (stomachs) of the eater. For the sake of clarity, they’re all donuts here, no matter what your etymological preferences.
This is where comparison enters it. When I reach that raging place of comparison and when it gives rise to that old, familiar envy I am forgetting the donuts on my plate. I’m looking at their donuts, all high-class and lovely glazed. Their donuts look better than my donuts. Maybe I don’t even have donuts on the plate before me at that moment. Maybe my donuts are day old, half price. I wish I had what they have. I wish they didn’t have them at all. Give me all the donuts…and then maybe a few hours on a treadmill.
Stupid Facebook, showing me everyone’s donuts.
Spoiler alert- social media isn’t the problem.
It would be convenient if I could blame my envy and my comparison on the internet or even on something as simple as donuts but it’s more difficult than that. This is an old wound, a constant struggle that springs from not feeling good enough, strong enough, wise enough. It comes from not feeling “enough.” Perhaps that’s an accurate thing, that we are not enough. It’s a strange way to approach it, admitting that yes, I am not enough. It’s certainly not what the wider culture might suggest.
Just do it.
Be all you can be.
America runs on Dunkin’
Here it is, hidden under all the marketing ploys, under all the Instagram photos and Facebook posts. Donuts are delicious, but they are not enough to fill us all the time. It’s not about the donuts. Even I can admit that though I’m loath to write it.
It’s not about the donuts or the book deal or the job promotion or the hair cut. If I am not careful I can find ways to compare myself –my life choices, my family, my children, my education, my career– to anyone and everyone. Social media gives me better access to the avenues of comparison, but it’s not the problem. The problem is that I’m more willing than ever to travel that avenue, to stop by every donut shop on the way and press my nose against the window.
I wonder what it might look like to toss aside the comparison, to just eat the donut on my own plate and live there in the moment. And when there is no donut on the plate, wish well to those who are enjoying their own. I wonder if it might, over time, strangle that rising envy, that baseless comparison. I wonder if, over time, it might loosen its hold on me and allow me to just enjoy the donuts when they arrive on my plate. I wonder if it might help me, over time, to finally believe that I lose nothing by leaving comparison behind.