Comparing Yourself to Yourself

I remember feeling like my life had ended when I had my first kid.

It was hard.

It felt like I’d never sleep again.

I’d lost my freedom.

I didn’t know what I was getting myself into.

Would I ever get time to myself again?

Was I now a slave to this small human (who I had hoped and prayed for) for the rest of my life?

Oh, for the good old days!

But I recently had the realization that there were no good old days.

Yes, I had some freedom before kids.

Shopping was easier.

I could bake and crochet uninterrupted.

I could go out at night without a babysitter.

But I was also in school, and juggling two jobs and a film internship.

In truth, I never had unlimited freedom.

I was still tied to things – just different things.

Before I was sleep-deprived from newborns, I was sleep-deprived from late nights of homework.

Before I had a toddler asking me for things, I had clients and producers calling me daily.

Before I had babies waking me up, I was getting up at 4:15 for my 5am shifts at work.

Before I was up all night nursing a baby, I was up all night shooting scenes for independent films.

I didn’t have kids, but I was still working hard.

Ironically, all I wanted at that time in my life was to have children and stay home.

I was waiting, dreaming.

I was dreaming of the life I have now…and now I’m wishing for the freedom of the good old days.

The grass is always greener….

 

That fabled “freedom” I was lamenting never truly existed.

My children are the reason I stay home.

I have them to thank for the adventure (although it doesn’t always feel like one) that I’m living right now.

If it weren’t for them, I’d still be punching a clock and waking up before dawn.

In a way, I’m more “free” now than I’ve ever been.

Strollers, car seats, diapers, and all.

Not that it’s always easy. My life isn’t easier or harder now. It’s just different.

But I have reason to be grateful.

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I’m not advocating that all mothers can or should stay home with their kids.

I love breaking stereotypes and gender roles.

I believe in strong women who are free to work or stay home or get married or stay single.

I believe marriage and parenthood are a blessing, but they are not the direct result of being born female.

Women are people, not pawns. 

I’m simply drawing from my own life experience – as someone who wanted to be a full-time mother and then second-guessed it when that dream came true.

Here I am, living the very life I wanted, and I still struggle with contentment!

Do dreams ever really come true?

Or do they just lead to other dreams?

Is it a never-ending rabbit trail chasing “contentment?”

Chasing “the good life?”

Usually when we talk about contentment we’re talking about comparing ourselves to others.

But comparing yourself to yourself can be just as frustrating. 

It’s so easy to feel nostalgia for the past.

Our past circumstances.

Our past selves.

But nostalgia is incomplete.

When we remember things, we’re usually forgetting the pain, the uncertainty, and the fatigue that went with those memories. 

I feel nostalgia for the days when Josh and I were still dating.

It was exciting to feel the butterflies and meet up for ice cream and go on adventures together.

We were young and in love.

We thought about each other all the time.

It was a sweet phase of getting to know each other.

If I dwell on it, I miss those days.

What happened?

Now we see each other daily.

The thrill of the chase is gone.

I no longer get knots in my stomach when I’m about to see him.

I don’t labor over every text I send.

I know he’s coming home tonight, and now we spend more nights in than getting dressed up and going out.

But you know what else has changed?

The uncertainty. 

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When we were dating, nothing was certain.

We didn’t know if our hearts would be broken.

We were madly in love, but we were also learning to trust.

We were feeling it out.

We were slightly guarded.

Daters long for the security of marriage. Married folks long for the thrill of dating.

But we can’t have it both ways.

We can only choose contentment.

Now what Josh and I have is slightly less thrilling, but it is deeper.

It is better.

It is fully trusting.

Fully vested.

Intimate in ways that dating isn’t.

Are we boring? Or are we bonded?

Did we loose the spark? Or did we ignite something more meaningful?

Life is full of phases.

We can’t have it all.

But we can choose to enjoy the imperfect beauty of where we’re at.

I can honestly say that right now I’m content.

It doesn’t mean life is perfect.

I still have my own set of struggles.

I don’t always feel as “productive” or “important” as I want.

I still feel small pangs of depression creep in sometimes.

But I want for nothing.

As we were recently trying to place an Amazon order without having to pay for shipping (it had to be $25 minimum) Josh and I both struggled to think of things we needed / wanted to fill our cart. (Yes, we don’t have Amazon Prime…we stay away from pretty much all voluntary subscriptions and memberships as part of our frugal lifestyle.)

We wracked our brains, but couldn’t think of anything we needed right now. We finally gave up and just delayed the purchase for a little while.

We couldn’t think of anything we wanted to fill our basket.

It might be a silly example, but this little experience really opened my eyes to the simple beauty of contentment.

I want nothing. (At least not enough to fill a $25 order!)

It’s about more than an Amazon basket.

If we won a million dollars today, we wouldn’t run out and buy anything.

We don’t need the latest gadget or a new car or even a larger book collection.

If we won a million dollars, we’d probably work less and give more.

We might invest in some local businesses.

We might sow seeds in some meaningful causes.

We wouldn’t change our lifestyle though.

I’m not sure if that’s the exact dictionary definition of contentment, but it’s my definition of contentment.

If you’re caught in the nostalgia trap like I was, take a moment and remind yourself that you’re probably not remembering the full picture.

Be honest with yourself about the struggles of the past – and look at how far you’ve come!

If I spend my time comparing myself to anyone else -or to myself- I’m missing out on the joy of the here and now.

I’m robbing myself of the greatest gift I can choose to give myself.

The gift of contentment.

Godliness with contentment is great gain.

1 Timothy 6:6

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