Holiday Grounding 1.0: The Comparison Conundrum
Sometimes I need only to stand wherever I am to be blessed.
I spent Thanksgiving week traveling up the coast of California. It’d been a while since I carved out some space and time from work to rest, refuel, and get inspired. Bustling cities and new scenery are food and drink for my constantly grazing right brain. Beauty feeds my soul and feast I did all the way from the stunning beaches and glamorous people of Malibu to the magical cliffs and redwoods of Big Sur to the charming European-influenced smattering of architecture, shops, and restaurants in Carmel-by-the-sea.
I’m still processing the aesthetic overload of cultural flavors, seascapes, energy, color, and well…just beauty. Beyond grateful, I’m also spiritually rejuvenated. I always feel closer to God when I travel. There is a sacred gravity in the vastness of creation. It seems the face of God is nearly visible for me in nature, diverse people groups, and artistic expression. The ocean speaks to me of this as well, that gorgeous beast of a force. I’m reminded that love is so big and powerful, the more I open myself up to it, my tiny universe will grow and expand to absorb its Divinity.
After a much delayed flight back to Nashville and one heavily scented Uber car from the airport, (think Bath and Body Works Warm Vanilla Sugar overkill) all the way home, I hit the pillow and was out fast and deep, fully satisfied from the week’s wanderings. I woke up and decided it was the perfect grey coffee shop- kind of morning, so I ventured out for a drive to grab a very late breakfast at my favorite local joint. Strangely, I started to notice this icky panicky feeling rising up in my chest. About halfway out of the neighborhood my body and brain resounded an unlikely bleating alarm: HELP!
I’ve had my fair share of anxiety before, yet this was completely out of the blue and barking on the heels of a restful week away. Trying not to judge it, I kept on driving so as to allow it to just come and go. It kept rising strong. I looked up in frustration and beheld a very large, very sterile looking house in front of me resembling a cross between Lord Farquaad’s castle in Shrek and the Griswold’s in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. I did a full-on 360 head turn in slow motion only to discover each and every house around me completely lit up with blow up Santa’s, candy canes, and trees gloriously dressed in red bows and perfectly spaced white lights.
Holy Mother! The holiday race had begun and I was apparently still stretching (alone) at the starting line. I was pretty sure we had a few strands of lights tangled up in the basement, and I bought a cute life-sized gold wire reindeer from Home Depot last year that nodded its head and lit up at night but our dog attacked it leaving it a mangled mess. Who has the time to do all of that decorating, anyway? And the day after thanksgiving? Apparently everyone!? I felt I’d shown up under-dressed a day late to the ball, and my lovely mother taught me to never dress down. This festive extravagance was overwhelming. I’d likely still be climbing out from underneath a week’s worth of laundry until Friday at best with my impending deadlines and catch up from the week away. I was officially suffering a full-on holiday over-expectation attack.
Space & coffee
Okay, okay, I realize my story may sound ridiculous; first-world problems at best. I finally drove off, the pity party died down, and I talked myself off the cliff after my second cup of coffee and a large helping of perspective. Here’s the deal though: the catalyst of this anxiety is relative, however, the cold hard truth underlying is one size fits all and may be worth trying on. Comparison and short-sighted vision were vying for the precious joy I’d gleaned while away on holiday. Gratitude flooded my heart just an hour earlier, and in an instant, I was ready to forfeit everything in the name of Clark Griswold. Oh, hell no.
Comparison is ALWAYS and in every form a total waste of time and emotional energy. Period. I love the Theodore Roosevelt quote, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Nailed it. For all you Enneagram nerds out there, and further, for all you Enneagram fours (The Romantic/Individualist), comparison to others and resulting envy is a familiar pitfall to be aware of. As a flaming four, I know this struggle all too well. There’s this insidious coaxing inner dialog that insists the grass isn’t just greener on the other side, it’s sprouting up pure gold over there and what’s in front of me today is a waste of time.
The quick and failsafe exit strategy out of comparison prison is the ever-ready pathway of gratitude. Remember the homework assignment from last week? Revisit last week’s post if you need a refresher on gratitude journals and do yourself and loved ones a favor: start one. The minute I stepped out of gratitude and the boundaries of my truth and intention, I slipped into that old familiar chaos of comparison—NOT a good look.
Then zoom out like one of those fancy wide-lens movie cameras on wheels you see in the behind the scenes. (I’m sure there’s a proper name for them.) I witnessed the power of this kind of perspective with new pristine clarity on my road trip up the coast. I look back at the pictures I took certain points along the way and sure, they’re pretty. Yet they’re mere snippets of the grand overture that played in my heart as I witnessed the mix of atmospheric changes, crashing waves, bursts of light, laughter, and conversation weaving it all together. It was a most enchanting soundtrack; a long, unforgettable kiss of space and time.
So friends, this season when the comparison temptress calls and lays on her thick irresistible charm and beckons you to look outside of your truth, tell her you’re exactly where you’re meant to be. Remind her where you’ve been and where you’re going and kindly inform her who’s in charge here. Tell her how grateful you are for the unconventional twists and turns, the roadblocks, the free and fast stretches of open highway, and all those detours and gains—they have graciously led you to the place you are now. Explain this curious notion ofacceptance and abundance: we can actually rejoice with those around us who thrive and succeed because the universe is a beautifully loving place and there is more than enough to go around. Finally, thank her for her time and efforts: the offer’s attractive, yet you must respectfully decline. Bid her farewellfor now, you’ve got a story to keep writing.
Let me know how it goes.