I have this terrible habit of going online and perusing the houses for sale in our area.
I know it’s a pretty common habit but it just makes me feel bad. I see homes that are bigger than mine, newer than mine and with better yards than mine (most have POOLS!) and I immediately start to dislike my own house. My house, with the pink exterior and regal oak and palm trees throughout the yard, situated just a half mile from Atlantic Ocean beach access. My house, where I can hear the ocean waves and see rocket launches from the driveway. My house, that with all its quirks, is nicer and worth much more money than I ever anticipated being able to afford.
My home, the one that I moved into when I got married and lived in with three kids, and the one where I’ve brought home two more little ones.
You see, the problem with disliking my house is that it starts to breed feelings of negativity about the rest of my life. I can’t buy the bigger, newer houses I see right now because our combined income from our jobs won’t afford it. When I start to feel like we don’t make enough money, I start to feel negative about both of our jobs. When I start to feel negative about that, I then remember that we get to work at home in order to spend more time with our kids. On the days that there are a lot of responsibilities with those kids, or that I’m feeling inadequate as their mother, I start to wonder if having a job where I was gone more and made more money would be better.
It’s like a rabbit hole of insecurity and bad vibes that I fall down – and it all starts by clicking to see what houses are for sale.
For me, it’s clicking through real estate photos. For you, it might be reading a magazine or website to get health and fitness tips but walking away feeling worse about yourself than when you started (I’ve been there, too).
What do you do that immediately makes you feel inadequate? Maybe it’s scrolling through your family or friends’ vacation photos on social media. Maybe it’s reading the nutrition label on the back of a treat you have already decided that you want and deserve – and feeling that joy drop as you skim the calorie and fat data. Despite being healthy, happy and strong – what is the comparison that steals your joy?
I know what mine is and yet sometimes temptation still gets the best of me and I still look, even though I know it will go nowhere positive. When I’m able to pull myself back out of the negative spiral, I think about my real life – the one I have now – and how great it really is. I try to conjure up all of those inspirational quotes about how you can’t find happiness but instead, can choose to be happy in the life you already live (I’m paraphrasing).
At that point I think, yes. My kids are healthy. Yes. I love my husband. Yes. I work in the career meant for me. Yes. I can walk to the beach and see every single sunrise over the ocean if I choose. Yes. My kids do well in school. Yes. My kids are good people. Yes. My legs let me run, my lungs let me breath, and my heart lets me live. This life. My life.
With age comes wisdom and I’ve spent enough years in adulthood and as a parent to be able to look back retrospectively in some ways. I remember sending my daughter to her grandparents’ house as a baby on a Wednesday, with the premise being that I had two long workdays ahead. I did have to work – but I also wasn’t sure how I was going to feed her until I got paid on Friday. Man, what I would’ve given to have the grocery budget that I have now back then! I think about the long winters growing up in the Midwest – the days I could barely get out of bed because it was dark and cold and I was depressed. Damn. What I would’ve done to have the sunny view from my desk that I have today – with a WARM beach I could access year-round just a short walk away.
I recognize that part of the reason my circumstances are different today is because I was unsatisfied with my life then – and worked hard to change it. There’s a difference between knowing you can do better for yourself and always living your life like it’s a stepping stone to something else, though. At some point, you have to be happy with what you have, with what you’ve worked to have, and find the genuine joy in the little things that make your life wonderful right now.
My husband hates coffee but drove to Starbucks three different days for me this week to pick up my favorite, all because he knew I had more than usual on my work/volunteer plate. The man woke up at 4:45 a.m. on a Saturday to offer to get me a coffee before I left to work at a local race that morning (I declined, even I’m not that needy). His actions are a small detail of my life that represents a bigger truth: I am loved by an attentive man who supports me through action.
I received an unexpected message from a client this week who I help with social media. She told me how much she appreciates me. Those few sentences carried me through a few rough days and reminded me that people value me for my expertise. I am valuable.
I recently ate lunch with my first “mom friend” after I moved more than seven years ago to this town. We still see each other a lot and text, and she lives in my neighborhood, but it was nice to just connect face-to-face, one-on-one over a meal. It occurred to me during that lunch that living in this town is not new for me, or for our family, anymore. We have roots here and for the first time in my whole life, there’s not another area where I’d rather live. My girls play with the girls across the street from us and around the corner. A rabbi who lives two doors down lets my kids pet her outdoor cats so they do, often. My next-door neighbor gives my kids lollipops and recently left me some cookies on my minivan’s windshield to go with my morning Starbucks. We can bike or walk to our neighborhood school where my kids are learning and thriving.
Maybe this house isn’t so bad after all.
I don’t think I’ll ever stray too far from goal-setting and self-improvement because that’s really just who I am. I’m trying harder to let myself love the life I have though – and look less to the life that I think I want. This life is great. I know that already. Any other blessings are just fluff at this point and that’s a great place to live.
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