(and other ridiculous comparisons)
I have an obsession. It’s insane and I know it. I will hunt high and low for sales and coupons to support my obsession. I have stood in the aisles of Publix sniffing and sniffing until I find just the right one to satisfy my fix. It’s laundry detergent. Okay, not just detergent, but fabric softener, laundry beads, dryer sheets…anything and everything to make my laundry smell better. I love the smell of clean laundry. Seeing as I do upwards of 20 loads a week, I’ve had lots of practice attempting to master the art of capturing just the right scent. The real problem though is that no matter what detergent/softener/bead combo I try, everyone else’s laundry always smells better. I just don’t get it. Compared to everyone else, my laundry smells mediocre, at best.
We all have those things in life that we torture ourselves with by thinking “My (you fill in the blank) will never be that good” or “I wish I had (you fill in the blank) like she does”. I don’t know about men, but I think women tend to compare the smaller things in life, whether it is our shoes, handbags, clothes, or even laundry scents. What do men compare anyway? Pocket Knives? Spray-in truck bed liners? How many pockets their cargo pants have?
In any case, comparing our lives to those of others is destructive, no matter how big or small the comparison is. Comparison is the thief of joy. It is. Teddy Roosevelt said so. Comparison will reach up with its nasty, vein-y, dirty hand and snatch the joy right out of your life. It creeps up when you think you’re just making an innocent comparison between your neighbors fresh, green lawn and your crunchy brown grass and before you know it, you’ve had a top-of-the-line sprinkler system installed and you realize you can’t afford your water bill. But hey, at least your grass looks good and everyone will be comparing their lawn to yours and you’ll be over the moon with joy, right? Wrong. So wrong. Teddy said so. Sure, you might be happy with your beautiful lawn, but the joy will have been sucked right out of your life while you were busy living on comparisons.
There is a deep difference between happiness and joy. Happiness is well, superficial. It’s very surface-level. I can be happy one minute while watching my favorite episode of MASH and then very unhappy the next minute when I realize my husband cut off the DVR right in the middle of the episode so he could record “Shark Week” or “Mermaids: Body of Evidence” or some other gigantic waste of time.
But that which makes me unhappy does not steal my joy. Joy is inward, soul-stirring, deeply-rooted, I-want-to-share-this-feeling-with-everyone exuberance. It is something that isn’t brought on by material things. It is developed with experiences. Joy grasped my being on my wedding day. It took hold the moment I saw my husband cry when we found out we were having a baby. It settled into the depths of my heart the minute my children were born.
During all of those moments, not one second was wasted on comparisons. Every second was spent on marveling at the pure joy that was unfolding inside me. I have to remind myself often to not allow those fleeting comparisons of material things chip away at the joy that has been built up in my soul. Don’t let it do that to you either. You’ll be sorry. I heard that there is a direct link between people who have no joy and premature aging of the skin. No, I made that up, but it isn’t a terrible theory.
So the next time you see a crazy lady in Publix, sniffing all the detergent and fabric softeners, tell her that someone else’s laundry will always smell better and she’s killing her joy. I promise I won’t try to drown you with a gallon of Tide.