If I do not need other people, what is their own purpose in life, what is their claim on my own gifts when they need me as I have needed them? The moment I come to realize that it is precisely the gifts which I do not myself embody that make me claimant to the gifts of others—and they of mine—marks the moment of my spiritual beginning. Suddenly, creature-hood becomes gift and power and the beginning of unlimited personal growth. – Joan Chittister
I always wanted one of those jean jackets that were so cool in the late 80s — a slight acid wash and covered in what TGI Fridays has led us to now call “flare.” I wanted funky pins and patches from cool places, band logos, and the upgrade of the plastic charms that were the rage in 5th grade. I wanted it because other people had it, and I thought if I had it, too, I would be cool, like I perceived them to be. I wanted that jacket fiercely – almost as much as I’d wanted Jordache jeans when I was 11.
In high school, I wanted that coveted letterman’s jacket from a boy. (Side note – I got one, and it was great – until, well, he wasn’t.) In college, the desire switched from clothing to knowledge and complex understanding that I could flaunt in casual conversation as I perched on a wooden arm of a lounge chair outside the bookstore.
Now, the want is book sales, or website traffic, or more Twitter followers. I have to fight hard against those wants, against the desire to compare, to compete.
I fight because those wants are not healthy – they lead me to think that what I do is less because of some arbitrary measure, and those wants push me to be LIKE someone else, which is ultimately awful because I cannot be someone else, and to be honest, I don’t want to be. I like who I am.
But when friends go to Ferguson to bear witness, or sell all they have and move to a developing country to serve others, when she blogs so powerfully about injustice and gets asked – for good reason – to share her work with a massive new audience, I doubt myself and my call. Maybe there is more I could do, a different way I could write, a better way to live.
It’s in those moments when the ideas of “more” or “different” become strongest – drumbeats against the inside my jaw – that I doubt myself. Then, someone’s unsubscription from this blog can bring me almost to tears, and I begin to feel frantic. What else can I say? What else can I do? What should I have not said? What should I have not done?
But then, a wise friend reminds me that maybe my job is to hold up another’s arms – to help them be strong – or Joan Chittester’s email whispers that we need each other – in just the ways we are created to be – to make it through this world. Those nudges help me remember that I am at my best in the quiet, still spaces within which I am graced to live, that my strength comes in language, that my calling is respite – for me and for others.
In those moments, I know I am a writer, a farmer, a shelter-giver, a wife, a friend, a goat-calling woman who has found her place and needs only live into it as big and bold as she can. Then, there, I rest.
What about you? What makes you feel like you need to compete, and what gives you rest?