Last night, I was very tired. When I’m very tired, I sometimes do something very stupid – I spend too much time on social media. That happened last night, and as usual, the results were a little, um, ugly.
I actually got mad at a woman a reality TV show.
Fatigue and social media that involves anything but puppies and choirs of children singing moving pop songs is usually a bad combo for me. I can easily be launched into the maelstrom of comparison, jealousy, and a little anger.
I see writers whose sales are higher than mine or people I feel are unqualified offering services to writers or gardeners who make my tiny, joy-inducing pea plants look like the tiny seedlings who struggle to life in some post-apocalyptic film.
Quickly, I spin into a spiral of shame – “I should do more.” “Why don’t I do that?” “I’m a failure.” – which usually leads to some tears and some anger. . .
I give myself 10 minutes or so to feel the pain of comparison that is oh so human. I need to be reminded of how easily I can slide into that space so that I spend more of my energy to stay out of it. But then, I push myself out of it quickly and with some tried and true things that always work.
1. I tell Philip. Without fail, he is always going to stand beside me or behind me or even in front of me if he needs to keep me from hurling words or slippers at people or the television. He grounds me, reminds me I am loved, and points me back to the place where I feel joy in who I am.
2. I text friends who get it. Last night, I sent out two quick texts – one with a “Talk me down.” preface and one with a few swears and exclamation points. As I knew they would, each recipient wrote back with affirmation of my pain – one with kind words about “unfollowing” those who cause these feelings to rise and one with an expression that began “eff so and so” and ended with, “You are a brilliant writer.” and “Love you.” Just what I needed.
3. I create. Yesterday, a friend posted about his desire to lay someone low because of their own mediocrity, and one of his friends responded with this quote from Cicero – “I criticize by creating, not by finding fault.” Nothing works as well to calm my spirit as going back to my own writing when I am feeling jealous or spiteful or discouraged. Putting words on the page, putting energy into the vocation I’ve been called to do aligns my purpose and my focus and reminds me that my job is to make the most beautiful, honest things I can.
4. I take joy in the people who make beautiful things. Last night, I read some of Billy Coffey‘s In the Heart of the Dark Wood. Sometimes, I just find beautiful photographs online and stare into them. On really hard evenings, I step outside and stare at the stars – vast creations writ small enough for me to take in. When I remind myself of what real beauty looks like, I find myself beyond comparison and rapt in joy.
5. I go to bed. When I’m tired, I don’t think well. I don’t find thankfulness and joy easy to find. It’s just best that I sleep.
I’m still not back to balance this morning, but I’m better now that I’ve rested and decided to give myself to my own creations for some time this morning. I’m headed to the Historical Society for research on my new book, and I may rework the ending of the YA novel a bit, too.
As Roosevelt said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Yet, in a world where every perfect move of millions of lives is available to us all the time, comparison is also an easy place to land. I am learning to give myself grace when I fall there, and more importantly, I am learning to pull myself out of that place with pen and gorgeous tight in my fingers.
When do you find yourself falling victim to comparison? How do you pull yourself out of the dark place?
*Many thanks to Brene Brown for helping me recognize shame when I see it and for helping me know I need a process to pull myself out of it.