Ever discovered something that showed a side of you which isn’t as “tidy” as you’d like? Back in the day, my response would’ve been to grab my journal, write out some prayers, or go searching for a book or article to help me work through my issue. No need to share the ugly. Or so I thought.
Before, I preferred to straighten things up a bit before I let loose. These days, my degree of transparency has increased greatly.
Recently, I noticed a little twinge as I watched various friends send off their sons and daughters to proms, graduations, and/or college. It must be a seasonal sort of thing with me that pops up around graduation season. A couple years ago around this time, I reached out to a college friend and shared how I admired that she not only married her college sweetheart, but that they were still together. She thanked me and let me know that while things weren’t always rosy, she was also grateful for the blessing that is her family.
This year it hit me harder. A couple months ago, jealousy began whispering, ‘Your present is less worthy of celebration because many of your relationships didn’t survive time’s tests.’ Sound familiar?
The problem with jealousy is that it seems harmless. Yet, similar to cancerous cells that multiply exponentially beneath the surface, jealousy silently exchanges harmful thoughts and ideas for healthy ones. If ignored or undetected long enough, those thoughts grow until comparisons begin replacing compliments and jealousy robs any signs of joy.
I had a decision to make. Here I am a few years before 50 (okay, several years before 50) and many friends my age have been married close to half our lives. I could either keep focusing on the numbers and letting the whispers rob me, or investigate why it matters now. In that, another important decision surfaced: work on it on my own, or open it up. I decided to run it by a friend of nearly 30 years (married for almost 20 of them).
Now, I’ve had instances where full disclosure went terribly wrong. But there were also times I allowed cancerous comparisons to grow into full fledged envy. That was no picnic to recover from either. Disclosure seemed less risky. So, I called my friend one night and laid it all on the table. She listened thoughtfully to what I’d been thinking and feeling looking at others’ lives. Then, she made suggestions, we laughed and moved on. No, the thoughts didn’t immediately disappear. Instead, we made sense of them and didn’t allow them to get twisted and develop into something else. She encouraged me to write about it at some point to further process it, and potentially help someone else who could relate. Is that you?
Here are a couple of my thoughts…
There’s no comparison that can account for our unique predestined journey. Remember before GPS how when you missed one exit it threw your trip off for miles? Life can be like that. All failed relationships aren’t doomed from the start (one of mine was, though). Generally, we miss a turn or an exit and get “off” somehow. And without taking time to get back on track, we get farther apart until eventually, break-up or breakdown occurs. However, each experience molds and stretches us in ways we need to grow and often teaches what we need to learn. So is it fair to compare your journey to someone who may not be going in the same direction?
Hindsight isn’t a good predictor of the future. All things really do work together for good. It’s so easy to look back and “know” what you would’ve done differently. But the bottom line is that we have no clue how different moves may have changed the outcome, if at all. So, despite poor decision making, we can be schooled by our experiences and end up in a good place. (It happened for me!)
While divorce was demeaning and disappointing, it wasn’t the end of the road. With the right input and work, I developed new hope for the life I have now. Therefore, is there purpose in focusing on what might have been? Not really.
My encouragement to you: Don’t allow comparison and jealousy to dictate your demeanor and distract you from the possibilities of your future. Open up to a friend or mentor about the lies suggesting you have no fuel for hope. And by all means, don’t discount your journey. After all, you may not be able to afford the fare that someone else is paying, or they may be headed somewhere you have no desire to go!