Let’s talk about keeping up with the Joneses…

Let’s talk about keeping up with the Joneses…

No matter how much you have, there will always be someone who has more. And no matter how little you have, there will always be someone who has less. We are living in a society that places so much importance on material belongings that many of us consider our “worth” in only numbers. We try to sustain lifestyles that are beyond our financial means because we think that is where we will find happiness. 

When my husband and I were first married, we started out in a small 2 bedroom apartment. We were an instant family because I already had 2 daughters (who shared a bunk bed in a small bedroom.) I drove a tiny Dodge Neon which we would use to drive around aimlessly exploring our new town, looking at all the houses. We used to fantasize about one day owning our first home together.  I pictured myself washing dishes in a stainless steel kitchen sink with a big window overlooking a grassy backyard, watching the kids play catch with a puppy while my hubby grilled burgers on a full size gas grill (we were only allowed to have a tiny little charcoal grill at the apartment). I imagined cold winter nights cuddled up by a fireplace watching TV and Christmas Eves around a huge dining room table with our entire family singing Christmas carols and baking gingerbread cookies. 

My oldest daughter was in 5th grade and started making friends with “the rich kids” (a.k.a “the kids who lived in actual houses”). They all grew up together in a quiet desirable neighborhood and rode their bikes together to school and had play dates after school. They always invited my kid to THEIR house, which made sense. I mean, why would anyone want to come to our tiny apartment, anyway?  This made me feel as if we were “less” than them. We HAD less than them, therefore we WERE less than them. Right? We decided we NEEDED a house. It was the only way to raise a proper family. Yep, everything would be perfect once we lived in a house.

Well, I don’t think I mentioned that we live in an area that might as well be Beverly Hills. Property taxes alone are almost as much as what it costs to rent an apartment. So, we found the shittiest little house in that quiet desirable neighborhood and we decided we would fix ‘er up. And we did. A few years later, that shitty little house was transformed into a lovely 4 bedroom 2 bathroom updated ranch style home with a big addition and a grassy backyard where we would take turns mowing in the summer and help the kids build snowmen in the winter. We had a minivan and a dog and a guest room. We went for family walks around the block and we hosted holidays. For a while we were on top of the world…

Then the twins came and that 4 bedroom ranch seemed to get smaller by the day. Storage became an issue and the older girls were still spending all their time at other people’s houses because “everyone else” had finished basements and pools and trampolines and cool parents and bigger, better everything.  Once again, we fell short. All we needed was a BIGGER house and everything would finally be perfect.

Onward and Upward! 

*Side Note* I do not recommend putting your house on the market when you have 18 month old twins. Just ride that shit out…

6 months later we moved into a gorgeous center hall colonial with a huge finished basement in THE most desirable neighborhood. I never thought I would live in such a nice house. I loved everything about it. It was so open and spacious with big windows and a grand 2 story family room. In fact, it was so big and nice that all of our furniture suddenly felt too small and too old. This house deserved newer, bigger and better everything. We needed a landscaper and a cleaning lady. And that mini van of ours was sticking out like a sore thumb. Everyone else was driving expensive SUVs. If only we had one of those…

You see where I’m going with this? When is it enough? At what point do we just take pride in what we have and stop comparing everything we have to what everyone else has. Why do we care so much about where the Joneses go on their quarterly 10 day International holidays and if they bring their Swedish live-in Au pair along? Does that make them more important than the Smiths who look forward to their yearly week long stay at the Econo Lodge on Lake George? Is THIS the criteria we use to choose our friends? Is THIS how we are ranked? By our bank accounts? By square footage?

This past weekend we threw a huge party at our home to celebrate our daughter’s high school graduation and 18th birthday. We spent weeks planning and preparing. Even though we wanted the theme to be a chill backyard luau, we still stressed out because our yard is not as big or as perfectly manicured as the yards of some of our guests. We worried that all the younger kids would be bored since we don’t have a pool. We apologized for our patio being a little uneven and a little dark because it doesn’t get much sunlight. We basically appeared to be embarrassed of our home. The same home that was like a dream come true when we first moved in. The home we pour our hearts and souls into daily. The home we are raising our family in. SMDH. I’m ashamed of myself for feeling anything but pride for what we have. 

And guess what? EVERYONE HAD A BLAST! 80 people! Friends and family and neighbors all gathered at our house to celebrate our daughter. They ate and drank. They brought gifts and sang happy birthday. They played corn hole and sat around the fire pit my husband built with his own hands well into the night, laughing and making memories with us. The little boys explored the woods around our property while the girls sidewalk chalked my entire walkway and then ran in and out of the house, leaving their chalky little footprints on the floors. It was one of the most memorable days of my life and it really was an eye opener. 

None of these people give a rats ass about our bank account or square footage, and we don’t care about theirs. Depending on what you’re talking about, some have more than us and some have less. Some may have more money but less family. Others might have less debt but more heartache. And if someone only wants to be my friend because of the size of my house or doesn’t want to be my friend because I don’t dress the part, then, to be blunt, they can go shit in a hat. The end.

Let’s talk about “the pause”…

Let’s talk about “the pause”…

“Practice the pause. Pause before judging. Pause before assuming. Pause before accusing. Pause whenever you’re about to react harshly and you’ll avoid doing and saying things you’ll later regret.” – Lori Deschene

I stumbled upon this life changing quote a few years ago and not only have I been practicing it ever since, but I have been repeating it and suggesting it to anyone who will listen. It has become my life mantra. Make no mistake, it is a practice indeed. It requires mindfulness, patience, strength, the humility to admit failure, the willingness to try again, and the ability to remove yourself from a situation BEFORE you react. SO FREAKING HARD!

Pause before judging… Example: Look, some people just naturally have RBF. It does not necessarily mean they are nasty miserable people. Intimidating and unapproachable, maybe. But I know a handful of gals who could easily advance to the RBF semi-finals without even realizing they were participating in a competition. BUT, every single one of them has a heart of pure gold and would be there for me in a heartbeat if I needed them.  I always think of a new acquaintance with RBF as somewhat of a challenge. It doesn’t take long to uncover what’s hiding behind that tough exterior if you take the time to get to know them. Of course not every case of RBF is just an unfortunate involuntary facial expression, some people really are just plain rude, bitter, emotionally detached bitches. I’m not suggesting you try to push your way in and attempt to change these types. The difference is usually obvious from early on. The RBF cases I’m talking about are mostly people using a defense mechanism because they are either insecure or have been burned by previous relationships. Just don’t refuse yourself a potentially amazing friendship because of a little RBF. Give them a chance to show you what’s hiding inside.  

Pause before assuming…You know what happens when you assume… And trust me,  I have wasted countless hours of my life assuming and jumping to conclusions. 

This bump looks a lot like that flesh eating skin bacteria I saw on the news (it was an allergic reaction to an insect bite). 

She’s not returning my texts so she must be upset with me *spends hours obsessing* (she was dealing with her own stuff that had absolutely nothing to do with me). 

She’s so confident with all these gym posts and skimpy outfits- (she has been struggling with an eating disorder since the age of 12 and actually hates herself).

She is so lucky to be able to stay at home with her perfect family in her perfect home- (her husband is a workaholic prick who is never actually home and most days she just feels stuck. Keeping up the act is her full time job). 

Becky’s vague passive aggressive facebook post is probably about me (well, actually I’m still pretty sure it was).

I’ve come a long way with this one, but there is still much work to do. I’m realizing that MOST of the assumptions my mind naturally jumps to are wrong. So now I use my pause to gather more facts (if it is important enough) or to let it go (if it isn’t).

Pause before accusing

Oh geez. This one. Very similar to the previous one but especially difficult for me when friends ask me for advice. Between my gut feelings as a neutral third party (which are RARELY wrong btw) and my big mouth, I find myself actually biting my tongue and silently reminding myself to “practice the pause” in my head. When a friend is asking for advice about a partner, friendship or child it is so very hard not to say “Girl, open your eyes, he is totally banging that coworker” or “she’s obviously blowing you off for better plans” or “yeah, your 16 year old daughter is definitely having sex or at the very least considering it. I don’t believe for one minute that she actually wants to go on the pill to regulate her period, and neither do you, but I’ll play along”. 

As outspoken and intuitive as I am, practicing my pause has taught me to spend more time listening and less time spewing accusations. There is much to be said, however, about those raw gut feelings. Intuition is a powerful gift. Don’t dismiss it. Just try not to act on it before equipping yourself properly. 

Pause whenever you’re about to react harshly and you’ll avoid doing and saying things you’ll later regret

Y’all, the political posts on social media might be the death of my pause. I think it’s where I almost cave the most. But then I have to remind myself before I hit “comment” that A) I’m really not willing to jeopardize friendships over politics and B) these mofos are cray cray and nothing I say is going to change anybody’s mind. Just keep scrolling. Just. Keep. Scrolling.

It’s painfully embarrassing for me to think back on all the times I wish I had practiced my pause. The knee jerk reactions to text messages and facebook posts.  The “harmless” gossiping. The harsh judgements and unfair accusations. The heated conversations which inevitably led to dissolving friendships. So much acting and REacting without so much as a second to think it through. All the lost hours of sleep wasted assuming the worst. The sarcastic comments that seemed pretty hilarious to me but were not fully thought through and received as hurtful. 

I try not to hold myself prisoner to these regrets as I have learned invaluable lessons from them. Moving forward I will do my very best to pause before reacting, which sounds so easy to do, until emotions are involved. But I’m slowly learning to control my response to emotional triggers. At the very least I will pause and wait a few minutes before flying off the handle. 

Baby steps, I suppose… Just keep practicing.

-Dee

Let’s talk about perception vs. reality

Let’s talk about perception vs. reality…

I posted a series of pictures last week taken immediately after my daughter graduated from high school. I knew the minute I posted them I was going to write this piece. It is a perfect example of perception vs. reality. Obviously I am over the moon proud of her and it was an emotional evening for me to watch my second born walk across the stage and complete her chapter as a  high school student. It was my honor to witness that moment.

But the reality of the photoshoot did not quite match up with how the photos will be perceived.

The pictures all show my husband and me beaming on either side of our graduate who is wearing her perfected gorgeous smile and our twin 10 year olds happily at our sides looking angelic and sweet. I knew I was going to get a record number of “likes” and “loves” on that post. We are pretty good at portraying a perfect little family celebrating another milestone. *eyeroll*

What people don’t know is that following the two hour outdoor (and windy AF) ceremony, after the caps were tossed and the processional complete, it was a motha freaking free for all. Thousands of people swarming around looking for their kids, yelling names over the crowd and bumping into each other.  So. Many. People. By the time we found her, our graduate was stressed out and a little bit of an asshole, the hubby was hangry, one kid was freezing and starving, the other kid was bored and complaining and I was completely windblown and overwhelmed (and a little bit of an asshole myself).

We managed to get it together for long enough to take some family pictures but it was not without hushed threats through clenched teeth and flared nostrils. At one point my husband made the mistake of suggesting that our beautiful graduate wear her cap and gown for the pictures and was given THE LOOK. This look could send Satan himself cowering into a corner begging God for forgiveness. I mean fire actually shot from her eyes.  But the person taking the pictures was ready, so “everyone smile!”. CHEESE! (the pics came out lovely btw).

By the time we made it back to the safety of our car we were all miserable and deflated. We ended up at the McDonalds drive thru, which none of us even wanted, but it was the quickest way to the finish line. We all just needed the night to be over.

My point is, everything is not always what it seems. This is a very important thing to remember especially while scrolling through your social media feeds. How many posts do you see that say:

“Here is a pic of our graduate just moments after she wished us dead. We are now drowning our sorrows with big macs and mcflurries. I hope project graduation sucks for her tonight”

or

“sometimes I feel like I’m failing at everything in my life. My marriage is falling apart and my kids are more trouble than they’re worth”

or

“My husband and I are living beyond our means and we can not actually afford this vacation, but enjoy the pics!”

Nope, that’s just not the stuff people want other people to see. AND THAT IS OK. I love seeing all the highlight reels. I’m just saying that EVERYONE (read: EV-ER-Y-ONE) has stress and drama and behind the scenes bullshit that they don’t share. We are ALL a little bit broken. If you aren’t able to recognize that and you find yourself feeling resentful and jealous of everyone because they seem to have it all, then maybe you should not be on social media.

Everything is not always what it seems. Do yourself a favor and just keep that in mind.

-Dee