It’s one of those subject lines that grabs you by the throat. Time slowed as my mouse hovered over “Baby Died.”
I didn’t breathe at all until I realized it wasn’t my friend’s baby. Except, it sort of was. One of the babies she works with in a Ugandan orphanage. Not family, as are the 7 dependents she claims on tax forms, but close to it, when you know her heart and her view of the world.
As I read about her many kids, her son’s broken arm, the challenges of life in Africa and her husband’s upcoming trip, I couldn’t help but feel small. Small in my scope and my reach and the type of things that seem SO overwhelming to me right now.
I pulled up my calendar in Outlook, adding “letter to Cher” to my task list when the words “Nicaragua trip” caught my eye. I realized that it’s almost time for 32 local high school students to put the rubber of global education to the road of real life experience, working with families living, literally, in a garbage dump in Central America.
Since trips to the grocery store down the street take monumental effort for our family, it seems inconceivable that my friend Ginny and her husband manage to not only plan and lead this annual trip, but build an international aid organization and spend summers exploring Europe with their children. Before reaching double digits, their girls have seen and experienced more of the world than most adults. Extraordinary. Adventurous. So beyond our reach.
It should be a good thing, to be trusted with someone else’s story, a much needed gift of perspective. Instead, too often, I let the comparisons steal from me. Spiriting away my confidence and contentment, making my stories seem less important to my own eyes.
Sighing, I scrolled through the rest of my emails, perking up to see an email from a new friend – one of my English professors. I had been thrilled to connect beyond the classroom and honoured to act as a sounding board for her upcoming blog. Not only does she have a depth of experience as a mentor and academic, she’s already a published author. That she also happens to be stylish, beautiful and eloquent only reinforced my belief that her life must be glamorous.
I braced myself for another dose of envy and insecurity. Somewhere along the way, I cast myself as the frumpy housewife inching towards an undergrad degree at an absurdly glacial pace. But that’s not who she sees.
Our paths have been very different. As she put it, we are ”opposite ends of the contemporary women’s spectrum,” yet somehow, kindred spirits.
She sent me a draft she’d written for the new blog about our unexpected, providential friendship. I am the other side of that mirror for her, just as she is for me… a glimpse down the road not taken. Reading it, I was reminded that her life, so glamorous to my eyes, has actually been a hard-fought, often scary journey. But she wouldn’t trade it for anything.
That much we have in common.
I don’t regret my journey. I don’t regret my destination. Even though I caught vomit in my bare hands twice yesterday. Even though I haven’t had 4 consecutive hours of sleep since Thursday. Even though I throw embarrassing, self indulgent pity parties for the whole internet to see. Even though I’m not a saint, or a world traveller, or a ‘real’ writer.
I won’t let comparison steal anymore from me today. I am surrounded by exceptional women with challenging, complex, beautiful stories. Not molds I must pour myself into. Not scales to weigh myself against. Not competition.
The grass on our side of the fence is a unique strain. It might not spread as far and wide as some… it might not grow as tall or as quickly or as easily… but it’s home. When I stop filtering my life through everyone else’s story, this messy, noisy, beautiful life comes back into focus. And it’s good – hard, but good. And I can appreciate the view into other lives all the more.
So here’s me, in the ongoing battle to just be. Thank God for my story. And yours.