This summer ended an era for me. My oldest child graduated from college, got his first “real” job and moved out of our house forever. I know, I know, I can hear you from here saying “never say forever!” but for now, it seems like forever. Then a few weeks later, my youngest child moved in to her first “real” apartment, 200 miles away from me, and now it seems like she’s gone…..forever. Something happens when your kids move out, especially if a lot of your identity for a season has come from being their mother. All of a sudden the attention you’ve been able to divert from yourself because of your focus on them, has to have a place to go. All of a sudden you have to identify yourself as a person apart from them. It is definitely a “crisis” moment….and I recognize that I am sitting in the center of the moment right now. My heart is restless, but I am anxiously anticipating what God has planned for me now.
As we moved all of the stuff around in the house, emptied rooms, cleaned out drawers, closets and attics, I came across a box full of journals I’d kept over the years. One of them contained doodles from the year I prayed for our first child and practiced writing boy and girl names in various spellings and combinations. One of the journals contained stories of the several days during which I took not one, not two, but seven pregnancy tests just to be sure my gut feeling was right (yes, overkill for sure). One of them contained prayers of thanksgiving for our first born and joy over what an incredibly easy baby he was. Another contained prayers of desperation during the first three months of colic with our youngest….one of the toughest seasons of motherhood for sure. But, for all of the good things, it didn’t take long for me to become super angry and frustrated with myself. For you see, among all of those wonderful memories and answered prayers, were page after page of fighting the same demons I’ve been fighting since I was 14 years old…..comparing my appearance to that of others.
I could not believe it when I realized that from the first journal I found from 1994 until my journal pages from last week, I found a number listed at the top of a page at least 100 times. That number never changed by more than 10 or 15 one way or the other….but I knew exactly what it stood for….it was what I focus on way more often than not, the numbers on a scale. As I read some entries I thought, “wow, I don’t remember weighing that little, I must’ve been super happy then!” But then I realized, if I wrote the number on the page, I wasn’t super happy. I felt it was too high and I wanted to be something less than. On the days of higher numbers, I must’ve been beyond miserable….because after all, that number dictates how I feel about myself more days than I ever care to admit. As I reflected, I thought about the Israelites wandering in the desert for 40 years and wondered if God could be as frustrated with me as He had to be with them. After all, I just want to get to my Promise Land of perfection, whatever that might even begin to look like. Since I found those journals and have had lots of time to reflect, I felt something change inside of me. I realized that comparison has cost me far too much over my lifetime, and that I have a daughter who will look to me as all daughters look to mothers, as an example. For some of us, weight isn’t what we compare. It may be parenting or careers or houses or talents. It may be knowledge or social status or spouses or children. But, as women, we all have the tendency to compare. I realized that I had a story to share and that in order to break the cycle, I needed to come clean with myself, open myself up to accountability to others and maybe, just maybe, help someone else who is somewhere on the same journey and is believing all of the lies I’ve told myself for far too long.
I’m not asking for pity or sympathy or even empathy...in fact that makes me far too uncomfortable. But instead, I’m hoping for some honesty, vulnerability and accountability among women. I’m hoping we can pause the game of competition and comparison and coveting and conniving. I hope we can begin to encourage one another, celebrate our differences, share our struggles, and truly live the lives we were created to live. And above all else, I hope to cure the epidemic of loneliness that is taking over so many of our lives. It’s my hope, that through my stories and encouragement that one person might make the decision that she doesn’t want to look back in a year, or 10 years or 20+ years and regret wasting so much of her life. Let’s begin this journey together and change the future for the generations behind us.
"Every minute you spend wishing you had someone else's life is a moment you spend wasting yours." Unknown