This post is intended to be a follow up to a post I wrote a while back over on my family blog. I thought I was fairly safe, seeing as no one reads over there, but I have received a few comments over time, and even more personal emails, on the whole topic of feeling inferior and generally outclassed by other crafty bloggers out there. I have posted a few times on the topic since here, but I thought I would sort of update where I am at with my emotionally wrought, completely one-way relationship with Soulemama.
It was a year and a half ago that I publicly announced my complete and utter inferiority in pretty much everything in comparison to Soulemama. Housekeeping, being pregnant, child rearing, knitting, I figure she had me beat on pretty much every level. She was perfect* and I was an oozing abscess on the face of the handmade planet. I was, to paraphrase a recent comment by Anon, in a hater mode, though most of the hate was directed towards myself. It wasn’t pretty. But then, being honest hardly ever is.
To regain some perspective I promised myself a hiatus from Soulemama’s blog and other forms of media which I used to beat myself up with. It took me a whole year to actually make that break with the blog. The final cut was mostly forced by completely turning my life upside down, dumping out all the junk, and then moving as far away as one man, two kids, and two cats would allow me. Then I did it again in the opposite direction.
Weirdly enough, it was a good move. Maybe the postpartum funkiness lifted or maybe spending a couple evenings a week hitting bitches is truly cathartic, or maybe I just got a life, but I’m feeling a little more clear-headed and in touch with what is really important. I am learning to trust myself and block out interference from unhelpful comparisons. I am learning to keep my eyes on my own life and stop casing sideways glances over to others. Turns out my life is pretty good too.
Today I braced myself with sweet tea and cookies for an onslaught of inferiority and, first time since last August, clicked over to Soulemama. I saw what initially drew me to her work: how her photos and words combine to create poems of devotion to her children, the creativity in action, the sheer accomplishment in so many areas, from arts like writing, needlecraft, and photography to being an astute businessperson and marketer.
So I got a few more cookies and looked some more.
Then I noticed a couple of new things. Not new to Soulemama, of course, poor her just going about life as I try to work out my psychological issues with her blog like Rorschach inkblot test, but something I never noticed before. First off, she is hardcore. Creativity and gratitude are not something she tries to find time for, like most of us, but she seems, at least as a disembodied writer, to exemplify those ideals and live them as best as she can. Instead of trying to have it all, she’s arranged her entire life to have, and practice, just what is most important to her. This, to the rest of us, means we are viewing a professional at work. Do not try this at home, folks!
Second thing I noticed is that I am not Soulemama. I know how stupid that sounds, I can barely even believe I just typed it, but it is so elementary that I think I missed it. I am not her. I do not have her body, her children, her resources, her heartaches, her likes and dislikes, her parents and all the tiny little experiences that shape us, give us characters, flaws, and our sense of ourselves. Yes, she is talented, has some great kids and husband, and, yes, seems perpetually blissed out on life. But, if given the chance by some supernatural act would I trade my life for hers, to be able to live as she does, with what she has, even all the bliss she has?
Of course not! Never, ever would I trade even an iota of what I have, good and bad, for someone else’s life. Because what I have is so precious: my babies, my own serious skills, my own hardcored-ness, or whatever you want to call it. So, why the heck I am sitting here feeling bad about myself, just because Soulemama happens to have her stuff together?
One of my favourite people in the world responds to almost every situation with the phrase, ‘It is what it is. No more, no less.’ I have heard her say it so many times that it has nearly driven me bonkers, but still the perspective has slowly seeped down into my psyche.
It is what it is. No more, no less.
My feelings of envy are still there. I am sure that I will never be able to stop comparing myself to others. It is rooted to my very core of being. But I can put it all into its place and carry on with what is happening right here, now. For this, I am establishing my own aspirations, based upon my actual life, not Soulemamas.
And then, here is the important bit, I am also setting expectations for myself. Expectations are different than aspirations. I aspire to receive a million dollar check in the mail. I expect a bill from the power company. I aspire to be the most incredible mama in the world. I expect to fill their most basic needs for food and care, read a couple of books and maybe take a walk every day. I aspire for much, I expect as little as I can manage. Somewhere in between is the sweet spot.
No more, no less.
* I’m fairly certain Amanda Soule gets tired of being referred to as ‘perfect’. Besides actually a silly notion, because if she was so, she would of have long ago disappeared in a puff of impossibility, but actually calling someone ‘perfect’ dehumanizes them. Without humanity, people are free to idealize, criticise, deconstruct, and otherwise write whatever their own tortured minds and hearts have decided to feel about you without ever letting you in on the deal. Sorry about that.