Monday, September 12, 2016

The Joys of Comparison

How ironic is that title, right?

My seventh grade note-books with friends are filled with my sarcastic responses of "oh joy" whenever things were less than wonderful. And with that same sarcastic tone I typed the title of this post because, in my life, I have found this quote from Teddy Roosevelt to be spot on.

Standing in the bathroom with sweat running down my face. Out of breath and needing to change quickly to get to my job, my Fitbit vibrated. Instinctively I grabbed my phone and checked my new messages. Exclamation points and smiley faces filled my screen as I read my friend's delighted news about a new trip she and her husband were going on. Text after text of itinerary changes and upgrades in every possible way filled my screen.

Just ten minutes before these texts I was finishing up cutting the grass with my lawnmower - that has no self propel and has been on it's last leg for three summers now but I'm far too broke to shell out for a new one at the moment, so I make it work. As I shut the door and locked it up, I reached up to move a branch that kept touching my head. Only, there was no branch. Something was IN my hair. I swatted it, thinking it was part of the pine tree that had fallen into my hair, it didn't move. Then the terrifying sound of loud buzzing filled my ears. I ran in the house and yes. A wasp. A WASP WAS IN MY HAIR!

Not wanting it to get loose in my house and set my cats after it, I ran back outside and into the front yard, somehow grabbing one of the old pee-hats from my recent kidney stone removal surgeries on the way out the door to bat against my hair in an attempt to rid myself of the beast. After several attempts at hitting myself in the head with an old pee-hat while on a semi-busy street, the wasp was gone and I was back indoors, catching my breathe, still dripping in sweat, and now entering a mad dash to get back to work.

And then the texts came.

Why is it always when I'm in the middle a parking lot with a flat tire, using all my might to turn the lug nuts, or when I'm looking at my increasing medical bills that are stacking up daily on my table, that I get the message from a friend telling me of something incredible that's going on in their life?

Unlike a lot of people I know who struggle with celebrating the success of others (it's very real and I know a lot of friends who struggle with feeling happy when good things happen to others - it's part of human nature!), my difficultly comes after the celebration. Realizing the shades of gray that my life are compared to the vibrant colors of everyone else's can sometimes put me in a funk. See, I genuinely rejoice in the blessings that come to the lives of others. But sometimes I find comparison creeping closely behind, reminding me of my struggles.

When this happens you can fight it, or whine about it. You can let comparison take you down the road of feeling more and more like a failure or you can focus your head back into your own game. Some rounds are much easier than others, let me tell you!

Recently I deactivated my social media account for this reason. While going through one of the biggest trials of my life - 2 surgeries in 21 days, I was inundated with everyone else's amazing posts. While I was writhing in pain, I saw others on extravagant vacations, or having their dream weddings, or buying new cars and clothes, all while I was wondering how I'd be able to pay rent or just buy food for dinner. It wasn't that I didn't delight with the joys in my friends lives. On the contrary, it was the fact that I felt in my stomach that I was comparing my snapshot to their highlight reels. And all I wanted to do was vent, whine, and feel sorry for myself. In order to save myself from that road, I deleted my account and decided to focus on myself for awhile!

My life seems to be a constant serious of unfortunate events most of the time. But I'm blessed that in the midst of the storms God always shows me the rainbow. There's hope. There's beauty in the process of navigating through this life - whatever your lot may be.

Maybe I'm the only one who struggles with feeling like they don't quite fit into the line up. I've always been that square peg trying to fit into the circle's slot. All I know is that come what may, I wasn't created to just fit in. My life wasn't created to demonstrate the same things as yours, or my neighbors. The chapters in my book are muddy, messy, a bit smudged or torn on the corners, and some are a little disturbing at times. But they are me. Perhaps my life seems like a highlight reel to someone else. I'm not sure who would be that nuts though!  Ha ha ha!

The joy of comparison is that it's totally up to you what you do with the information you're given. You can either let it define you, rule you, or shrug it off and move on. I choose to move along.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Why Do You Write Like You're Running Out Of Time?

It comes as no surprise, to those who know me well, that my current fascination and captivation has been with Lin-Manuel Miranda's musical, Hamilton.

(photo is the property of the

The theatre has always been in my blood. Music has always run just as deeply in my veins. So when Lin-Manuel's Hamilton MixTape hit the stage as Hamilton, an Off-Broadway production, back in February of last year, it definitely caught my eye. Playing to sold out crowds it was only a handful of months before its Broadway debut one year ago this month. I was absolutely hooked as I watched the cast masterfully perform each selection that was chosen for airing during this years Tony Awards; where Hamilton was nominated for a staggering 16 awards, taking home 11.

What began as a small "mixtape" project (google his performance of it at the White House back in 2009) turned into an absolute sensation. All based on the unbelievably tarnished story of an underdog immigrant who went on to become one of our least talked about founding fathers. As Lin put it, "our ten-dollar Founding Father without a father."

How can something like a musical be so profoundly impacting to a person?

The underdogs. The cast offs. The down-on-their-lucks. Those are the people who I gravitate towards. Those who naturally don't have very much going for them. In all honesty, those are my people. Those who deserve wrath, but who instead are given a seat at the table. Those who have a laundry list of things that disqualify them yet there is some sort of fight deep in their bones that is tougher than any fight you'll ever see. Who knew that Alexander Hamilton was one of these ragtag misfits?

Ron Chernow, that's who.

This is the book that inspired Lin to write Hamilton. The story of Alexander Hamilton which led to lines and lyrics that have challenged me to the core.

"You have no control: who lives, who dies, who tells your story."

When I was young I dreamed of all of the ways that my life would count for something. Fast forward to now and I find that I've settled. I've settled for a lie; believing that a time will come when I will be able to do what I love. After all, I'm surrounded by people who love what they do. For some people, they are blessed with opportunities to pursue their dreams full time. For others, that will never be the case. For me, that never has been the case. There will always be people smarter, more articulate, more gifted and who have more resources. There will always be a reason to wait.

For Alexander Hamilton - in the midst of his scandals and reputation for just blurting out the truth, he knew that his time was precious. He wrote like he was running out it. Time wasn't something that controlled him, rather it was something that he used to his own advantage. At 49 years old, he died, yet his legacy lives on today in our history books and on our U.S. Currency.

Why, though? Why is this so inspiring?

Well, it is inspiring because this orphan, adulterous, man had every reason to give up when his own father cut out on him when he was ten. Then again when his mother died two years later. But he didn't. Even after moving in with a cousin who then committed suicide. After surviving a hurricane, losing a son, and countless other events that would try even the strongest of souls, Alexander Hamilton was unrelenting. He was determined that he would not throw away his shot.

All of us have potential somewhere inside of us. Every. Single. One. Some have opportunities handed directly to them - others have to fight for it. I, am one who needs to fight for it. Is it worth it? Well, that's up to you.

What are the hopes and dreams that you have allowed time or circumstances bury? If you really, honestly, believed that you were running out of time, would your days and nights look different?

Mine would.

This thought process has completely shaken me to the core. I've rearranged so many things in my life, just in this past week, to reflect a life that I want to have count for something. Anything! Regardless of how big or small it may seem.

Step One (for me): Read this book by Ron Chernow. The 800+ page book that inspired Lin-Manuel Miranda to write a record-breaking, hip-hop influenced, musical. Let's see what motivated a genius on vacation to put his pen to the paper and create a masterpiece.

What would your first step be?

Monday, June 13, 2016

Live Your Life!

"Call home as soon as you get there.
Call home as soon as you get there.
Call home as soon as you get there.
Call home as soon as..."

I could repeat that to myself the entire ten minutes that it took to walk from my house to my best friend's house, but even then it didn't stop me from forgetting to actually do it. And typically it resulted in me getting grounded.

That was only a few decades ago. Before cell phones. When we all wore watches and relied on the street lights to tell us when we needed to be home. If I wanted to play with my friend, and my Mom was gabbing away on the phone, or the line was busy (remember that!?), I'd hop on my bike and ride to their house.

Our times were documented on my Mickey Mouse 110 camera. And even then we'd sometime wait years to get that film developed.

It's hard to believe those times are now "back in the day".

Almost a year ago, I had that moment in time where I realized that I'm joining an older generation. A generation who valued things differently. For me, it happened at a Counting Crows concert when I reached into my back pocket, turned on my iPhone, and started taking a video of my sister's favorite song to send it to her. Through the tiny glow of my screen, I saw hundreds of other people doing the exact same thing.

With a slight breeze off of Lake Michigan, and hundreds of concert-goers around me in the open amphitheater, I realized that most of us had settled for re-living a moment more than living IN it in the first place. We were more eager to record a moment in time through our tiny handheld devices than to watch it actually taking place in person.

It was like a knife-to-the-gut sort of feeling.

Now, I'm sure my Mom would have aged a bit slower had she had the instant access to me, via cell phone, that mothers have these days. I'm also sure I'd have looked good in all of my slumber party pictures, and that everyone would be certain, with instant reviewing access, to have their eyes open for group photos!

But maybe my awkward years would have been all the more challenging. Being a teenager is tough enough on its own. I can't imagine being one today, with everyone posting selfies of themselves that look like they could be on the cover of a magazine. Me and my friends were too busy swimming, and bike riding to worry too much about glamour shots and the judgments that come with them. It's rough enough for me to live up to it all in my 30s!

My heart just goes back to simpler times. When we could sit around a campfire in the backyard and just share life. We could talk for hours, or we could just stare into the fire without the continuous glow of our electronic devices.

Now I'm not saying that technology is evil. Truth be told, I love it. I love that I have a way, other than snail mail, to be caught up on the lives of my overseas, and out of state, friends. But are we sacrificing too much? Are we paying to attend concerts that we just end up watching through a small screen anyway? Are we losing out on building relationships with people because we're too consumed with taking the perfect picture of the moment and letting everyone know where we were when it happened?

I don't know.

I'll still take a picture to capture an instant in time. And I'm sure that I will still document an amazingly plated meal. But I'll also be sure to put down my phone to focus my attention to a friend.

Or to enjoy a really nice campfire as well.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Who Are You?

There often comes a point in motherhood when a woman begins to wonder what her identity is or where it can be found. Between dirty diapers, piles of clothes, and shuttling children from play practice to dance class, it isn't rare to find a tired mother underneath it all, who at some point has asked herself, "Is this really my life?"

That luxury is not solely reserved for wives and mothers though, as I learned yesterday, when a mom-friend of mine posed the question for all of us to answer, "Who are you?"

Instantly I smiled, cracked my knuckles, and prepared to dive into a flood-like response from the depths of my creative being. My wit and sarcasm were sure to garner a few laughs in the process as well.  But sadly, my tap ran dry.

For over twenty-four hours now I have been haunted by this question. And like Derek Zoolander, thrown to the ground and staring at his reflection in a dirty puddle in the street, I find myself wondering, "Who am I?"

As a child I learned pretty young that fairy tales are simply imagination mixed with a bit of magic, nothing more. I never dreamed of being a princess or anything like that. Yet my imagination was fostered well. In my heart, and in my journals, I hid the dreams of what my life would one day be.

I marched to my own beat. And in the security of knowing who I was, and who I would be, I was somehow able to avoid the distractions and voices of doubt around me.

(Photo by Katie Curtin)

Now that little girl is all grown up. The little girl with skinned knees and dollar store goggles is now an adult, with scars and no time, or finances, to swing by the dollar store to grab something random that just screams her name.

Time and life have sucked so much out of me that I look in the mirror, I look at my yard, I look at the mess in my house after 45+ hours of working and ask myself, "Who am I? Is this really my life? Is this really what I have to look forward to for the next X amount of years?"

Certainly I'm more than debt, old shoes, jeans that are barely holding together, weeds, cat fur, dust bunnies, bills, and memories from the past. I mean...right? Maybe? ... Hopefully...

The volumes upon volumes of hopes and dreams that my younger doe-eyed self once held are gone. They aren't even ones that can now be dusted off and reexamined in the light of day. They are ships that simply passed in the night and were never meant to meet.

There is only one left that I hold loosely onto. It doesn't define me, but perhaps someday it will.

Maybe someday, when I'm living alone with my plethora of cats and dogs in a cabin somewhere, it will be the thing that I will be able to say is who I am.

Until then, I journey on. Hoping that maybe someday I will catch a glimpse of that little girl that used to have so many foolish dreams, and she didn't give a crap what anyone else thought of them.

I've reinvented myself in the past. Perhaps I will again. Not today, though. Today I will watch the cottonwood fly through the air like a snowstorm, sing loudly in my car, and maybe go for a walk if it doesn't rain.

Just me and my thoughts.
I guess the only question I have for you is the same one I have for me.

Who are you?