The lady in the workout pants...
One of the benefits of living in Arizona is that we are not trapped indoors through the winter months. Christmas is a mere two weeks away and we Arizonans are all happily doing our Christmas shopping without a single worry of slipping on ice or our car doors freezing shut.
This afternoon I sat by my Christmas tree, enjoying a cheesy romantic Christmas movie, and watched dozens of people stroll past my house walking their dogs and making room for more Christmas cookies.
Normally I don’t pay much attention to the parade of pedestrians, but today one in particular caught my eye. She was wearing the exact same workout pants that I have. And she looked much better in them than I do.
You can imagine my first instinct. I immediately thought, “Good for her! She looks great!”
No. Of course I didn’t.
I thought, “Who is that lady? I hate her already.”
I wish that weren’t true, but it is. And worse, my mind instantly concocted a narrative about her life. I imagined that she was probably blessed with spectacular genes that effortlessly maintain her ideal body weight and that she glides through life craving brussels sprouts and green smoothies, while I salivate at the whiff of a vanilla candle. I resented her easy life and assumed she was probably oblivious to how charmed her existence is and likely a horrible snob.
Just like that I had gone from passive observer, to green-eyed monster, to judgmental jerk-face.
It was not my best moment.
I caught myself in the act and remembered a conversation I had just had with a friend this week. We were talking about comparison and how it robs us of joy. She told me about how she compares herself to other moms and always feels like she comes up short. I told her about how I compare myself to everyone on Instagram and feel like the worst cook, home decorator, and Christian to ever live.
Then I had told her what I have been learning about gratitude and how it is changing my life. Changing me. (Slow change, obviously, but change nonetheless.)
I’ve been rereading Ann Voscamp’s “One Thousand Gifts,” about her challenge to list 1,000 thing she is grateful for, and I am making a gratitude list of my own. I’m learning that I have to train my brain to be thankful and that a physical list is a good way to do that. I’m discovering that my eye is naturally drawn to what is wrong with a picture instead of what is beautiful and I want that to change.
Ann says that “practice is the hardest part of learning, and training is the essence of transformation.” Change will not come from wishful thinking or even from inspiring reading. Training is the essence of transformation.
So, I am in training. Gratitude training. Practicing how to look for blessings and count them one by one. Learning how to be someone who appreciates what she has instead of wishing her life looked like someone else’s.
It’s harder than I thought. Old habits are hard to break. But I like the joy that bubbles up when I notice a little grace in my life and I thank God for it. I like how gratitude has a way of putting my life – my worries – in perspective. I like how it frees me to celebrate other’s blessings. (Well, except for the neighbor who looks great in my workout pants. I’m in training, alright? Don’t judge me!)
How about you? Ever found yourself comparing someone else’s life to your own and jumping on a merry-go-round of envy? Caught yourself concocting a narrative about someone else just to satisfy your own insecurity?
Maybe it’s time for a little gratitude training. Start a list. Challenge yourself to look for blessings instead of burdens. See what happens. You just might be surprised by joy.