They say that comparison is the thief of joy, and darned if that little bugger doesn’t creep up everywhere in military life. Nowhere is comparison more evident than in the perfect succession of idyllic, (if not repetitious) suburbia-esque homes of base housing.
Unfortunately, when everyone on the street starts with exactly the same thing, differences tend to stand out – and comparison tends to set in.
Recently, a bout of lawn-maintenance-envy allowed me to switch my focus from one of comparison to a ‘you do you’ mentality, and I’m a better lady for it.
When I was pregnant with our third baby, we were living on base for the first time. I was a giant, hot, pregnant mess during summertime in Georgia, and about the only thing I could muster the motivation to do at the end of the day was park it on the sofa and indulge in my Gilmore Girls fix. I was late to the GG hoopla, and watched the show in its entirety on Netflix, all within a very short time period.
How short a time period you ask?
Netflix stopped asking me if I was “still watching” at some point, and just let things run their course. (Bless you Netflix.)
As I was settling in one evening, windows open, enjoying a rare breeze, Lorelai was cut-off mid Emily-rant by the whirring buzz of a weed wacker. It was a quarter to nine at night. On a Tuesday.
Who mows their lawn at 8:45 at night on a Tuesday, you ask?
Yard-of-the-month guy, that’s who.
You know the yard … luscious hanging baskets adorning the porch, meticulously placed yard ornaments, and a monogrammed flag flapping in the proverbial breeze, all passively aggressively judging your snowman still out in March.
I rolled my eyes (my work-in-progress attitude problem is well documented), flopped over onto my other side, mumbled “seriously,” and tried to resume my show – but yard-of-the-month guy wasn’t giving up.
I was annoyed. And if I’m being honest, I wasn’t only annoyed because my show was being interrupted, I was annoyed because I was comparing my yard to his. The combination of semi-bed rest, homeschooling my kids, my own college courses, and the heat (which turns me into something vaguely resembling Gollum from Lord of the Rings) left my front yard looking like the scary house in The Burbs.
Typically, I am a do-er. I do not relax well, and I am almost constantly in motion — but my pregnancies are relatively rough, and about the time the extreme morning sickness ends, the pre-term labor starts. I have to take it easy.
But, truth be told, my lack of time and energy was only part of the equation. I have what my family lovingly refers to as, “the black thumb of death.” You know, like a green thumb, but with dead plants instead. I think incoming plants can sense the sheer number of African Violets which have succumbed to destruction at my hand and just kind of give up. They lose the will to survive.
At that point in my life, I had kept exactly one house plant alive for longer than a month, and the puppy ate it.
But you know what? I taught my kid how to read and write. I’m extremely adept at hiding vegetables in food my family will actually eat, and while I may not be doing it perfectly, I’ve kinda got this military wife thing down.
I can’t keep a plant alive to save my life, but maybe that’s OK because my neighbor can.
I can’t bake the perfect pizza either, but hellooooo, that’s what delivery is for! I don’t think we’re supposed to have all the same gifts, and I’m convinced that if we did, life would be a lot less interesting.
What if, instead of comparing and competing with one another, we put that extra energy into being the best at what we can do? And what if we celebrated those gifts and talents by sharing them with others?
I’m thankful for those around me who take the time to cultivate beautiful yards; they make my nighttime walks and runs so much more pleasant. I would hate to look at nothing but a repeat of my flea-bitten yard over and over again.
And yard-of-the-month guy? Well, when my family takes a walk around the block and he sees my 4-year-old tripping over the puppy and laughing, his face lights up. When my 8-year-old says hello and asks how he is, he smiles and waves and chats us up. It’s clear that my Hot Mess Express brightens up his night the same way his yard brightens mine.
That’s a special kind of exchange mamas, one beautiful contribution for another, shared in mutual kindness.
Thank goodness we’re not all alike.
So if it’s all the same to you, I’ll do me, and you do you. I feel almost certain we’ll all be the better for it.