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Smell the Coffee: The thief of joy

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- I couldn't help it. I was envious. I have this close friend who lives on the same street as her parents, while mine live in Red House, about 40 minutes away. I want mine to be as close by as hers.

This same friend -- her hair is thick, dark and lush, and she has this crazy flat stomach, despite having had twins. My hair is frizzy and breaks easily and keeps trying really hard to be gray; the only time my stomach is flat is when my corpulent cat lays on it and smashes it down.

My friend's house is clean and organized and pretty, while most every room in my house appears involved in some type of ongoing scientific experiment, like indoor moss growth or the westward migration of hair tumbleweeds.

My friend does more in a day than anyone I know. I pretty much consider the day a success if I remember to take my vitamins.

I wonder how she does it. Wonder what it must be like to be her -- to get so much done and look so darn good while doing it. I can't recall even once hearing her brag about anything, yet she makes me feel incompetent and lacking simply by being.

I've thought how much better life would be if I could trade places with her, and during a weak moment I said as much to her not long ago. Her response stunned me, considering she said she'd often thought the same about my life. Seems she wants to write, but can't find the time. Longs to have pets, but her husband's allergic. She even remarked on the "quirky cool charm" of my house while believing hers is "instantly forgettable."

All this came crashing together the other day when I saw a featured quote from Theodore Roosevelt on the Pinterest website: "Comparison is the thief of joy."

Such a simple concept, yet it had never occurred to me before. By comparing myself to my friend, I constantly felt insufficient. Comparison made everything about me seem lacking. It was like a magnifying glass was being held over each flaw, but only I could see mine. And only she could see hers.

Trading places with each other wouldn't have fixed a thing. We'd only have inherited a new set of inadequacies that we'd each want to change.

It occurred to me then that contentment is a choice. It has nothing at all to do with luck and everything to do with recognition of what we have, and gratitude for those things.

Instead of wishing my parents lived closer, I should be grateful I still have parents. And instead of being irritated by my frizzy, dry hair, I should be grateful I still have hair. Instead of wishing for a flat stomach, I should be grateful for the cat that so regularly and thoroughly smashes it flat.

Finding a way to be grateful in the midst of some powerful struggles isn't going to be easy, but it seems as though life would be so much sweeter if we recognize and appreciate what we have. And not what we don't.

Reach Karin Fuller at karinfuller@gmail.com.


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