The other day I saw a meme that said, “Your ice cream is melting because you’re too busy counting someone else’s sprinkles.” It was completely random, but it has stuck with me.
2020 has been rough—super rough. We’ve lost people to a virus we can’t seem to get under control, our economy is confused, our society is super divided about everything, and we’re scared. It is so easy to fall into the trap of “if only I had _______” to make myself feel better.
If only I could have it all, I’d be happy. If only I had a million dollars. If only I had subway tile instead of the cheap ugly tile that came with the house. If only I could look like Jennifer Lopez (I mean, really, she’s 51 and looks a-maz-ing). If only I had an Audi instead of a Chevy. Whatever the “if only” is, will it really make you happy? Will it finally bring you the joy you’ve been chasing your whole life?
People on TV and Social Media Seem to Have It All
A few years ago I was completely enamored with Fixer Upper, a TV show that took houses that needed some love and transformed them into magnificent homes worthy of magazine spreads and the desire of women nationwide. I loved the hosts, I loved their sense of style and design, and I was genuinely fascinated with the entire process of flipping a house. But I was getting lost in the show.
I would look around my house, which was filled with nice things, and feel empty. I was longing for a better bathroom, a bigger kitchen, nicer fixtures on my faucets, and even better plants outside. I was comparing my very good life to another person’s very good life, and it was robbing me of joy. I wasn’t happy. I wasn’t content. I wasn’t even slightly cheerful about it. I was literally drowning with desire. So, I did what any reasonable middle-aged woman would do: I stopped watching the show.
Here I am four years later and I’m feeling the same way—discontent with my home. Why? Because I started watching shows on HGTV again and hearing my friends who’ve had kitchen remodels brag about their space. I’ve seen pictures on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter of these gorgeous homes of people my age who seem to have it all. I want it all. I want the picture perfect home and the big yard. I want to feel the joy I think all of that would bring me. But at what cost?
Our Responses Cost Us More Than We Realize
I think my desires are peeking through at a time when nothing is certain anymore and getting lost in the mundane and the “if onlys” serves as a respite to what is happening around me. COVID has robbed me of my joy. Not the virus itself, but the way in which I’ve chosen to respond to the circumstances around it. I’m getting lost in things that don’t really matter.
I’m spending way too much time on social media, which brings me to the comparison problem. I see the videos, the images, the stuff. I want some of that. But yet, I don’t.
We are a pretty typical middle class family and thankfully have been able to give our kids each a really junky first car (think less than $1000 value). These cars aren’t pretty, they aren’t fun, but they have gotten them to school, activities, and work (most of the time), and they’ve all had names (The Silver Bullet, The Golden Nugget, and Yolanda). If they want something different, we’ve told them they can buy it themselves.
My 17-year-old son is driving a car as old as he is right now. He doesn’t love it (it’s 4-wheel-drive, runs, and has decent brakes), but it’s free.
He wants a little cute Mazda Miata sports car. Is it wrong for him to want a different car? No, but at the same time, what is driving his want? Is it comparison to friends or social media influencers or celebrities or is it actual dreams of that Mazda Miata (which frankly doesn’t make a lick of sense in Michigan winters)? Only he can figure that out.
Use the Gifts You’ve Been Given to Increase Your Joy
I’ve been asking myself for a while if it’s wrong to want something different with my life and with my circumstances? I don’t think so. In fact, I think it’s super healthy to have these dreams and hopes. It becomes unhealthy when you are consumed by the want. If we didn’t dream, we wouldn’t achieve. We wouldn’t be living up to the potential God placed in us.
But dreaming about ceramic tile or solid surface countertop doesn’t really impact the world. Is it wrong to have those things? Absolutely not, in fact, it’s good to have fine things in your home. Yet, all the while, we need to make sure we’re giving back and impacting our communities and neighborhoods in a positive way.
So, yes, build and renovate your house, but don’t forget to invite people over for coffee or a game night (being COVID safe, of course). Buy the big Christmas tree, but make sure you’re putting a few gifts under the tree for the underprivileged in your community. Get that fancy SUV you’ve had your eye on, but make sure you’re picking up groceries for a homebound member of your community once in a while. Buy the big snowblower, but you might want to snowblow the neighborhood sidewalks too. It’s okay to fulfill those wants and desires, but to whom much is given, much is expected.
So, while it seems odd, I’m going to continue to dream about a fancy kitchen in a farmhouse with a huge front porch sitting on 10 or more acres, all while planning backyard cookouts and teaching city children about chickens, goats, and hopefully cows. I’m going to grow pumpkins in a huge patch and give them away in undeserved neighborhoods. I’m going to figure out how to make my dream become a reality without it leading to excessive desire. I’ll use it to give back.
Don’t let comparison be the thief of joy, but rather, give it the freedom to launch a different form of joy in your life. No dream or desire is unseen to God, not one. He knows. He put those desires in your heart. Now use them to bring him joy.
In turn, you will feel genuine joy like nothing you’ve ever felt before, joy given to you directly from God. That’s worth the heartache of it all, I promise. Make your dream your difference maker; stop counting someone else’s sprinkles.
To read more about comparison and desire, start here:
How to Conquer the “I’m Not Enough” Syndrome
5 Simple Ways to Be a Dreamer and a Doer
Tips For When You Want to Set Goals and Actually Meet Them
Bigger and Better Won’t Make You Happy, but This Will
Put on Your Big Girl Panties and Get to Work (On Yourself)
Don’t miss these popular articles:
To the Woman Who Cleaned up After My Autistic Son
People Are Becoming Increasingly Lonely: Here’s How to Fight It
How Running Became About More Than Fitness to Me
A Psychologist’s Warning to Parents About Teen Suicide
Marriage Is Hard
You’ll love this podcast episode from This Grit and Grace Life: How to Get Over the Pandemic That’s Not Over – 139