Sunday, June 24, 2007


Someone talk me down off this ledge, please. Seriously, call me up right now and say, "Get down from there. Look, who cares if your neighbor does everything better than you?"

All right, I'm not standing on a ledge. But I was standing on a chair chatting at the fence, looking at my neighbor's beautiful garden. The neighbor with the beautiful garden-- everything in rows, plants coming up evenly spaced, everything already planted. Then I looked at my garden. The garden the kids helped plant. The garden in which the dog likes to dig and eat newly sprouted plants. The garden that's only half weeded because I haven't had time to finish.

I love my neighbor, truly. And she is one of those blessed people who does everything beautifully. Not only is her garden prettier than mine, her home is lovely and tastefully decorated. (Unlike mine.) Her front yard is beautifully landscaped. She throws dinner parties and enjoys talking to everyone. Her children are sweet and well-mannered, and she's patient and loving. She dresses nicely and has great hair and nice skin, for crying out loud. I can't even hate her with a jealous passion because she's way nicer than me.

And of course, my mind keeps on going....I'll bet she's always kind to her children. Her house is always tidy. She's always pleasantly occupied doing homey tasks. Never cross with her husband or lazy or clumsy or grumpy. The whole garden thing seems to encapsulate a comparison between my life and the perfect-in-my-imagination neighbor's life (which, by now, has very little to do with the real-life flesh-and-blood neighbor with whom I've been chatting over the fence). My life is haphazard, crooked, weedy, messy, loud. Her life, and everyone else's too as long as I'm spiralling into the whirlpool of odious comparison, is straight, orderly, tasteful, calm.

We all have somone like this in our lives: Someone to whom we're constantly comparing ourselves and coming up lacking. A friend, a neighbor, a sister (or like me, two sisters-- my creative, organized, funny sisters). Comparisons are...well, you know the saying. It's easy to look at another's life and see what our own lives are lacking. One person admires the neighbor's gardening. The gardener admires a friend's flawless dinner parties. The entertainer wishes that she could sew costumes and clothing as beautifully as her sister. The sewing sister wishes that she had the ability to organize her life, or to play more delightfully with her children, or to draw and paint, or to develop meaningful lasting friendships. And so on. It seems there's no end to the ways we can make ourselves feel inadequate. Or maybe it's just me.

The silly thing is, I should be delighted with the garden. It's not picture beautiful, but when the gents wanted to help plant the garden I made a conscious decision to let the idea of straight perfectly sprouted rows go, so that they could delight in our garden too. I chose to play in the sprinkler and read stories in the hammock instead of finishing the weeding. I have come to terms with the fact that time is not infinite, and I make my choices as wisely as I can. So why can't I let it go? Because I want a perfect garden and my messy one. No, actually, I couldn't give a hoot about having the perfect garden. But I know that when people look at my garden, they see crooked. And that bothers me, even though I know I shouldn't care.

I'll bet my neighbor doesn't care about silly things like this. I'll bet everyone reading this blog is way more emotionally balanced than me and never even dreams of these kinds of comparisons.

Excuse me while I go comfort myself with a mocha shake and some cheesecake.

Did I mention that she's skinnier than me too?


Sara said...

Oh, I always feel like this too! I look at my MIL's garden, and I feel bad about mine. I look at my step-MIL's art, and I wonder why I don't have time to develop some really cool talent like that. I see my neighbor's car is clean - why don't I find time to wash my car? Etc.

KarenK said...

OH, stop it, you're perfectly lovable and lovably perfect just the way you are. Your neighbor must have *some* flaw -- she probably isn't nice to her mother.

Cathy said...

Sigh....alas, she's even nice to her mother. ;-)

Unlike me. Hee hee.

Irie said...

Woe is me, who has no garden at all! Shrinking in self pity... :)

Save the perfect garden for some year in the future, when you will look upon your straight rows and think with tears in your eyes of the crooked garden that your sons helped sow.

You are so lovely!

BB said...

I disagree, you throw the most wonderful lunch parties everyday. Not only lunch, but wonderful story telling. And how many people can say they have a drive-up chicken window? Anyways, perfect is boring. We all need a little drama and dirt in our lives. See you soon!

Maufi said...

Cat, I so know how you feel. We also have a neighbor that has the picture perfect house/yard and is always working on it. But they don't have any kids. So our yard is basically a mess and I'm lucky if I have a clean house.