Stretch international cyber book club, Ch. 2
If you missed the post for Ch. 1, you can read it here.
Thank you Marci!. Here we go:
What a meaty Chapter Two Scott Sonenshein delivers in The Grass Is Always Greener, as he explicates four distinct elements of chasing behavior with illustrative and cautionary real-world studies and examples. Ironically, I experienced the chapter itself as perhaps an example of the very pitfalls of overabundance Sonenshein warns us to avoid. In sharp contrast to the majority of self-help, psychology, and philosophy books that tend toward the annoyingly repetitive, the chapter hardly spares readers a moment to process a concept, integrate Sonenshein’s examples, and consider the relevance of these ideas to one’s own life before charging ahead to the next idea. At each turn, I found myself so flooded with further thoughts and questions from the readings as well as examples from my own life, that I felt the author himself underutilized his own work and missed opportunities for greater depth and further exploration. Did anyone else find themselves moving forward before they’d fully explored a particular idea or experience or find their brain swirling with unresolved thoughts? Hopefully, in my discussion below, I can focus on a single idea rather than muddying the waters with everything that came up for me.
I found particularly useful Ted Steinberg’s tidbit at chapter’s end about the actual physical “illusion” of greener grass depending upon the angle from which we view someone’s lawn. Inevitably when we make social comparisons, the angle from which we view someone else’s lot in life can enhance its apparent attractiveness–the public face of someone’s marriage, the carefully curated existence lived on Facebook, a model’s airbrushed gorgeousness in a magazine. But as my mother ingrained in me since childhood, “appreciate your own life because you never know what goes on behind closed doors.” Clearly, in making social comparisons between ourselves and others, perspective is everything. Even more compelling, though, is the role perspective plays in determining what qualities even merit our analytical efforts at comparison in the first place.
Surviving my own wonderfully tumultuous life, I’ve come to understand how fundamentally perspective and the lens with which we view the world shapes the way we experience life. Bombarded in every moment with infinite information, all but the most salient data escape our perception. What information matters to us varies, as does how much we care about the impact we have on others or our awareness about the way the world perceives us. Each surviving bit of input wends its way through our unique wisdom, belief system, personal history, and coping strategies before we figure out what to do with this highly processed fact.
Considering the example of the wasteful Northern California homeowners competitively watering their lush lawns to display superior wealth, I thought about this idea of perspective and choice as it relates to the concept of social comparison. While the homeowners’ ability to maintain a green lawn in the face of drought restrictions elevated perceived status within their own privileged enclave, they remained oblivious to the negative judgement of others impacted by the water shortages and concerned for the environment. Beyond Sonenshein’s allowance that upward social comparisons can provide a modicum of healthy motivation to strive for excellence, I wondered whether the measures of social comparison we make need be undesirable at all, as the theory of chasing would imply. Specifically, the value placed on displaying one’s wealth in the watering example is not universally shared. Such behavior would have been scorned as shameful, greedy, and excessively selfish by the equally wealthy, environmentally green Hollywood and Los Angeles elite. In sharp contrast, these eco-minded individuals appear to evaluate relative status based on one’s ability to conserve scarce resources or the size of one’s global footprint. Putting aside any cynical thoughts about a celebrity’s underlying motivations, the difference driving behavior between these communities seems to be one of values.
So when Festinger refers to our human need to “measure up” and “know where we stand,” I find myself wondering how much choice we have in setting our personal values that serve as benchmarks for upward social comparison. Though our instincts might drive us to keep up with the Jones’ and acquire the newest, best, and most impressive of material stuffage, some hard self-reflection will often uncover a greater passion toward leading a life based on simplicity, family, service, creative fulfillment, social action, fitness, conservation, etc. How might our lives be different if we tuned in to the quality we valued most? Can we realistically quash our initial impulses and make a mental shift, carefully considering the people we want to be and the lives we want to lead, to establish our own personal values against which we choose to compete and be evaluated?
In my experience, the answer is yes. I believe we lead better and more meaningful lives when we lead them with conscious thought to the choices we make and the ideals we live by. There was a time in my life, pre-divorce, when I passively allowed life to happen to me, without a thought to my own needs, happiness or fulfillment. Money flowed in abundance, and we rapidly moved up the ladder and into the positions and lifestyles that came next. Life so easily gets ahead of us when it appears to be going smoothly. Though living on a drastically reduced income, I now find myself exponentially happier. The destruction of my old life forced me to make considered choices moving forward about where to live, how to spend my time, the work I wanted to do, the people I cared to hang out with, etc. I abandoned traditional law to become a mediator, indulged myself in art and creativity, and surrounded myself with kind, generous, and loving people. As my former peers collected luxuries, I collected memories and adventures. Choosing what to value and go after in my own life, I try to evaluate my progress and standing based on new measures that have worth in my current life. I can’t say I never feel the occasional jealous pang at seeing someone’s cool new toy, admiring their fabulous beach house, or hearing about their front row seats at Hamiliton. At the same time, I feel a certain secret internal smugness measuring the personal kind of abundance I’ve created in my new and improved life.
Up Next: Chapter 3, spearheaded by Kelly Alblinger
Wow, Marci – what an insightful commentary. I, too, found myself somewhat overwhelmed by the rapidly unfolding concepts in Chapter 2, and spent a considerable amount of time re-reading various sections in the attempt to understand the relationship to my own circumstances. I've come to the conclusion that I am not a spray-paint-the-lawn-green kind of person, nor am I a water hog! As evidenced by my real life "lawn", I'm a bare dirt kind of gal. What you see is what you get.
Prior to reading this chapter, I hadn't realized that I actually made the decision not to keep up with the Joneses a long time ago. Sure, I'd love it if my home had landscaping (definitely a long standing point of contention between myself and my husband), but in the grand scheme of things, do a few shrubs really matter? Money doesn't yet flow with abundance in our household, so I've learned to make do with what I have, and to be creative with those resources. Are we capable of bringing more income? Absolutely. Do we want to make that the focus of our lives? Absolutely not. I am in the midst of a shift to a full-time writing career, which for me is exciting and fulfilling beyond measure, although not incredibly profitable at the moment. Five years ago my husband left a 25 year career in architecture to become a construction inspector because he wasn't satisfied with designing but having no hand in the finished product. Our friends have continued the upward trajectories of their chosen professions, and many have a lot of material wealth to display. The one thing they don't have is TIME to enjoy the fruits of their labor. Or if they do take time off, they are constantly connected to their job. I find it sad (and annoying) to be relaxing on the beach with friends who jump every time their smart phone makes a sound.
I guess I've discovered how I measure up (I don't!) and where I stand. I may never have the money to officially retire, but in my chosen profession (and passion) there's no need to ever do so. As long as the creative spirit moves me, I will never be done working, and I wouldn't have it any other way.
Oh Kelly..I love this comment so much, and I thank you for sharing. I think it's awesome that you're connecting here to decisions you've made in the past that you didn't maybe realize were as awesome as they actually are..i.e. : I hadn't realized that I actually made the decision not to keep up with the Joneses a long time ago. What a fantastic realization. I love when that happens for other people and for myself. That moment you're reading a book like this or, say, something from Brene Brown when you lower the book and think Holy Crap! I came to that conclusion already and on my own. Maybe I'm on the right track with this life thing! And yes oh yes..do I know what you mean about people who don't have the time to enjoy the fruits of their labors. I see it all the time. But…I'd like to copy another sentence of yours here: I guess I've discovered how I measure up (I don't!) I'm not sure what emotion you wrote this with..but I, for one, knowing you for a short period of time would query, who's yardstick are you using here? I'm assuming you mean you don't in other peoples' opinions..not that you mean you don't in your own…cause, girl, I think you got it going on! Thanks for your comment…
Some stream of consciousness thoughts…I, too, agree with you Marci about the lightening pace of this chapter. I do love the stories and research he's found to corroborate his points..but he doesn't let us have much time for it to all sink in. Oh well…I do love your highlighting of the idea of perspective. I believe and hope that this is a secondary outcome of the work I do at NAMI..the presentations, classes, etc. It is, unfortunately, impossible for us to remove the lenses of our perspective. The challenge then becomes how do we become aware of our perspective, how do we pay attention to how it impacts our thoughts, actions, decision etc., how do we work to ensure that we take it into account when we need to etc. etc. Many families come to the Family to Family class initially to figure out how they can get their family member to change. I wanted the same in the early stages of my daughter's illness. It takes a lot of hard work, acceptance, and letting go to realize that the only person we can change is ourselves. But to be able to change, we have to become aware. That's where the perspective comes in..so I also appreciated the part of the chapter where he brings that concept to the fore.
Other notes I made in the margins along the way…when he discussed our human desire to know where we stand. We can be happy with what we've got until we learn someone has more i.e. a bigger salary. One of my very first jobs out of college was as a news videographer down in Albany, GA. I'd been working there for a while when someone new was hired after me. I saw his offer letter on my boss's desk and saw that he was making more than me even though he was a newer employee. This did have the exact effect on me that he writes about. I was then and continued to be a compare-er for a long, long time. Until I read the Gifts of Imperfection and was able to pay more attention to the toll that comparing was taking on me. I'm so grateful to be awake to that lesson though it continues to be work I need to do. I look forward to understanding more about the ways comparing has kept me from being resourceful.
Art is something I write about on this site. An insight I had while reading this chapter had to do with his point about chasers and emulating and the idea of functional fixedness. I didn't think about it until I was reading what he wrote about MacGyver (loved that show!). But participating in art, making art, making mixed media projects actually "forces" me to be resourceful with supplies. When making projects, we are always looking for unique ways to use "regular" products. Another way art services a stretching lifestyle!
Marci, you touched on this in the comment you left on chapter one. But it has become more clear to me over time how numbing or "self-medicating" mindless accumulation is. I fall into the trap still on a regular basis. I think I have to keep amassing "stuff" to be able to do what I want ie. an 100 different art supplies instead of using up the 20 I already have. Then I can't figure out what I have or where it is or what I want to do..all of which is a great distraction from whatever may be bothering me. I'm glad to have this idea represented here and now as I launch into a year where I'm dedicating myself to the practice of self-care..one way I will do that is by amassing less and stretching more with what I already have. Thanks Marci!
Thanks for your comment, Tracey, and your elaboration about the impact perspective has in the work you do at NAMI. From my experience and observations, I think that the concept of perspective in life usually becomes most salient to people after a major shake up or tragedy. I’ve created lots of art work surrounding the relationship between loss and perspective as I worked through this idea (and by the way,Tracey, me too! I have an entire art room full of supplies you’re welcome to come play with, including found items to incorporate that I can’t stop collecting). It’s as if we’re given entree to a secret club or gifted with special glasses through which to see the world, time, people, and ourselves in a new way.
Personally, I’ve become dramatically more patient, able to let go of pettiness, more thoughtful about my values and ideals, cognizant, of the little things that make me happy, and life’s absurdities that make me laugh, more purposeful about my choices, and generally more present. I personally find a potential pitfall though, when avoiding the social comparison part of chasing, and taking myself out of the game altogether. While there’s a comfort, relief, and even a certain smugness in knowingly viewing a game from the stands as people furiously scramble round competing with each other for their little plastic chips, there’s also a measure of detachment from everyone playing the game and the potential danger of taking the joy out of things that might actually add pleasure to life.
To Tracey’s comment about the thought trap of knowing her peer’s salary and this idea of knowing where we stand, I wanted to share an anecdote from a trip I took about 8 years ago with my kids to Atlantis in the Bahamas. It’s a dream vacation at this incredible resort. The entire place is an upscale aquarium and water park wonderland where a river and pulley system propel you around and back up to the top of the many different rides,through shark tanks and countless pools. No room is bad, but they range of course from luxury to premiere to exclusive. Someone always had more. We did a decent job keeping our heads and remaining outside the system with the timeshare I rented through an aency — until what I call “The parable of the Yachts.” (I have a picture). Walking by the harbor on our 3rd day, we saw the most amazing yacht parked there. Apparently, guests could stay in their yachts with full facility privileges. It was huge with a big open living room, giant screen tv, bar, etc the people were living it up and living the attention as everyone in the boardwalk crowded around to admire their incredibly out of reach lifestyle. The next night, when we walked by, another yacht was parked next to the first, and it was double the size. The living space was massive, with a huge slide, jet skis, hot tub next to the even more massive tv and entertainment system. The incredible yacht from the day before actually looked dinky and embarrassing. The people aboard seemed much lower key. Of course, say 3, another boat pulled in dwarfing both of the other boats. It looked like a small cruise ship, and next to the massive vessel, neither of the other two looked so special. The people aboard seemed to have lost a bit of their shine as well. Though I’m not sure how the experience felt from the deck of those ships (and not saying it wasn’t fun to be aboard), we were shocked at how much we experienced the relative value of the yachts diminish as they were dwarfed each day
When we were first married, my husband and was always begged by his brother and his wife to move near them. I never wanted or liked where they lived. We chose to "stretch" , we saved by moving in with my parents and his brother bought a house and everything that came with it. Both choices were difficult for all of us. But, during this time we played"keeping up with the jones" . They bought house, we bought a car. We had a baby, they had a baby, we finally bought our house. They lost their house. We continued to save, they continued to boast. We never really boasted. We just saved as much as we could, when we could. This behavior made us uncomfortable most of time. It strained the relationships we were building. It never got back to what it could have been. I never regretted saving. Our goals and responsibilities were met. It does take a toll somewhere. Im sure the hardships and the results are different for everyone.
That is for sure, Christina, that everyone needs to make the choices they think are best for them. It sounds like it was hard for you and your husband but everything has worked out fine. I'm glad to read that and that you were able to do what was necessary, but am sorry it strained relationships. It's hard sometimes to find a balance that works for everyone. xo
Yes Marci. I think there is a difference between stretching or being satisfied with what you have and not making comparisons to withdrawing yourself so completely. Your comment made me think of Brene Brown and what she talks about by being in the arena. Withdrawing completely is not participating in a healthy way in your life. And WOWZA re: the yacht story!
Perspective matters! I know it's riduculous now, but years ago I measured my self-worth against standards I made up, based on assumptions of what strangers or acquaintences thought. I'm 56 years old now, in the proverbial "older & wiser" phase. Several years ago, whether it came to thinking I didn't measure up financially or socially, I realized this: I'm too old for this! I only have so much time to live, and I decided that the parameters I judged myself by had to go. They were impeding on my ability to feel good about myself and about the stuff I had. It was quite the freeing feeling to stop comparing myself to made-up standards. How could I have even thought I knew what strangers were thinking? Why should I have cared!? So now, as I'm reading Stretch, I realize that I've come a long way. Much of what Sonenshein writes about confirms that I've been heading in the right direction. I do have more art supplies than I need, but otherwise I don't have a desire to collect/obtain/buy more "stuff". What matters most to me is the connection I have with my family and friends (and my 16 year old cat). And yes, there's art that's been a life-saver to my spirit. On a final note, one study that Sonenshein wrote about stuck with me. The one on Olympic medal winners. Gold & Bronze medal winners were happy, but Silver medalists were unhappy. They were disappointed they didn't win the Gold. A great cure for not feeling you have enough is to be grateful for what you have. In most cases in life (this does not include a Gold medal champion), no matter what you are rating yourself on, many people will have more than you, and many people will have less. You don't have to have more if you can either stretch what you have or be truly content with what you have.
The realisation that we already stopped keeping up with the Joneses without us knowing at the time it was happening is a good feeling. It happened to me too. After I released my first novel, my focus slowly shifted more to my writing career. In effect, I began to spend less time on social media because there was more happening in my offline life that I couldn't really care anymore what online strangers thought.
Woah at the Yacht story, too! Thanks for sharing that one.
Great write-up, Marci!
I didn't notice the shortness of the discussion of the concepts while reading until I read Marci's post and realised, "Yeah. It could've been expanded more." I suppose I've read my share of self-development works in my life that the chapter didn't underwhelm me. Quite thankful it didn't drag on & turn into cliche unlike some of the regurgitated self-help stuff out there. Also, I was relating to my life a lot of the passages which somehow "extended" the reading experience of the chapter.
I enjoyed this chapter a lot as it made me reflect on my three-years old writing career. I've been in the IT industry for more than a decade, only getting the courage to pursue what I really want in life a year before Tracey and I met online.
As an independent author living in the Philippines with no connection to the big fishes and even to other indie groups, I've compared my career path to other writers unfairly in the past. It hurt me because it took away energy I could've spent on something else. Every time I compared, it chipped at my self-esteem.
What's worse? I didn't only compare myself to other writers but also to other Internet personalities out there, the entrepreneur/visionary/social media moguls of the Internet world. I tried to be author/graphic designer/social media manager because I was afraid (but didn't want to admit it) my writing career would fail. As a safety net and to placate my ego, I thought having other titles and options under my belt would protect me from any resulting damage in the event of any failure. Hence, I tried to be a lot in a short amount of time.
The graphic design and social media gigs didn't do well. They didn't take off as I foolishly hoped. But it was a blessing in disguise. As I swallowed my disappointment in silly dreams that didn't fit me, I was redirected to the path where I belong = writing. I already had a day job to take care of. It was only fair to say I only have so much space for another job/career in my life so I had to give it to the one that matters to me the most. That would be writing.
Since my return to my heart's home, I've gained new fans, readers, and friends. My writing spirit has become rejuvenated in the process. Definitely, the grass on my lawn is greener than that on the other side.
Thanks Sue. Changing our thinking can be very challenging. I'm trying to work on that now as part of my self-care journey. I don't struggle like I used to either with comparing myself to others. It's too exhausting and as you write how could we know what others are thinking about us..and why would we care! But it does take a while to reach that point in life. It's great to read your validating comments that changing our thought patterns is a goal we can achieve! Thanks!
thanks for this great comment Xeno..I don't think it was foolish to undertake so many "hats," but it sounds like it was overwhelming on your time, energy, and spirit. As Scott is identifying, it's human nature to want to excel, and to compare. But what I sensed when I read your comment was a relief in the fact that attempting to wear so many hats at one time lead you sooner to focus on your writing life rather than later…that being "stretched" too thin lead you to where you really wanted to be. How wonderful that you've discovered how green your own grass is!!
While reading all of your comments, something came to mind that I didn't think of while reading the chapter. (so thank you for your insightful words!) It has to do with being content. Doing what's right for you, not comparing your life to others, and realizing what's truly important.
My husband had been working an extremely stressful corporate job, at the same company for almost 18 years. He had a high management position and was very successful. But the stress was extreme and he (and I) did not want him to live like that. After much consideration, he left his stable, well-paying career (with amazing health insurance).
Both of us didn't know what was ahead, but we knew he couldn't stay in that position any longer. It was scary for him to leave, but it was scarier to think of what the stress was doing to his health. He wasn't enjoying life, and wanted to spend more time with our daughters and me.
What I'm so proud and happy about is that while our girls were young (middle school), my husband had flexible hours and was able to coach their basketball teams, go to school events, and fully participate in our family life. We both knew we'd never, ever be able to get those years back. We cherished those moments, those years. We were (and still are) content.
We've made a really happy life as small business owners (of course we have super challenging times with that too!). I feel so fortunate that years ago, we were aware of what was important to us in our life. And that my husband and I could watch our girls grow up — together.
Thanks everyone for your comments! I enjoy reading what different things stand out to each of us. What came up for me, both during reading the chapter and reading Marci's write up, was about perspective, and more importantly, values. I too realized in reading this that I gave up "keeping up with the Joneses"…mostly out of necessity, as I was a single mom, recently divorced, working full time and in grad school full time.
What strikes me is what I focused on with that was simply having enough. Enough to pay the bills, not worry about money, and be able to cover the tab in taking friends out to dinner and go on a nice vacation every once in awhile. Not to build a giant mansion or have vacation homes throughout the world or wear designer clothes (although I'm not gonna lie–I do dream more than I should about owning a Tesla Model X… :). I just wanted to be able to stop and take a breath and actually live instead of trying to force myself into the "American Dream" dysfunction of our society–the truth of reality that it's difficult to provide for ourselves and family without money…as much as I hated it, I couldn't just not pay my rent or student loans or buy my kid school supplies and food.
I'm drawn to the contradictions of scarcity vs. abundance. I've been geeking out on mindset for years, and have indulged perhaps beyond my fair share in Law of Attraction and manifesting and abundance workshops or books, trying various strategies or mantras or what have you to change my mindset to one of abundance instead of scarcity. I spent so much time in scarcity, yes, comparing myself and chasing, but not to get to the top. Just to get to a point where it wasn't so difficult.
Happy to say that I have grown out of that period of my life. While I still haven't built my forever home, I spend significantly more of my time on things that bring my joy and feed my passions (writing, creating, being present with my kid) instead of always feeling like I have to be generating income. I've shifted my thinking on abundance from one of financial abundance to focusing on abundance of connection, abundance of love, abundance of joy, abundance of laughter. Believing that there is exactly enough time for all of the important things in life.
I also was drawn to the Olympic medalists, and the perspectives on whether the grass physically was greener depending on the angle. Both of those stories remind me to step outside of my little bubble and to only compare myself to the gauge that actually matters–where am I compared to where I was yesterday? Last month? 5 years ago? Am I making progress on what I want to accomplish?
I think the concept of values is so important throughout all of this. Thanks Marci for pointing that out with your example of wealthy eco-conscious people who would negatively judge those elite for wasting water. I've been having these conversations with my daughter lately–whenever she is feeling guilt about something, I have to remember that it's not me making her feel guilty. It's that she feels guilty because something she said or did doesn't align with her values. Those super rich folks who only care about their green lawns and being better don't have the same values that I do, so naturally they won't feel guilty about wasting water in a drought. We never know what someone's values are, but they are usually what drive behavior.
I can't wait to get to the next chapter and learn how to stretch! 🙂
Im so glad Jeni to read about the journey you and your husband took. How wonderful that he has such a supportive partner in you and that your wishes and desires were matched so that everything worked out for the best. Wonderful.
Goodness me Heather how I love your comment. Exactly. Mindset. And abundance of health joy connection love…what really matters. So weird you mention values too. I just dug my value worksheet out that I did as part of a brene brown class I took because I couldn't remember what I decided my top two values were! A bit of a wake up call there to refocus attention on that and aligning the life I want to live with my values. I never had parents that talked to me the way you are talking to your daughter. What a gift you're giving her. Xo
It seemed to me that this chapter was really about one's definition of success and the shortcomings of a competitive benchmark. I, too, liked the insight about looking at a lawn, how the angle changes what you see. In my experience, I think people told me when I was young that I should be my own benchmark for myself but I wound up getting caught up in comparison, which is just deadly. I wonder how the author is going to navigate this terrain without bringing up spirituality: how do we define success without defining what we think life is all about first. So I'll await the next chapter. I also found the dot.com bust analysis a bit glib: there were a lot of contributing factors and certainly one of them was the glut of cash but there were also lots of visionaries thinking that they were going to make the world a better place, etc.
Marci, thank you for an excellent write-up and everyone else for such thoughtful and thought-provoking insights. Comparison and perspective are the ideas that resonated most for me. How both of those things are influenced by my choices about my values and also my choices about friendships. Or rather, the lack of making intentional choices about both. At first, it was important that we live in a particular neighborhood and that the kids attend particular schools. In that process of submerging myself into that community, I lost touch with what was important to me and I became like everyone else around me. I perceived this community as supportive and comfortable. It wasn't until I began to make different choices (my son's depression was the catalyst) about my values that the support and comfort disappeared and I could see that the community was primarily interested in perpetuating its image of itself. There was no room for deviation. It was liberating. Lonely, but liberating. Both my perspective and benchmarks for comparison had changed and since I no longer shared those in lock-step with the community, the community was no longer a comfortable place for me to be.
Yes, Christine..I wonder if he's going to mention spirituality too. I can imagine that since the framework seems primarily to be the work environment he'll glide right by. It can be a touchy subject and perhaps he doesn't want to take a chance turning people off. Will be very interesting to see where and if he goes there. Thank you for your comment.
Thank you Sarah, for this comment. We often say at NAMI that mental health diagnosis aren't "casserole issues," meaning unlike "traditional" illnesses where family and friends rally to our aid, we are often left floating by ourselves in the wind. I'm sorry that was your (and our) experience but I'm also (with the aid of time and healing) glad. I'm glad that you were able to be liberated from that oppressive environment and are now more free to express your true self and the values that mean the most to you. Thank you for sharing.
Well, I went from completely embarrassed that I had dropped the ball and neglected to comment when an unexpected job came about (I am a writer working on my second novel as I query my first, but to pay bills I house/pet sit, which gives me hours to write in a house I don't have to clean!). However, all that being said, I am so glad I did not respond to Chapter 2 any sooner than today. Why? Because of everything everyone wrote! This group is phenomenal! I drank in every word, to be honest, I enjoyed YOUR writing more than Sonenshein's!
Marci, you did an excellent job in your discussion post. You made me think more than the author did. I completely agree that this chapter could have gone much deeper, it did feel a bit rushed to me. Here was all this really important stuff and yet he was moving forward way to fast.
Your mention of "illusion" hit me like ice water. Perhaps it is because I can connect with Sue, I am older and I hope a bit wiser. But for many years I felt like everyone else was given a life-manual, but not me. Kids growing up, friends in college, trying to navigate life after graduating, marriage, a mortgage etc felt like an complex illusion – I can remember thinking, "If we can just get through ABC, then it will all be all right." But it never happened. There are always more ABC's to cope with and work through and do the best you could with.
I also married a man with children, so while everyone else was saving, buying vacation homes, new cars, appointments with personal fitness trainers (ugh!), we were paying child support. So when Kelly said they were consciously not keeping up with the Jones – I got it, it was different of course because as much as we may have wanted to, we couldn't, and it turned out that wasn't such a bad thing. Marci – you're yacht story was almost like reading a billionaires social experiment. Wow. Brilliant. Xeno – taking part in this book clubbing, and seeing for yourself these important concepts that took many of us such a long time to figure out truly is a great gift. I love reading your views, thoughts and ah-ha moments. You must be an old soul 🙂 Jeni – my husband was in the defense industry for 35 years when he was laid off. The last five years he was miserable, but we were not financially ready for retirement (I'm not sure we'll ever be unless we sell the house and move into a tent! lol!) Yet, it was the best thing that could have happened to us. He is so much happier working for Harley Davidson now at a much lower salary, and medical benefits that are seriously 'meh' but his state of mind, health and happiness are worth it all. I'm very glad you guys are happy too! Christine – I watched what you describe happen almost word for word to a friend of mine and her brother. I agree with Tracey about finding the balance and found what you wrote very interesting about the chapter being your own definition of success, I believe you're are right! Sarah, I wanted to cheer when I read your thoughts! I had grown up in 'that' neighborhood, but with my own children, we found we were not accepted in 'that' or pretty much any other neighborhood. I am white, my husband is black. There were not a lot of choices in homes we could afford in 1991, but we found a small town and were active in our schools PreK-12, we even coached and supported a community basketball program for girls which took up way more time than we were told, but there was not enough volunteers, so we worked that program for literally years. No one else wanted to, even though they wanted their kids to play, which we would pick up and drop off for games, while some of the parents worked and others were watching tv. It was more than upsetting to bend over backwards when others just stood there with their hands out. It was a relief to choose not to be friends because of our kids after they graduated, or give meetings/events so much time when we really just wanted to focus on our family instead of trying to make everything work for everyone else. It was truly freeing. I'm stingy with my time now and have learned to create strong boundaries without apologies. Heather – my heart ached remembering how many times we would (and still do!) 'make do' not understanding it wasn't bad, it was nothing to feel guilty or embarrassed about, 'Enough is as good as a feast.' (thank you Mary Poppins!). We are consciously, on purpose, mindful of and striving for the simple things and being grateful for what we have and yes like so many of you mentioned, sometimes we may look at what someone else has that is bright and shiny, but we've grown and matured and smile as we polish what is in our own hands. Thank you ALL. I've learned more from reading your posts than I did from just reading this chapter. Thank you, Marci, for providing a platform to jump! XOXO
Well, Patty. Damn. Thank YOU for this beautiful comment and for sharing. XO
Wow, Patricia! Thank you for your post, for commenting on what others had to say. : )
My pleasure! 🙂
Everyone, I had to step away. A week ago my mother in law became ill, and we've been focused on trying to help her heal. (That's the short version, anyway.) I actually read Marci's brilliant, brilliant post and some of the early responses last weekend but couldn't take time then to respond. Now I am a week behind, so I will keep (try to) this brief. But I couldn't move on to Chapter 3 without chiming in a little regarding this thread.
First, Marci, BRAVO. I agree with others' comments that your post was more insightful, meaningful and thoughtful than the Chapter you were reviewing. When I began reading your post, I was a bit caught up in the quality (high quality) of your writing to really get into what you had to say. (That's strange to experience and even stranger to admit.) But then, Wham!. Three things hit me in rapid succession.
First, the phrase, "upward social comparision." I am not sure those were your words or Sonenshein's, but it made me take pause. The word "upward," alone, has meaning. It connotes more, better, higher. I think most would go straight to a financial connotation. We think of upwardly mobile as gaining financial status, don't we? I don't think what I find myself striving for now (simplicity, greater meaning, fewer but deeper relationships), would fall into the "upward social" category.
Then, Wham!, this sentence: "Can we realistically quash our initial impulses and make a mental shift, carefully considering the people we want to be and the lives we want to lead, to establish our own personal values against which we choose to compete and be evaluated?" Oh boy. I wish we (at least I) could achieve the first part — establish (and truly own) my own personal values, but without the last part — against which we choose to compete and be evaluated. I wish we could be immune or exempt from competition and evaluation (and judgment), both within ourselves and with others. (Pollyanna, here.)
And finally, I felt an even greater kinship with you when I read this: "I can’t say I never feel the occasional jealous pang at seeing someone’s cool new toy, admiring their fabulous beach house, or hearing about their front row seats at Hamilton. At the same time, I feel a certain secret internal smugness measuring the personal kind of abundance I’ve created in my new and improved life." I find myself vacillating between envy (of front-row Hamilton seats and the like) and that smugness you so honestly and candidly describe.
Thank you. And thanks to everyone for your wonderful and heartfelt comments. I need to head on over to Chapter 3, now. Hopefully, I will do a better job of keeping up from now on. (Although the mother in law situation will likely worsen, so I can't make any promises.) 🙁
Xeno, I am right there with you. I am excited about what I have going (building a freelance writing business and working on a book) that for the first time in a long time, I have set aside social media — and it just happened, I didn't consciously make an effort to — because I am enthused about what I am working to create.It's a good feeling to have that organically occur.
Almost missed your share. Thanks for your kind comments and enlightening personal experiences!