Dr. Seuss has it down.
I watched The Grinch tonight (not the vintage version, the new one with Jim Carrey and a frenetic Molly Shannon), and I realized the idea of "keeping up with the Joneses" is a universal theme. Poor Mrs. Lou Who lived next door to a fabulous (lonely, secretly-in-love-with-the-Grinch) woman who had a shiny machine that shot out Christmas lights onto her home in perfect order. In an effort to keep up, Mrs. Lou Who tried to string up everything from chandeliers to stolen street lights on her roof.
I'm always in admiration of my friends' beautiful homes. The perfectly chosen furniture, color schemes, choices of art, scent of candles, lack of dog hair on everything...you get the picture. There's nothing out of place, not a backpack or stray shoe in sight, and everything in their world seems just right. Sometimes I end up going back home to our little 1930s cottage thinking, huh. Yep, there's the friendship bracelet maker with the Diary of a Wimpy Kid book balanced on it, which lies under the unpainted wooden wreath, next to the frosted gingerbread house, close to the heating vent, which valiantly tries to push warm air out, only to be trumped by the cold air sneaking in due to the lack of sealant on the doors and windows.
Granted, if I had friends coming over, that whole pile (save for the gingerbread house, because how charming is that this time of year?!) would be shoved into whichever closet would hold it behind a closed door. And those friends might leave my house thinking, man, that girl has it all. Clean house, nice kids, beautiful husband.
So I get that sometimes it's about what we put out there. Sometimes our story is frumptastic because that's all we can muster, and sometimes, to quote another Dr. Seuss movie, it's a perfectly painted picture: "In my world, everyone's a pony and they all eat rainbows and poop butterflies!" (Horton Hears A Who - seriously, one of the funniest scenes ever.)
But other times, comparisons can be restorative. Not as a matter of jockeying for position, more a matter of jonesing for some kind of peace and perspective.
Yesterday, I visited a nursing home in my town. From the moment I walked in - from a side door, where nobody questioned who I was or what I was doing there - I felt sad. (Disclaimer: I cry over movies, babies, old people, commercials, and almost anytime I see someone else crying, whether they're faking it or not.) The bedrooms were small, and shared, and the common room was packed with the sweet old folks who lived there. Not in a festive, comfortable way, more in the realm of, here, let me move this sleeping fellow in his chair over so the ornery lady who doesn't understand what's happening can scoot by with her walker.
All at once yesterday, in that nursing home, I felt thankful for my parent's situation. Until then, I hated the idea of my Mom rehabbing her hip in a nursing home, with my Dad alone at home. Now, I'm so much more grateful for the quality of care she is receiving, and the fact that they both have friends who visit to keep them company and bring them what they might need. I am happy she has her own room, with a big window, and kind staff to help her do the things she isn't able to do by herself right now. It's hard for me to see her relinquish her pride and privacy. It's difficult to swallow the fact that she and my Dad will eat Christmas dinner there, and then have to tuck into bed separately.
For most people, including my folks, it's the small rituals we rely on that fill our days and nights with normalcy. In the case of my parents, it's the coffee tin they've had since I was a kid that my Dad pulls out every night so he can set the coffee maker to brew automatically before they wake. The little water dish he puts out on my Mom's bedside table, so their cat can hydrate at will (I'm not saying she isn't spoiled...and I realize this may be an admission of how spoiled I myself was as a kid). The fact that I saw when I visited them last week that my Dad - even though my Mom isn't staying at home - habitually made their bed with my Mom's side turned down, the way he does when she's home, so it's easier for her to climb in for a nap or a good night's sleep.
You may guess where I'm going with this. Yes, yesterday I saw another silver lining. It made my eyes water then, and now. And it made me realize that nobody eats rainbows or poops butterflies. Everyone has a junk drawer that gift cards and screwdrivers and brownie vest patches get lost in. And we all know that as bad as we think we have it, on some level, it's okay for now.
Seven days until Christmas. Not a lick of shopping done on my end.
You're welcome. :)