Of Elder-Flowers and Jealousy

Well, it happened.

Bee wakes up early, I make coffee, she asks for craft time, I say sure, and while I usually know better, while I usually use this sun-streamed quiet hour wisely, while I usually reach for a book to read while I cook/burn the eggs, while I usually greet the day with my own thoughts, my own direction, my own path, my own prayers, I did something else instead.

I lost myself in the Internet.

I lost myself.

There is a girl on the screen. She lives in a tiny apartment in NYC and has such ingenious wit and wisdom to share on living minimally, on simplifying, on living a soulful, sustainable life with a kid in tow, with a fully supportive husband who – of course, I’m assuming here – does not keep piles of paperwork and artwork and coupons and phone books and catalogs for weeks on end, stacking, towering, spilling out of every office drawer and credenza because Erin, we might need these someday!

She makes elder-flower spritzers and homemade Play-Doh and knows how to gracefully decline house guests.

She is perfect. Her life is perfect.

I am no stranger to the comparison trap, not in the slightest. It’s a large portion of the reason I quit Facebook (well, there were many reasons there), and it’s a large portion of the reason I regulate my time in front of the screen. I’m prone to thinking everyone has it all figured out except for me, prone to thinking everyone has it all, period.

No one has it all.
I know this, I know this, I know this.
(Why do I not yet believe this?)

But on this quiet morning, as I sit braless with bedhead, it’s easy to see the girl with the elder-flower spritzer in NYC (actually, currently in France – need I say more?!) has it all.

Do you want to know what I did after reading her blog for 45 minutes?

I bought rhubarb at the grocery. I contemplated new kitchen curtains, linen of course. I secretly cursed Ken for not being a minimalist like me, lamented the fact that Bee wants to save every single shred of artwork imaginable. I shamed myself for keeping so many tiny shampoo bottles from hotel trips, and then I fully convinced myself I could keep them, sure, but only if I hid them in newly-acquired under-the-bed-storage from Muji.

Do you want to know what I did not do?

I did not think.

I did not sit with my feelings of inadequacy long enough to realize they were not feelings of inadequacy at all. They were a recognition of someone else’s small successes, someone else’s adequacies, someone else’s triumphs. Look at her, killing it at this living stuff. She’s soaring! She’s happy!

And in my small mind, I twisted someone else’s happiness to mean there would be none left for me.

A simple scenario:

Girl on the screen has rhubarb. I like the girl on the screen; I like the way she lives. Do I need rhubarb to like the way I live, too?

A simple truth:
No.

You don’t either. You don’t need the rhubarb, the linen curtains, the Muji under-the-bed-storage (OK, you might). But you needn’t shame yourself when you think you do.

(It happens to the best of us.)

Anyway, I emailed her, the elder-flower girl.

Hello!

This is wildly random, but I’m sending you an officially official fan letter to applaud you on the life you’re leading. I know that sounds strange, and I know applause is likely not what you’re after, but hey – we all need a blue ribbon moment every now and then, yes?

I know the life you lead is not without challenges, and I’m so impressed by your self-control, your wisdom, your grace. Thank you for sharing your life with the rest of us.

We’re learning from you, and growing with you, and that’s no small thing.
e.

And just like that, with a hit of the Send button, my own visions of perceived inadequacy vanished and, in its place, a deep respect for another human arrived.

I read once that, of all the feelings we must listen to, jealousy is one of the most important. Jealousy reveals what it is we want. Is it great hair? A gentle spirit? The ability to gracefully decline a house guest?

Sit with it.
Learn from it.
Write about it.
Thank it.
Hit Send.

  • I’d be lying if I didn’t say I have not had moments of jealousy reading your blog. and you even share the not so great moments, but somehow other peoples not so great moments are even somehow kind of wonderful in their humanness and just makes me like them more. So its funny that in my own not so great moments, I shame myself. I love your perspective on this. I think it’s true that when we feel jealous, we can reflect on what it is we actually want. I read a good article on anything you really want you have to be willing to struggle for, otherwise it’s just a nice fantasy. I think sometimes we just want the fantasy of what we see on the internet, but if we really really want something, we have to be willing to work for it, just like the person we see having it! Thank you for making me think but more importantly making me go inward a little more. I think you’re splendid and i’m so happy to virtually know you:)

    • Oh Jana – I completely relate to this! Other people’s not so great moments do tend to have a way of shimmering, don’t they, while we look at our own and see only smudges. I LOVE your thoughts of working toward the goal and learning along the way, understanding that what we see is never truly a fantasy. The most real things are the best things (and are generally the most hard things, aren’t they?!). Thank you for always being so honest and kind, Jana. :)

  • JANA, you took the words right out of my heart.
    Thank you for sharing Erin, I’m so happy to virtually know you also.

  • I am a stylist so much of my time is devoted to making beautiful spaces, making not-so-pretty products look better by placing them in a prettier context. I really love what I do but I struggle to keep my own home from bursting at the seams with props and, much as I would love to be, I am not a minimalist. My husband never opens his post and when he does he stuffs it back in the envelope and he stuffs the envelope in a drawer full of similar envelopes.I sometimes hire someone to sort these drawers out because it makes me crazy! Some days I would like to live in a hotel with nothing, just a bag of clothes but other days I am very happy that I can play with our vast collection of sculptures, ceramics, paintings, flotsam and jetsum. I know Erin and she is a delight; serene and kind. I would like to be so many people but I am a magpie, a collector and sometimes one just have to recognize one’s essential nature. Be kind to yourself! We are all different and while simple and pared-down might be right for one person, my maximalism, my gimlet eye for extraordinary things is second nature to me. You are a seeker, a soul-searcher and that is a wonderful way to live life.

    • Hi Hilary!!!

      Oh, I hear you! I’ve lived a past life as a stylist as well, which certainly brings in the excess, doesn’t it? I’ve noticed a growing detachment to things, but I also do have such a magpie way about me. We sound quite similar, ha! Being kind to ourselves is a lovely reminder – thank you! (And Erin is SUCH a delight, isn’t she?!)

  • Oh, Erin, how I needed to read this just right now. The comparison game is such an ugly one, and one that I battle with much too often. Thank you for being honest, and for sharing!

    P.S. I am a big fan of ‘the elder-flower girl’ too :)

  • I am not young. I am not cool, hip, or wise. I do not live in a beautiful old farmhouse I’m renovating with my talented and tool-savvy spouse. I do not bake my own bread and I’m never quite sure about my paint choices. I love Instagram, but have so little desire to pin, tweet, promote. The Internet whispers to me, I think, that somehow I should be, do, and make all of these things. (In order to be … ) I internalize everyone else’s wonderfulness and somehow measure myself against the height of everyone else – finding myself falling so woefully short in comparison. All that Inernet success twists internally into self-criticism and an almost daily recognition of all I am not. Still. The Internet (and all of you beauties – present company included) started me on my own writing and photography adventure a few years ago. Just this morning, in fact, I contemplated staying the course … because I so hopelessly and helplessly recognize all of the above shortcomings. Or at least, the perception of. So. Yes. Here I sit. Thinking. And thanking too. I look forward to your every post. Erin’s too. Thank you.

    • Oh Barbara – you lovely thing. What a beautiful gift your words are to us all – and thank you for staying the course! We’re growing from each other, aren’t we?

    • Barbara, you write beautifully.I was thinking to myself how wonderfully written your comment was, and how acutely perceptive you are and then read on to see you had contemplated whether or not to continue. Please do, I can only imagine you have lots to share and a creative way in which you can offer your insight.

  • Yes, yes and yes! It’s not easy to do, but you’re so right… celebrating someone’s success is best cure for those yucky feelings of jealousy. i think it helps break the thought patterns swirling in our heads that tell us we’re lacking or not good enough. We all have something different and wonderful offer this world. Thank you for that beautiful reminder, Erin!

  • Now THIS is a beautiful piece of thought and writing, that to me feels far more important than what Bee could have written. Thank you for sharing – and be blessed!

  • Thank you for this. I desperately needed to read these words. Jealously and shame for tricky little guys and they sure do sneak up on you. Thank you for being honest and vulnerable and reminding us all that we needn’t compare and that we can just rejoice in someone else’s happiness.
    Thank you for bringing some light into the deep void that the internet can oftentimes be.

    • Ah, thank you sweet Anna. You can always count on me to talk about my dark, that’s for sure. ;) Big hugs!

  • It sneaks up on me at the oddest times. One moment I know I have my own awesome life, the next I’m trying to figure out how I got stuck in a job with a kid in daycare while SHE spends all day painting with her little and having adventures at the beach… Then I remember that’s her life, this is mine, and we both have exactly what we’ve worked to create. We can both change it, as needed, with some more work. But it’s hard not to see her life as rosy and mine as all work. (PS rhubarb fills me with thoughts of love and pies and tarts but continues to go bad in the fridge every time I get it from the inlaws. Oh, well!) xoxoxoxo

    • HA, I have precisely the same relationship with rhubarb, and life. I never feel alone with you, Jamie! Such a wise soul you are. :)

  • OH Erin, how I love you. This writing seems to be the thoughts pulled straight from the ones swirling through my head. Is it not the most wonderful, refreshing, feeling to change rhubarb buying into fan letter writing? To celebrate the beauty in other people with out diminishing the beauty in your self?

    The number of times I thought I wanted to do something because you do something… the number of times I have admired your soul and wished I could be more like you. Those things you do, the person you are… Well, I miss you, dear, sweet friend. Love you and love learning and growing along with you. Thank YOU for sharing YOUR life with US!

    • Oh Cord – I miss and love you! “Is it not the most wonderful, refreshing, feeling to change rhubarb buying into fan letter writing? To celebrate the beauty in other people with out diminishing the beauty in your self?” YES AND YES.

  • This post is exactly what I needed. Thank you, Erin! The last paragraph just gets me so much. Thank you thank you thank you

  • This is completely brilliant. Thank you. So often your posts inspire me to pull out my journal to write, remember your words, and try to process and apply them more completely.

  • I let myself get lost in that same blog. So crisp so clean so pure, while I live with three boys and a husband who are anything but.

    I fell trap and ordered linen napkins, because they are going to fix all my problems right? Wrong. But I will be danged if I don’t use those linen napkins every. single.day :)

    Thank you for your openness and your perspective on life, even the not go great parts. You push me to see the world in a better light. Thank YOU for that.

    • Ha, the linen napkins, yes! Been there. She’s a delight, that Erin. :)

      As are you! Thank you for your kindness.

  • And the same can be said for your sweet demeanor, creative toddler, beautiful home and well-designed web presence.

    Dear Erin,
    I know the life you lead is not without challenges, and I’m so impressed by your self-control, your wisdom, your grace. Thank you for sharing your life with the rest of us.

    We’re learning from you, and growing with you, and that’s no small thing.

    You are a blessing. I so enjoy the thoughts you share.
    -Erika

  • This is Beautiful! Thanks so much for sharing such a wonderful message, especially one that is so needed in today’s insta\facebook\digital world!

  • I read both of your blogs, both Erins, and you should know I read them for the SAME REASONS–your beautiful writing, your insight into how to be better than I am today. To learn from both of you how to simplify IN WAYS THAT ARE MEANINGFUL FOR ME. Know sweet Erin, that you are inspiring us, just as others inspire you. There is room for all of us, even those who do not like rhubarb, and who think elder flower syrup sounds disgusting (like me ;)). You are enough.

  • HUMMMM…I stumbled upon your site blindly. Reading your words made my soul hum. Thank you, your soul is beautiful and I needed to feel that today…hummmm. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  • wanted to add…I was on Facebook (I deleted the app from my phone to use it less, but alas, I was on the laptop) and saw something that someone else had that I wanted. The jealousy did hit me too :(.

    I didn’t send my friend an email, but made a prayer for her. I’m Muslim and we believe that when we make a prayer for someone, the angels say ‘and for you too.’ so I’m hoping I get what she has too :)

  • holy canoly did I need these words this morning! I set a goal on January 1 to try and stop being jealous of the ‘internet others’. It has been an on again, off again success but have struggled mostly with the ‘how.’ Your post made me reframe how to do this. I am looking forward to the second half of the year and less jealously of others and more happiness, for others. Good, wise words. PS – I don’t follow the elder-flower spritzer girl and for the sake of my sanity, I don’t think I will look her up. Just being real. :)

  • It’s especially true of mothers, isn’t it? In my twenties I was much more carefree and self assured that, of course, I had it all figured out. And then as you realize the weight of raising another human to be decent and kind, suddenly everything is in question. Surely someone, somewhere has it all figured out.
    Thankfully, they don’t, and though we all have our own shade of hiding it, we’re all in this lump together, muddling through with imperfections and spousal grievances and kids who clearly don’t realize the importance of sleeping in.
    It’s a daily process to find peace in yourself and your life, while striving to better yourself in a kind way. Cheers to the process, and a little progress, and coffee in between.

  • Appreciated this post. Did you write a post on your decision to leave Facebook? I’d love to read it.I also left Facebook after a few years for a variety of reasons, including comparisons.

  • This made emotional.
    It is truly so beautiful and so insightful and has spoken to me very core.
    We perceive things differently depending on the day or hour or moment in which we read them.
    I am so thankful that I read this right now, in this precise moment.
    Your blog is wonderful.
    Thank you

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