I love connecting with people. I enjoy the stimulation of reading the articles my friends post, seeing what others are up to and laughing at the brilliant silliness that can be found online.
But at some point a darker emotion edged in. It snuck up on me as I saw a website launched that I thought I would have been a natural fit for, but wasn’t invited to join. Or when a group of writers got together, without me. Or when a friend’s post would get traction and shares while mine languished.
Yes, I was jealous. I was jealous of the successes of my peers, my friends. I would open my computer and watch all the creative, exciting, innovative things going on, while I sat there, mindlessly scrolling, my feelings of frustration and self-pity mounting.
Uch, it’s so embarrassing, but there it is.
As I saw the rising stars of other people’s successes, I felt more buried under the rising levels of parenting, laundry and housework in my own life. The needs of my family were growing, and with the move to a new city and the reality of my children home with me most of the time (they are still not in school as I type this sentence), what precious free time I had was spent decompressing, not creating.
And that was so difficult for me. Despite the wise counsel of a friend who urged me not to have high goals until my baby was a year or so old, I found myself caught in a cycle of wanting to create, not having energy to, and then being envious as I saw others achieve successes.
It’s petty and dark and mortifying.
So I closed the computer. I shut it down. I stopped opening it to “just check something” or “just send an email.” I took Facebook off my phone (though I kept messenger and the app for my blog’s Facebook page on there). We visited my parents, who don’t have wifi (the horror!), and I didn’t go on Facebook for ten straight days. After we returned from that trip, I barely opened my computer at all, and when I did, I tried not to go online.
The results were pretty immediate. I found that without opening my laptop or just taking a quick peek on my phone (and when is that peek ever truly quick, am I right?), I was surprisingly content with the work of keeping my house humming along. Dinner was made more or less on time, our family’s schedule was consistent and comforting, and I didn’t feel distracted and irritable when parenting my children. I felt very present, very centered, and very happy. My desire to share and post and contribute to the online community waned.
But entrenched habits linger, and over the past couple days, I found myself scrolling through that familiar feed, and those dark, icky feelings began to resurface. I saw friends who were posting intelligent, thoughtful, helpful words. Whose thoughts were welcomed with a flood of likes. I became snappish with my family, impatient and dissatisfied. I looked at the piles of dishes on my counter and instead of seeing the natural consequences of a wonderful Shabbos meal, I saw a roadblock to my own creativity. I saw restriction, burden, imprisonment. It brought me down, way down.
Yet while I was floundering in those heavy feelings of sadness, overwhelmed with my fear of missing out, of somehow become irrelevant, I had a flash of clarity:
This is exactly where I’m supposed to be now. This place of petty jealousy and mountains of laundry together with my underlying desire to create, to matter. But while I am supposed to be here at this moment, I don’t have to stay in this place. And I shouldn’t. I can take my dissatisfaction and angst and convert all that negative energy into something beautiful, something positive and tangible and constructive.
I’m fairly certain that when I succeed in reframing my view, in flipping the switch (climbing the mountain is probably a more realistic metaphor) from negativity to positivity, I will find joy and pleasure in the success of those around me. I will continue to find satisfaction in the domestic work that this stage of life brings, but find time to create as well. I will recognize that it is a process, a struggle, and that there are times of abundance and times of inactivity.
I look forward to this new year, which will hopefully be one of creativity and mutual celebration, where I will be able to find the balance between being centered in my real life and engaging with those I enjoy who I have never met in person.
K’siva v’chasima tova.