How about your car? Is it pristine inside? Or is it like mine, filled with the little remnants of my daily routine…briefcase, an extra pair of shoes, gym bag, a shopping bag filled with old clothes I meant to drop off at a local collection site? Not to mention those little sticky notes to remind me to do yesterday, last week, last month whatever task I still haven’t gotten to?
I am organizationally challenged by nature. Having my nails done or a clean car are my little benchmarks for how I’m coping with the day-to-day mundane demands of life. On the very rare occasion when I manage to have both done at the same time, an event I cannot say with certainty has ever actually occurred in my life; to me it would be a huge milestone, equivalent to the likelihood of my being elected President of the United States.
I really admire organized people. I think that is our lot as humans, to admire most in others what we lack most in ourselves. Admiration is all well and good. It motivates us to work on our weaknesses. It challenges us to be more, to become a more complete version of the best of ourselves. But when admiration becomes envy and sours into resentment, that’s when the problems arise. We become focused on having what others have, on becoming them, on being them. All of this is done at the sacrifice of our own gifts.
What I admire in others, they take for granted in themselves. What others admire about me, I dismiss as trivial. I imagine everyone feels the same way at some point in their lives. The trick is to step back away from all of those assumptions about how much better everyone else has it, about how much more wonderful your life would be if only you had what they had, if only you could be more like them, if only…if only…if only…
That way leads to disaster. Envy is a foolish waste of our time and energy, a silly expenditure of our own gifts. Does it matter in the grand scheme of things if I’m organizationally challenged? When the truth is whatever my challenges, I choose to allow them to remain. Organization takes time and energy. So too does every endeavor we pursue. It just turns out I value more highly the routines and habits and hobbies I spend my time and energy on than the ones my more organized friends spend their time and energy on. We all choose what we value and how we spend every minute of every day. Even when we think we don’t have a choice, of course we do. We choose to go to work every day. We choose to pay our bills. We choose to provide for our children. We choose to save for the future. We choose to spend time with God. Or not. This last point bears repeating. Or not. That is the root of the matter. Our life, our choice.
We spend our time and our energy on what we most value. Is there room for the occasional tweak in one direction or another? Of course. If we value a new endeavor highly enough, we will make room for it in our lives. If we truly valued those traits we admire in our friends and acquaintances, we would make the necessary changes in our lives to adopt them for ourselves. The fact that we don’t means that while we admire those qualities in others, we do not believe they are worth giving up something about ourselves we enjoy more, we like better, or find more meaning in.
So the next time you look at your perfectly put-together friends give them their due, but just remember they are very likely looking at you in the same way. Accept you both choose to live your lives according to where you each find the most meaning and the most value. Celebrate and admire their choices, but at the same time, don’t forget to celebrate and admire your own.