We all make them.
I'm not talking about comparing ourselves to the impossibly perfect images that we see in the media, but rather the comparisons that we make in our everyday lives.
For example, take my friend Teddie. Looking about 20 years younger than her actual age and with a figure that makes me want to run to Taco Bell to eat fourteen burritos, Teddie has the gift of being effortless chic in just about every way possible. A touch of lipstick, a little mascara, a quick fluff of the hair and she is ready for a night on the town. Her immaculate home would do Architectural Digest proud as a study in cool, relaxed elegance -- turquoises and teals with unexpected "pops" in design and color (a mirror behind the stove; a warm pumpkin color in an office) and she designed all of it herself. Her wardrobe is just as fabulously unexpected and so fashion-forward, she's wearing things a year before it occurs to the rest of the world to follow suit.
(My "getting-ready" regimen takes a minimum of an hour and a half, I would look ridiculous in the outfits that she wears, my house seems in constant disarray and the only "unexpected" thing about my stove is that it is clean).
Then there's Lee. Lee has discovered the secret of the 41-hour day and is holding out on the rest of us. Blessed with four children and a globetrotting husband, she too travels the country for her own career, yet she always has time for everything and everyone. She is an active participant in her children's busy lives and runs a bustling household. She bakes and blogs; parents and presides over a charitable foundation; always looks amazing and she never ever fails to return an email from wherever she is on the planet. Oh, and did I mention that she is also a bestselling author who just released her third book?
(I have half the number of children that she has and those children are adults; I can't remember the last time that I baked but I am positive that there was either bribery or a holiday involved; my email return rate is usually within the same month that I receive them and my book projects are generally overdue).
Do I compare myself to these extraordinary women? Of course I do, laughing all the while. These comparisons are hilarious and harmless. These are fun comparisons mixed in with admiration for their talents and most importantly, their generous hearts and spirit.
However, there is another kind of comparison occurring far too often -- and these comparisons are no laughing matter. In fact and unfortunately, these comparisons can actually be hurtful.
Over and over again, many in the widowed community ask:
"Why can't I be more like 'them'?"
A widowed meets others through social media or in a support group who have done something just a bit sooner on their healing journeys. Perhaps it is the widow who has gone out on her first date or gotten a new job after years away from the workplace. Maybe it's the widower who courageously made a big change -- sold a home or pursued a dream career or hobby. Whatever the case, a great many widowed are looking at others who might be just a little further along in their recovery...and the lament echoes:
"Why can't I be more like 'them'?"
You know why you can't be more like "them"?
Because you're you!
We are each unique. We are entirely individual. Even if we lost our spouses in the exact same fashion, our journeys prior to and since losing our spouses are singular. You must embrace your particular journey, as well as assume control of the healing journey that belongs to you alone.
I know of widowed who begin dating within months after their losses. Others have waited for years to do so. There are widowed who happily and successfully remarry and others choose to remain contentedly on their own. Some sell their homes immediately and others never leave the homes that they shared with their late spouses. There are widowed who back off on their careers and those who launch their careers into high gear. Some make huge careers changes or retire from the workplace in order to volunteer or travel the world. The one common denominator is that every single widowed out there is making the choices that are right for them and for their own healing journey.
Now, if you are not where you would like to be in your healing journey -- if you feel as though you would like to be further along and just don't know how to move forward -- that's another story and there is an abundance of help and support available to you. But please do not look at others in the widowed community and compare your progress (or what you may perceive to be a lack thereof). Your healing journey is not a competition, and it is certainly not a race to some imaginary finish line.
I encourage you to take one moment out of your day to just stop. Stop and look back at how far you have come on your Healing Journey, regardless of how much or how little time has passed since your loss. Take pride in what you have accomplished, no matter how large or small...and you know what? I'll bet that there is at least one widowed out there who would marvel at how far you have come.
And just for the record, I make the world's greatest roast chicken and taco salad -- and I can also draw a straight line with liquid eyeliner. Don't laugh! It's a start.
Carole's latest book, "Happily Even After..." has been selected as a finalist for the prestigious Books for a Better Life Award. For more information about Carole Brody Fleet and Widows Wear Stilettos, please visit www.widowswearstilettos.com.