There is a woman in my school who I want to hate, but I can’t. She is my age, but looks 15 years younger. She runs. For fun.
She is a superb teacher; she can actually speak coherently about both state and national standards in every curriculum area. Without sounding smug.
Her students love her; their parents love her. She plans the best field trips, teaches the most accurate and detailed lessons, creates the most innovative projects. And I don’t think she even knows how to yell at kids. Its like she’s missing the cranky muscles or something.
She is also funny, kind, friendly, generous and thoughtful. You see the problem, right?
In everything that I do at school, I feel the comparisons to The Woman Who Does Everything Better Than You. She’s there, in my head, every day.
Sometimes I go through phases where I think that everyone is somehow better than me. More virtuous, more honest, more hardworking. And I just get so tired of trying to measure up!
I am married to a man who is unfailingly calm. When he is at his most moody and crabby, he gets quiet. When I am crabby, I snipe and whine and complain. I make snarkly little comments that I know are unfair even as they are formed and sent out to their target. I can’t be him.
I have friends who always go to the birthday party/shower/dinner/wedding/cookout, no matter whether they want to or not. They smile, they are charming, they are gracious. I find flimsy excuses to skip social events, then beat myself up all night about what a bad friend I am.
And then there is the issue of health. Overall, I am a remarkably healthy woman for my age. Good cholesterol, good blood pressure, good blood sugar. The only medicine I take is a baby aspirin a day, and a few supplements. Somehow, in my twisted little mind, good health equates to living a virtuous life. But only for me!
You see, when my friends or family get sick or develop health problems, I feel empathy and support and warmth. I wish them well! When I develop aching joints and fatigue, I immediately attribute it to being too fat, too lazy, not athletic enough. If I hurt my back (like I did this morning while walking 170 pounds of canine energy), I blame it on my low pain tolerance and my tendency to avoid aerobic exercise.
A cold is my failure to eat enough vegetables. Insomnia is due to weight. Headache? The wine I had with dinner.
In my head, my recent bout of irritability with my class was due to my own lack of patience, not to the fact that four eleven year old boys have discovered the joys of testosterone pooling. The fact that my lawn is too high and my garden completely overgrown? Obviously it is because I am a lazy slug, not because we are having a spring season that mimics the Amazon jungle in terms of rain and heat.
I know that this is a stupid way to approach life. I know that it is self-defeating and supremely counterproductive.
See? I lack the mental fortitude to snap myself out of it.
I bet that The Woman Who Does Everything Better Than You isn’t having this conversation with herself today.