I finally put away all the Christmas decorations. Which is a big accomplishment for me for two reasons. I’m a procrastinator and I have an embarrassingly large number of tubs stuffed with Christmas décor. (Okay, so maybe a tendency toward hoarding is a third reason.) It was with a great sigh of relief that I snapped the lid on the last tote and sent my patient husband off on his final trip to the storage unit. But there was one last purge that was the most therapeutic of all. Throwing away the holiday magazines.
Each year around October, I gleefully await their arrival in my mailbox. I immediately begin dog-earing recipe pages here and there, noting which exotic appetizers I'll make for the party. Making mental note of how I’m going to wrap all my gifts to coordinate. Drooling at that layer cake on the cover that I’m determined to actually make this year. Those magazines lay spread on my coffee table for months, mocking me. The holidays ticking away, day by day, while I fail to live up to the "Most Wonderful Christmas Ever." The gifts start off beautifully wrapped with coordinating ribbon, then, being unable to stomach the thought of one more trip into shopping madness, I resort to a crumpled piece of Hello Kitty wrapping from 1998. The crushed peppermint didn't stick to the rim of my cocktail glasses and a platter of sausage balls were found, forgotten, in the microwave the morning after the party. The cover story still screaming from the coffee table: “Set the Perfect Holiday Table.” You know the accompanying photo. The one where a team of stylists has designed the perfect center pieces and a lighting crew has drawn you into the scene where you can picture your family, gathered around, all smiles and full of love. What is cropped out of that picture is the kitchen where the ham juice is running off the counter, onto the floor as the dog tracks it down the hall and the Jenga-worthy tower of dirty dishes fills the sink. The picture doesn’t include audio of you berating your husband earlier in the day for not preheating the oven when you asked him. Or the disappointing phone call from the child who decided to go to the in-laws instead.
Theodore Roosevelt said that “comparison is the thief of joy.” There is no craftier thief than a magazine exec looking to sell us an enviable life. When we choose to live in constant comparison, we miss out on the joy of what is uniquely ours. God desires for us to live a life of freedom, content in knowing that His love for us is not dependent on any performance. Breaking free from the trap of comparison requires an intentional change in your thinking and can be a day-to-day struggle. I have to remind myself often to make the choice to be thankful. Don't let anyone (or any magazine) steal your joy!
Now, am I cancelling any subscriptions? No way. I gotta make that cake next year.
Carla Edmisten lives in Ladysmith, VA with her family. She is a social worker, writer and speaker. Invite Carla to speak at your event, get more information here.