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I was feeling a little creative and decided to write a parable. I hope you enjoy it and find value in the lesson!
I Wish I Could be More Like Her
She pulled up to the valet and slowly pulled herself up and out of the driver’s seat of her white Honda sedan. We really need to invest in an SUV, she thought to herself as she waddled around the front of the car to her husband.
Their second baby was due in 6 weeks. This would likely be their last date night for a long time so while she wanted nothing more than to lay on the couch, she had instead gotten ready for their night out. It was a crisp winter night and it felt much later in the evening than it actually was. She hoped the cold would somehow give her a burst of energy.
A gush of warm air greeted them as they walked into the cozy, dimly lit Italian restaurant. A young woman, probably a college student, smiled at them and asked for the name of their reservation.
The restaurant wasn’t overly fancy, but it was nice enough. She watched out of the corner of her eye as the petite hostess subtly gave her a once-over and briskly led the way to their table. Yes dear, she thought defensively, I am wearing leggings out to dinner. Come back to me when YOU’RE 8 months pregnant.
Her husband walked over to sit on the booth side of the table, knowing his pregnant wife probably wouldn’t be comfortable [fit] in that space. She draped her bulky black maternity coat over the back of her chair. Her belly bumped into the table as she tried to sit down, knocking over the salt shaker. “Depth perception was never your strong suit,” her husband joked. She let out a mock laugh without cracking a smile. “Veryyyy funny,” she replied.
She began to quickly look around the room to familiarize herself with her surroundings. The tables were very close together – not the ideal set up. But overall the restaurant was comfortable and inviting. She didn’t recognize any of the other guests, which gave her a feeling of relief.
She finished up her brief evaluation with the couple seated next to them. Her eyes fell on the woman sitting at the adjacent table. She was very attractive and put-together. Manicured nails, carefully styled, blonde highlighted hair, and just enough make-up.
She looked to see if the woman was married, a habit of hers. Yes, a sparkling diamond engagement ring sat above an equally sparkling wedding band. She noticed the woman’s perfectly snug skinny jeans and the sleek stilettos that complimented her fashionable blouse and blazer ensemble.
She had noted all of this in a matter of seconds and immediately felt insecure and jealous. She hadn’t touched up her highlights in months and her hair, which was pulled back in a slick bun at the nape of her neck, was now half brunette on the top and half blonde on the bottom. She had gained 55 pounds so far with this pregnancy, much like her first. She was on the tall side, but had a smaller frame so she felt the extra weight was very noticeable, despite her husband’s rebuttals.
She fiddled with her engagement ring as she carefully studied her husband to see if he would notice the attractive woman sitting next to him. He looked up at her.
“What’s the matter?”, he asked.
“What do you mean?”
“You look upset.”
“No, I’m not upset. That’s just my face. You know, resting bitch face.” She stuck her tongue out in jest. He laughed and returned to reading the menu.
She glanced over at the woman again. I miss being that – a care-free and weightless person. Before kids. When I was well-rested, even though I didn’t think so at the time. And we could go out without having to watch the clock. She’s so thin. I’ll never be that thin again. Not after 2 pregnancies of indulgence and my sedentary lifestyle.
The server came over for their drink order. “I’ll have a glass of pinot grigio,” she confidently asked. She knew there was a chance the server would look at her with judgment, but she didn’t care. She believed an occasional glass of wine was ok while pregnant, and she really needed it right now.
She pretended to look at something to her left, and once again stole a glimpse of the woman. She probably notices me looking at her and thinks I’m a complete creep. Ugh. I’m a frumpy mom. My maternity clothes are old. I’m wearing riding boots that I bought 5 years ago which don’t even fit me anymore because my feet have grown AGAIN with this pregnancy. What am I doing?? And who am I kidding? I was never as put-together as this woman was, even before I had kids.
She was feeling increasingly worse, but she couldn’t stop comparing herself to this woman.
The server returned with her glass of wine. As she slowly sipped she thought, “I wish I could be more like her.”
The Other Side
As her husband handed the keys to the valet, she jumped out of their black Mercedes SUV. This damn SUV – what a pointless purchase, she thought to herself as her husband walked over to her, grabbing her hand.
It was a cold night in mid-winter. They were catching an earlier dinner so that they could make the 8 pm showing of the newest movie. She would have much rather taken an ambien and crawled into bed, especially after the bad news they had received yet again. But she knew she couldn’t let herself fall back into that dark place, so she had instead taken the afternoon to get ready for their date night, hoping the constant primping would distract her.
A gush of warm air greeted them as they walked into the cozy, dimly lit Italian restaurant. A young woman, not yet jaded by life’s blows, smiled at them and asked for the name of their reservation.
The restaurant wasn’t overly fancy, but it was nice enough. She watched out of the corner of her eye as the bright-eyed hostess subtly gave her a once-over and briskly led the way to their table. Oh darling, she thought starkly, I was you once. Thinking I had the world by its horns, that I would get what every woman gets. But, life doesn’t always go according to plan. You’ll see.
Her husband took the chair as she nimbly slid into the booth side of the table. For a moment they sat in awkward silence. Her eyes met his, but her heart couldn’t take the grief she saw in them. She quickly looked away and began examining her environment.
The tables were uncomfortably close together, but overall, the restaurant was welcoming and pleasant. She quickly scanned the faces of the other guests. No one she knew was there, and she felt grateful.
As she went to grab her glass of water, her eyes fell on the woman sitting at the adjacent table. She looked tired, but radiant at the same time. Her skin was glowing and her eyes were glistening.
She immediately moved her gaze down to the woman’s midriff, a habit of hers. She was pregnant. She longingly took in the woman’s flowing maternity top, carefully falling over her stomach which held a most prized possession.
She had noted all of this in a matter of seconds and instantly felt a pang of jealousy and anger. They had been trying to get pregnant for three years. She had foolishly assumed that it would happen quickly, exactly when she wanted it to happen. But the months flew by and the disappointments piled up. Eventually the couple had turned to IVF.
They had completed their second round with high hopes, despite the failure of the first round. It was just yesterday that she had nervously dialed the fertility clinic to find out the result of her pregnancy test. Negative.
She stared blankly into the flickering candle in the center of their small table.
“Is everything ok?”, her husband asked.
She looked up. “Oh, yeah. I was trying to remember if I shut off the curling iron. I’m certain I did.”
She smiled and he winked back at her. He returned to reading the wine list and she carefully watched him to see if he would notice the pregnant woman sitting next to him.
She glanced over at the woman again. I want that so badly – to create a life, something of my very own. I’ve wanted kids for as long as I can remember. She looks so happy and content. I wonder if I’ll ever get to experience pregnancy.
The server came over for their drink order. “I’ll have a vodka tonic,” she softly replied. She knew there was a chance her husband would look at her with concern, but she didn’t care. There was no possibility of a baby, and she really needed it right now.
She pretended to drop something and reached down, catching a glimpse of the woman’s belly under the table. She must be close to her due date. I can’t imagine the excitement she’s feeling. Why won’t my body do what it was made to do?? Maybe the next and final round will work. Oh, who am I kidding? It’s not in the cards for me. I wasn’t meant to be a mother.
She was becoming increasingly upset, but she couldn’t stop thinking about this woman.
The server returned with her drink. As she took a big gulp, she thought, “I would give anything to be in her shoes.”
I Am You, and You Are Me
One last glance, she concluded to herself.
Suddenly, their eyes connected, and for the briefest moment each woman had a complete understanding of the other. You are me, and I am you – just in a different body and life. We are the same. A sense of peace washed over them and they smiled to each other.
They then turned back to their husbands and carried on with dinner.
This story is partially true – the first part. If you know me, you probably figured out that I was the pregnant woman. We really did go to an Italian restaurant for a date night 6 weeks before our second was born. And I really did sit across from an attractive woman, and I really was incredibly jealous of her that night.
That was over a year ago, but I still remember it vividly. For whatever reason, she had a significant impact me. Maybe because I was hormonal, or maybe because I was feeling really down about my physical appearance, or maybe both. And for whatever reason, that memory popped into my mind as I drove to work the other day.
However, this time I thought about it differently. In my imagination, I had completely created a life for this woman based upon her looks. And that life, of course, was everything that I felt my life was lacking at the time. But the truth of the matter is, I didn’t know that woman and I had no insight into her life at all.
So what if, I pondered, SHE was actually looking at ME and doing the same thing? What if there was something about me that she wanted? What if we were feeling the same emotions, even though our lives were clearly very different?
I decided to write this story as a reminder that: 1. You never know what someone else is going through and 2. NO ONE has the perfect life – absolutely no one. Often times, things are not as we perceive them to be.
The thing is, we never really know how much someone else is hurting. We could be sitting next to someone who is broken, and we would have no idea. Compound that with the fact that we know our life in and out, and so we tend to take the worst of ourselves and compare it to someone else’s best (or what we perceive their best to be). That’s never going to feel good.
The moral of the story: We’re all the same – we’re souls in a body. We feel the same emotions and carry many of the same worries and burdens.
The next time you find yourself wishing you were more like so and so, or wanting the life of someone else, remember that they have their struggles, too. Then take a moment to think about what you DO have and a few things that you are TRULY grateful for. Shift your thinking so that instead of wanting what you think someone else has, you are content and satisfied with what you have.