My friends just bought a new house and it’s awesome. There’s an amazing loft space, that when I saw I thought, “I want to write here,” and two spare bedrooms, of which they told me I have my choice of using anytime I want. And it’s exactly ten minutes from my front door to theirs, if I catch the light by Buffalo Wild Wings just right. I timed it while I was heading there last week to help them deep-clean their new kitchen.
It’s surprising, the kind of conversation that can come when you’re elbow-deep in bleach and 409 Multi-Surface Cleaner. While I stood on her counter scrubbing her cabinets and she sat on the floor scrubbing her base boards, my friend said that I was worrying her because I wasn’t saying anything about the house and she was thinking that I didn’t like it. What I was actually thinking, though, was that I was jealous that she and her husband were moving forward in their life by buying this house and that I was coveting their loft space. And that’s what I told my friend, only it came out, “I’m so happy for you, but…”
I realize now that this is pretty much my mantra, this “but…” phrasing: It’s good, but…; I had a great time, but…; I’m proud of myself, but…; It’s a big deal, but…; I’m happy, but…; I’m excited, but…; and on and on it goes.
What I also realize now is that this kind of thinking is crazy-making for me and the people who have to live with me. I can only imagine how my friend felt when I sucked the joy out of an awesome moment we could have. Because what I should have said, what I should have told this person whom I love and for whom I’m actually really excited, is that I think she and her husband are going to have an incredible home. I should’ve told her that I think they already take care of people well and that I think their home will be a place where people feel taken care of. I should’ve told her that I’m eager for the meals that will be eaten around their table. I should’ve told her that I’m excited about the holidays that will be celebrated, and the heartbreaks that will be healed, and the babies that will be held, all within the walls of their home. I should’ve told her that I was happy for her, and should’ve left it at that. But…I’m a “but” head, and I didn’t say any of it. Instead, I turned it into an opportunity to feel sorry for myself.
I know some of these “buts” are legitimate. I know that some of these things that I’m thinking and feeling are reasonable, so it’s not like I’m being totally ridiculous. I’m only being a little bit ridiculous. And it’s okay that I have some ridiculous moments along the way, but I can’t camp out in them. I can’t drag the feeling-sorry-for-myself into moments that should be only filled with joy – like when my BFF tells me to feel the baby kick,or when I’m babysitting solo for the first time, or when one of my seniors tackle-hugs me because she got into college, or when my friends buy a house. These are moments that are all about these other people and the good things going on in their lives, and I need to seize the gift of being invited to share in it with them. These are moments in which I have permission to check-out of what’s bad and check-into what’s good. These are moments made for celebrating. No “buts” about it.