I’m sorry I spend too much time wanting to be her rather than me.
When you say you love me, I can boomerang it back easily enough. And it’s true. I do. I have since day one, when I walked away from my apartment with one bedroom and one cat (OK, she came along and lasted many years thereafter) life, and into your arms.
I never looked back.
You bring comfort to my heart and encouragement for my soul that could only have been ordained by God. The nicknames you came up with from the first moment (just like my mom), the way you tie your shoes, the little songs you make up (just like your mom). It’s not too hard to love you.
But when it comes to me . . . well, I look around.
Receiving your compliments as a trustworthy wife (though that was always my goal) and a wonderful mom (though I’ve never wanted to be called the opposite) breaks through the shell of my cheerful playground love. My insecurities and self-doubt ooze out. I drop the boomerang and focus on me.
I play the comparison game.
There are so many impressive women around me. Organized women. More reserved women. Such independent, thoughtful, put-together types who wake up and follow their routines and make their homes something predictably special. She makes sure the beds get made and her daughter’s hair is brushed and she finishes her homeschool lessons in time for that afternoon appointment. She plants a garden and knows what to cook every night for dinner. She isn’t addicted to Facebook. She can play the guitar, and makes pie on a regular basis. She writes and gets published—working on her memoir as we speak. She plays board games with her kids. Her gluten-free bread is perfect, and you know how I always run out of Xanthan gum on baking day and get that crumbly loaf.
When the comparison oozes out of my broken places, it’s hard to love me; to trust what you see.
I spend so much time wishing you’d married the me I wish I could be so I could really just be more like her. But the her I want to be is a monster of perfection. She doesn’t exist. Still, after 10 years of marriage, I have no words of gracious reception for your kindness. Instead, I protest. You are more and more thankful for me each year? Oh yeah?! I’ll show you how bad I am. How I don’t compare. How I am too intense and get too fired up trying to fix things in the world, that I forget about the dishes. How I never put on makeup. How I lost the account statements, so you’ll have to call the bank. Oh, and I forgot to pay that bill on time, again. We need forks for dinner.
But then I look in the mirror and think, you really did choose me, didn’t you?
It was eventually the energetic, bubbly blonde, heart on my sleeve, I-can’t-remember-to-pull-meat-out-of-the-freezer-so-what-can-I-put-over-this-rice-tonight me who drew you out and wants to be stuck to your side. We don’t fit each other like a glove. There’s a lot we have to work through. But where there’s a will, there’s a way—and I’m so glad you want to, because you make life an adventure, and I like it. Maybe somehow, I am a part of the equation.
It’s just so hard to see.
Too often, I feel weak. I only see the flaws. I am frozen in place by my perfectionist’s fear of failure and eye for comparison; all the valid, admirable things I see in her that I wish I could be. Is it even possible that she has hard moments too? That she even finds something to like in me as you always assert she does when I collapse on your kind words?
Maybe it’s true. Maybe the game won’t go away; I’ll just get stronger.
I’ll play it less often. I resolve: the next time you tell me how much more you love me than the day before, I will grit my teeth into a smile as my shell breaks. Then I’ll muffle up the voice of self-doubt that shouts back in protest. I’ll try not to think about me or even her, and just focus on you, my love. I’ll pick up that boomerang and tell you how much I need you and want you back. I’ll build something soft and springy and warm for your compliment to rest on.
Maybe I’ll even remember to say thank you.
And I think one day, I’ll believe you; that this marriage was meant for me to fill the “wife-y for life-y” shoes (your silly words, not mine). Every part of me, the one you love and the one who suits you. That is the hope I’ll hang on—that I’ll be able to acknowledge in me what you say you see. And until that day, I’ll stop wasting my energy wishing I was her, and just keep being me.
You may also like: