The familiar rush of anger hit me square in the chest. He was doing it again! I turned away quickly, so my face, which was always my mirror to the world, would not give me away.”Another family dinner ruined,” I thought derisively.
My emotions finally under control, I glanced up to see my mother watching me with patient love and acceptance, almost as if she could read my thoughts. I tried to smile but could not hide the pain that smoldered beneath the surface of my anger. Why was this so hard?
Sometime later, after the dishes were sent back to the cabinet to rest until needed again, and the kitchen cleaned, scrubbed and tidied for tomorrow, she found me like she always did when I was upset.
“You don’t have to do this to yourself,” she said gently. I could only stare blankly at my hands, wondering why I was so fortunate to have been born with a twin brother. As her words sunk into my consciousness, I became sullen, certain as only a 14 year old can, that I would never know my place in the world.
We sat like that, my mother and I, until she decided that I had sulked long enough. She turned to me, her love light shining brightly in her eyes, and said softly, squeezing my hands for emphasis, “Don’t ever compare yourself to others.”
I nodded but couldn’t stop myself from responding, “I just can’t help it sometimes! We have the same teachers and the same friends, but I can just never do as well as him.”
To her credit, my mother did not lose her calm demeanor, even though laughter was burbling up her throat. “You should hear yourself,” she managed to say between taking deep breaths. “You act like everything should be equal just because you were born twins!”
The accusation stung me into silence. Is that really what I thought? I took a moment to think back over the past few months and it suddenly dawned on me that she was absolutely right. In a weak attempt to defend myself, I said, “Isn’t that what everyone thinks?”
She shook her head, smiling warmly at me. “No dearie, that is definitely not what everyone thinks.” She leaned over to kiss me good night, murmured her usual “sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite,” and stood up to leave. As she reached the door, she paused and patted her pocket. Her hand found a small slip of paper and she handed it to me, palm up. I had no choice but to stand up and accept her offering. “I meant to give you this earlier.”
“Thank you,” I said with a smile. “You made me feel so much better.”
“I love you,” she said, walking back over to hug me tightly.
After she left, I took the paper and sat on the floor next to my bed. I had a lot to think about and I wanted to write about it in my journal. I absently set aside the paper and opened my journal, but no words came to me. I waited but a wall seemed to exist between my usually fluid flow of thoughts and my pen. After my backside began to go numb, I sighed and moved to sit on my bed.
The note still lay on the floor where I had carelessly tossed it. Since I was getting nowhere in my journal writing, I leaned over and grabbed it. It was a single piece of notebook paper, folded in half, with a handwritten note on the outside.
“Open only when you are ready,” it said in my mother’s cursive.
I smiled at her message. She knew me too well. I would readily dismiss her wisdom if I was still in a snit from dinner. It was only after I calmed down and could review the dinner scene without anger that I would have an open mind to hear her words.
I figured that I had nothing to lose and everything to gain. So I unfolded the note and read its simple message. Words danced on the page as their impact hit me square in my heart. The paper fluttered to my lap as I accepted her words and changed the course of my life.
Don’t compare. Comparison is the thief of joy. Enough said.