Childhood · Nostalgia · Stories

Week 38: Focusing on the ‘Haves’| Everyday Nostalgia

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My daughter Zoey and I are standing on the edge of a sidewalk, looking up. Wanting to take advantage of the day’s late afternoon warmth, we have decided to take a walk to the park, but something has stopped us in our tracks.

That something is a house. But not just any house. A house that stands so proud and prominent on this corner that anyone would have a hard time not taking a moment to stop and admire it.

For the past year and a half, Zoey and I watched this house take shape, and it has turned into a home so massive that it looks like multiple families should live here. Yet, from what I can gather, it’s meant for just one: There’s only one street number mounted to its flawless exterior.

Aside from its enormity, it’s also extremely beautiful: Its sleek, modern lines make it architecturally interesting. Floor to ceiling windows surround its walls, and from where I stand, I can see the daylight filtering inside through a few of them, revealing a perfectly set dinner table and a bottle of wine that begs to be uncorked. Although the yard is small, it is meticulously landscaped. There’s even a rooftop patio, one that sits high enough on the third story so that someone escaping to its comforts would be greeted with a stunning view of the Rocky Mountains in the distance.

Looking at this house, I find myself filled with a distant, indescribable longing for something more… something different… something better. I find myself starting to play that dangerous game called comparison, one that comes packaged with the slippery, uncomfortable feelings of envy and displeasure and discouragement.

And when thoughts like these surface, as hard as you try to push them aside, it’s easy to get sidelined when you begin comparing your ‘have-nots’ to the ‘haves’ of the people around you.

Throughout my days, I’m surrounded by people who live in houses this size, if not larger. They drive fast, sleek, expensive cars. They shop at stores that I would never dream of stepping into, for fear that I would stick out like a sore thumb. They wear shoes that cost more than my monthly rent. And the lives they live—the lives of the people in this huge home—are so far out of reach from my reality:

Just a few blocks away, our small, two-bedroom apartment sits, the one filled with Ikea and Target furniture. In the basement garage of that building sits my car, one whose front end is still dented from an unfortunate fender-bender I experienced a few months back. It is the car that carries home the groceries I purchase each week with as many digital coupons as possible so I can ensure my monthly food budget stays on track.

And then there’s the two of us. I’m in a t-shirt I’ve had since college, and the pants I’m wearing are slightly frayed on the bottom and have a hole where the fabric has worn too thin. The shoes on my feet were new 2 years ago, and the sole is starting to peel away from the bottom of the right one. I glance at Zoey, who has now shifted her focus to a few fallen leaves on the ground below us. Upon arriving home earlier, she changed out of her school uniform, put on a mismatched outfit, and pulled her hair back into a messy ponytail. Although the top of Zoey’s head is peppered with three different hair clips, now, as she bends over, a few stray locks escape from them and her loose, pink rubber band. They frame the edge of her face, and I notice a small patch of blue paint on a few of the strands—a leftover reminder of her art class from earlier in the day.

We definitely look like we shouldn’t be standing anywhere close to this home.

* * *

“Look at these leaves, Zoey,” I say as I kneel down next to her and pick up two of the biggest ones I can find. “They’re huge!”

I hold the leaves up in front of her, but because they are so large, I can’t even see her face behind them. Though they’re still mostly green, soft light filters through them, revealing small strands of yellow unravelling from its veins.

“Look,” I say again. “Can you see the differences between them? The one on the left is just a little bigger and still has more of its green. And do you see how the stem is a little longer, too?”

“Come on, Mommy,” Zoey says, tilting her head to the side, allowing our eyes to connect. She takes the leaves from me and tugs at my hand with her free one. “We’ve got better things to do than this.”

We’ve got better things to do than this…

Zoey’s words give me pause. I realize I’m still standing here, playing that silly comparison game. I will myself to stop, because I know that focusing my energy on the better things that Zoey speaks of will do me far more good than wishing for the things that I know are outside the bounds of my current reality.

For now, I’ll let those have-nots—those bigger leaves—stay high on the branches above me. Maybe one day some of them will fall around me and land within my reach. When they do, perhaps I’ll gather them up, but for now, I’ll let them simply wink at me from the distance, and I won’t let their luster steal the joy and brightness of what I have and hold in my life right now.

Because when we focus on our haves instead of our have-nots, we are finally able to escape from the uncomfortable, constricting cages of envy and dissatisfaction and lonely, misplaced desires. Outside of those cages, our vision becomes broader, and it is then that we are finally able to look past our someday, one-day, maybe-even-never somethings.

It is then that we are finally able to focus on our right now, everyday everythings.

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* * *

I wrap Zoeys fingers around my own, and as we begin to walk away from the house, I look up one last time. My gaze rests upon a lone, open upstairs window. I wonder if there is a girl in sitting in the room, and I wonder if she ever finds herself longing for something more, for something bigger, better, or different. I wonder if she ever falls victim to the elusive leaves, the ones that are proudly perched on high branches above her. I send up a quick wish to her; for if she is up there, I hope she, too, will be able to find clarity in what she has, in the important things that are within her reach.

I bring my eyes back down to ground level and shift all of my focus toward Zoey.

“Race you to the park?” I ask, knowing she’ll be on board with the game.

“Just try and catch me!” she taunts as she eagerly takes off toward the park. As Zoey runs, she holds the leaves tightly in her fist, and they flap in the breeze her forward movement creates.

I catch up to Zoey, and when I do, I gather up my most important ‘have’ in my arms and listen to her delighted squeals echo down the street. I lift her and those two gold-kissed leaves high above me, and the sun is angled just-so in the sky that it seems Zoey is absorbed into it. Its rays are so intense that I momentarily have to close my eyes. A moment later, when I open them again, I see Zoey’s face haloed against the light, and it’s the sight of her face that quickly—and easily—burns out my previous thoughts of all my supposed have-nots.

* * *

So I’m left here, standing on a sidewalk, looking up at and thinking about far better things than I was just minutes earlier.

I’m thinking about the happy home we will go back to later, the one that keeps us safe. I’m thinking about the car that I will soon own outright, the one that takes Zoey to and from school, and me to and from work, and the two of us to places like the grocery store, where we are able to purchase good food to keep our bodies healthy.

Instead of thinking about what my life might be lacking, I’m thinking about just how much I truly have. Instead of thinking about what more I may want, I’m thinking about how I have just enough in this wonderful, magical, nostalgic-to-be moment we are creating.

And I’m left here, standing on a sidewalk in the midst of the sun’s slow descent, in my holey, frayed pants and falling-apart shoes, holding my happy, laughter-filled daughter with her crazy, haphazard hair, thinking about how I have everything.


Just joining me on my journey? Catch up on the Everyday Nostalgia series here.

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62 thoughts on “Week 38: Focusing on the ‘Haves’| Everyday Nostalgia

  1. Nice to look at and make plans for a better life and future. Don’t let it get you down thinking you will never achieve or get anywhere. Your daughter sounds wonderful and keeps you grounded and focused.

  2. This was beautiful. It is far too easy to get caught up in what you don’t have. I’ve been working on adjusting my mindset lately to prevent the same thing. We may not have everything we want in life, but we are blessed with every we need.

  3. I love this post so much… I fall victim to the comparison game far more than I’d ever like to admit, but you’re absolutely right. When we look at the things within reach that fill our hearts with joy, we’ll never want for anything else.

    But it’s human nature I suppose. I’m glad you have such a sweet and well grounded daughter who helps to remind you of what’s truly important in this world <3

    Beautiful writing!

  4. I do the same thing. Constantly. In almost everything – homes, clothes, physique, age, etc. It’s awful, but so easy to fall into. Next time I do it, I’ll think about your post. Thanks for the inspiration to break out of the keeping up with the jones mentality.

  5. Wow, who can’t relate to this? It is so easy to fall into the comparison trap…especially with social media. Her home is nicer, cleaner. Her kids more put together, her husband more helpful. Her job more glamorous. That’s why I like to remind myself what I am grateful for each week and see how many blessings I have!

  6. I relate to this so much. I fall into the comparison game more than I’d like to admit. I try hard not to, but it isn’t the easiest thing ever. Goodness your daughter it so wise beyond her years though. We do have more important things to do than play that game! I’m going to try to remember that.

  7. This felt like I was reading an incredible novel! I loved this so much and the message here is so beautiful. It never does us any good to sit around and compare our lives to others and focus on what we don’t have, but rather we should be focusing on all the blessings and things we do have. Enjoy your beautiful life with your beautiful daughter. That’s what matters in the end anyways. 🙂

  8. Great post! It is so true that comparison is the greatest thief of joy. If our happiness is dependent of someone else other than ourselves, then we will never be truly happy! Thanks for sharing this, it’s a great reminder for me.

  9. Beautiful. It is so difficult to avoid this dangerous comparison game…I feel like it ASKS to play with us all the time – in every component of our life. The game at work, the game at the gym, the game with the haves and have-nots. The list goes on. I love Zoey’s simple, yet wise message. We have something better to do. I’m making this my mantra for the week; it’s such an important reminder. Let Zoey know that her wisdom once again touched so many of us 🙂

  10. I love this. It’s so easy to slip into that comparison game, and I know I do it way too often. I also have so much to be thankful for, and I need to look at and enjoy it instead. Thank you for such a beautiful reminder.

  11. Comparison is so easy to fall into, and such a deep hole to climb out of once we fall in. I think social media is making it harder than it’s ever been to be content with our own blessings because every time we go online we see dozens of posts and pictures highlighting the best parts of people’s lives.

  12. Zoey sounds like someone we should all learn from, wise words. It’s so much easier to focus on what we don’t have and what we want/would like but in reality, we are so lucky to have what we already possess. A thought provoking post – thank you.

  13. This is such a wonderful reminder of focusing on the important things. I’ve been letting my thoughts of inadequacy creep in lately, comparing myself to those “perfect” moms with yoga bodies and fancy SUVs. Thank you for helping me redirect my focus on the wonderful things I already have.

  14. Beautiful! It’s so easy to get sucked into the comparison game but like Zoey said, “we’ve got better things to do than this…”

  15. This post is fantastic! I too have trouble with the comparison trap.. is so hard not to see what you have of your own! But once you stop focusing on others ita such a relief!

  16. I absolutely love this! We live in an area where we are surrounded by lots of “haves” with gorgeous homes and beautiful cars. I do feel very fortunate to be here so that I can provide a good education for my children. That is usually what I try to focus on and know that I can provide them with a warm and cozy home too. Not all families have that! To me that is worth so much more in this crazy world!

  17. This was such a great read! I’m so guilty of letting comparison steal my joy, but we just have to be thankful for what we do have and where we are on our own personal journey 🙂

    xoxo, SS

    Southern and Style

  18. This is such a beautiful story! Compassion is the thief of joy but saying that doesn’t really make things easier. But I think it’s something we’re all guilty of.

  19. This is so beautiful and wonderful… I find houses are the one material thing that gets under my skin, because they look like they deliver a whole life package – everythiing perfect in one shiny box. Today I was worrying about material things, and then realized by kids had been happily playing with acorns from the park, pretending they were a family of baby hedgehogs. So sweet and simple.

  20. Corey you’ve done it again. You somehow know how to make the most mundane events in life that I’d look right past into teachable lessons for us all. I continue to be inspired by every post you write. Thank you for a great reminder to appreciate our haves.

  21. I’ve done this, and still catch myself doing it from time to time. It’s beautiful how you shifted your story as you shifted your thoughts. We all get caught in the have’s and have-not’s. It’s pulling ourselves out of that toxic mindset that helps us see our lives and our blessings for what they truly are <3

  22. With social media, it is even easier these days to get caught up and to make comparisons. I have found that keeping a gratitude journal reminds me to be grateful.
    This is a lovely post – thank you for sharing.

  23. I think it’s important to dream about what we want to achieve and want in the future. Because it gives us something to work towards. But it’s important to not wish away our time now. The everyday things that happen now are so important. It’s what makes us who we are. As a mom I just want time to slow down so I can savor every little thing.

  24. This is so beautifully written! It’s so important to remember that while others have “haves” that you don’t, you also have “haves” said that they don’t. Like your beautiful daughter.

    Rae
    Mindful Rambles

  25. It’s easy to get caught up on other things that we don’t need. Sometimes I have to remind myself at how blessed I am. This quote is such a great reminder to all of us. Yes comparing to other is not great at all. Great post here, and I love the picture.

  26. I love this post with my entire heart…. I am a single mama too and although times can be tough, I am eternally grateful for all the wonderful blessings in my life…

  27. Oh yes. The game of comparison. Such a source of discontentment. I try not to let myself live there. All those “haves” don’t equal happiness.

  28. The comparison games can be so depressing. I find myself living in them sometimes and they’re hard to snap out of. Zoey is awesome! Sounds like she’s really positive and grounded. 🙂

    1. Yes, I wish it wasn’t so hard to snap out of those moments sometimes! But we do the best we can 🙂 And yes, Zoey seems to have a pretty good head on her shoulders. I’m so lucky! Thanks for reading 🙂

      Just a reminder, my Everyday Nostalgia posts go up every Sunday. I’d love to have you sign up for our newsletter so you don’t miss any of my stories. We’re celebrating our one year anniversary this month on the Nostalgia Diaries, and we’re so grateful you have been a part of our journey!

  29. it is far too easy to get caught up in that comparison game, what a lovely reminder to stop and really think about how much we all have to be so thankful for.

    1. Yes – gratitude can change everything, can’t it? Thanks for stopping by and reading!

      Just a reminder, my Everyday Nostalgia posts go up every Sunday. I’d love to have you sign up for our newsletter so you don’t miss any of my stories. We’re celebrating our one year anniversary this month on the Nostalgia Diaries, and we’re so grateful you have been a part of our journey!

  30. Such an amazing post with an incredible message! I really felt like I was standing there with you looking up at that house and almost automatically and subconsciously comparing it to my own. The grass will always look greener no matter what piece of grass you are standing on. Loved this!

    1. It’s so easy to think the grass is always greener isn’t it? We just have to do the best we can to appreciate what we have!

      Just a reminder, my Everyday Nostalgia posts go up every Sunday. I’d love to have you sign up for our newsletter so you don’t miss any of my stories. We’re celebrating our one year anniversary this month on the Nostalgia Diaries, and we’re so grateful you have been a part of our journey!

  31. What a powerful message and inspiration! There are lots of moments in my life when I was like you, comparing myself to others, and those are the moments that I was least joyful. Being grateful for what we have gives us the peace that we need in this life. And I guess that’s all we need. 🙂

    1. I definitely think that is all we need – the comparison game really does have a way of stealing our joy. Thanks for stopping by!

      Just a reminder, my Everyday Nostalgia posts go up every Sunday. I’d love to have you sign up for our newsletter so you don’t miss any of my stories. We’re celebrating our one year anniversary this month on the Nostalgia Diaries, and we’re so grateful you have been a part of our journey!

    1. It’s the little things that make the biggest difference, don’t you think?

      Just a reminder, my Everyday Nostalgia posts go up every Sunday. I’d love to have you sign up for our newsletter so you don’t miss any of my stories. We’re celebrating our one year anniversary this month on the Nostalgia Diaries, and we’re so grateful you have been a part of our journey!

  32. It sometimes takes me aback how our children open our eyes. I like how you adjusted your outlook and brought about the end of this story. I am smiling.

    1. Children have such a wonderful way of helping us appreciate what is right in front of us. I hope you are still smiling today! 🙂

      Just a reminder, my Everyday Nostalgia posts go up every Sunday. I’d love to have you sign up for our newsletter so you don’t miss any of my stories. We’re celebrating our one year anniversary this month on the Nostalgia Diaries, and we’re so grateful you have been a part of our journey!

  33. Such beautiful and true words. I think it’s so easy to start comparing yourself or what you have to others. But it’s important to gear our minds elsewhere, especially when we have children looking up at us. Lovely post, mama!

  34. I love the perspective on the leaves. It can be so easy to get lost in the comparison game, but it only hurts us in the end!

    1. Yes! Our children truly are such a gift.

      Just a reminder, my Everyday Nostalgia posts go up every Sunday. I’d love to have you sign up for our newsletter so you don’t miss any of my stories. We’re celebrating our one year anniversary this month on the Nostalgia Diaries, and we’re so grateful you have been a part of our journey!

    1. Yes – and being grateful for what we have might just be one of THE most important things we can do! Thanks for stopping by and reading!

      Just a reminder, my Everyday Nostalgia posts go up every Sunday. I’d love to have you sign up for our newsletter so you don’t miss any of my stories. We’re celebrating our one year anniversary this month on the Nostalgia Diaries, and we’re so grateful you have been a part of our journey!

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