My mother will tell you that from the time I was a tot I had a tendency to compare. In my eyes everyone else was prettier, more talented, and happier than I was. And in the many, many conversations my mom and I had on the subject, she usually mentioned at some point that famous adage: The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.
In my adult years, I got a little better at focusing on my own “lawn” instead of my neighbors’. But becoming an unschooler really kicked that old tendency to compare into overdrive.
In the early days, when I was questioning everything and felt so unsure, it was relieving to turn to the “experts” in the field. I wanted to do this unschooling thing absolutely right (that’s the over-achiever in me rearing its ugly head!) So I read and listened and attended workshops until I was steeped in the philosophy. In doing so, I learned much from those who have tread this path before me – including the fact that I had to let go of the whole over-achiever thing, and be willing to walk this path without an expertly drawn “road map” to keep me from making any mistakes.
Watching some of these experts triggered that little-girl tendency in me to start comparing colors. Hmmm…why was THAT lawn so green and well-manicured? Mine looked like a disaster next to it. My mistakes marred the view like patches of crabgrass. Unsightly weeds popped up constantly: messy rooms, angry moments, bored children… just to name a few. What am I doing wrong? I wondered.
I came to the conclusion that I simply didn’t have a “green thumb”, and that left to my own devices, my side of the fence would soon become a sand lot. So instead of tapping into my own experiences and intuition, I climbed up the fence and tried to imitate what I thought I saw on the other side.
Turns out, there were a few problems with that method.
First of all, some of the “experts” out there are mainly interested in the appearance of a prize-winning lawn. Sometimes they downplay the weedy patches. Sometimes they even hide or deny them. But if I weren’t so busy gazing into their yards, it wouldn’t matter so much.
Second, no one but me is dealing with this exact lawn. Nobody else has my unique mix of soil pH, insects, waterfall, and plant life. So, as helpful as some expert advice can be, no one but me can truly know which advice is pertinent to my particular patch of land. And no one but me knows that land so well or cares for it so deeply. Trying to imitate someone else’s lawn, or feeling like a failure because of a rogue dandelion here and there does not help me on this journey. And in focusing on my lawn’s shortcomings, I miss out on the joys: the sun on my face, the birds singing above, the feeling of soft grass between my toes.
Have you ever struggled with lawn-watching? Like a 50 lb sack of manure, comparing is a heavy burden. It saps us of strength and withers our confidence. So I’ve decided to climb down, turn around, and face my own lawn for a change – and I hope you will, too. In the end, it’s a far better view.