The Thief of Joy

You are probably doing better than you think you are.

We plan to remodel our kitchen this fall/winter. This means we are looking at lots of pictures of other people’s kitchens. Every single person’s kitchen looks better than our kitchen does.

Their kitchen has less clutter. Everything is put away. There are no water spots on their stainless steel appliances. All their appliances match. There is not a pile of undealt-with mail on the corner of the counter. There is no dribble spot on the counter where coffee dripped from the spoon.

Comparison, Roosevelt is alleged to have said, is the thief of joy. So, I think, is Pinterest.

But intellectually, I know that we are not slobs. Our house is in process, and their photos were staged. They prepared for us to see their kitchen and put it in the best light. What I see online is a fiction.

I’m trying to embrace my identity as a writer these days. I’m working on a book. I have two weekly newsletters with an international readership. I have loyal members who pay money to support and benefit from my work. I reluctantly accept the idea that I might be a writer.

There is a writer’s club in my town. They had not met in person for over two years because of the pandemic, but they recently started back. I figured I would go check them out.

The room had perhaps 20 people in it. The speaker that day was someone who had self-published his memoir. He mentioned that it was important to have a website, and the audience wrote that tip down like it was the gospel from God. He mentioned ebooks reluctantly, as if they were a radical new technology. He doesn’t have an email list or any record of people who have bought his books. To his credit, he mentioned how much he has made from his publishing efforts each year. People in the audience oohed and ahhed.

I make that from the membership program every 4 months.

I’m not trying to put him down in any way. After all, he has a book published, whereas mine is just in progress. But by many measures, I am ahead of him as someone who makes part of his living from his writing. Just like he was way ahead of the people in the audience, many of whom dream of having someone who is not related to them read their words.

In short, we are all in process. And how we feel like we are doing at any given point depends largely on who we are comparing ourselves to.

Here are five things I thought were beautiful

  • I don’t know anything about the person behind the Instagram account macrofying, but they do an amazing job of macrophotographing the everyday and the mundane.
  • So much of the ocean is unknown to us. Here, for instance, is the first-ever video of a jellyfish so rare, that it has only been spotted twice. It looks completely alien.
  • Nina Leen was one of the first, if not the first, woman photographers for Life magazine. Her photos have a surreal quality that beg to be captioned. They capture real people, not staged, doing mundane things in a way that seems surreal. I love these so much.
  • I know y’all are tired of photos from the Webb Telescope, but I had to share these spiral galaxies. Especially interesting are the comparisons to the same photos taken with the Hubble.
  • On the subject of comparisons – I find it helpful to remind myself that “famous” people are, by and large, basically people who are noted for something, rather than being people who are innate special. Like, they are not a special breed of people. The People Map is an interesting project where they map the most “notable” person in each location on the US map. Sometimes, the most notable person from your town is a serial killer. Notable People does the same thing using slightly different data but on a global scale (you can zoom in to get quite granular).

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