Sunday, December 1, 2013

Thou Shalt Not Covet, But Sometimes I Do

It's one of the 10 commandments. It's the last one, which doesn't make it unimportant, but at least moves it on down the list. Right?

Thou shalt not covet. In other words, don't want what belongs to someone else.

Yet our society is full of coveting, if not what belongs to someone else specifically, then what we do not have. We're practically programmed by television to want more, better, different, to never be satisfied. Never mind that it goes against the basic ideas drilled into us from an early age in Sunday School. This time of year nearly every commercial break urges us to covet, to acquire, to want more and better. A good example are those in which someone gets a new car, but looks longingly at a different new car driving by. Seriously? If you give me a new car I will not complain, as long as I don't have to make payments on it.

I'm probably as guilty as a lot of people. But I don't covet someone else's husband, house or car. I wouldn't swap what I have for what someone else has with all the baggage that goes along with it.

I wouldn't want a bigger house with the monthly mortgage that would bring. Even if it were paid for, there's the increased cost of utilities, maintenance and taxes. Someone else's husband seems too good to be true; well, he probably is and mine is darn near perfect for me, thank you. And cars, well, I do miss having a convertible, but I wouldn't swap my paid for SUV for one I suddenly had to make payments on.

Often the things we covet, or desire for a more accurate term when we don't necessarily want a specific item, come with a lot of things we may not think about when we're doing the actual coveting. When we fall into that trap, we can make ourselves unhappy reaching for something that, when we have it fills us with regret or perhaps a long-term obligation like a hefty car payment or mortgage. No thank you.

What I find myself coveting is something so innocent and celebratory as a Facebook status. And I feel really bad when I do it.

After a hard week of tending dogs and children, facing a day of dog grooming and no real break in sight, I've found myself reduced to tears by someone else's plans for the weekend. It's a terrible reaction to their joy and how full my life is, but it still happens. Blame it on exhaustion and bad timing, but down deep it's still something ugly. It's jealousy and coveting, wishing my day was someone else's and their day was mine.

Often their status updates are something I once did and took for granted as they may do. Going out to breakfast and then a day of shopping, an evening out with the girls, or, heaven forbid, a trip to the beach.

I'll be honest, we have carryout food most every weekend for one or two meals. We go out to eat maybe once or twice a month. That's it. I miss not worrying about money and calories. Shopping is a trip for groceries or some serious time on Amazon or Ebay, it's not a recreational activity unless I'm wandering around Goodwill or its near equivalent. I cannot remember the last vacation we were able to take, but I know it was before I left my next to the last job, so lets say seven or eight years, minimum. It may have been a beach trip the fall we got married, which would put it at 10 years ago.

So, yes, I sometimes covet, but at the heart of it I realize it isn't their lives I covet, it's the life I once had. Yet, at the same time, I'm so glad to not have that life any more that those little bits and pieces that I miss are hardly worth the time it takes to miss them. And it's only during those really already blue moments that I even think of them at all.

When it comes right down to it, I know that my life is full of things that other people covet as well.

If I make it to my workout classes or even walk dogs or workout with a YouTube video in my living room, there are people who wish they were physically able to exercise, or had the motivation to do it.

When I post a picture of my grandchildren, there are a lot of people who wish they had grandchildren of their own, or who wish they were able to spend so much time with them and be such a big part of their lives.

If I brag or complain about my children, there are people who miss the children they never had, or the children that they love who are no longer with them.

Even ifI talk about a busy day in my kennel when I'm exhausted by everything I've had to get done, there are undoubtedly people who wish they were self employed and suffering the same exhaustion.

When I feel myself falling into that coveting mode, wishing for things I don't have, I need to remind myself of those facts, those things I still take for granted that are blessings many people don't enjoy. We might all take a minute to think of our lives and Facebook posts in that light sometimes. It may make us appreciate what we have a whole lot more.

I might also try to be sincere when I congratulate my friends on what they have, instead of mentally begrudging them the things I miss or still want. That part of the equation may take a little more work, and its success will probably depend on how tired and frustrated I am at any given time.

But it's a worthy goal and perhaps will help me turn my occasional covetousness into genuine gratefulness, for myself and those I care about as well.

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