Beware the phantom

By Byron Moore, posted February 6, 2017

Originally published in the News Star and the Shreveport Times on Sunday, February 5, 2017.

Q: My husband and I both have good jobs. We have a young family and even though we have a nice life, it isn’t like we have a ton of money left over every month. But we’ve got friends that just seem like they are always taking nice vacations, driving new cats and live in really nice neighborhoods. Are they just up to their ears in debt? Is there something we are missing?

A: Yes there is. You may be missing your own life.

beware the phantomSo…beware the phantom.

The phantom does not exist, but she is very, very real. The phantom is every person you know wrapped into one, but featuring only the best aspects of their lives.

So the phantom has the most attentive husband, the most appreciative children, the closest family (in which nobody ever screams at anybody else ever), the most interesting, well-paying job, the dearest of friends, the coolest boss, amazing athletic ability and two weeks postpartum no one could tell she was ever pregnant.

How can your life compete with that?

Well, it can’t. And it was never meant to.

Real life is messy and imperfect. In real life you have to make sacrifices now to have something you want more later. In real life you experience failure and you get disappointed in yourself and in those closest to you.

But in real life, you also get an opportunity to grow and change and experience the intimacy that can only happen through struggle.

In real life you don’t have enough money to do everything that looks cool and interesting to you right now. So you make trade-offs. Or you work harder…or smarter. Or you draft a spending plan with your spouse that takes into account your limited resources, but moves to the top of the list the things in life that are really important to both of you.

And as are result of the struggle, you’re actually closer than you would have been without the struggle. Maybe. Hopefully.

Like the horizon, the phantom always seems close enough to admire, but always too far to reach. She is air-brushed, photo-shopped, made up and dressed to kill.

But the phantom is really just a cancer that metastasizes throughout your soul, choking out the joy of what you have, with the necrotic habit of comparison to something that isn’t even real.

The best thing you can do with the phantom is acknowledge her existence, deny her legitimacy and show her the door.

Your home will be a lot happier without her.

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