The thief of joy

The old and new bridges at Penobscot Narrows, Maine, 2012

The old and new bridges at Penobscot Narrows, Maine, 2012

“Comparison is the thief of joy.”Teddy Roosevelt

Which bridge do you like best?  Perhaps you favor the sleek, clean lines of the new bridge, and find the older one unattractive.  Or maybe you like the ornate and romantic construction of the older bridge, alongside which the new one looks bare and cold.  Regardless of your taste, you might find that one bridge suffers in comparison with the other, even though each is beautiful in its own way.

When I read the quote from Roosevelt about comparison, it had the ring of truth to me.  How many times have you known someone– maybe it was even you– who was satisfied with her paycheck until she found out a co-worker made more?  Or who loved his car, until the new model came out?  Do you know tech-loving people who are overjoyed with their new computers…until an even faster, bigger, better one becomes available?  Ever toured a fabulous home that made yours seem tiny and shabby in comparison?

During the years Jeff was in school, we had very little money.  I didn’t really mind that, unless…I WENT SHOPPING! Going into the stores filled with endless clothes and gorgeous linens and housewares, I was keenly aware of how tiny and drab our apartment was.  But when I was home, I was happy.  We had each other, our books, and our own cozy little place, and that was more than enough for me.

Wouldn’t life be happier if we could quit comparing everything from appearances to paychecks to homes to cars to academic prowess?  How much better to enjoy our differences and appreciate the things we have!  Today, I hope you will take note of the unique places, people and experiences that make up your life.  You are the only one who has that exact combination of assets.  Guard your joy!  Don’t let it be stolen by useless comparison.

I was inspired by Michael Lai’s wonderful tour of bridges from all over the world.




  1. singleseatfighterpilot

    I thought I possessed a creative writing skill until I started reading more of the things you write, Julia

    • Thanks, Eric – but remember, don’t compare! 🙂

  2. I completely agree. We all spend far too much time comparing our lives and what we have with others, only to find we feel what we are or have isn’t as good somehow. For years I worked long hours to have money to spend, but was still never satisfied. I was stressed and unhappy. Five years ago I gave it all up. Now I’m poorer, but have a much better life & am much happier. But I still compare myself to others!

    • It so hard to NOT compare, isn’t it? We seem hard-wired to constantly judge one thing by another. I suppose it can be helpful in some circumstances, but when I saw the quote it immediately hit home with me because of the many times I’ve been perfectly happy until I learned what others were doing or having or being. I will say that, having lived a very frugal life through various financial situations, I think less is really more when it comes to spending. Too often our possessions end up owning us, rather than the other way around. I applaud your decision to seek joy elsewhere. Thanks for being here!

  3. Thank You, BeLOVE Julia. Your first words immediately brought to mind the “Desiderata” 1927 prose poem by American writer, Max Ehrmann. Wise man. Who wrote “If you comapre yourself with others…” [instead of] …Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.” i take His advice and enJOY coming here for you beautifully do also. i ‘choose’ to ‘Count it All Joy’. Prayers & agape Love to you & yours.

    • Kate, when I was a young woman still living at home, my mother introduced me to the “Desiderata” and I have loved it ever since. I especially focused on the closing words, which say (in my memory, which may be flawed) “with all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.” I suppose that’s the theme of this blog. I appreciate your visits here, and especially your prayers!

  4. Carlyle

    I especially appreciated today’s blog. I hate comparisons! I have inveighed against such as long as I can remember. The only legitimate comparison is how does whatever you are comparing stand against what is true.

    • Daddy, thanks for not only sharing these words here, but living them out for as long as I have known you. As a child I never feared disapproval for hearing that “different drummer” although I knew that you and Mama expected us to live by the highest ethical standards. “Do your own thing” was a very popular and often-misused phrase in the 60’s, but you really did give us the freedom to be who we are, and for that, I will always be grateful. I don’t remember you ever comparing any of your children to each other or to other people. And I do remember that there were many people seen by others as “different” who were always welcomed into our home.

  5. Carolyn

    Some days I wish those days,of so little, were back. Hope you have a great day.

    • Carolyn, I totally agree, especially when I have the sort of computer hassles I’m having now! My sons probably got so sick of hearing my “when I was a kid we only had 3 black and white TV channels and went to see a movie once or twice a year if we were lucky!” diatribes. But I would not take anything for all the hours we spent in childhood, playing hide and seek until dark with our gang of friends in the neighborhood. I don’t see how any gadget or screen could have given us more.

  6. Wonderfully said! Sorry about your computer. 😦

    • Thanks Barb. Boy, is it ever strange to have only limited access to the computer and internet! In a way it’s good though. Plenty of other stuff to do in the meantime.

  7. Sheila

    Julia, I suppose to be satisfied with what we have and where we are in life is an exception in this materialistic world. Modest upbringing for me has kept me humble and modest in my later life. I am so glad that I find joy in simplicity but appreciate grandeur! We’re camping!
    Hope all is well in Alexandria. Sheila

    • Hi Sheila, I think it’s definitely an advantage to know how to live frugally, and I’m glad for the lean times I have lived through. The sort of grandeur that you can see while camping isn’t for sale anyway! Nothing wrong with enjoying grandeur and even luxury, as long as one doesn’t require it. We are doing OK but Jeff has been very sick today. At first I was afraid it was chemo-related, some sort of nasty side effect that just now came up, but now we think it may just be a viral bug. He seems to feel a bit better tonight, but I hope he can eat again soon…I don’t want him losing any more weight! Hope you have a wonderful camping outing.

      • Sheila

        I’ve heard of so many this week that are dealing with that dreaded bug. I would send some chicken soup if I could! Feel better, Jeff.

        • Thanks, Sheila!

  8. merry

    Julia, thanks for sharing this inspiring post. I enjoyed seeing the bridges in the link.
    Hope Jeff recovers from the bug. I’m trying to get over the flu…yes the flu~/… and I had a flu shot, wash my hands often and wipe down shopping buggies; still managed to pick it up…

    • Same with Jeff, flu shot, hand-washing etc. but sometimes it gets you anyway! I hope you are feeling better soon! Thanks for visiting here.

  9. Scott

    It is hard not to compare. But in comparing the bridges my first thought was the the older bridge was not laid out with a computer and keyboard. Slide Rules were the tool of necessity and should not be dismissed as old school. As with all tools, they are no more reliable than the operators–GIGO. The Empire State Building and the Golden Gate are fine examples of what an engineer could produce using “yesterday’s” tools.

    This is far afield from where you were headed. But that’s the beauty of blogs. 🙂

    • Scott, I appreciate your comment; I’m one who is often accused of “chasing rabbits” and it drives my husband crazy that I will sometime interrupt myself to go off on another topic even while I’m speaking! But you make a very good point. My Dad learned to fly and became an airline pilot back in the days when they used big charts and round slide rules to navigate and plan their flights. I can remember seeing him spread out the maps and study details that seemed like a foreign language to me. Now everything is done by computer but I would like to think that today’s pilots still know the underlying principles, just as I hope today’s architects could design a structure without the use of a computer, if necessary. And yes, the beauty of blogs lies in the interactive capability; where once we just read text, now we can respond to it and continue the conversation. Thanks for joining in!

      • Scott

        Thanks for responding. Way back in 1965 I was an avionics repairman in the Air Force. Yes, the navigators can still revert back to basics when the situation calls for it. One of my duty stations was Ramey AFB, Puerto Rico. One night our wing commander was returning from the mainland when the aircraft took a lightning strike. It took out everything electrical, even the lights. They were out over the Atlantic, in the dark, and on their own. Using the star chart, a whiskey compass, and a flashlight he managed to safely find their way home.

        • Wow, that’s the kind of story you like to hear about later, after all the danger has passed. I guess that’s what the call “flying by the seat of the pants.” BTW, you mentioned the Golden Gate Bridge; I had a post about it here; it’s certainly a remarkable achievement, any way you look at it. Thanks for visiting!

  10. Mwh

    Julia, you know I appreciate your writing, but I want to talk about the bridge. I hope you went up the tower and experienced the great view. Carolyn and I love that new bridge. Monte Holland

    • Monte, we had limited time that day and were unable to go to the observatory, but in reading about it, I certainly hope we can go back again. I also wanted to explore the historic fort. So much to see- so little time! Thanks for visiting and for the travel tip.

  11. Ellis Anderson

    Thank you so much for this Julia, you made my day – once again!

    • Ellis, I am so happy you like it! Thanks for visiting here – give our best to Larry.

  12. Luckily, we’ve never tried to ‘keep-up-with-the-Jones’. It’s the downfall of many a budget. When I told our friend and landlord that I buy most of my everyday clothes at the grocery store, he laughed and said, “that’s very efficient”. BTW, I fancy the older bridge. Don’t you just love visiting ‘The Retiree Diary’? Michaels photo’s are nothing short of amazing. Did you see the one with the ancient woodcarvings? Stunning.

    • I agree, it’s a losing proposition to try to keep up with others OR even with all the latest fads and fashions. Michael’s blog truly is AMAZING. I haven’t seen the ancient wood carvings, though…I’ll have to look that one up.

  13. So true. We cannot but compare ourselves with others. Human default setting is set to “compare”, I think. In moderation is not a problem but when can we stop at moderate? We like to run or walk slowly, rarely just so.
    I went without a television for several years and it was bliss. Very enjoyable to not see the commercials telling me what I was missing. I missed nothing.
    Sorry to see you are sharing your coffee moments with your computer so literally! Hope it is fixed soon. 🙂

    • I agree with you about TV, I quit watching it over 20 years ago and have not missed it one bit. Now I’m spending less and less time with the newspapers and radio because of all the commercials and “bad news” stories. Moderation is very difficult for me, especially with things that distract me, so it’s easier to just avoid the media altogether and spend my time on something that leaves me feeling happier and more satisfied. I hope to get my old computer back next week – Windows 8 (on the computer I’m using now) is a real pain.

      • Yes, I decided to not have new year’s resolutions this year and to read less news as the stories were so depressing. I want to read inspiring stories. These don’t seem to create revenue for the media. 😦 Pleased that your coffee dunked computer will be returned soon. I can so relate to that! Been there. 🙂 A right of passage to being a geek perhaps? Knighted? Lady Julia arise.

        • I love it! Actually the “arise” has a double meaning today since I’ve been down since late yesterday with whatever my husband had. As sick as I’ve felt, I am actually relieved since that probably means it was not chemo or cancer related. We’ll keep our fingers crossed that the computer comes back with all or at least most of its data intact. Thanks for being here!

          • We do not know our own strength.
            I am the chief bottle/tin opener in our household. A small and humbling role but an important one just the same. 🙂
            I hope that if tinned soup is all that you can muster up today may it be delicious and easily opened. 🙂

            • Thanks so much! I’m happy to report that I’m feeling much better now. I appreciate your kind words!

  14. “Flying by the seat of one’s pants” has far more to do with spatial orientation than strictly navigational considerations. I believe a “rabbit trail” – or even an actual blog entry – could capitalize on this as a fascinating metaphor. Scott – do you find it interesting that even the most modern of today’s aircraft still have basic instruments (as back-ups) that depend only upon air pressure, and simple gyros?

    • I’m glad to know there are still basic instruments there as back-ups! I just hope they get enough practice with them to know how to use them :-). I couldn’t help feeling that Captain Sully’s age had something to do with why he was able to pull of the “miracle on the Hudson.” Of course, as he was the first to admit, there was far more than skill involved in that.

  15. That’s the key to happiness. These days we are struggling a bit. I will have a whole life to grumble if I start comparing myself with my sister or my colleagues. But I am only glad that I have something that many others lack – two daughters to love me, a loving husband to support me. I will never that joy be stolen.

    • YES you have the best treasures in your loved ones. I find that I am quite happy with my life if I don’t look at what other women my age (who are now enjoying the freedom of “empty nest” years) are able to do. Since Jeff’s illness I have been so happy just to have him with us.

  16. I always wanted to see what was over the next hill when I was young, in my life I got the chance to visit all of the Beautiful states, save the Dakotas, and New Hampshire we have, and in each I felt the comfort of being free. Everyone of them had special beauties that would make one stand In awe! They were full of simple things that were utterly beautiful, hand crafts, natures beauty, rivers, streams, mountains and every sunrise and sunset you can see it in a more beautiful way. It was always the simple little things that were special…and one of the most special things was the way I was treated in each state when I was around the ordinary people, I felt a certain kindred spirit with all who I met, like you are welcome to stay here, because no matter the outward appearance we are the same because I can feel your real and genuine spirit! Like the song it is a wonderful world, you just need time each day to dwell within while outwardly you take time to smell the roses, nourishing in the blessing of Gods love!.

    • Wendell, I can so identify with what you are saying. There’s a lot of talk about how much is wrong with the world but to me it’s a beautiful place in so many ways, and most especially the truly good and interesting “everyday people” we meet everywhere we go. I think that’s why Jeff and I like to visit places like grocery stores and libraries, and use the public transportation when we travel. That’s where we really get a feel for how life goes on everywhere, similar to ours and yet different enough to be interesting. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts here, it really brightened my day!


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