Are you familiar with the expression “the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence”? This idiom has been around for a really long time, and I’ve heard it a lot.
The literal meaning is that you look over your neighbor’s fence and see their grass as being healthier, more lush, and (of course) greener. You’re not close enough to see the crabgrass, the brown patches, the places where it’s been mowed down just a bit too much. Just like us worn-down humans, with junk and dark places, grass sometimes looks pretty good until you get REALLY close.
The proverbial meaning of this expression is that, in our humanness, we often look at other people’s lives and believe that theirs MUST be better than ours. We see their world through “rose colored glasses”. Other people’s situations “look” more attractive than ours.
We might think, “Wow, my friend Susan has it all. She has an amazing career, she travels all the time, she wears beautiful clothes.” If Susan heard you say that her response just might be, “Are you kidding? I’d give anything to get out of this rat race, to leave a simpler life, to spend more time at home, and with friends like you.”
You may hear someone say, “I wish I had a marriage (relationship, partnership) like John and Alice do. They’re SO happy and in love, their home is beautiful, and their kids are always so well-behaved.” Who knows what goes on behind closed doors? John and Alice may not even speak to each other at home, live in a house that’s beautiful outside, but anything but peaceful inside, and have kids who sit in front of the TV all day.
In 1929, Helen Keller wrote, “When one door of happiness closes, another opens, but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one that has been opened for us.”
For some people, it wouldn’t matter how loved, financially secure, popular or blessed they are, it could ALWAYS be better. They can never truly BE happy. There’s always greener grass to pursue. The irony that Keller was physically blind, but could “see” so much more clearly than many of us, is not lost on me.
That leads to the issue of “happiness”. What really makes YOU happy? Often many of the things we say we WANT (in order to be content) have a financial price tag attached to them. Would the acquisition of a second home, a more expensive car or one more handbag REALLY make you satisfied, or would it simply fill a void for a very short time?
The things that don’t have financial prices attached to them: health friendship, love, creativity, and laughter, are the ones that truly matter. Of course, we can spend money enjoying or maintaining these things, but for the most part we don’t, or shouldn’t have to, “buy” them. We often forget the value in making the most of what we do have.
Of course, some times the “grass IS greener”. If you’re in a relationship or job or situation where you’re not respected; where you’re unfilled; where you’re not valued, then it just may be time to reinvent your life. In these cases, you do need to step out of the safety of the grass you’re standing on and move to the other side.
Finally, keep in mind, that there aren’t just two sides: “their awesome green grass” and “our, not so great looking grass”. We aren’t limited to choosing one over the other. There are a myriad of alternatives between the two.
We can continually evolve and recreate ourselves on this journey we call life. In this odyssey, as we grow and learn about who we really are, we can choose to nurture greener grass and we can choose to put on a new pair of rose-colored glasses. We can choose to walk a path where we’ve learned how to fertilize what we have, throw away glasses that don’t help up see clearly, and CREATE the life we want to live.