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Tammy Swift, Published February 15 2014

Swift: Sometimes we need a bit of perspective

Everyone should have a friend like Penelope in their lives.

When we first met in the early ’90s, we were both young, single women, just starting out in our professional lives. We reconnected a few years later, after realizing we’d both moved into the same building.

We quickly became best friends. Many evenings were spent hanging out in my living room, bingeing on cheese-in-a-can, making snarky comments about whatever was on TV and dissecting in ridiculous detail the latest development in our jobs/relationships/diets (which we would start tomorrow after polishing off this one last package of Oreos).

But as these things do, our lives took separate paths. She got married, moved to another state and became a stay-at-home mom. I did pretty much the opposite of that (well, except for the marriage, and we all know how THAT turned out).

Thanks to the miracle of Facebook, we have managed to keep in touch. I’ve giggled while reading her hilarious updates on parenting, and realized how much I’ve missed her friendship and lively wit. I’m sure she has missed me too, if only for the stories of First Dates from Hell and the canned cheese.

So I was thrilled to receive a private Facebook message from her around the holidays. She knew that I was muddling through my first holidays as a divorcee. In classic Penelope style, she responded with a funny note, which encouraged me to keep it all in perspective.

From reading her Facebook posts, I would have assumed her life was a nonstop whirl of delightful finger-paint projects and time with two ginger-haired moppets who routinely uttered adorable, brilliant, quotable things.

Instead, she reminded me that no one has the ideal life, even if it looks that way from the spectator section. With her permission, I’m reprinting part of her note, with hopes that others can relate to it.

“Hey Tamstress:

First, my disclaimer: I love my husband and I love my kids and I love my life. I wouldn’t trade it for ANYTHING. By FAR, the good outweighs the bad. All-in-all, it’s a good gig and I’m lucky to have it.

“But sometimes I think of you and am jealous of your life. You get to just go to bed and sleep and no one throws up on you or kicks you in the face. When you wake up no one is demanding you play pretend or yelling that you need to keep him company in the bathroom when all you want to do is drink coffee and catch up on Facebook WITHOUT TALKING.

“You get to spend your day with grown-ups talking about grown-up things. You get to do exciting grown-up work and you have your own money! You get to eat dinner at 5 or 10 or whenever the hell you want, and you can have cereal or a Twix bar and don’t have to worry about setting a bad example.

“Other bonuses: You don’t have to break up fights over important issues like whether or not stuffed animals have feelings.

“You don’t have to pack school lunches, carefully including all the food groups, and then unpack and throw away that very same lunch when Mizz Picky refuses to eat anything.

“You don’t have a freezer which is filled up with your husband’s stupid venison, which no one will eat. Oh, and the dead hamster that your kids want to preserve until summer when they can give it a proper burial.

“Oh, and you don’t have in-laws. Repeat after me: NO IN-LAWS!

“Other things: You don’t have to hide in the pantry while eating a handful of chocolate chips! You don’t have to watch every Disney movie so many times that you can recite the entire script and you actually hear the songs in your dreams.

“Also, I know we’ve talked about a ‘girls’ weekend’ in Minneapolis, but I’ll likely have to wait until school is out. That’s another thing to add to your gratitude list: You can travel whenever you please! And trips don’t have to revolve around The World’s Largest Chuck E. Cheese or LEGOLAND.”

OK, OK, Penelope. Point taken. Everyone has their own stuff. And, as the saying goes, we should stop comparing our raw footage to someone else’s highlight reel.

So tonight I will eat dinner when I want, watch the TV I want and go to bed when I want.

And who knows? I may even enjoy a nice can of cheese.

Tammy Swift writes a lifestyle column every Sunday in Variety. Readers can reach her at tswiftsletten@gmail.com