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Friday, January 27, 2012

Comparing is Toxic

One doesn’t need to be sitting on a mountaintop see what’s around them as they contemplate life.   And this is especially true for those whose only distractions are doctor appointments, new symptoms to contend with, isolation, the loss of sensation throughout the body and a myriad of other health-related issues, including the management of the bills that come as regularly as the sunset.    I’ve written about it in other posts, calling it “To Be.”  I’m certainly far from the first to write about it and take no credit for it.  And this isn’t about bragging rights for I am completely remiss when it comes to relationships (romantic ones),  career, parenting….and the list goes on.  We all of our strengths and weaknesses, right?
One of the most difficult thing about this blog and I’m guessing, others like it (that deal with health issues) is that we must walk a fine line between telling the truth and not sounding like self-serving, pity-seeking cry babies who are looking for sympathy anywhere they can find it.  That isn’t my goal (although I have been all those things many times) and my guess is that the authors of these types of blogs have the same thing in mind as I do: education about our illness, the sharing of personal triumphs and challenges while keeping a sense of humor, grace and a wish to serve, even if it touches just one person. 
And one person is a lot; I don’t mean to make it sound unimportant.  It counts.  Big time.  And when I finally let go of wanting to “make a difference” to a mass of people; when I started writing this for myself and when I fully accepted that maybe no one would read it or that someone I love might misinterpret something and become offended,  that’s when I began to really come clean.  I must speak my truth to survive and would never write anything to purposely hurt someone else..  Listen: everyone complains about something but few of us put it in writing.  You can reveal your truth without revealing names.
Sometimes I read or hear about people with health issues far worse than my own.  Someone just told me yesterday that Stephen Hawking, that brilliant physicist who has ALS and can only communicate by touching his tongue to the inside of his cheek (literally, the only part of his body he can control) who writes papers and even can translate words on paper (by touching his tongue to his cheek) to a voice synthesizer that takes hours and hours to upload, has lost that ability.  I was moved to tears when I heard that.  And when I think of all his contributions and what it must be like to be in “locked in” mode  He can see and hear, but that’s about it.
This kind of news makes me fall apart inside.  This is what makes me want to beat myself up for not “trying harder” to do more.  This is when I forget that I don’t have the brain (the magnificent part) of Stephen Hawking even if I didn’t have all my challenges.  It doesn’t do any good for us to hold ourselves up to someone else, especially someone as advanced intellectually as Mr. Hawking.  All I can do is my best, and no one knows what that is but me.  And yet, the voice in my head beats me up almost daily, telling me I could, would, should, ought to….what’s that saying?  “Don’t should on yourself it causes hardening of the oughteries” 
But it’s hard not to in this, our results driven society, where if you are not a multi-millionaire by the time you’re 30 you feel like a failure. Healthy people feel the need to compare as well.  It’s a killer, that comparing.  I’ve written a lot about it. Here’s a little test you can do to prove my point.   I’ve done this test a bunch of times and it’s amazing that the results are always the same.
The next time you are feeling rotten about something (emotionally) sit yourself down close your eyes and ask yourself what you were thinking about when the rotten feelings emerged.   You will see that almost every time (with few exceptions, those being the death of someone you love, a friend going through something awful, etc.) you were thinking about something someone else has or has achieved, someone you love who just took a trip, a friend who just got a new something or other and you start thinking about all that you don’t have and If you are honest with yourself you will feel it in your body immediately.  That feeling of worthlessness, of being bad, not good enough, not trying hard enough, etc.  That “rotten” feeling that got you to sit down and do my little test in the first place.
The good news?  The second you stop comparing yourself to them (or anyone, including the likes of Stephen Hawking or Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie) you feel it in your body immediately…there is a lift that will sustain itself if you let it.  Also, anti-depressants help (lol).  But seriously…stop comparing.  That’s a good lessons for everyone, not just sick people.  Because it’s false.  We are who we are and our lives, whether they are full of sun filled days with no worries whatsoever or filled with challenge after challenge, are ours to do with whatever we see fit, even with our restrictions.
Besides, if life is too easy we don’t learn or grow.  That’s what challenges are all about.  To have it too easy is really a kind of curse.  So turn off your television when the award shows come one (or just turn it off and read) and be thankful for your life exactly how it is and exactly how it isn’t.  And stop comparing.  Now. 

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