Comparison Stopping

In my time, I have been a black-belt master at comparing myself to other people.

I must have been using some kind of fun-house yardstick to measure the differences, because invariably I came up short (and I’m not referring to my five-foot-nothing height).

According to the fun-house yardstick,  The Other Person (TOP) usually:

  • had more money (see the BMW and designer handbag?), ergo was a far better financial manager than my struggling peon self,  orwhite whale
  • had a svelte figure, while I was Moby Donna, the Great White Whale, or
  • kept her house spotless, unlike my own hit-or-miss (more often missed) efforts

I could go on (and on, and on), but you get the idea.

I wasted a whole lot of time beating myself up for my perceived inadequacies and failures.  I had a lot of help with that from the media, which could always be counted upon to  reinforce my abysmal self-image, and from advertising (there’s tons of money to be made by whipping up people’s insecurities and presenting a variety of “solutions”, each more expensive than the last.)

I might have gone on like this indefinitely if I hadn’t hit a particularly rough patch in my life  (I guess you could call it a blessing in very heavy disguise) and ended up in counseling.  With all the craziness going on in my life, I was startled when the first thing the counselor zeroed in on was my dysfunctional relationship with…me.  (Say who???)

We talked at length about my tendency to compare myself to other people (always to my detriment) and how this was actually an effective form of self-sabotage.  (If I’m a total failure, then what’s the use in trying?) We also discussed how other people were probably not the perfect paragons I built them up to be in my own mind.  My homework assignment for the week was to jot down a note every time I caught myself wielding that fun-house yardstick, plus–and this is really good–describe how I was comparing my own insides to other people’s public outsides.

Talk about a revelation!  hard battle

I realized I didn’t know anything about these people beyond what I saw in a quick surface glimpse.  I disliked and resented them because I pounced on one thing that made me feel bad about myself. I had no clue what they were really like.  I had no idea what problems and challenges they might face in their lives.  I had been  every bit as unfair to these people as I’d been to myself, and, while they would never have a clue about it, I knew.  And I didn’t want to be that person, not any more.

I’m still very much a work in progress, but the operative word is progress.  I try to keep in mind that we’re all in this life together, everybody’s doing the best they can with what they’ve got, and kindness doesn’t cost a damn thing.

Take care, all!

PS:
If you catch yourself  comparing yourself to somebody else, remember:
uniqueness

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What-if…..

See that brightly-smiling lady snuggled up to the singularly handsome bearded gentleman?  This picture was taken at a Kenny Wayne Shepherd/Johnny Lang concert last summer.

Judd and Donna's Big Adventure
Judd and Donna’s Big Adventure

It was held at a medium-sized, very crowded venue called the Hard Rock Rocksino.  To get  to the seating area she had to walk through acres of slot machines, noise and flashing lights.  She’d never been there before, had no idea what to expect, but look at her–she’s absolutely glowing.

You’d never guess it, but for years that same lady was terrified of crowds and unfamiliar places.  She developed a comforting routine built around well-known stores, arriving just as their doors opened and scurrying home long before the thundering herd (read: more than ten people) arrived.  Anything outside this routine left her riddled with anxiety and totally drained of energy.

I know all this because I’m that lady.

The year leading up to that concert was insanely stressful, and I’d been clinging to my safe little burrow even more tenaciously than usual. My wonderful husband and I both tend to be homebodies, so there was no pressure to go out, do stuff, socialize.  I might have stayed in my cozily decorated rut indefinitely if I hadn’t seen the ad online: “Kenny Wayne Shepherd/Jonny Lang.  Hard Rock Rocksino.  June 23.”

I knew my husband liked both of these performers a lot.  The date was close to our anniversary, and tickets to the concert would be a terrific present.  The price was reasonable, the drive wasn’t bad, and he’d be thrilled.  Making Judd happy is one of my favorite things to do, so I jumped out of my chair and headed for the stairs to run it by him.

And then the voice of the Great God What-if weighed in, stopping me in my tracks.

Oh, the melodrama...
Oh, the melodrama…

What-if my nerves short-circuited and I got sick on the way to the venue?  Or, even worse, what-if I got sick at the venue? What-if I passed out?  (Note: this last thing has never happened to me in my entire life, but  I tend not to consider such fine points when I’m in full-blown catastrophic mode.)

“Better not chance it”, warned the Great God What-if.  “You don’t need more stress in your life right now.  Stay in your comfort zone.”

“But Judd would really love to go to that concert,” I argued.

“Judd won’t even know about it if you don’t tell him.  No harm done.”

I would really love to go to that concert!”

“Now, Donna.  What if you get all the way out there, have a panic attack and have to come all the way home again?”

That almost stopped me.  I visualized the humiliating scenario and cringed.  But then I straightened my shoulders, tossed back my hair and replied, “What-if I don’t?”

And the Great God What-if fell silent.

With that, I pounded up the stairs to tell Judd we were gonna go see Kenny Wayne and Jonny.

Aging Gratefully

happiness3

TRUE, DAT!

I haven’t become an overnight-sensation-best-selling-author who will never have to worry about money again in this life.

Nor have I discovered the Fountain of Youth (as my knees will attest) and my generously upholstered derriere is in no danger of  fitting into a size zero.  (Is size zero really a thing?)

The lottery gods certainly haven’t smiled upon me, and the Lords of Karma know where I live and still pay occasional house calls.

Life hasn’t magically become all yellow brick roads, rainbows and lollipops.  It’s more like a tapestry of bright and dark with occasional flashes of circus-colored lunacy.

In other words, it’s life, on life’s terms.  And it ain’t about to change just to suit my convenience.

So it’s a good thing I finally pulled my head out of the comfortably upholstered derriere mentioned above and stopped obsessing about stuff I didn’t have or things that didn’t turn out the way I’d hoped.

Instead, I took a long look at the good things that were right under my nose.  (Einstein moment: thinking about good things is much more happy-making than dwelling on bad ones.) 

There were lots of them–some big, some small. Enough to contribute a whole lot of bright to life’s tapestry.

And I realized that I’m one lucky little old white-haired chica who has a whole bunch of reasons to be grateful.

Life is…life.

But there’s always bright in the tapestry–if I choose to see it.