Comparison is the Thief of Joy and other lessons I should have learned by now

Me comparing myself to strangers is nothing new.

When I was a kid, I became obsessed with characters in movies, books, and TV. And when I was old enough to realise they weren’t real people, I became obsessed with the actors who portrayed them. And once I was old enough to realise they weren’t real people, I… uh, yeah. I was still obsessed with them. When I was about 10 or 11, I discovered my mom’s high school year books, and became fixated with people in the pages, imagining what their lives were like, giving them back stories and pairing them off. I loved other people’s photo albums, other people’s year books, for the same reasons. And when I became a young adult and blogs and social media became not just A thing but THE thing, it was like realtime photo albums and year books – but for real people. Seemingly real people in my stratosphere.

I just liked learning about other people’s lives. And what came along with that, rather insidiously, was endless comparison. What me and my life looked like stacked against every one else’s.

You guys, I’m in my 30’s now and nothing about the above has changed. In fact, it’s only gotten worse. Thanks to social media, I’m always often distracted by Other People’s Lives to the point where it’s detrimental to my own sense of self (says my therapist).

People on the internet have it all together. There’s nothing like perfectly imperfect curated feeds with consistent, matching over exposed and slightly pink but not obviously pink filters; lovely and perfect pastel or colorful and gold tone sparsely placed flat lays; homes with elegant but casual decor – the effortless but unattainably chic blend of “quirky” knick-knaks and high end modern furnishings and beautifully “messy” rooms; “I woke up like this” artfully tossled or thrown up hair seflies; impossibly organised pantries with chalkboard labels and mason jar storage in copper wire baskets; perfectly comfortable, perfectly ripped and perfectly rolled jeans with amazing shoes; blasè mentions of brilliant careers or stay at home mom projects; workspaces with industrial stationery and expensive technology; kids that will be smarter, funnier, and better dressed than you or yours will ever be; outings with friends that will be 800% more joyful than anything you’ll ever do with your friends; captions that are effortlessly funny or ridiculously relevant with well timed emojis, hashtags as punchlines only; and 678 likes in 24 mins to make me feel like I need to throw out my life and start over. That make me overthink 99% of all my posts. That make me second-guess what I actually want, what I actually like, where I’m going with my life.

Before I know it, I’ve wasted 3 hours of my life falling into a black hole of Instagram posts and Pinterest boards trying to curate a life that I think I really need and want — because @put_together_pipers_mama decorated her room in blush pink and pastel geometric shapes with deer heads and natural wood furniture and damn that looks good on her post so now I’m convinced I need ALL THE THINGS even though I know in my deepest heart of hearts that I don’t own pastel, geometric, marble based ANYTHING because it makes me gag.

But shit, it’s hard not to fall prey to comparison when every time you open a social media app, you’re inundated with people’s high light reels. And people’s poetically phrased fail-reel. Because once you think someone is better than you, even they even seem to fail or fall on hard times, they’re doing it better than you. And it all can make you feel like a wet fart.

Humans are social creatures. We compare ourselves to each other because want, nay need to be liked (this is another soothing bit from my therapist). But what’s happening lately is we’re becoming so consumed with comparison that we’re losing sight of ourselves, with what brings us joy (thanks, doc). So whenever I’m drowning in Not Good Enough, I have to remind myself that these people have shit in their life, too. And not glamorous shit. But real, every day, life draining shit.

They’ve let the laundry pile up for 3 or more weeks.

They’ve spent $200 on groceries just to come home and order $75 worth of pizza.

They’ve waited 3 or more weeks to do laundry and instead of doing laundry, bought new underwear.

They’ve moved the bits and the bobs and the piles of crap and the stacks of shit from one side of the room to the other so they can take a picture of the clean, organised area of the room.

They’ve been alarmed at how bad their arm pits smell. In the middle of the day.

They’ve been sitting in a meeting, mindlessly touching the edge of their chin and found an inch long whisker that sprouted out of nowhere.

They’ve gotten pimples in their ear and only realised it when they put the phone to their ear too fast and with too much pressure and yelped out loud from the shocking pain.

They’ve had explosive diarrhoea in the middle of the afternoon from eating too much dairy.

They’ve done a Google search for a sweater Kristen Stewart wore in Breaking Dawn.

They’ve had diarrhoea and put their feet up on the door when someone used the stall next to them, lest they be recognised by their shoes as Someone Who Has Diarrhoea in the real world. (Why is knowing someone knows you have had diarrhoea the worst thing in the world?)

They’ve gotten awkwardly teary at work when “Must Have Been Love” by Roxette started playing on the radio at work because damnit Vivian just wanted to be loved.

They’ve left a blog post unfinished for 4 weeks only to delete it later.

They’ve failed Alegbra II. (twice!)

They’ve let the one table top surface become so covered in bullshit that they forgot there’s a table underneath it.

They’ve come up with a great come back, 6 weeks later.

They’ve gone to the grocery store specifically to get coffee, milk, and bread, and forgot to get coffee, milk, and bread.

They’ve suddenly come to, only to realise they’ve lost nearly 3 hours and have scrolled 6 years deep into Jenelle Evan’s Instagram.

They’ve had a serious emotional crisis in the grocery store deciding between shampoos.

They’ve waffled between 6 critically acclaimed, award winning, culture shifting movies and ended up binge watching both seasons of The Ashlee Simpson Show. Again.

They’ve spent 40 mins banging out paragraphs of contrary view points, laced with vitriol, in an email or a text message only to delete it all and type “ok that’s fine.” as they grind their teeth to nubs.

They also can’t parallel park without help.

They’ve, on a whim, followed a recipe to a T. They took no photos and put in no pizazz, and the recipe turns out great. They repeat the same recipe to a T on a staged surface, photographing everything, only to have it turn to shit.

 

They’ve almost shit their pants in public. They’ve had a side booger and no one said anything. They’ve felt frumpy and old standing next to someone better dressed, or someone who took a shower that morning. They’ve worked or are working bull shit jobs, they’ve been or are still being rejected. They’re facing heart break. They’ve felt small and neutered. They’ve known that this wasn’t their best, but they did it anyway. They’ve watched loved ones deteriorate from bad decisions or bad luck. Shit, even Beyonce was cheated on.

We are all people. And there’s no escaping the bullshit.

 

 

*they’ve also made an entire blog whinging about First World Problems, that, when compared to say, a child kidnapped and forced in to war, are probably the best problems to have.

 

Parallel Parking: or, easy ways to die

So, I really hate parallel parking.

I hate it in the same way that I hate pool. Because pool and parallel parking are all about “math” and “spacial reasoning” and other literal, non-abstract, clear-cut ways of doing things that I DO NOT excel at. I don’t like things I can’t bullshit my way out of. (I do, however, like ending my sentences in prepositions.) Continue reading “Parallel Parking: or, easy ways to die”

Catchup.com – September

Sooooo – how about September, huh? It’s like the whole month happened, and I slept through most of it. Today is the end of the month, and since it’s been a bit quiet around this corner of the internet, I thought I’d write a little catch up post. Mostly so I can figure out where the hell the time went. Continue reading “Catchup.com – September”

Twinkies (or, Notes on Inadequacy)

I showed up to my writer’s group tonight and couldn’t wait to share how productive I was last week – an outline! Research! Narrative! Character design! I AM PRODUCTIVE! Continue reading “Twinkies (or, Notes on Inadequacy)”

“You got out while you could.”

When the rumours started swirling that he was going to run for president, I laughed. That’s ridiculous. He’s a piece of shit, there’s no way he’d make it.

And when he officially announced his intent, I still laughed. Lots of celebrities have tried to run, but they got knocked out in just a few weeks. I laughed, but I was slightly terrified at the momentum he appeared to be gaining. People were taking him seriously. What?

And then, he won the candidacy. He had more momentum. He had an opponent who people hated. He had an opponent whose party was split between her and Bernie Sanders. And people loved him. They didn’t care that he was mocking disabled people. That he wanted to register and deport Muslims. That he wanted to build a wall to keep out Mexicans. That he wants to wipe Syria off the map. That Putin is all “I’m with him.” That he bragged about not paying his taxes. That businesses in his name failed and he denied ever having being a part of them. That he bragged about objectifying and assaulting women. He preached about tearing down all the progressive measures that America is making, swore vengeance against ISIS, and it didn’t matter. They still loved him.

I saw his name on the ballot as I voted for Hillary. I thought, this is all a joke. There’s no way such a horrible man would be elected. There’s no way he’s actually on the ballot. But there he was.

There’s no way America is that reckless.

I woke up with the same anxiety stomach pains and hot/cold flashes I’ve had all week. All morning, I was glued to my phone, refreshing the results every time my boss looked away. I don’t live in America anymore, but the election was all my coworkers wanted to talk about. Election coverage has been on the news all year, but today it was on all the channels. It started out promising – she was in the lead, narrowly, but in the lead. It felt good. The official numbers started coming in around 3:00. And by 4:00 I had to put my phone down and get up and walk away from my desk. I couldn’t focus on anything. He was leading, and it steadily grew. And then it was basically over.

When I got home from work, he was still leading. I was destroyed, but still holding out hope that maybe some miracle would come through and give her the 35 electoral college votes she needed. I was trying to get a list done for my Thanksgiving shop but once again, kept checking my phone every few minutes. I decided to go out, in a mild thunder storm, to get bacon and eggs and sausage and hash browns for dinner 1) because it was time to eat my feelings and b) I couldn’t sit still anymore. And there, in the frozen food section, while wearing sweat pants and rubber rain boots, I found out that Trump had won. Clinton conceded and he won with 276 electoral college votes. He won. I cried.

I’m still in a state of disbelief. Like, I can’t believe this has actually happened. I am so disappointed, bewildered, and outraged. Out of all the elections I’ve been able to vote in, none have felt so pivotal, so important. And I feel like we failed. We have taken a man who embodies ALL the terrible qualities of America – bigoted, impulsive, angry, rapey, bad hair – and put him in the highest position of power. Worse than that, we’ve given him a gaggle of like-minded hate bags to support him in the Congress and the Senate. What the fuck! Did this actually happen? HOW COULD THIS HAPPEN?

I’ve heard quite a few times today that I’m lucky I left when I could. But it doesn’t matter. There or here, I’m still an American. I didn’t vote for him, but this man is now my president. And I’m still subject to him. As much as I am loathe to say it, he represents my country. I’m already judged when I tell people I’m American. But now I feel like I have to say, “I’m American… but I didn’t vote for Trump!” The words “President Trump” are going to follow me like a fart cloud – crop dusting no matter where I am. I will be judged by my government. One that I didn’t choose. And that’s haunting.

I’m really scared for the next four years. I’m scared for everyone – women, LGBT, minorities, immigrants, small business owners, disabled, terminally ill, people of other countries that no doubt will be invaded by Trump’s America – everyone. I’m just scared. And I keep telling myself that if we survived 8 years of George W. Bush, then we can survive Trump. I hope we can just ban together to prevent as much sliding ass-backwards into a cave of homo/xenophobia and tax breaks for the 1%.

Today was disappointing. I feel like that one time my manager quit and was replaced by an arrogant, misogynist jackass with no experience who delegated all his work to us because he refused to learn it, and I was like, “Well, this sucks. Just gotta do the best we can.” Eventually, things evened out and he gave a promotion*. So maybe this won’t be the worst thing that’s ever happened.

Or maybe it will. I guess time will tell.

But really, I hope America learned a valuable lesson – when we say “a vote for neither is a vote for either”, it’s because it’s fucking true. Thanks heaps.

 

*wait a minute – it was a promotion without a pay raise. Man, this might be the worst thing that’s ever happened.

Lizard Brain

I got to work a little before 7:30 this morning so I could finish putting together a training manual. I thought it would be an easy day, since the day before was so hectic. But I was swarmed from the moment I stepped through the door. It was shaping up to be one of those maddeningly busy mornings at work, where every time I turn around someone was asking me to do something, or the phone was ringing, or there was another crisis to attend to.

It was one of those days where you blink and 3 hours pass.

I blinked again and 3 more hours had passed. And suddenly I was all “wow I’ve had 2 coffees and if I don’t pee right now I’ll probably die.” So I got up to go to the bathroom. I walked down the hall and through the atrium that separates the bathroom from the rest of the floor without noticing anything, totally on autopilot. It was when I was leaving the bathroom that I saw the little guy on the ground.

He was a little lizard, laid out on the tile between the two doors of the atrium. He was almost the same greenish brown colour as the tiles, so I wasn’t surprised that I didn’t see him on my way in. I was surprised that he wasn’t moving at all, in my experience lizards are either skittish, or dead. And this one wasn’t moving when I got near him, or when I opened or closed the doors. So I assumed he was dead. Poor guy.

I walked out of the bathroom and told some of my coworkers that I found a dead lizard in the bathroom. I’m not sure why, maybe they would want to see it? It was pretty weird thing to find in the bathroom, considering how far away our second level bathroom is from the outside world. And it was such a busy day, and I was on such autopilot that seeing a lizard in the bathroom basically stopped my brain in its tracks. They asked if he looked stomped on. Fortunately, he looked like he died of natural causes.

I went back to clean up the lizard and give him a burial. The idea of flushing him crossed my mind, but then I realised a) he might get clogged, and b) flushing an animal is pretty fucked up. I opened the door to the atrium, and he once again didn’t move. I decided to gather him in some paper towels and put him outside – circle of life and all. As I got closer to him, I decided to check for one more sign of life. I stomped my foot near him – and there! His head moved slightly to the right. LIFE, HE IS ALIVE!

I got so excited that I ran out of the atrium looking for something to corral him with. I found a little takeaway container with a lid in our staff kitchen and ran back to the bathroom. He was still lying there, but when I gently shoo’d him into the container, he made almost no objection. It’s like he knew I wanted to help. Or he was just too freaked out to put up a fight. He crawled into the tub and I put the lid on without sealing it so he wouldn’t be able to jump out. I showed him around, named him Blinky, and then took him outside.

I made sure to look him in the eye, and then I wished him well and let him go in the grassy/mulchy landscaped bits in front of our building. He quickly crawled under some mulch, and disappeared.

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I don’t know why, but finding and freeing that lizard was absolutely the high light of my day. It was exciting and awesome, and I felt like I had done something good for the world. And I couldn’t stop thinking – how the fuck did it get in here?

I imagined him crawling up all the steps and in a moment of perfect timing, making it through both sets of automatic doors. Or what if one of the kids found him on the way in and lost track of him when he saw the toys in the lobby? I thought of him slinking around unnoticed through all the rooms, narrowly avoiding being crushed under foot, hitching a ride on patient’s bags, living off crumbs, and trying with all this might to get back to his world as he became sick and dehydrated and cold. I thought of how something told him to go to the bathroom, like maybe something told him that’s where he would find water. But there, almost on the brink of death, he passed out in the atrium. And then I found him. And I put him back in the outside. And maybe it wasn’t his world? Maybe he still couldn’t find water. Maybe he was eaten by a huntsman.

It was a bit of perspective. Yeah, my day is so busy that I forget to eat lunch or go to the bathroom, but at least I’m not lost in some gigantic, terrifying and frozen world with no food and no water, where 900 ft tall creatures can’t see me and almost stomp me or chase me or otherwise try to kill me, where one of those giant creatures in a big yellow dress traps me in a plastic box and squeals to her coworkers that she “caught a lizard!” before releasing me into a world that’s just as scary and huge and different but equally as terrifying. Like seriously. That lizard has seen some shit. My day was cake compared to that.

But hey…

At least I didn’t step on him.