The Comparison Complex (1/27/2016)

Remember that time you dropped a few pounds, felt really good about yourself and then you got on Instagram to take a photo and saw a photo of one of your friends?

She had lost a little bit more than you and had on a great new outfit.

The 15 pounds you lost suddenly seemed…pitiful.

You were depressed, upset and angry that you hadn’t lost more.

“She can lose all that weight because she doesn’t have kids, so she has time to go to the gym,” you think to yourself.

“And that’s another thing – she doesn’t have children. She didn’t have stretch marks and I bet her stomach was still flat,” you think.

Before long, you’ve gone from celebrating your own success to being miserable because someone else’s success may have been a smidge better.

What your friend achieves has nothing to do with you.

It’s not going to take away from what you’ve done.

It’s not going to make you less than.

It’s not going to cause your success to be any less.

Just like what you do really doesn’t take away from someone else’s success and achievements.

For some warped, twisted reason, we seem to think if someone gets the car we want, the house we dream of, or has any type of success it’s an indicator of our failure.

We have created imaginary limitations that make us think if someone does something great, that means we have to fail.

Life shouldn’t be a competition, but somehow…that’s what it’s become.

It’s like we are in a race where only the first one across can break that finish line tape, when it really shouldn’t be that way.

I don’t even consider it a jealousy type thing. If anything, it’s more like some twisted comparison complex where we spend all day comparing ourselves to someone else and coming up short.

If it was just jealousy, it would be a heck of lot more benign.

When I am jealous, it’s because it’s something that I wish I had or could do or achieved that I hadn’t – but maybe one day would. Like I am jealous of women who know how to decorate and make the tiniest spaces look divine. I am jealous – but I am able to gush and tell them how envious I am sincerely.

When I fall into the comparison trap, I am coming up less than and trying to find a way to decrease the other person’s value in the meantime.

“She has a better job than me, and I don’t know why, she doesn’t have my education. I bet I know how she got it…”

“She’s always posting on Facebook how great her husband is…well, last I heard, he was cheating on her….”

These are some of the themes we play in our heads to justify why someone else has success or happiness. Whatever you call it – it’s just something that makes you feel like you are a total failure the size of Texas.

That’s what comparison does.

It’s like someone saying, “That’s comparing apples and oranges.”

Two totally different fruits. Some people like citrus; personally, I am not fan of either but you can dip an apple in caramel.

Does the apple worry about the orange? About the fact the orange can be easily peeled and cut into sections? Or that there are seedless varieties?

Of course not. Just as the orange does not care that the apple can be baked in a pie.

And I am not saying we are fruit, but instead of focusing on what someone else does or has, we need to focus on our own happiness.

Instead of feeling a twinge of happiness if we find an unflattering picture of them on Facebook and snickering, “I knew they PhotoShopped that photo of themselves in that bathing suit!” we can direct our attention towards the positive things in our lives.

Tearing ourselves down with a comparison complex only causes us to subsequently tear others down, just to make ourselves feel better. And it’s not working, either.

Instead, we feel worse and then guilty for being such jerks.

Next time we want to celebrate what we have accomplished, let’s just celebrate it – rejoice in what we did, how made it through something, met our goals, whatever we did.

But put the focus on that.

And let the comparison end there.

Nice doesn’t always win (1/20/2016)

My uncle is always nice.

Sometimes, he was probably too nice.

Mama’s nice, too; she’s always told me to start with nice first, then see what needs to be done after that.

I’ve followed her heeding of being nice but, sometimes, you just can’t be nice. Nice doesn’t
always win.

“I need your advice,” was how she started the conversation.

Ten minutes later, it was evident that my mama and uncle were being grossly and unfairly taken advantage of – something I had cautioned her about the week earlier, but to her, I am still a child so I don’t know anything.

“I don’t know what to do, and your uncle is being his usual too nice self,” she said.

I knew that side of my uncle too well. He sees the good in everybody and takes in all the strays, four and two-legged.

“Let me handle it,” I said and hung up.

And I did.

It was not pretty, but it was handled.

I started off being polite but firm.

That didn’t work, because unfortunately, the man on the other end of the phone thought he was talking to some girl who didn’t know anything.

I gave him enough rope to hang himself with, and then told him what the real facts were.

“This will be taken care of,” I told him. “My uncle is nice, my mother is nice; I, however, am not.”

A few days later, the situation was resolved, hopefully for good.

“What did you do?” Mama asked.

“Don’t worry, Mama, I didn’t do anything wrong, I just was willing to do what y’all didn’t want to.”

“What’s that?”

“I wasn’t nice.”

Mama always put a premium on niceness. She always felt like being nice and kind would get you further in life. “Please and thank you still go a long way,” she would remind me as I grew up.

Maybe it would – if everyone else played by those rules.

But everyone else was given a different playbook and usually, it is some sort of warped Darwinism where instead of the weak, the mean ones went after the nice ones. Or the ones they thought were least likely to make a scene or stir the pot.

Now, Mama has made a scene a time or two, once in Macy’s and once in Belk, but it was after she had exhausted her nice.

But that was centuries ago and growing older seems to just knock a little bit of the wind out of your sails sometimes.

I knew the incident occurred largely because my uncle stutters some and people think that means he’s slow; he’s not slow but a communication barrier can make for an easy target when someone wants to be underhanded.

I was assured by the man I spoke with this was not the case.

But, he said, part of the fault was how my uncle had described the problem.

“For $1,300, I think you could have figured out the problem without my uncle saying a word,” I replied.

I had that tone, the tone my grandmother could get that probably scared the devil to the far corners.

It used to send chills down my spine when she used it. I remember her once telling someone on the phone she knew beyond a shadow of a doubt they were trying to cheat her because my grandfather was in the hospital with Alzheimer’s.

“Just so you know, Robert was the nice one,” she said. “I’m not.”

Dear Lord have mercy – my grandfather had been the nice one?

I think I hid for two days after that. Granny unleashed locusts and probably some flying monkeys. It was scary.

Lamar is the nice one in our marriage, and I have heard him tell someone on the phone before, “Please don’t make me get my wife; you really don’t want to have to deal with her.”

They didn’t heed his warning, and regretted it.

He had a recent situation where someone was jerking him around but this time, he said he didn’t want me to unleash my monkeys.

“Let’s keep them in reserve for when it’s really important,” he said gently.

The people didn’t do what they were supposed to and lied about it to boot; I know if I had gotten involved, it would have turned out OK. But I said nothing and let him handle it nicely.

“You weren’t ugly, were you?” Mama asked.

I sighed.

I am not unreasonable; typically, when I have to be un-nice, it is when someone is taking unjust and gross advantage of someone I happen to care about.

When they are being unethical and inherently wrong – then, my monkeys come out.

So why is it someone can take advantage of someone and try to rip them off, and when they are called out on it, the person – usually me – is considered to be “ugly?”

To borrow a line from kindergarten – they started it.

“Mama, I wasn’t ugly per se, but I wasn’t nice, either,” I began. “If they had done what was right to begin with, none of this would have happened. I am only not nice when people are trying to rip off customers and do things that are shady. It’s not right. People want to complain about things causing them to lose business but never stop to think, hey, maybe, if we had treated folks fairly and did the right thing that would go further than cheating someone. You were in the right; I was in the right when I took care of it. I don’t like being ugly, but sometimes, that’s what people respond to.”

“I don’t like that,” she said quietly.

Yeah, I didn’t either.

But sometimes, nice just didn’t get the job done.

Somebody’s Gotta Win (1/13/2016)

$1.4 billion dollars.

Billion, mind you, billion.

That’s what the jackpot is for tonight’s Powerball.

The cash payout is over $800 million.

I’ve got my tickets. And may buy a few more before the day is out.

I still can’t wrap my head around that amount.

It’s hard to imagine billions, or even millions, of dollars.

“What would be the first thing you would get?” I asked Lamar as we daydreamed about the possibility.

He wasn’t entirely sure.

He asked me what my first purchase would be.

I had to think, too.

We both agreed we’d give 10 percent as our tithe. That we knew.

But when it came to what we’d spend it on, we were stumped.

I knew what I wanted. It was huge.

“A new roof.”

Lamar nodded.

He’s fixed it several times, only to have it leak in a new spot. No matter what he puts around the chimney, it leaks.

So we’d get a new roof.

“We’ll just buy some land and build a new house,” Lamar said.

“But here – I like our neighbors.”

Lamar agreed.

“It doesn’t have to be a big fancy house, either,” I began. “I really don’t want something too big.”

I’m more of a log cabin gal than a McMansion one.

“With a basement,” Lamar added.

He’s been wanting a man cave and probably should have one so he can watch The Walking Dead, his sports stuff, and every cycling movie that comes on in peace, free of my heavy sighs and eye rolls.

“And,” I began, the dream growing in my heart. “Separate bathrooms!”

We had been sharing one bathroom for 10 years. After three months of that, I moved my makeup and hair stuff into my office so I wouldn’t be chased out halfway through my morning routine. My laptop normally has a protective layer of Lauder thanks to this.

But those billions of dollars – however much that may be – could mean a full grown human sized tub, maybe a garden tub even, that I could soak in. I could put candles around it and relax with a glass of wine.

I wouldn’t be disturbed by someone knocking on the door asking me when I was going to be done because, “This is urgent and can’t wait!”

Yes, maybe even an extra bathroom would come in nicely.

Neither of us wanted Ferraris or Lamborghinis.

Lamar said he wanted a Silverado; it didn’t even have to be new. I wanted a Toyota FJ Cruiser because that seemed the most practical to haul the girls around in, especially considering Doodle’s bladder control is linked to her emotions.

We surmised our lives would not change that much at all.

“We could really just go about our day doing the same stuff. We’d just be millionaires,” Lamar said. “No one would be able to know we were by the way we acted.”

I was reminded how years ago, I jokingly told a client I was going to win, but no one would know I had.

The man laughed and said, “We will know. You will come in and buy that Viking stove you cuddle every time you come in.”

OK, the new house would have a super-fabulous kitchen. I love to cook, so it would be a professional grade one. I may even splurge and get that Viking.

But really, our lives would be pretty much the same.

We talked about the good we could do with that kind of money. It would be nice to be able to help a lot of organizations.

“I can tell you what I wouldn’t do,” I said. “Anything I didn’t want to. My ‘have-to’s’ would change to my ‘want-to’s.'”

No longer would I do things that made me miserable and unhappy. I would graciously exit those situations and focus on what I wanted to do.

I knew the projects I would continue working with and how my time would be spent. That’s what those 1.3 billion pieces of paper meant to me – freedom to spend my time the way I wanted.

But other than having freedom, more than one bathroom, and a nice kitchen, my life wouldn’t change.

I was really excited about the extra bathrooms.

Somebody’s gotta win – maybe, just maybe, it will be me.

The first ever non-diet resolution (1/6/2016)

This is maybe the first ever time I have not started the New Year with some grand resolution of losing at least 10 pounds.

It’s not because I didn’t really make “resolutions” this year, but because I discovered the other definition of resolution was “contentious matter” and that’s what they seemed like to me.

No, I decided I wasn’t going to mention a diet at all this year.

Do I need to lose weight?

Oh, my thighs yes –I need to lose weight.

I always think I need to lose weight, even when I didn’t but this time, I did.

But this year, I wanted to be more mindful in attacking the objective instead of just writing at the top of a list “Lose weight.”

I wanted to figure out why I had gained weight to begin with.

There’s some behavior involved that if I don’t deal with it, will only keep recurring.

I knew my behaviors too well.

I am an emotional eater, which means if I am happy I eat; if I am sad, I eat; if I am nervous, I eat. Whatever the emotion – I eat. It’s much better than addressing the real cause behind the emotion, at least temporarily.

Add to that food allergies/intolerances and sensitivities and I have a perfect storm to be chubby.

I can eat something and blow up like a puffer fish.

I know this and I eat a piece of cheesecake anyway.

Then I spend days in agonizing pain, angry at myself for eating something I shouldn’t anyway.

Focusing on a diet that promises I will lose 10 pounds in two weeks is not going to help me.

“I don’t think you need to lose weight,” Mama said on New Year’s Day.

“Mama, the only female in this house who likes being chubby is Doodle,” was my reply. It was true. The pittie mix was proud of her curves. As a matter of fact, I need to get some of Doodle’s attitude. “I am going to get back to my normal weight but I am not setting it as a resolution. If I do I’ll give up by the third week of January along with everyone else.”
And then, when Valentine’s Day hits, I will just pig out on candy in red foil hearts because hey, I had already failed at my resolution, so I may as well eat 37 pieces of chocolate.

So this year, instead of trying to do some crazy crash diet and getting mad at myself because I broke down and had a spoon of Nutella at 10 a.m., I am going to be mindful.

I am going to listen to my body and myself – if I am eating out of an emotional response, what is the emotion?

I will be mindful in how I feel and respond to those feelings.

What do I need to deal with?

Is there a better way I can process the issue besides eating?

None of the stuff I know I can’t have, either.

My health needs to be a priority. Pain can be well, crippling. I have hurt so badly I could barely move. It’s not fun. My husband will tell me if something hurt him that bad, he wouldn’t eat it; I tell him I wish it were that easy. It’s not.

Probably most importantly, I am also going to stop hating myself.

Instead of beating myself up when I do need a spoon of Nutella – who doesn’t? – I will process it and move on.

I am not going to associate guilt and shame with food any more.

I’ve done it long enough and it’s probably a huge part of the problem.

So no more of that nonsense.

If I eat a piece of cheesecake knowing I will hurt for three days and be puffy, I am just going to eat the dang cheesecake.

Even more so, I am going to enjoy it.

Nope, I told everyone, I was not going to list ‘lose weight’ as my resolution this year.

Instead, I am going to take control of this whole torment with food once and for all.

It’s one resolution I can stick to.