This week I thought a lot about comparative suffering. The first time I heard the term was in the books and talks of Dr. Brene Brown and it made me feel freed in a way. So, it was not just me … .
I have been told many times that I complain a lot, that I have a pessimistic outlook on things, that I play the victim. Not that it makes it any easier on others, but what would you expect from someone who was taught from a very young age to always expect the worst, not laugh too much because crying follows laughter and not to ever openly acknowledge personal achievements because that is boastful and could attract large amounts of stink eye from others. And they are the ones who count, right?
These days, there is so much comparative suffering going around that I don’t feel like initiating any conversation which is about anything else but the weather and maybe food. The entire world is in such pain, whether that pain comes from living through a pandemic for two years, inequality and not being seen, exhaustion, lack, grief … there is so much pain everywhere that it is hard to even utter encouraging words. Most times they feel like drops in the ocean.
I oscillate between the wish I had someone to talk to about feeling completely exhausted and unhappy that my job has become something I did not sign up for and the guilt for an amazing life that I live, privileged, peaceful and loved, while there is so much strife all around me. Someone who would just take it all in, listen, really listen, and not double up comparing that to what they are going through. (As I am writing this I am thinking that it is time to get back in touch with my therapist. 🙂 ).
What is the middle ground that lies between being truly grateful for what you have and striving to improve things that don’t go so well? When is it ok to continue to try to better yourself and your situation and when does a future better become the enemy of the good you already have? I wish there was a way this could be measured. More often than not these days, I wish for some certainty and clarity amongst all this noise.
I stay away from interaction more and more. I work in a field where most of the time I hear complaints (apparently this is what I do now). This has created in me, through my professional landscape, a wound which seems to be constantly picked at, it is constantly raw. I never unload because … where would I do that? Do I even dare? So many people have it so much harder! And nobody is to blame or to suffer for the choices I make, right? And all of a sudden, whenever someone unloads, remembering that I used to be someone to be able to hold it, I feel pain that is quite disproportionate to the discussion. Dr. Brown calls that response “chandeliering” – when something seemingly small and insignificant makes you jump all the way to the ceiling, hitting the chandelier.
I have no solution … just this wondering … putting words out there … at times this has the power of the boomerang, they come back, with renewed energy and insight.