Why do I feel bad when I compare myself to perfect people?

I know, I know, there are no perfect people.

That is what I tell myself when I am comparing myself to the woman standing in front of me in the check out line in Whole Foods.  A beautiful 60-ish woman, who is toned (specifically no giggle arm or belly), artistic yet casually dressed, well spoken with kind words to the check-out woman and the guy bagging her well chosen groceries. I am certain she has kept her girlish figure even though I imagine she has birthed babies.

I think her oldest is probably a brain surgeon who has developed a miracle non invasive procedure to help menopausal women remember their children’s birth dates. Her youngest is most likely a rocket scientist who is developing a garbage collecting space rocket to gather all the crap we have imagesleft up there…as evidenced in the movie Gravity — the debris blowing Sandra Bullock dangerously far away from the mother ship. This woman smiles warmly, with perfectly straight still white teeth, as she hands me the separator that will distinguish her stuff from mine.

She is not perfect. I am sure. I tell myself she has problems too. I even begin to make up some fictitious dilemma to soothe my screaming ego. I bet she can’t eat a whole bag of chocolate covered pretzels while watching a Big Bang rerun.

I always lose when I play the comparison game because I judge myself against people I decide are better than me, smarter than me, wealthier, funnier, cuter. As I age I compare myself with others who can get off the floor faster or remember where they parked their car.

So why do I do it? Why do you? I know that you do…but if miraculously you don’t, don’t tell me, cuz I will compare myself to you.

Perhaps it is the grass is always greener…or the 1960’s parenting technique of comparing kids to their more successful sibling or neighbor kid in an attempt to motivate Junior to learn his spelling words.

It is a lousy motivational technique.

In my family I was the shining star. The Hero child. It was as good a role as any, I guess, but I always had to succeed. Do well. Bring home accolades. And when I did, my brother, who was the Rebel child, hated me more each day. I came to learn that being the object of comparison sucks too.

Either way we lose.

Either way we feel bad about ourselves.

The truth is we don’t know what goes on for others. What we tell ourselves is simply a story that we have make up. Some of it may be true, most of it probably is not.

How do you feel when you compare yourself to another? 
waxseal2

 

 

 

An unanswered question

This weeks assignment was to write about something unresolved in my life. It had to have urgency and tension.

Tom suggested I post something “light” this week as my last two posts have been “heavy”. I didn’t know if I agreed with him or not, but in the end decided to share my “dark” assignment because I worked so fucking hard on it. And I’m all worn out…

So here it is…the saga continues…

I recoil at the question that invades my day. I close my eyes willing it away, but it inevitably returns, like a puppy undeterred by my avoidance to get the attention it needs.  I have wrestled all my life with my need to belong to my family. The reality is that no matter what role I play to please, I just don’t fit. So if I don’t make the trek home when mom dies, I will be cast as the deserter. But going could be emotional suicide.

The last time I made the journey east across the Delaware was for the dual purposes of following my brother Rob’s edict to sell the family home and to visit mom in the assisted living facility he unilaterally decided to move her into. My plan was to meet with the realtor, visit mom, take her to lunch, drive her around the neighborhood she grew up in, then head west-putting a safe distance between me and my only sibling. I intended to slip in and out of NJ, under my brother’s radar, like a CIA Ninja.

The realtor was referred to me by Andy, my hairdresser and recently licensed real estate agent. He said he had asked for someone that would sell for a long distant client and wasn’t afraid of family ghosts. Debbie Leigh, about my age, with a slight NJ accent and a warm smile, took the job.

Debbie liked the house and was excited she was to sell it. She seemed unfazed as I filled in some of the family dynamics. As we sat in the living room, still full with the furniture of my childhood, Rob, unsuspectedly, blew in through the front door. His puffed up chest, reddened face and clipped speech stopped us in mid sentence. The air was sucked out of my lungs-like a baby in a wind storm. I smelled danger. I wondered how he knew we were there, at that specific time, on that particular weekend. What tracking devise did he have? My paranoia rose in direct proportions to his hostility.

He announced to the room that he had rented the house beginning next month…so selling it would not be an option. I was absolutely silent and my body was still. I learned at an early age that if he doesn’t see me, he will leave me alone. Debbie spoke through the tension, like an experienced family therapist, offering a dual plan of renting while showing the house.

Later, when Rob found me alone, searching for my misplaced sunglasses and car keys, he insisted I knew he had rented the house and went on to conclude I was trying to undermine his plans. I told him I didn’t know. This only infuriated him more. The poison in his voice turned my legs to jello and the saliva left my mouth.

I headed toward my car begging my legs to carry me. As I crossed the lawn I got a whiff of freshly cut grass despite the snow covered ground, an olfactory reminder of a childhood memory. Adolescent Rob shoving grass clippings into my elementary school shirt and pants. I remembered how he would wrestle me to the ground, pin my arms with his legs and sit heavily on my rib cage. I couldn’t breathe or move, then. I was determined to save myself now.

I reached the car. As I opened the car door I felt my right shoulder spasm. My body reminded me of the many times my arm was pulled back behind my back, yanking my hand to the opposite shoulder blade, until I fell to my knees. He wanted to hear me say, Uncle. I always did. I hated him for hurting me so badly. I hated myself for surrendering to the pain.

He didn’t start out mean, at least I don’t think he did. He just didn’t want a sibling. When mom was still in the hospital, after my birth, she called Rob. He was staying with her mother, our grandmother. Rob tearfully asked mom if she had had a baby. My new mom told her almost 4 year old, No. That response sealed my fate and secured her lack of protection of me. He hated me and distrusted her, and I never felt wanted by, or safe with, either of them. I was a kid on a hot tin roof.

I have little defense against his life long bullying, despite the years of therapy I have spent on it. I inevitably end up bloodied and self recriminating for putting myself in harms way, again. So I ask myself, what if I didn’t go to mom’s funeral? What if I stayed where I am safe, finally refusing to cross the state line? Mom and Rob have not been an integral part of my life for well over 30 years. I designed it that way and they didn’t seem to notice. So in an ‘everyday way’ I will not miss mom after she passes. I will not hear myself say, “Oh I should call and tell mom this,” or “ I’ll talk to mom, she’ll understand.”

But deep inside, behind my belly button where we were once joined,  there is a little girl who will still be looking for her mom. When mom dies so does my hope of finding her.

With Love,
waxseal2