Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Mine is Bigger...

Yesterday I went to see the 'rents. At one point my mom accused me of 'whining' about my dissatisfaction with my job at the high school. Then this morning I was reading Loki's blog, and she's going through some very rough times with chemotherapy, and I began to feel guilty about expressing dismay over my own woes. Then, some hitherto unheard from part of my psyche put forth this very quiet question: is my pain any less significant to me just because someone else has it worse? And is 'worse' really an appropriate word to use? How many times have you been caught in a conversation with someone that, no matter the story you tell of some awful experience or injury you had, they've had one worse? Have you ever been that person? I remember a time, back at the Pope Theatre, when a bunch of us techies were on a break and were comparing scars. I had recently recovered from lopping the end of my thumb off. One of the guys was missing parts of his brain due to falling off of a ladder. One dude had nearly had his face scraped off in a motorcycle crash. Then we all looked at Tim, the Master Electrician, who rather sheepishly said, 'well, I had a really nasty hangnail once.' And, in a bizarro twist of irony, the guy who was totally whole and unmaimed was unspokenly dubbed the loser. Why must we compare our agonies? And why, when someone doesn't have any, or has 'lesser' ones, do we use that to fan the flames of our own pain? Rather than insinuate that Tim was less of a man for not having been damaged, we should have congratulated him for taking better care of himself than we did. But at the end of the day, Tim may not even have a bottle of Advil in his house, while I have pain killers that most doctors haven't heard of.

So yeah, I may have bitched and moaned a bit over the last school year, but would hiding it have mattered to anyone in Darfur? I think not. Perhaps if we spent less time worrying about who hurts most, and instead just supported each other when we do hurt, there would be a lot less guilt flying about, and more healing. And Loki, if there's anything I can do to help, you know you just have to call. :-)

And now I'm going to put a band-aid on the boo-boo I got last night.

Marius the Painless(sort of)


Heather said...

Feel your pain.

When life sucks. Whine.

It doesn't matter a rat's ass what anyone else is going through.

Sure, my cancer and all that I'm going through sucks. But our true strength lies in getting through these things and moving on.

No matter how bad your life is, someone else's is always worse. I almost fall neatly into that trap on a regular basis. I may have cancer, but there are folks out there who have it far worse and not just medically. To play the martyr because my husband didn't didn't leave me, because I have a roof over my head, food in my stomach (well, not right now) and because I have excellent friends is just plain stupid.

Bitch, moan, whine and complain to your heart's content. And as a true friend, I'll not only listen, I'd never say that my life is worse than yours.

Anonymous said...

This is an interesting topic. I have a pretty darned sweet life. When I start complaining I immediately feel guilty. With such sweetness dare I share a bit of discomfort lest I be considered an ungrateful fool?

When I want to start complaining in "real life" (blogs don't count- without complaining there'd be little left but baby pictures, videos of dancing cats and fan fiction) I try to balance it all with what is good. It helps me keep things in perspective.

On the "you have a cold? Oh, i have ebola." note- we had someone in our department who did that so automatically that we began to make up outrageous tragedies to see how often she would trump our stories. Your tipless finger? Nothing compared to this woman who made or may not have had rabies- and still came to work.

Heather said...

I doubt most of you watch SNL with any frequency, but we TIVO it and run through the commercials and boring bits.

They have a recurring sketch with an "I can top your story" character. If you can find the sketch, it is worth watching - simply to hold in mind that there is always someone out there that will try to trump you, no matter how outrageously.

rosebuckle said...

My slant is completely different. I believe many people are trying to tell the "complainer" (for lack of a better word) that they understand what you've been through, relating what they feel to be a similar experience.

Marius said...

Yeah, I subconsciously left that category of folks out. I had forgotten that whilst recovering from my thumbectomy, had I not been quite so whacked out on percocet, I could have collected enough maiming, mangling, and dismemberment stories to have writting the definitive tome on the subject. I know that everyone who shared such a tale with me was trying to commiserate, but listening to the tale of the dude that took his whole hand off with a table saw really didn't make my demi-thumb feel any better. We are a strange race of goofy beings no matter how you slice it. (hmm, poor choice of simile?) ;-)

Anonymous said...

Whine all you like. . . just don't use up all the damned band-aids! I mean, what if I need one???? Sheeese!

C.L. Jahn said...

"YOU don't know my pain. No one can know how bad my pain is! My pain is DEEP. WHO can know the depth of MY pain?"
"Hank Williams."
".....Shut up."

Michael Friedman said...

This is a very interesting topic... for me, the perspective is one of sharing experiences, but also of listening to myself. When you complain about something, it's a response to a feeling you've had. If we didn't respond to the feelings we have, we'd be machines.

In the animal world, an animal responds to its pain without self-judgement or comparison. This is the true expression of a state of grace, I would think. We humans have the ability to recall our last pain (or happiness, etc) incidences and compare them. We can also compare them to other people's circumstances. This is where empathy comes in.

Your perspective IS. Your life IS. If you feel like expressing dismay at a hurt finger, do so, as heather says. The expression and action on the feeling is the point, I think. It's generally useless to compare oneself with others because really we are all SO different.

I think about my recent vacation to see the space shuttle. On the way over, a guy in the seat nearby asked my friend Tom, "You are paying money to see them launch a rocket into space?" Clearly not his priority. But it brought me so much personal joy to see -- and you can see it in my face in the pictures Tom took. How can we possibly compare? Same way with happiness, pain, etc. We can only hope we find ourselves around people who see the world similarly to our own way.

Experience your experience!