The Comparison Trap

“Am I good enough?”
Bred from insecurity
Fed by silliness
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A dear friend of mine helped me one time to define the different voices competing in my head… you know the voices – they never say things like “wow, you look wonderful today” or “what a nice power point presentation”.  They say things like…

–  No matter what I do, my hair always looks like crap.
–  Did you see what he did in that meeting? Can you believe it??
–  I wonder if her presentation went well… I sure hope they like mine better…

My friend calls these the I Suck voice, the You Suck voice and the Compare Me voice. None of them are my best self, let’s be clear.

The compare me voice has been front and center lately. It started when I was at a dinner party at another parent’s house.  Their house was amazing. It was 3 years old, each wall looked freshly painted and the overall design seemed plucked from  Architectural Digest.  I am quite sure that dirt would never have the nerve to land anywhere. At one point, I wondered out loud whether I needed a coaster to put under my glass on the kitchen counter (it was made of a strange material…).  I couldn’t believe that children lived in this home, it was so pristine.  Now, one part of me dwelled in the “you suck” voice (“What must it be like to live in this house as a kid?”) but for the most part I berated myself about how dirty and completely too full-of-crap my house was.  (Please note: these are beautiful, kind, caring people… this is my issue, not theirs.)

Then their daughter came to our house. I was horrified. What would this kid think of our house, with its dust bunnies and piles of catalogs. I publicly pretend it is ok by calling my house “well lived in” but honestly, I was embarrassed about what this kid would think or worst – gasp! — what would she tell her parents?? Would she ever be allowed to come over again?

Well, she came over again. And I was cutting up something to make some rags and she said “Oh wow, my mom never does stuff like that” with some admiration in her voice.   I stood up straighter. What? My thriftiness somehow impresses?  Perhaps there is something to approve of??

So what was that all about?  Well, the I Suck voice was fully present (my house is a mess and I’m unworthy!)  and then invited in the Compare Me Voice to make me feel better (I’m cooler because I cut things up).  In neither case were these voices in service of me.

I think the parental comparison trap is inevitable, but I think I put too much store in what I imagine the kids think. As I reflect back 30+ years, I don’t ever remember thinking that one friend’s house was always clean and another chock full of toys. They were just Stephanie’s house or Mike’s house. None of them ever wondered aloud why my mom felt compelled to stack mail for weeks at a time… No one cared.

So I am going to try to sunset these voices when it comes to parental comparison. As a friend who I confided my “I Suck” voices in said:  “So what? You have the cool 85-year-old English Tudor with the period light fixtures you’ve searched out and the talkative wooden floors. It isn’t worse, it’s just different. And it’s beautiful too.”

Thanks, Rosie. That’s the voice I really needed to hear.

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Dreading Tomorrow – A Ski Virgin’s Report

Yoda was right: “Too
old to begin the training.”
I should have listened…
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There are some blog postings that are quick to write – seem to come out and need very little editing. Others take more time as I hem and haw about sentences for what seems like hours. Today had better be a quickie, because in about 27 minutes muscles critical to my mobility are going to seize up and render me unable to move, and I really would rather be in front of the fire or watching TV than here in the office.

Why, pray tell? Because today was my first time ever on skis. And I feel fairly comfortable declaring that it may very well be my last.

It started as a good idea, really. The kids had a 4 day weekend and I thought that it would be fun if we all went to Perfect North, the ski establishment about 45 minutes away, to learn how to ski. I was thinking that skiing is a useful skill – opens up lots of vacation options – and kids who learn it early seem to get it and use it their whole lives. And why not try it myself, huh?  Seems reasonable, right?

I am insane.

First, for the uninitiated and ill-equipped, you require a lot of crap to ski. Boots, skis, poles, helmet, plus ski bibs, gloves, hats, sunscreen, layers of clothing, etc.  Boots seem a simple thing, but they aren’t. They have 4 buckles, did you know that? And you know what else is important? To put your ski bibs on BEFORE you put on your rental boots. And wait, before you get too much further, you have to go to the bathroom just in case. And then you come back and get the boots back on. But wait, be sure you have the bibs on.

Then you try to walk in the boots. I felt like an astronaut on the surface of the moon. I was walking in extreme slow motion, with my knees bent because locomotion wasn’t possible otherwise. I watched in awe as others moved quickly around, while I seemed unable to keep pace with a nursing home resident. This was the first sign.

Getting the skis wasn’t too bad, nor the poles, or helmet, except that these were located in 3 different places. Although the route there was more or less linear, it required more moon walking, which was inexplicably getting harder, not easier. Regardless, we continued forward.

Did I mention there were 4 of us? Because there is something exponential about the work required to outfit 4 people for skiing. The first one isn’t too bad, but the next one takes twice as long as the first… by the fourth person, you are quite sure you’ve entered some bizzaro parallel universe where you are much hated.

Then we left the building. Let me summarize what happened from here.

  •  Tried to find a place to put all our “stuff”, which seemed to multiply since we left the car. In the end, left it all under the stairs and hoped for the best.
  • Found the ski instruction area.
  • I returned to the rental place because my boots were killing me. No really, they were killing me. Got a larger size.
  • Waited 20 minutes for ski instruction. For the kids, this was the equivalent of 4 hours and 52 minutes.  I searched repeatedly for a brick to knock myself out with. Unsuccessful.
  • Sent the kids off for private instruction.
  • Frank and I met, with Harv, our group ski instructor. At the time, he seemed to be a nice, a 60-year-old man.
  • I strapped on my skis.
  • The longest 45 minutes of my life began.

In the end, I refused to do the final bunny hill trial for the class (“I am a danger to myself and others,” I told Harv), sat on the ground (the larger size ski boot having not at all helped since I have the world’s widest feet) and seriously pondered whether I should walk in my socks across the snow to the rental area instead of wearing the boots.

The kids didn’t fare much better. When we located them, they, too, were sitting on the ground. My girl was in tears, her boots also rendering her immobile because they were now too small (“I think I broke my toe… it bends backwards now, see”) and my son was bleeding and also a little tearful – “cut his hand on the snow when he fell” is what the instructor said (say what? Cut his hand on the snow??).  She looked exceptionally uncomfortable and quite eager to deposit the kids with us.

What followed then was even more pain: the second longest 15 minutes of my life, as we made our way back to the rental place to undo everything we did 90 minutes earlier. The kids were insanely miserable. I wasn’t much better.

At last, it was lunchtime. Ahh. Food, water, dry places to sit, no more boots.  I could hear angels singing over the din.

And you know what happened next? We had a ball. Did I mention that Perfect North also has a tubing area that was a-freakin-amazing? Great fun! Spent two more hours there enjoying their runs and it saved the whole trip. Kids left happy, we left happy.  The disastrous ski elements long forgotten*.

In the end, we spent an insane amount of money (especially if you do the cost per hour…) to learn that we are not ski people but tubing people.  I’m really ok with this. I can now say that I have skied. No one needs to know that I never left the instruction area/baby bunny hill. No one needs to know that Harv thinks my IQ is in the double digits.

*Post script: The ski trip really isn’t long forgotten. Frank and I can’t move. For our mere 45 minutes on skis, we both have managed to hurt muscles we didn’t know we had. I’ve walked a half marathon before and hurt less than I do now.  God help us tomorrow morning…

My Blog is Giving Me the Finger

Laughing at myself:
Required medicine for
getting through each day.
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So I’m new at this blogging stuff.  I have wanted to write for a while, even started writing essays before I had a venue to publish. And so with some trepidation and a lot of excitement, I started this blog.  On December 19th at 10pm-ish, I announced to my friends and family that I had a blog, please visit, blah blah blah.

And then I became enamored with “site stats”. This is a fun aspect of Word Press where you can see the number of blog views, comments, external links and so forth. On that first evening, December 19, I watched as the number of views climbed 10, 15, 20, 30.  I went to bed having found the Android Word Press app and joyful in my 36 views that day.  The next morning, before I left the bed (yes, before I even pee’d) I pulled up the app to see my views. Already had 10 that morning, December 20th.  Wow! People were reading my stuff! How cool was that. 

It was on that seemingly quiet December 20 that my addiction to site stats came into full bloom. I watched all day. I would ask Frank “Guess what?” and he dutifully replied “What?” knowing exactly what I was about to say… still, he paused to hear me recite the latest number of views… 39 (“more than yesterday!), 48, 57, 65, 76!! I was ecstatic. I was hooked.

More than hooked, I became a junkie. And the hard part for a junkie? When the buzz wears off and there’s no more juice.  So December 20 ended with 102 views. And December 21 came in with its cooling breeze. 38 views. Worse yet, December 22: 11 views. After that, double digits weren’t frequent.  I was a failure. No one liked my stuff enough to return. How could I go on.

Now, just like “pretty is on the inside”, I know that writing a blog isn’t about the number of views you get, it is about writing for the fun of it, taking the chance, livin’ the dream. Yeah yeah yeah. These stats were cold hard facts that I couldn’t deny.  Worse yet, my ongoing failure kept showing itself to me in the “views timeline bar chart” Word Press provides – a visual of the number of views each day in your history.

And guess what the bar chart shows now? Well, it shows my blog giving me the finger.

Yes, every time I go to the stats page, until enough days have elapsed that this view of December 19/20/21 goes off the page, I have to see my blog flipping me off.  Well har-de-har-har.

So today, when talking with my friend Sandra (who gave me the title for this post) I decided to see the humor and humility in this circumstance (both words derived from the Latin “hum” meaning laugh at self and get over it).  Site stats be damned.  I welcome the Word Press finger. It will remind me of what is possible and compel me to post more often and perhaps get more friends who will read me more than once.

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