Comparisons

Do you compare yourself to other people? Do you wistfully gaze at the perfect body and wish it were yours? Do you envy people with curly/straight/thick/long/short hair and wish yours looked like that? Do you pine for the job your neighbor has because of the pay/perks/travel? I think all of us want what we don’t have, but it’s time we appreciated ourselves and what we do have. Each one of us is unique. We each have our own set of physical attributes and talents, and nobody else in the whole world has the exact same set of attributes we have. There is probably someone out there who is envying you and what you have.

It has taken me a long time to be at peace with who I am and with my own set of unique traits and abilities. I still sometimes catch myself admiring someone else and starting to wish I was like that, but then I remember that no matter what someone else may have that I don’t, I have a lot to be thankful for, and I know there are people who appreciate my talents because they have told me.

So today, instead of wishing for what others have, tell them what it is that you admire about them. Be content with who and what you are; and if there are things you don’t like about yourself, either change them or accept them.

Musings on Compassion

When I was 20 and newly graduated from Nursing School, I went to work at a State Psychiatric Facility in New Jersey. After a brief orientation, I was put in charge of the evening shift (3pm to 11pm) in the acute admissions ward. Besides myself, there was one technician to give medications, four other aides, and upwards of 90 patients. The ward was segregated with one wing for women and one for men. Each wing had a ‘locked unit’ for the more disturbed patients who were mostly locked in a room all day and all night. There was also a lock on the door to the rest of the wing so when these patients were let out of their rooms, they were still locked away from the rest of the population. Being the compassionate person that I was back then, I would spend most of my time with those in the ‘locked units’.

One evening, I was spending time with a 16-year old who was in the locked unit. He had been admitted for observation and was said to have violent tendencies. He had been in the unit for maybe a week and had shown no violence. I had taken him out of his room and we were walking down the hall to the dayroom. Without warning, he grabbed me around the neck and dragged me out of sight of the nurses’ station into the dayroom. I don’t remember how long we were in there, but I do remember staying calm and explaining to him, over and over, why what he was doing wasn’t a good idea. I was finally able to convince him to let me go and I locked him back in his room.

Once out in the nurses’ station, I started shaking uncontrollably. A couple of the aides came in and asked what was wrong. When I told them, they wanted to punish the patient in some way, and once again, I was spending time convincing someone that what they wanted to do was not a good idea.

The next evening, I went back to the patient to spend time with him again and acted as if nothing had happened; he never tried it again and was gone a few days later.

I was thinking about this incident today and wondering if I was still the same person I was back then; I think I am in many respects. I am still compassionate in spite of all the people who have hurt me, physically, mentally, and emotionally, over the course of my lifetime. It would have been so easy to become jaded and close myself off to the rest of the world, but how much I would have lost! So no matter how much you have been hurt by others, you are hurting yourself more by becoming callous and putting up walls. I see so many people every day who I can only describe as the walking wounded. They have no joy in life; they are angry at the world. I feel so fortunate that I am not one of them.

Summer

Different parts of the world have different indications that summer has arrived, apart from the heat. Here in the desert Southwest we have our own interpretations. For me, it is much more than the 100+ temperatures and the lack of humidity.

It’s summer when the lows stay above 70; when the cicadas are going full throttle day in and day out; when we start getting excited at every cloud that appears over the mountains, no matter how small the cloud; when we feel the humidity inching into double digits; when you don’t dare wear dangly metal earrings when getting into a car that’s been sitting in the sun all day; when parking in the shade is much more important than getting a spot right by the door.

The cicadas have been gearing up for a couple of weeks now. There were a few tentative buzzes here and there. Yesterday, practice was over, and the buzzing was non-stop all afternoon. After being outside and listening to that racket, the silence is deafening inside the house, even with Pink Floyd at full volume. But the temperatures have been going down as low as 69 at night, so it’s not quite here yet. My dangly metal earrings are all safely put away until October or November when there will be no danger of burns on my neck. There are a few tiny, cotton-ball-size clouds over the mountains, but the humidity is still only somewhere around 5-7%.

I can feel the anticipation, and the complaints about how hot it is have been voiced for at least two weeks. It’s going to be a long summer.

Life isn’t fair

So we can all agree that life isn’t fair; otherwise we would all be rich, famous, and gorgeous, right? And if life isn’t fair how can we get through it? We get through it by plodding along, putting one foot in front of the other, and keep going. Sometimes it’s really, really hard. And sometimes it flows smoothly and good things happen.

My life has been hard for the last few weeks. The tenant we had moved out in May – terrible timing – and we have had very few nibbles. We owe way more on our property than what it’s worth, just like so many right now. Work here is non-existent for my partner who is having to spend weeks at a time away from home just to earn enough money to pay the mortgage. I had a very sick dog and spent several hundred dollars I couldn’t afford to spend on medical care for him. Terrible disasters are all over the news, and although they don’t affect my life directly, it hurts to see the devastation to people’s lives and to the environment in places I used to live and that still have a place in my heart. It angers me that public figures don’t seem to be affected by all this and just blithely continue collecting their huge paychecks and bonuses and make inane comments about the oil spill being a ‘natural phenomenon’.

But through it all I have tried to keep a positive attitude. When I feel particularly down, I tell myself I can have this pity party for one day only, then I have to get on with my life. The fact that others have a harder time than I do doesn’t make me feel better; it tends to make me more depressed that there are those worse off than I am. I try to count my blessings and be grateful for what I do have.

But it’s hard; and life isn’t fair.

Fear

I have written about fear before, but something struck me yesterday that I mulled over and decided to write about. Many of our fears are irrational. I’m not talking about true phobias but the everyday flavor of fear. Someone I know is afraid of spontaneous combustion someone else is afraid of being stranded on a dark country road and being murdered. Now these fears are nothing to be laughed at, but are they really rational? What are the chances they will happen? What are you afraid of?

I’m afraid of spiders – not a rational fear as I am much bigger than a puny spider, even the tarantulas we have here are much smaller than I am. Now there are nasty spiders like the black widow and the brown recluse that have painful bites, but they generally don’t kill a person. I know what they look like and where I am likely to see one and have never been bitten by one. My fear of spiders has lessened over the years – I have consciously changed the script that runs in my mind when I see a spider from “nasty little thing – get it away from me” to “look at how amazing this creature is”. Look at how intricate a spider web is and how strong for its size. There is nothing more beautiful than a spider web covered in dew when the first sun hits it in the morning.

My fear isn’t totally gone – I still freak out if I see a spider in the house – but I can control it better. I take deep breaths and tell myself this little creature is useful for trapping other nasty bugs. I may move it outside but I no longer hysterically pound it until it’s nothing more than a stain on the wall.

Bad things happen to people, true. How likely is it that what you’re afraid of is really going to happen? Can you prevent it happening? Is your fear rational?

Compliments

How do you react to a compliment? Do you hem and haw and make some deprecating remark? Or do you just say a simple ‘thank you’?

I used to feel uncomfortable when someone complimented me and didn’t quite know how to react. My mother taught me well! She belittled me often so my self worth was pretty much zero. I wasn’t supposed to stand out in any way; I was supposed to blend into the background because that was a woman’s place in this world. I was a straight A student; again, that was forbidden – men didn’t like smart girls. So when I won prizes at school or with dance, I was accused of being too forward. Now, I wonder what happened to my mom that made her think that way? But it’s too late to ask her, and she probably wouldn’t have told me anyway.  Emotions were to be hidden at all costs.

So what does this have to do with compliments? Whenever I was complimented I would think that person obviously didn’t know me well, because if they did, they would run in the other direction. Gradually, though, over the years, I discovered that I am a good and worthwhile person. I like who I am, warts and all. Now when someone compliments me, instead of blathering on and on about what I did to look good, or saying it was nothing, or launching into a dissertation on how I found the outfit, shoes, whatever, I just smile and say “Thank You.” That’s all that’s needed. Have you seen how other people light up when you compliment them on a new blouse, hairdo, or a job well done? How does it make you feel to have someone acknowledge you?

Go out and compliment someone today. Aim to compliment at least one person every day. It will not only make someone else feel good, but it will probably make you feel good, too. I don’t mean you have to be overly smarmy. All it takes is a simple, “I love that blouse, the color really makes your eyes stand out” to see someone’s face light up. Or a simple thank you for a good job. You get the picture.

And learn to graciously accept compliments with a simple acknowledgment – you’re worth it!