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Wednesday, March 2, 2011

the exceptional; hints from home

I've been thinking a lot lately about the groups of people I refer to as "the exceptional".

I think it is human to compare yourself to the exceptional. Not their entire lives but the parts that make them, well, exceptional.

I have a family member with whom I grew up very closely in age, grade, and friends who is now pretty loaded ($$). Which is great for them. They work very hard, etc. But how do I NOT compare myself to their wealth and abilities? Their children are very similar ages to mine, their needs are similar, and so on. On the scale of global human wealth, I am extremely fortunate. Yet... I feel this "exceptional" often in comparison to my own.

I have other family members and close friends who have more ideal bodies and more exceptional beauty. It's always been the case. My entire life, through grade school to college and now, I have somehow been drawn to the most beautiful friends; I am the funny friend (and yes, in real life, I am THAT delightful). I have felt myself compared to sisters and their beauty and thin bodies my whole life. I feel it still. On the national scale, I am average. I have no major deformity. I am incredibly blessed. But still, I occasionally notice the difference between those more exceptional and myself.

The hardest point for me, lately, is the exceptional cases of medical diagnosis. The stories people share about sudden symptoms leading to a doctor appointment and an immediate diagnosis. And guess what? These people are now running marathons.  Good for them. In creeps the doubt, the loneliness and despair. Why is my diagnosis taking so long? If these people can run marathons, eat whatever they want, and don't need ten hours of sleep every night, then maybe I am actually crazy. Perhaps I have a different illness. Or maybe I am just not as mentally strong.

Other have problems and uncertainties, too; Never forget it.

I know that we (I) only choose to see the exceptional in those seemingly more fortunate than ourselves. And if we know of their problems, we savor those misfortunes more than we ought to. What I appreciate most about this hint from home is the "Never forget it" part. It's not just a reminder that everyone aches, everyone bleeds. It's more. 

The only way to get over the comparison to the exceptional people is to see us as a whole and not individuals. All people have problems and uncertainties. When I think of us all on a similar plane of confusion and struggle, enlightenment and blessing, I can see that we are all balancing together. It's not an individual teeter-totter, but a massive plane where we are all trying to keep stable. It may teeter over in one well-dressed corner, but then we all shift to bring those we know and love to balance with us. The more I am concerned with who is where and why (and then feeling self-pity or selfishly rejoicing), I am the only one who loses balance.

All of us are confused and struggle; We are all trying to find enlightenment and blessings.

My diagnosis will be uniquely mine... when it comes. My body is mine; my wealth is mine. I am blessed.


Does this jumbled thought-purge make any sense?  What do you do to overcome comparing yourself to "the exceptional"? Anyone talk to their reflection a la Stuart Smiley?

a, encore

12 wise comments:

jen said...

I had to check and make sure I wasn't on your other blog.

I've been thinking about you lately. Not along these same lines, but I may post about it tomorrow.

I admittedly struggle with the comparison to the exceptional more than I'd like to say. And I don't have any revelatory information. Just that it's one of those crappy hard things about mortality.

CJ said...

What's interesting is these same people that you are comparing yourself to, are at the same time comparing themselves to you or someone else. I am comparing myself to you right now wishing I knew how to speak and type the English language better so Edna wont get mad at me after reading this post.

Helen Macfarlane said...

Love CJ's comment.

As Emma was falling asleep last night she told me about one of her friends. "Whitney is so lucky, mom. Everyone likes her, and I mean everyone. Plus, she has TWO bunk-beds at her house!" After she finished raving about her *exceptional* friend, I reminded her that Whitney's mom has just been diagnosed with leukemia and is also pregnant. I told her I was glad her mommy didn't have cancer. She said "I feel really sad about that part."

Anna M said...

jen: you've got my interest piqued. Yes, I've neglected the MS blog while I wallowed in my undiagnosed, self-misery for a while. I think I'm over it now.

it is true, cj and helen. sometimes we can't imagine what people would want that we have, so we focus on what they DO have that we DON'T. It's a no-win cycle. Somehow, we have to rise above it and let it go.

That is what I wonder. How do we KEEP it gone and not let it wander back into our psyche?

Sue said...

You make some very good points here.

To be honest, I don't think we CAN keep comparison to the "exceptional" away permanently. After all, it's human nature. What we CAN do is be vigilant in chasing this unwelcome visitor away when it inevitably comes around, knocking unwelcome at our doors and peeking through our windows, uninvited.

To me, that seems more doable.


Amy Y said...

This has me thinking. I love what you said about the balancing; it is a learning from others' talents while strengthening them with our's.

I think the reason comparison is human nature is because it is sort of necessary. I don't want this to sound wrong because in our personal lives, you are right, it has no place, especially when it drives us to self-pity. So maybe this comment is for a completely different post. But as a whole, comparison what pushes people to greatness. My daughter, Kyla, is an exceptional swimmer, she is chasing records made by more exceptional swimmers, which is making her better. If there was no one with whom to compare, she'd sit back and stop trying to be better.

But then, I'm talking about things over which one actually has a certain degree of control. So yes, this comment is certainly for a completely different post.

Jess said...

I feel like I'm constantly surrounded by exceptional people- and I've finally figured out that I like myself better when I try to pick out what it is about that person and try to develop that trait. And yes the green eyed envy monster rears his ugly head frequently, but I'm learning to tame him.

Helen Macfarlane said...

I'm no expert, but I think we keep it gone by first recognizing the need for its absence. Comparing ourselves to others' exceptional-ness is a cultural habit that takes practice, vigilance and maturity to overcome. Our national AND religious cultures tend to slip into the rut of assuming there are only one or two definitions of perfection. But, when you look past cultural norms and truly examine gospel teachings, perfectionism is defined individually and only in Jesus Christ. When your goal is to become perfect in Christ, rather than perfect in American or Mormon or neighborhood or workplace culture, you begin to see more clearly your own exceptional-ness and its true value. And you begin to see what is truly exceptional about others.

Elder Cristopherson says a consecrated life comes through 1)purity (repentance), 2)work, 3)respect for the physical body 4)service and 5)integrity.

Angela Henrie said...

There comes a time in life when you will just be thankful for your problems. And so thankful you don't have the problems of others'. I'm sure your rich relative has his or her own insecurities and weaknesses. One's you won't ever have to suffer from. I'm not by any means a great writer, but what I'm trying to say is this: Spend less time thinking about it so much and more positive, constructive energy working on yourself so you are happy with who you are and what you contribute to this world.

amy said...

That Angela, she is an "exceptional" person. And you Anna, you are quite "exceptional". As a matter of fact I'm pretty "exceptional" myself. Maybe if we could find a way to see everyone the way Heavenly Father might see them we could rid ourselves of all the comparisons. And we'd also be able to see ourselves in that same light. How much happier we would all be. Love you B!

Stef said...

We all are exceptional in different ways. But you know this. Why is it so hard for us to see in ourselves. We know it's there. Others tell us so. And yet, the blinders come on when I look in the mirror.
Loved this always!
You are Exceptional!

Pepper Lovin! said...

I have been blog 'stalking' you for a while. and I really liked this post so I figured i would comment. Or maybe i have commented and forgot.

Anyway, what I personally learn is that when I am admiring and comparing myself to others I am usally down on myself or something isn't going right. So I have to blame a certain outcast brother of ours for the negative thoughts. Then I try to be happy for others and the qualities or things that i find exceptional in them. My mother in law is ALWAYS commenting on how her boys have made so much money and why can't we have money it would help everything. But, I always remind her that is not your trial. Everything that we find exceptional (usually) in others is their trial to bare in this life. Having money isn't easy. People want it and you don't know who your real friends are, people are jealous. The grass is always greener. We just have to admire our own green grass. And even if there are some dead spots just be happy with them. Also, I think that we will always compare. it is just what we do with the comparisons. and how long we spend comparing? Is it a quick thought that we get over or do we spend hours obsessing.
Happy MS month! MS is a cause very close to my heart. My Grandfather had it. Love your blog! Amy's neighbor~ Rach