Monday, January 28, 2008

Picking My Own Problem

There is a fable whereby God gives each person the option to rid himself of his most pressing difficulty. Everyone places his or her problems in the center of a circle. In turn, each then inspects the travails and challenges of the others, and chooses what he or she would prefer. As the fable goes, everyone opts for his own problem. Human nature is to always consider oneself less fortunate than others - until presented with reality.

Michael J. Fox considers himself to be a "lucky man." As I watched him on TV try to contain uncontrollable tremors and twitches inflicted by Parkinson's disease, I was astonished - and awed - to hear him describe himself as "fortunate." He admits he would not have opted for this disease; yet as long as it is his path, he feels it is a gift because he's able to help others.

Shall we compare? Fox describes Parkinson's as "a gift;" I complain when I have to say "no" to a second scoop of ice cream. Maybe rethinking my position is in order.

Shamelessly stolen from here

There exists, between my best friend and I, an imaginary rivalry.

I couldn't tell you when it started: maybe it started when I slept with her boyfriend. Maybe it started when she stole mine. Maybe it started that day when we walked into the same room after not seeing each other for over six months and we were wearing exactly the same clothes. (Light blue slacks and a black vampire t-shirt)

We even look a lot alike. Same brown hair, blue eyes, round body-types with the overdeveloped chests. We both even wear glasses. We like the same things; earrings, boyfriends, clothing, hobbies. We got married within two months of the other (neither of us attended the other's wedding because we were still getting over the whole 'she's marrying my exboyfriend' thing.) and gave birth to our children within two months of each other. (Did I mention that - independently of each other - we each chose to get sapphire engagement rings??) Most people think we're sisters.

Doesn't matter, really.

I know that this is all in my head.

Given my self-esteem issues, I've always tended to view myself as the lesser of two. Not that I'm not smart, or talented, or likable. Just... a little less. Not quite. Because of this, I often view Carole as having a rather charmed life.

From an outsider's view - even only as far away as the best friend's point of view - things seem to come so easily to them. Thomas has worked his ass off for every raise and promotion he gets. Carole seems to fall into a new job without effort, and gets one where she doesn't always have to do very much work. They have the house, the new cars, the home improvement projects. We have a used car that my dad didn't want anymore; a rental apartment that's about 500 square feet too small, and my idea of home improvement is trying to find new and creative ways to shove more junk into a smaller space.

A lot of times, it just doesn't seem fair.

I still haven't told her that I'm doing Weight Watchers. We saw them last week at a party, but I just did my thing. I don't think they noticed. Especially since we ended up having to leave early because of the snow, so my resolve wasn't tested by having to go out to eat with friends.

Remember what I said earlier about that rivalry? Part of why I didn't want to tell her about the whole lifestyle change thing is because she's also overweight. She's been on and off diets since we met, back in the early 90's. When I had to go on the diabetic diet while pregnant, she wasn't particularly supportive. We were pregnant at the same time, and she was constantly saying things like "I don't know how you can do it, I'm SOOOOO hungry" and promptly go eat an ice cream sundae. We would go out to eat, and she'd eat an appetizer, an entree, dessert, and eat half of her husband's dessert too. And she wasn't discrete about eating either... she'd do the whole food-gasm thing and throw the occasional "poor Lynn" in my direction.

Intellectually, I know she probably wasn't doing it as much as I imagined she was. And that she probably didn't know how angry I'd be by the time I got done with my side salad and baked chicken and no dessert. And gave myself injections in my stomach. I had a nice belt of bruises going from one hip, across my belly to the other. My fingers constantly ached and bled from having to stab myself four times a day. Yes, I resented the hell out of her. My best friend, and I still wanted to slap her in the face with a tire iron.

I know. She wasn't doing it to be hurtful to me, and that I was unduly sensitive about it. Especially given my whole view on how much... less I was. Less important. Less wealthy. Less worthy.

But my experiences have scarred me a bit. Watching Carole be on and off diets most of her life, and how discouraged she'd get, and how much she hated it, and how much she cheated. And how little she ever actually lost.

When I got done with being pregnant, and lost so much weight, Carole was jealous. She made a few cutting comments one time that I probably wasn't meant to overhear.

Most of this is in my head. I know that. I accept it.


Yesterday, Carole got some news that makes me think I'd take back my own problems.

Her four year old daughter, Anne, is diabetic. She'd been listless and groggy for the better part of a week, and they finally took her to an Urgent Care yesterday. Who sent them on to the ER. Who sent them to the Children's Hospital's ICU.

Comparatively, my being in a diet is such a small thing. And I felt inordinately guilty about having kept secrets from her, or thinking bad things about her. Her life is so easy, I always thought. She gets everything she wants without half trying.

And yet... my problems with Carole are just that. My problems. And I know that most of it - 90% of it, even - is in my head.

Dieting (or lifestyle changing, or whatever the FUCK you want to call it) is also 90% mental. And I don't think it is a bad decision to stack the deck a little bit in my favor. I have to take care of myself, and if I'm spending all my time worrying about what she thinks and what she's doing, then I'm not paying attention to myself.

All things considered, I'll keep my problems. And deal with them. And there's nothing wrong with the way I'm dealing with my problems.


Anonymous said...

Wonderful post, and a wonderful point.

Maybe our problems are "our" problems because they are the ones we can deal with, and the ones that will produce the most growth for us when we do? I tend to think that everything happens for a reason, which may be overly idealistic of me,'s a thought anyway.

It's also something I need to remember when I start playing "poor me", which tends to be one of my favorite games. Thanks for the reminder. :-)


Susie said...

I like this post. I must of it made me LOL and parts made me say, uh too!I can relate. I have a similar situation...but I won't go into detail b/c I told her about WW and the blog..She told me that she was on WW first and I wanted to tell her what has helped me. But now..I can't truly vent. (see my toxic posting.jan 19th for an example). But, yea--they could be our problems to deal with and aren't so bad when you more serious stuff comes up. I have a friend who always puts it in perspective to me..when we hear a bad/sad story/situation..she says.."and here we are worrying about how our asses look". I have another friend that says,"if that's our biggest problem (our asses,ect) than we are pretty lucky." So that's my daily dose of ramblin' for you!