No comparison, singles edition

I mentioned in yesterday’s post about there being two things that reminded me of the old saying, “All unhappiness comes from comparison.” I wrote about one of them. That being the success of others making me feel a sense of loss, or at least longing, for things still not achieved.

I touched on the other. A fellow picnic attendee mistook my friend and I for a couple. I wasn’t surprised, since I was kind of sticking close to my friend since I didn’t know anyone else very well, and wasn’t feeling real energetic that evening.

It really didn’t bother me at that moment, but I do think about it. The unhealthy comparison here is when I look at couples, gay or straight, who have been together a long time, and seem to complete each other. They also have someone to grow old with, to share special moments, perhaps kids and then grandchildren, carrying on the family name and all that.

It’s sometimes a little scary to think about getting old and living by yourself. But hey, I’m only 47. I have time yet. Someone out there is wishing they could be 47 again, while I might wish I was 27. It’s all relative. And it’s all irrelevant. Those damn comparisons!

Honestly, I’m okay being single right now. (When I’m not comparing myself to one happy pair or another who seem to have it all.) I have a harder time with the accomplishment and success comparisons, than I do with relationship jealousy.

Yet, if you’ve been single around the holidays, you know it’s better when you have someone to share it with.  I know a lot of single people don’t do any decorating for Christmas. I always have, regardless.  So, I guess I’m not unhappy being on my own, but I’d like to find “the one” eventually.

In the meantime, I will make no comparisons to others, but only examine my own life just as I do with goals or degrees of success. I’ve grown a lot as a person through the years, and have become much more comfortable in my own skin. They say confidence is the most attractive quality. I still need some work, but not comparing will help with that.

Things will come together in their own time.

No comparison

Two things recently reminded me of the old adage, “All unhappiness comes from comparison.” One was a picnic I attended at the home of an organizer of a gay friends social group. I went with a friend who was also in the group, who is older than me and also single. He seems content with that, as am I. Still, it would be nice to be in a committed relationship for the support and companionship. But that’s not what I really want to talk about now.

The thing that kept occupying my thoughts was how much better off most of the group members were as far as careers (current or retired) and their socioeconomic status. One couple lived in NYC during the week where one of the men was an attorney for the city.  They had a home in the Lehigh Valley area where they stayed on the weekends.

The home where the picnic was held was quite nice.  Another man was involved with running a radio station. There was another who also lived in New York, but spent a lot of time in the Lehigh Valley, though I didn’t catch what he did.

There was a couple who go to my church, that I haven’t talked with much before. They had just been to Paris. I’d love to do that, but I don’t know if I’ll ever get that chance. One of those men also thought my friend and I were a couple. Maybe I should talk more about that aspect in my next post.

There were others who either had great careers or talked about their travels. Then as I was about to leave, I ran into a guy I had met at an earlier event. My friend and I talked tiohim some. It turned out he was working for Amazon as a picker in the warehouse. Not a fun job, or well paying.

I felt better after that. But should it have taken that one comparison to get me to see that all the other comparisons were just making me unhappy, and they were irrelevant?

I was embarrassed to tell classmates at a reunion a few years ago that I was an assistant manager at Family Dollar. But I shouldn’t have been. That’s where I was at, and that’s that. It was good experience.

Now, I’m microfilming newspapers for preservation. I started in the digital department at the company and have learned a lot of different skills in a few years, so I guess I’m content with that for now. Of course, I still want to be a writer. It’s good to have goals and dreams.

You just have to be patient and work toward your long term goals while you muddle through.  Most importantly, don’t make comparisons, except maybe to yourself, to gauge progress.

The contribution

As we pulled out, I waved to my family. My aunt commented that my mom was really crying, and she seemed surprised that it was that hard for her to see me go for two weeks. I hadn’t been away from home for more than a night before that.

I was going to stay with relatives for two weeks and come back to our family reunion with them. It was the summer between 6th and 7th grades. We didn’t have middle school then, so the coming year was the first of junior high. I had kind of been manic in the latter half of the school year, though it would be years before I knew that’s what it was. It was kind of good in that it broke me out of my shell. I was always very shy and quiet. Unfortunately, that returned by fall and lasted for a few more years.

So, we were off, amidst the tears. I realized years later that my mom was crying because she felt so bad about my brother not getting to go too. My aunt had called my mom and made the suggestion.  I guess there wouldn’t have been enough room in their car for everyone on the way back with luggage and all, so only I was going.

It begs the question, why extend the invitation at all if it was only going to be for one? Then I thought maybe my mom should have declined the invitation. I guess she didn’t want us both to miss out. My brother and I were just 14 months apart in age, he the older one, and we did everything together.

My brother was gracious about letting me go. While he was close to our cuz too, he knew that I always had a special bond with him. I’m sure he still felt left out, though. We didn’t get to do a lot of things, or go places, because we didn’t have the money and my parents didn’t get much vacation. I don’t know if they had any paid vacation. My mom was working at a blouse mill and my dad worked at a hardware store.

Once at my cousin’s house, I had a really nice time. It was early in the summer, and the weather was great.  As I said, my cousin and I had a special bond. We only saw each other once a year, but we always picked right up where we left off. They lived in a city, and we went to museums and other fun things.

We also ate out two or three times. Near the end of the trip, my aunt asked me for money for those times we ate out and they had paid for everyone, including me. I was surprised that she was asking for it, but being only 11, I didn’t protest. The problem was, that I had only $13 at the start of the trip, some of which I had spent on a puddle jumper at the Children’s Museum.

My aunt’s response to that information was, “You mean your mother sent you out here with only thirteen dollars?”  Instead of feeling angry at her, I was embarrassed and ashamed. I felt inadequate. I was aware that my family was poorer than most everyone else I knew, but this was kind of a painful reminder. And, she still took the my money. I had wanted to get my brother a souvenir of some kind. My aunt said I could pick something out of a box of items she picked up here and there for our annual Christmas gift exchange via mail.

I selected a fancy plastic ruler with “wood” grain through the middle. I’ll never forget the disappointed look on my brother’s face when I presented it to him.

Well, that was more than three decades ago. (Is that possible?) I must admit I still feel resentment when I think of that incident, but I have forgiven it. I remind myself of her good qualities, which I’ll share with you now. She was fun to be around and had an infectious laugh.

My uncle worked for the post office and he used to joke that she gave him job security, because she sent cards to everyone for birthdays and anniversaries and such. She was very good about that. She kept track of everything. She worked hard selling Tupperware to help support the family. She actually won a sales contest not long before my visit. The prize was the station wagon we rode in.

She also had diabetes for as long as I could remember. She was on dialysis for the last ten years of her life, until heart complications took her too soon. I think she was 72, so she made it pretty long, considering. We all still miss her.

In and out of the crowd

I live close to a big music festival which anyone local knows as Musikfest.  It’s been going on for 35 years now.  I’ve gone every year for about half that time, or a little less.  My cousin would come to stay with my brother and me for many of those years, when we were still talking.  Then we’d all go together.

I’ve seen a lot of great musical acts and met a lot of interesting people.  I’ve eaten a lot of different kinds of food, drinks and enjoyed the artisan vendor tents.  I’ve gotten some cool stuff at those tents. I also bought a bonsai tree about four years in a row.  They never made it to the next year.  I finally gave up out of guilt for killing something that was so beautiful and that someone spent 5 years training.

Those are the good experiences (except for the bonsai), and why I’ll keep going. There are downsides to it though.  In fact, many locals make it a point to stay away.  There’s the parking. You either have to pay $10 or park very far away and walk in. It has also gotten to be rather expensive to eat and drink. The music is still free, which is great, but who doesn’t want to eat or have a drink while they’re there?

Of course, the biggest factor is the crowds. Some people just don’t like being in a throng of people. I have to admit, there’s a lot more rudeness than in years past, especially talking during a performance, so you can barely hear the band.

Festivals are a showcase of human behavior, both good and bad. I have to be in the mood, but I do like going into the crowd sometimes. There’s a certain energy and a sort of primitive communal spirit of gathering around a small venue stage or street performer, like the minstrels of old, or the storyteller around a fire back in early human history.

I’ve seen people spontaneously dance with strangers, interact with the band members after the show, someone giving a stranger a food ticket or two when they’re short, and help someone when they’ve fallen.

I particularly like a South American group called Runa Pacha that’s there every year. I always find time to sit on the grassy bank by their set-up and listen to the pan flutes, guitars and traditional Native American drumming. As other people join me in a moment of respite on the grass, I imagine myself being high in the Andes or on a cliff top overlooking the sea. It’s so relaxing and refreshing.

So, I get both sides of the argumnt. Sometimes, I’m kind of done with the crowds and ready to get home by the time the night is over. But I like to go to take in some music and do some people watching, and enjoy the charm of the historic district and closed streets full of fest goers looking to have some fun with friends and family for a moment of our busy lives.

As for tonight, I’m perfectly happy sitting on my deck writing this and enjoying the night air. For tomorrow, I ‘fest’.

Exclusion: Defense mechanisms

I’ve talked about exclusion of the “different” people.  Perhaps there’s a flip side. Maybe you’ve experienced it when you tried to reach out to someone.  You try to be nice, but they act as if they want nothing to do with you, or may even be hostile, or rude. Maybe they’re just a little guarded or aloof. These are, of course, defense mechanisms.

When a person is used to being excluded, or teased or rejected, they are suspicious of everyone and end up pushing others away, because they’re convinced they’ll just end up being hurt.  While no one can blame you if you let it drop at that point, it could be fruitful to give it another shot.  If you’re sincere, they’ll see that.

It shouldn’t be purely out of pity.  Nobody wants to feel pitied. It also shouldn’t be done out of a sense of obligation or an overactive conscience.  If it’s not your forte to be an ambassador to those left out, the “socially challenged”, that’s okay. But if it is your thing, give them a couple chances.

If you’re one of the people who is feeling left out, be ready for opportunity.  Be yourself and don’t assume everyone is judging you or that they think they’re better than you. You must also give them a chance.

We’re all in this together.

 

 

Mental health update, 7/30/18

I’ve had technical issues and other distractions, but I wanted to give another update on my sister.

She came home after about a week.  As predicted, the insurance company decided to send her home early, against the doctor’s recommendation and the social worker’s protestations. There was not even enough time to bring medication changes to the full dosage. Fortunately, she was well enough this time to stay stable in the meantime. She continues to do well. I just had a nice talk with her.  We’re both trying to lose weight and we trade successes and challenges on that front, among other things.

We can also talk about mental health issues, since I have bipolar depression and anxiety myself. I have pretty good insight into what she goes through.  I like to think I offer some help in coping from what I’ve learned.  And, I’d like to share more about that in coming posts.

I’m relieved she’s doing well, but I still worry about the coming years. There’s the financial issue, and the social. It’s hard to meet and keep friends when you have a serious mental illness. It’s even harder to meet a significant other.

I have to admit that she drives me nuts sometimes when she chatters incessantly. She also tends to turn the conversation back to herself a lot. I hope that I can help her to see that, and maybe learn to listen more. It’s not totally her fault. Her mind races and it’s hard to keep it all in.

It’s a hard knock life.

 

Small world

I sometimes feel bad that my indoor cats don’t get to go beyond the deck.  Their world is so small.

Then I think how relatively small my own world is. I’ve been to a number of states in the US, but I’ve never been abroad. I’m not a socialite who has a hundred friends or so. I don’t go to a lot of different area eateries or places of note. There’s a lot of things I haven’t done, places I haven’t been, people I don’t know.

But it’s okay.  I’m branching out more as I go. I’m making more friends, trying new places and things. Unlike the cats, I have the internet, so I can at least virtually explore the world and its varying people and nature.  I can always explore the world around me through the people I see everyday. They all have stories to share. That’s pretty exciting.

I will not stop believing that I’ll get to do the things I want to do, as long as I stay determined and motivated.  And as for the cats, well, they have me and my brother, and each other, and the deck and windows. They seem content.

Am I content? Hmmm. Have to say not entirely. I’m trying to be happy with where I’m at, while staying hopeful about the future. I do pretty well at that. That’s good enough for now.