I feel silly writing about challenges this week when I have a childhood friend who just had a brain tumor removed. A woman at work lost everything in a fire a few days ago. My college roommate is sorting through her father’s house and decided what to keep, what to donate, what to sell. My friend’s husband is trying to find a job. There are people all around me with urgent and emergent challenges.
I have annoyances. Inconveniences. Overscheduling dilemmas. Middle class problems. Chronic versus acute.
But that brings me to a challenge that saps some of my energy every day, no matter the day. I know my life would be better if I could find a way to step away from it. My challenge is comparing myself to others.
You’ve read this far and I still haven’t explained the Triple Nipple title. That’s called burying the lede, kids.
In my racing mind, every person I encounter is doing something better than I am. If you are a stay at home mom, I’m not spending enough time with my kids. If you are a career dynamo, I am a schlub compared to you because I want to protect my family time. If you run, that makes me regret that I used to run. If you dress well, I am reminded that I don’t put much effort into my clothes. If you remember to use your crockpot, you are so much more organized than I am. If your daughter always has a hair bow to match her dress and her shirts never have spots on them, I am a lazy slattern who can’t dress her children. If you drive too slowly, I am a speed demon. If you drive too fast, I am clearly in the way. If you drink coffee, I am foolish for drinking Diet Coke.
Now don’t think you need to scroll down there to the comments and tell me how stupid and unhealthy this is. I pay a professional to do that. And sometimes I apologize to my therapist for taking up her time when there are people out there with real problems. Depending on the day, she might say, “Yeah, and this crazy shit makes you one of them.”
Somewhere along the way I decided that everyone else was really acing this whole grown up life thing and I am the only one fumbling around. I compare my blooper reel to their highlights tape. My inside to their outside. These comparisons are the source of my anxiety because I am constantly judging and measuring and assuming that I am being judged and measured. And coming up short.
But I do try to remind myself of the old adage that says if we all stood in a circle and showed our problems, we would snatch back our own as quick as a wink.
One day I was sitting at lunch with some of my delightfully brilliant girlfriends when a woman walked by. Libby said how pretty her dress was, so we all looked over and it was. I recognized the woman from my kids’ school and said, “Y’all…I don’t know how she does it. Her kids are adorable and she and her husband actually enjoy talking to each other and at the Easter egg hunt they all have on coordinating seersucker outfits and she brings homemade decorated sugar cookies to the potluck and she just had a baby about four months ago and her hair is so shiny and she finds time to work out and has a full-time job but her kid is never the last one picked up from daycare…”
And that’s when Nicole looked up from her salad and shrugged.
“She’s probably got a third nipple.”
Well, that’s an excellent point.
We all have something we don’t show to everybody, something that makes us feel weird or not normal. Now when I find myself comparing and judging, I dwell on that possible third nipple instead.
Guess what? One in 18 men has a “supernumerary nipple” and 1 in 50 women does too! Even the triple nipple isn’t as uncommon as we think.
I love this cartoon. I’m getting there–to the place of AWESOME and ALSO AWESOME–but it’s a challenge.