The other day I was engaging in one of my favorite past times: complaining about my life and then quickly regretting being so ungrateful and ending each sentence with, “I know it could be so much worse”.
And then my incredibly wise roommate said, “Pain is pain is pain”. I live with some great people.
So then I was thinking about that statement, and how unfair it is for us to constantly compare our struggles to the struggles of others because we are all different. Yes, being compassionate is always worth it, even if we can’t exactly understand or comprehend what someone is going through.
But we shouldn’t feel guilty about having struggles in our lives, or being frustrated with how things are going.
We act like there is some kind of cosmic sad formula and if, and only if, all the variables match up, then finally we are allowed to be sad.
That’s not an excuse for letting our emotions rule our every action, or to steep in sadness, or be terrible to our roommates and significant others and friends and family because we are crabby. Obviously these are all hypothetical situations…
So, here are my guidelines for dealing with all that life throws our way.
1. Stop comparing
Just stop it. I think we should all tattoo the brilliant words of Teddy Roosevelt on our foreheads, “Comparison is the thief of joy”. It’s an easy trap that the devil sets for us. My problems aren’t real because so-and-so is dealing with x, y, and z. I should just deal with it. If I was holier/smarter/wiser/older/younger/prettier like so-and-so I would be able to handle it. Let’s stop doing that. Next time you compare yourself to someone, recall one great thing about that person, one great thing about yourself, say a Hail Mary and move on.
2. You are allowed to cry
I mean like, all out, no holds, snot and sobs, ugly cry. We were given hearts and emotions and feelings and sometimes we need to feel them in order to remember that we are humans. We don’t have to bottle it all up. Let me illustrate this with a slightly graphic analogy. If you had to pee, like really had to pee, would you go just a little bit every 10 minutes? No, you’d let it all out and then be done with it.
So be sad and cry and yell and all that, and then move on. Don’t let your emotions rule you, but don’t pretend like you can wrestle them into some kind of hibernation.
Cry, say a Hail Mary (or two, or 50) and move on.
3. Be honest with God
I’m so bad at faking this. It’s easy to go to prayer and say, “Hello, I’m really mad today but don’t worry, I got this. Great chat, later.” We’d never do that with other people in our lives (and if we do, we need to have a reality check). Another of my brilliant roommates reminded me that, “Real relationships have real emotions”. Seriously, so blessed.
The other day I made a list of all the things that were making anxious and unhappy. Then I went to the chapel and read them all, and then I ripped them up. It felt awesome. I’m not saying it’ll work for everyone and everything, but it worked for me.
So let Him have it, angry words, ugly tears, frustrated feelings, all of it. He died for you, so He can handle your bad day(s).
4. Be grateful
Be sad, and then take time to remember all the things you are blessed with. Write them down, put them on post-it notes, put them in a jar and read one a day, do something. If it’s hard to think of some, start extremely basic. You are reading this sentence so I can safely assume you know how to read. Praise God. And you have the internet, Praise God. Also, breathing. Praise God.
5. Be realistic
You aren’t perfect and no one (this includes you) should expect you to be perfect. You are going to have terrible days/weeks/months/years but we were made in the image of our Father, and we were made for greatness, and “We are not the sum of our weaknesses and failures; we are the sum of the Father’s love for us and our real capacity to become the image of his Son”.
Last night we had a woman’s night at Newman and Fr. asked all the women if they had felt anxious (every hand shot up) in the last few days (all the hands continued to stay up).
We live in an imperfect world. I stub my big toe on my bed frame practically every morning. If that’s not proof of our being made for something greater, I don’t know what is.
So cling to Jesus, put on your big boy/big girl pants and take one day at a time!