A brief note on the Hardship Olympics

I’ve found myself talking about this in blog comments a lot, lately, and with friends, too. I think it bears a bit of probing, because I remain absolutely astounded at the number of otherwise kind and intelligent people who just Do Not Get It.

The theory is this: There are no Hardship Olympics. Nobody wins for having it worse than everybody else. There is no honor and glory in that which sucks. Any sort of one-up-manship that happens in the discussion of difficulty is a dick move, because no one wins and it’s not a competition.

Furthermore, the fact that the world is full of tragedy—always, actually, though seemingly moreso right now—does not mean that if you personally didn’t lose your home, family, and pet chinchilla in a tsunami that your struggles don’t matter or somehow aren’t hard. I mean, sure, if someone is sitting there moaning about their hangnail, I get how that might be kind of trying. But I really think Plato said it best: Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.

So what does a friend in battle need from you?

Do they need a reminder that other people have it worse? Is that helpful?

Again, if they’re crying over a hangnail, I guess… maybe. Though who the heck knows, maybe they’re crying over that hangnail because the last time they had a hangnail their parents died in a fire. I DON’T KNOW. And probably neither do you.

I know I can’t speak for anyone else. I don’t pretend to. All I can tell you is that FOR ME nothing makes me feel more alone and unsupported than Hardship Olympics bait. Because SOMEONE ELSE HAS IT WORSE!

I’m aware that lots of people have it WAY worse. I don’t think that by experiencing the emotions that organically develop from, say, having one kid in agony with now-coming-up-on-four-years of undiagnosed medical misery and another kid who I genuinely do not know will ever live a “normal” independent life and expressing my pain and frustration therein that I am somehow ignoring every other needy person in the world and declaring my pain the Ultimate Gold Medal Winner Of Suck. All I am doing is saying, “Hey, I’m finding my particular battle hard today.”

So if you’re my friend, I would hope that would be okay with you.

If it’s not, feel free to ignore me if you find it grating. Develop a pressing need to go wash your cat or take a call or whatever. I get it. We don’t all love everything everybody (even sometimes—or maybe especially—people we love) does all the time. No biggie. Maybe remind yourself I’m not doing it to personally aggravate you or because I’m completely blind to the entire world, but because I’m having a hard time.

But the minute you feel the need to remind me that other people have real problems, you know, way worse than mine, well that actually DOES remind me of something. It reminds me that you’re right, one of us is not very good at being compassionate. (Hint: It’s not me.)

Telling someone to remember the people who have it worse isn’t an attempt to help them buck up. It’s code for “you are not entitled to your feelings, and P.S. I’m a better person than you.” It doesn’t help. It’s more honest to just kick someone when they’re down, frankly. Then you could throw your arms in the air and scream “VICTORY!” and feel as superior as you want, right out in the open!

No one wins at the Hardship Olympics. So for the love of God, please stop trying to make it a competition.

120 Responses to “A brief note on the Hardship Olympics”

  1. 1
    Sally March 21, 2011 at 9:41 am #

    Amen, Mir.

  2. 2
    Barbara March 21, 2011 at 9:47 am #

    Very well said. And for what it’s worth, I hope that your battle(s) are just a little bit easier to handle today.

  3. 3
    jennamom2boys March 21, 2011 at 9:50 am #

    Word.

  4. 4
    divrchk March 21, 2011 at 9:51 am #

    Well said. This year has been so difficult and trying and on the surface it looks like I’ve had a whole lot of fun. People don’t see everything. You are not having an easy time, this is your space, you are entitled to use it as you wish. I love reading you. You are so pretty.

  5. 5
    Tracy March 21, 2011 at 9:52 am #

    Oh wow! I have always hated the whole, “it could be worse” or “someone somewhere has it 10 times worse, so cheer up” statements. I applaud you for this post today. I only wish I’d said it first….that’s why you are the writer and I’m the reader. :) Did I tell you lately how much I “like” you? I really do!

  6. 6
    Jenn C. March 21, 2011 at 9:52 am #

    I wonder if I am the only person who actually does find those comments helpful – as long as they are spoken with kindness or gentle humor – because I often find myself completely overwhelmed and drowning in my own self pity, far out of proportion to the issue at hand. A reminder that maybe things are not as bad as I would make them out to be can do wonders for me getting my head out of my own ass.

    “At least it’s not on fire!” has become shorthand in our house for “hey, you need a little perspective here, take a deep breath.”

    And yet, I’m not about to start telling someone on the internet that she needs to remember that other people have it worse than her, because you’re right. Without knowing the situation at hand really well, I have NO idea just how bad someone else has it with a particular battle at the moment. It is an unfortunate price to pay for sharing the details of your life with strangers, and it sucks.

  7. 7
    Mom24@4evermom March 21, 2011 at 9:54 am #

    I’m sad that you felt you needed to say this, that people made you feel like you needed to say this. I’ve never felt like you think you’re the only one with problems, or the only one with worthy problems, or whatever. I know how helpful it can be to talk about your troubles, even on a blog. I wish all of you well and I always appreciate your candidness on your journey.

    I echo Barbara and hope your load is easier today.

  8. 8
    Heather @Critter Chronicles March 21, 2011 at 9:59 am #

    I remind myself of the Hardship Olympics all the time, to shake myself out of whatever funk I’ve found myself residing in. It helps me gain some perspective; that my life is not the terrible plight I may believe it to be.

    But I never, ever play that game with others. (Well, maybe my kids. And husband.) Because you said it all – we don’t know what emotions someone else is going through, what hardship they’re facing at that moment, or how the universe has colluded to make life particularly difficult for them at that moment. I’ve had enough people in this world invalidate my feelings; I’m not about to do that to anyone else.

  9. 9
    ClumberKim March 21, 2011 at 10:00 am #

    I have to tell my son every day, at least once, that not everything is a competition. It makes me sad that adults need the same reminder.

  10. 10
    Jenna March 21, 2011 at 10:01 am #

    F them. Too harsh? Too bad.

    <3 ya Mir!

  11. 11
    Liz March 21, 2011 at 10:01 am #

    Yeeeeeeeeeeess!

  12. 12
    ste March 21, 2011 at 10:03 am #

    Beautifully said!

  13. 13
    Lylah March 21, 2011 at 10:05 am #

    ((((HUG)))

  14. 14
    zchamu March 21, 2011 at 10:06 am #

    Ha. I have a blog post going up this morning about how I Hardship Olympic myself. But sometimes it is a good thing for me to ensure I have perspective. My toddler’s been projectile vomiting all weekend and it sucks. But at one point I realized: I’d take her projectile vomiting any day over what some other people are having to face right now. This isn’t to say I think everyone should just suck it up because it “could be worse”. I just sometimes need to realize that even though things suck occasionally, my family is really blessed.

    However, I wouldn’t tell anybody else that they need to have that perspective, because that’s really just kind of obnoxious.

  15. 15
    Amy March 21, 2011 at 10:06 am #

    This completely made me think of this quote: be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is fighting some sort of battle.

  16. 16
    Niki March 21, 2011 at 10:07 am #

    You are completely entitled to your feelings.

    And P.S. – I’m pretty sure you’re a better person than I am. And prettier, too.

  17. 17
    MomQueenBee March 21, 2011 at 10:08 am #

    I would like to steal this and print it as my own because it is perfect. I won’t, but I would like to. Because it is perfect.

  18. 18
    JennyM March 21, 2011 at 10:13 am #

    Hear, hear.

  19. 19
    Jen March 21, 2011 at 10:17 am #

    Brava.

  20. 20
    diane March 21, 2011 at 10:18 am #

    Most of the time, I think what we are really after when sharing our problems is a validation that it is OK to feel lousy about it – and it is. We all go through icky stuff at various times and to various degrees; rather than being a competition, we should be able to comfort one another.

  21. 21
    Karen March 21, 2011 at 10:20 am #

    Well said, Mir. Still surprises me that you catch any flack at all here – I think you’re brutally honest and compassionate and you certainly don’t have an easy row to hoe. All I can say is, sometimes people are so miserable in their own life they need to cast misery around them… in form of superiority complex or judgement, apparently. I think you’re brave to put it all out there, too. I don’t have that courage.

    unrelated – did you catch my comment about my husband’s mystery rash/ cream wonderdrug? This one simple topical cream has really stopped the misery after two years and many dr’s saying “Huh, we don’t know!”.

  22. 22
    Suzanne March 21, 2011 at 10:20 am #

    And this is why I have effectively abandoned my blog of late, because every time I try to post something, like say, “OMG, I found a gray hair today” — I don’t get “OMG that sucks, I feel sorry for you” I get “Get over yourself, at least it was just one gray hair” or “At least you have hair”

  23. 23
    diane March 21, 2011 at 10:21 am #

    *claps*
    I love the term “hardship olympics”. Gonna have to remember that one because yeah…I’ve encountered those people, and it’s not pretty.

  24. 24
    Christina March 21, 2011 at 10:24 am #

    Mir, I totally feel you on this one! We all need to vent now and then, and when we do our so-called friends and family are supposed to listen and comfort us, allowing us to get it off our chests so that we can move on. Sometimes we need to have our feelings validated, not shot down as unimportant. I’m sure there is always someone out there who has it worse, but does that mean that what we are going through at that given time is not important?
    Here’s hoping for some better understanding.

  25. 25
    Heather March 21, 2011 at 10:29 am #

    You are your readers are all so very pretty and wise. I got a similar spiel from my sister last week, talking about a particular situation, “We’re ALL hurting, but oh no, of course it’s SO much worse for you!” And I was like, GAH. No! My grief does not invalidate yours, nor yours mine. We all hurt, but we need to remember to have that grace with one another – and even in the same circumstance, everyone can feel differently, and that doesn’t necessarily make anyone weaker or stronger or better or worse! Aaanyway. /rant.
    I fully support your right to vent about your stuff, because it’s your stuff and your website and … so there. *ahem* Did I mention you’re pretty?

  26. 26
    Heather March 21, 2011 at 10:29 am #

    Oh and PS, sometimes, when I get stuck on the whole, “But there are starving children in Africa!” thought, then I just feel WORSE for feeling badly, and if that isn’t a vicious cycle I don’t know what is :P

  27. 27
    Holly March 21, 2011 at 10:31 am #

    Good call, Mir.

  28. 28
    Kristi March 21, 2011 at 10:32 am #

    Hear ya, girl.

  29. 29
    Dani March 21, 2011 at 10:35 am #

    My momma always told me that someone else’s broken arm doesn’t make your cut finger hurt any less. Mir, I love reading what you write. We wouldn’t all keep coming back to read if we didn’t want to hear it, and if writing is anything for you like it is for me (aka: extremely therapeutic), keep it coming, lady. Praying for you and yours.

  30. 30
    Dave March 21, 2011 at 10:36 am #

    We call it Misery Poker. Like tic-tac-toe, the only way to win is not to play.

  31. 31
    Shannon March 21, 2011 at 10:38 am #

    That was very well said. I think most people encounter those kinds of Olympians from time to time and I agree, it is so unhelpful, not to mention mean-spirited, to withhold compassion and try to make a person who is feel bad, feel worse!

  32. 32
    Caty March 21, 2011 at 10:42 am #

    Voodoo dolls help.

  33. 33
    crgilvr March 21, 2011 at 10:44 am #

    Word.

    And also, you don’t know everything that goes on in other people’s houses, heads or hearts. Some people share SOME of that on a blog.

    That fact does not mean that you know everything there is to know about that person and perhaps you should cut them some slack.

  34. 34
    Lissa March 21, 2011 at 10:45 am #

    No Hardship Olympics? Man, that was the only chance I had of competing anything with the term “Olympics” after it. Unless there is a Neuroses Olympics, ’cause I could totally place in that one.

    I was just talking about this with my husband. Some friends can’t just listen and empathize/sympathize, instead they have to “support” me with stories about their children & how much WORSE things were for them and how LUCKY I am compared to them. The insinuation – when their children suffer it hurts more then when my children do.

    People would do well to learn that pain is relative but compassion is absolute.

  35. 35
    The Mommy Therapy March 21, 2011 at 10:46 am #

    Love it!!!

    I can’t tell you how many people comment on my blog telling me that I should just be grateful that I have three beautiful children or that I can stay home or that I used to have a cleaning lady or any number of things that at some moments weren’t on the top of my gratitude list because I was having a rough day.

    I’ll never forget after I had my first baby, I was having a tough time to say the least. I was visiting my parents and having a mini breakdown beacuase I just couldn’t handle the baby crying for another minute, I was overwhelmed and seriously should have been medicated. My mother immediately told me I was being ridiculous, he was just a baby, a healthy baby too. I was being ungrateful and whiny. I have never heard my older brother so quickly snap my mother back into place, pointing out that she was being dissmissive and lacking compassion and straight up cruel. I couldn’t even form a sentence so I was so grateful for his words.

    I always think about that when someone is having a rough time with something. My view of whether it is difficult or not is irrelevant. Anyone’s view of it being difficult is irrelevant, except the one going through it.

    Let’s hear it for compassion! Thanks for the reminder.

  36. 36
    vivian March 21, 2011 at 10:46 am #

    One day, when a friend of mine was going thru a rough time, I told her to cheer up, that things could be worse. She wrote back that I was right, she cheered up and things got worse.

  37. 37
    navhelowife March 21, 2011 at 10:48 am #

    Well said Mir.
    And I find the opposite is true sometimes as well. Just because something GOOD happens to someone, other people do not need to try to trump it.
    I remind my kids all the time that one’s person’s success doesn’t make your success any less. You don’t need to put them down just because you want to be important too.
    There’s enough heartbreak, pain and misery to go around, unfortunately. We should all be here to hold up the ceiling when someone just can’t, and they need a break.

    And on the reverse, we should all cheer when someone finds that extra strength to hold up the ceiling just a little bit better than they did before.

  38. 38
    Beverly March 21, 2011 at 10:52 am #

    I had pretty much exactly this discussion with my husband the other day, when discussing our daughter’s admittedly mild — yet still troubling to her and us — epilepsy.

    I couldn’t agree more with what you’ve said here.

  39. 39
    daysgoby March 21, 2011 at 10:58 am #

    ‘Hardship Olympics’ might just become my new favorite expression. Hee. Thanks, Mir!

    My mother used to wave her finger at people who did that and say ‘Courtesy and compassion. I expect you to listen to me, please, and not dismiss what I say, because you are a compassionate person and this matters to me.’

    Of course, I used to DIE when she did this – typical teenage mortification – but it got the point across!

  40. 40
    Katie March 21, 2011 at 11:04 am #

    I get what you’re saying. However I’ll admit I’m weird and when I’m in a wallowing “woe is me” mood, I actually like it when one of my friends tells me how much worse their life is. It does make me feel better. In fact, I’ve been known to say “I feel like crap, tell me your absolute worst problem right now”. Of course the difference is I’m asking for it while you’re getting random unwanted comments. We all approach this crazy thing called life in different ways.

    I do like your “Hey, I’m finding my particular battle hard today” statement. It’s spot on, I may need to borrow it sometime (with credit to you!)

  41. 41
    amy March 21, 2011 at 11:08 am #

    Tertia on So Close had posted something similar to this once, and I remember nodding my head along with it, just as I am with this. You are so right, and people that don’t get it, can suck it.

  42. 42
    Mary Fran March 21, 2011 at 11:14 am #

    ***Standing Ovation***

  43. 43
    Karen March 21, 2011 at 11:16 am #

    Definitely. Sometimes people can help you with the battle, but regardless, it still has a component that is truly just your own. And sometimes you’re just not as well equipped to deal with it as you otherwise could because you’re vulnerable, or whatever. But people don’t know the full extent of everything…You said all that beautifully. <3

    You're still my idol!

  44. 44
    Melanie March 21, 2011 at 11:18 am #

    I posted this as my FB status the other day:

    When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. ~~ Henri Nouwen

  45. 45
    Randi March 21, 2011 at 11:26 am #

    HEAR HEAR!!! I sometimes feel guilty for feeling bad for myself when I know that there are others who are going through worse times than me (for instance when I had an ectopic and met someone who has lost their baby at 6 months gestation). But a good friend helped me to see that we’re all entitled to our feelings and that we need to have them in order to have a healthy life – feeling guilty doesn’t help.

    I, too, hope your day is filled with less struggles!

  46. 46
    Cindy in Walla Walla March 21, 2011 at 11:32 am #

    I’m a mom that had to bury a daughter 18 years ago, and I think I can recall every “it could be worse” comment that was made to us. As harsh as those comments sounded to our ears, we realized they were made by people trying desperately to comfort us. We were in a deep dark place, and people sometimes miss when they offer comfort.

    What worked for me was feeling their intention, not their words. So many people with kind hearts simply say the wrong thing.

  47. 47
    midj March 21, 2011 at 11:33 am #

    I’m pointing a finger at myself right now. With most people, I’m a compassionate listener who uses the statement “that must be really difficult for you, how can I help” a lot. But with my husband, who is a glass not only half empty but, “Oh my God, it’s going to fall off the table any second” type of guy (mostly in relation to his job), I find myself constantly pointing out how much worse a large part of the world has it than we do. I’m going to take what you said in hand and start projecting a different emotion towards him. Maybe giving him a considerate sounding board will reduce the constant negativity once he feels validated. Thanks, Mir, for giving me a gentle kick in the behind. Love you!

  48. 48
    Tenessa March 21, 2011 at 11:34 am #

    I completely agree.

    In fact, people like you, who are unafraid to admit life with your kids isn’t all unicorns and rainbows has helped me. Intellectually, I know there are others out there going through what I’ve gone through with my oldest, but it makes all the difference in the world to have physical words to read about people walking similar paths. I thank you for that. I thank you for having the guts to stand up and say “Asperger’s is HARD YO!” with a wink and a nod. Because it is hard and sometimes funny and I wouldn’t change mine for the world. Thanks.

  49. 49
    Becca March 21, 2011 at 11:35 am #

    I am nodding in agreement here.

    Curiously, when I was going through all of my surgeries I encountered the sort of opposite to what you’re describing. People would say that they shouldn’t complain about their problems to be, since mine were so much worse. My response was always that if whatever it was sucked for them, it was valid and they were welcome to talk about it, and that it wasn’t a competition for who was the most injured.

  50. 50
    Jamie March 21, 2011 at 11:38 am #

    Amen! I love the reminder that we’re all fighting battles, they’re just different battles.

    I do like Jenn C.’s use of “at least it’s not on fire” to remind yourself of perspective sometimes. Sad but true that it could ALWAYS be worse.

  51. 51
    Megan March 21, 2011 at 11:40 am #

    But… but… I think I could have taken the bronze!

    I totally fall victim to this and it’s not due to loving friends trying to grant me perspective – it’s because I’m trying to find it for myself. It’s good to hear this, and I will do my best to actually listen (at least until the next wave of – whaddami whining about when Others Have It So Much Worse hits!)

  52. 52
    Chris March 21, 2011 at 11:58 am #

    But if I don’t inflict the Hardship Olympics on others, how will I ever be able to quantify my own superiority/self-worth?

    You are pretty. Thanks for this today.

  53. 53
    Headless Mom March 21, 2011 at 12:01 pm #

    Yup.

  54. 54
    Mamadragon March 21, 2011 at 12:02 pm #

    OMG, could not be more true. And really, what does it hurt to listen and say, “I hear you”? Is it really so painful to offer a sympathetic ear from time to time?

  55. 55
    Laura March 21, 2011 at 12:03 pm #

    I caught the tail end of a televison evangelist’s sermon yesterday. His point was to look and listen through the eyes of love. I think if this is not possible (or appropriate!) a little respect would be the next best thing.

  56. 56
    bonuela March 21, 2011 at 12:10 pm #

    CLEARLY you’ve never had a hangnail. Sometimes it ruins a perfect manicure, and onetime i had one so bad i needed to wear a band-aid and the sticky part got all fuzzy from my sweater. it’s not like those tsunami people even have time for a manicure so hangnails are way worse for me.

    on a more serious note, you should be proud for feeling this way. i don’t even need an olympian, i do it to myself. i can’t shake the guilt when i throw myself a pity party. i always compare myself to people with “real” problems. guess what, mine ARE real problems.

  57. 57
    Bob March 21, 2011 at 12:13 pm #

    I thought the hardship olympics were the one-upmansbip type comments where people insist on telling you how they had the same thing happen to them, but worse. I used to do that and figured out that the 24th iteration of “the same thing happened to me” wasn’t contributing to the conversation and worse, it was trying to make it about me – instead of remembering that your blog is about you.

    Now, anyone telling you that there are others in this world suffering more than you is just being a jackass.

    I hope I haven’t been too much of a jackass.

  58. 58
    Wendy March 21, 2011 at 12:19 pm #

    As my mother says: “Illegitumus non tatum corborndum!” Great post, Pretty, Pretty Mir!

  59. 59
    Lori N March 21, 2011 at 12:20 pm #

    I was in a conversation with a mom this weekend who is going through something with her son that I have personally experienced and she said, “Hey, I know this isn’t that bad, I know so many other parents have far worse health issues with their child” etc. and I told her — but it’s still hard and a lot of people don’t get that. It’s okay to feel how you feel. So Amen, Mir.

    Life is not a competition, it’s an exhibition. Cheer for all the participants. :)

  60. 60
    Rachael March 21, 2011 at 12:26 pm #

    Yet another one of those stupid cliches (somebody always has it worse than you) that I hate. And what about the person who DOES have it worse than everyone else? Does it make them feel better knowing that no one has it worse than them?

    The thing with Aspie’s is that there isn’t a break from it. Ever. And the constant battles that never seem to let up are the ones that we can handle with grace and humor some days and that make us feel like committing ourselves to a mental institution the other 90% of the time.

    One big ‘ole cyberhug for you, Mir.

  61. 61
    Kim March 21, 2011 at 12:27 pm #

    You know, I thought after your FB post, that a good indicator of whether you qualify to send a friend request is ” Do you know Monkey’s real name?” If yes, consider it. If no, then you may not. It seems to me that there’s a similar rule here. We all need friends to give us a little perspective from time to time, and certainly Mother Nature gave us a healthy dose of it lately. But MN notwithstanding, it needs to be done lightly and with love, by someone who knows when we’ve crossed the line into whininess and is trying to pull us back. If you are an internet poster, you do not qualify.
    Hugs to you all, Mir. You need them.

  62. 62
    Susan March 21, 2011 at 12:39 pm #

    Amen.

  63. 63
    Kathykate March 21, 2011 at 12:47 pm #

    Pain is pain. Period.

    good for you Mom.

    And hearty fuck you to all those in competition for hardship awards. You’re too nice to say it; I’m not.

  64. 64
    Flea March 21, 2011 at 12:48 pm #

    I highly recommend cat washing for those who feel this is some kind of competition or that other’s complaining is hardship for them.
    (((HUGS)))

  65. 65
    shortmamaof2 March 21, 2011 at 1:00 pm #

    I admit, I use that approach.

    Reason: when life was at it’s worse for me, it kept me going.

    Knowing that worse things could happen. Like maybe things suck right now, but my kids are ok. I also believe what doesn’t kill me makes me stronger & when you think you’ve hit rock bottom, then the only way to go is up. So many clichés, but I they got me this far.

    Whatever the reason, when I say it I’m not trying to make the person feel bad like they are not entitled to their feelings, I think everyone is entitled to their feelings. I usually say it after I’ve listened. After they have vented. Like a, let’s look on the bright side because if you look hard enough there is one no matter how very small it is & if you can see it then it will be ok. And, I’m only saying exactly what I say to myself when things get bad.

    Perhaps, this approach comes from past experiences with suicide attempts (myself & a very much loved family member).

  66. 66
    Katy March 21, 2011 at 1:06 pm #

    I love the way you put that: “finding *my* particular battle hard today.” A friend of mine (a mother of children with special needs, also) used to say that there aren’t different degrees of “hot” in hell – and no one’s stopping to take the temperature! Just because your battle is different than another person’s doesn’t make it easier or less valid. We have no way of knowing what challenges another person is facing on any given day, so let’s not make it a competition!

  67. 67
    Em March 21, 2011 at 1:11 pm #

    I think I might be guilty of this but the intention is never to one up, more to jump in the suckfest boat and grab an oar. Misery doesn’t really love company I guess but sometimes it is a fine line between trying to make someone feel like they aren’t alone and qualifying for a medal in the Hardship Olympics. I like Cindy in Walla Walla’s story because I know what my intentions are but I am sure I have missed the mark often (not necessarily in your comments, but not necessarily NOT here either. Chances are I have been stepping in it all over town :-)

    Then there are the people who don’t have good intentions. And they can just grab the anchor of the suckfest boat and go for a swim!

  68. 68
    Jessica March 21, 2011 at 1:15 pm #

    From your mouth to everyone’s ears. I hate one-downing people.

    By the way, the people who say, “Someone else in the world always has it worse” is only saying that because they can’t figure out how to one-down you in the game of “my battle is harder than yours.” I hate playing the game at all, but someone who says that while trying to get you to play is cheating.

    Me: “Ugh, this hangnail is infected and gross, and it hurts!”

    1downer: “Yeah, well, the one-armed guy would just be glad he had two arms if he were you, and he wouldn’t be complaining about his hangnail.”

    Me: “Really? Because I have two arms, and I’m complaining about the hangnail. Now, if the one-armed guy suddenly had two arms after not having two arms and knew what it was to be one-armed beforehand, then maybe he wouldn’t complain about his hangnail, because he was just glad to have the arm. But does the one-armed guy complain about hangnails on his one hand? Probably so, especially if they are infected and gross. Look at this one! And it hurts, too!”

    That would be a conversation I would have with someone, which is why I’m a terrible person to play one-downing with. I ramble all over the place and then come back to my terrible hangnail.

    By the way, I do have an infected hangnail, and dangit, it hurts! I also have other woes, but the hangnail is the only one on my mind that I can talk about in public right now without airing dirty laundry.

    Ummmm… *scratches head* I think I’ll go away now because I’m rambling about rambling, and this can’t lead to anything good…

    Good on ya, Mir!

  69. 69
    Katie in MA March 21, 2011 at 1:19 pm #

    Abso-freaking-lutely. While I understand that hearing about someone’s difficulties seems to trigger a vent-session sometimes, it should be done gracefully. With a healthy dollop of “Oh no, you too? I’m so sorry!” right on top. And on the sides. And the other side, too, just for good measure.

  70. 70
    Liz March 21, 2011 at 2:08 pm #

    *We don’t all love everything everybody (even sometimes—or maybe especially—people we love) does all the time. No biggie. Maybe remind yourself I’m not doing it to personally aggravate you or because I’m completely blind to the entire world, but because I’m having a hard time.*

    Thank you for this post today! I’m so sorry you had to write it, but it’s probably because of people like me. Although, I tend to problem solve instead of just letting people vent. I used to be a wallower, but my (2nd) husband is a fixer, and I guess I’ve picked up some of his tendencies, which I think is hard for most of my long-time friends to accept and deal with.

    Because now I am so happy that he kicked me in the butt and gave me the confidence to believe in myself and my action plans and – holy cow! sometimes they actually work! wow! – so now I want my friends to be that inspired and have that same confidence in their decisions instead of the back-and-forth, hand wringing.

    But you’ve reminded me that it’s not about me or what I would do – and I need to stop offering advice and stop trying to fix it.

    Except……I think I need to learn the correct verbiage to use. When someone tells you their problems, what is an appropriate response that isn’t “You should…” or “If you do this……., it will be better”?

    Anyone who can post some suggestions, I would greatly appreciate it!

    And Mir? You’re really pretty. I look forward to reading your posts every day. Have a better day :)

  71. 71
    getsheila March 21, 2011 at 2:47 pm #

    Ha! I learned a new phrase today: Hardship Olympics. Love it! For the record, please send me the address of the person or persons who made you feel this way. I would like to send them poop wrapped in straw for Christmas. Love, not-your-friend-but-your-Internet-acquaintance, Sheila

  72. 72
    Heidi March 21, 2011 at 2:49 pm #

    Sorry it feel so sucky right now. Chocolate: Get thee to Mir, STAT!

  73. 73
    erin March 21, 2011 at 2:50 pm #

    Wow. So well said. I have had these thoughts many times, but never been able to express them the way you just did.

  74. 74
    Monique March 21, 2011 at 2:59 pm #

    Oh, gosh, I NEEDED to hear this today. As a military wife you hear those, “people who don’t know what to say” comments all the time.

    He’s deployed? “Oh, at least it’s six months, not a year.”
    Yes, thank you. That’s makes being apart from him that long so much easier.

    “At least, it’s not Iraq.”
    Yes, because dangerous things that happen to our military are limited to there. Never mind, USS Cole, sailors who go over board, Coast Guard who go on recuse missions and never come back, live ammo exercises that go horribly wrong, base shootings, engine fires, accidents, etc.

    What’s worse is that in such a small community (less than 1% of the population serves), we military wives do it to each other. When you’re on the military wives forums venting or reading a vent about how the command did this or your spouse is deployed, or just got deployed and/or the car broke down or the kids are sick or whatever, you always have the one wife who comes and says that at least it’s not 18 months and at least it’s Iraq like her husband.

    Really? Can’t you just support a fellow military spouse who’s going through a tough time?

    Or even right now with me. Who has it worse? Me, whose husband just got back and left again for two weeks and comes back two days before my due date, with the command telling my husband he might or might not get the day off for my labor and if he does he’s still expected at work the next day. They’ll see when/if they give him paternity leave. Luckily, my mom can come watch my two year old special needs child but that still means I might be giving birth by myself.

    Or my best friend whose mom has stage four ovarian cancer and constant chemo, doctors, surgery appointments. And as a only child and mother herself she’s juggling all doc appointments, activities, school, work, caregiver, etc by herself.

    Or even my other friend who just found out her husband is having an affair?

    *sigh*

    Life is hard. We don’t need to my it harder on each other. Let’s just learn to listen and say “I’m sorry for what you’re going through. Is there anything i can do to help?”

    That in and of itself usually is all that person wanted/needed to hear.

  75. 75
    elz March 21, 2011 at 3:08 pm #

    Important reminder, oh wise one- everybody has it hard/their own battles. Hope nobody has been sucky to you. One upsmanship is tough. Some people are just SO GOOD at it!

  76. 76
    Heidi March 21, 2011 at 3:43 pm #

    Back again.

    I’ve found the kindest thing you can do for someone is listen. No going off into, “I know what you mean, this is what happened to me” or “You think THAT’S bad? Listen to this!”

    Just listening, and then saying, “Is there anything I can do for you?”

    So dear Mir, is there anything we can do for you?

  77. 77
    JC March 21, 2011 at 4:05 pm #

    I was once complaining to a friend that had been dealt a pretty difficult hand in life, about my current bigger-than-life problem. And then I realized how petty I sounded. I apologized to her for complaining when I know my problems are pretty insignificant in comparison to hers. She’s still my best friend to this day because I will never forget her saying that my crisis is absolutely valid because it was one of the most difficult things that I had had to deal with, and that there was no competition for who has it worse. I mean, really, who wants to win that one??

  78. 78
    Kati March 21, 2011 at 4:18 pm #

    Lovely Mir:

    I think two things when I read your posts. First, I am blown away that you time and time again share your struggles with us * as they progress.*. It’s gotta be so helpful for others with your similar situation(s) – to know that there is more than one child out there with a long-term mystery rash, or neurological issues, is a comfort and source of renewed strength to them. And I hope that the support that you (largely) see here is a help to you in return.

    Second, I am so very relieved to know that moms who look pulled-together and on top of things get frustrated, angry, tired, cry, etc. Even at 40 I have all sorts of unrealistic expectations about how I should handle mom-type things, so reading about your doubts, your unexpected joys, all of it, normalizes what I feel. Your blog is a check-in of sorta for me given that I do not have folks in my life who are in the same “season” of living as I am. Trust me when I say that your posts are not thrown into the void in vain. I’ma catchin’ what you’re pitchin’.

    Regards,
    -Kati

    PS- And to the commenters who just could not resist adding a little bit more of just how much harder their lives are and how they were just trying to help…just stop. You’re not helping, and your intent does not change the negative impact of your comments. Two things you *can* do to help? 1. Stop reading this blog and 2. Start your own blog.

  79. 79
    Whimsical Woman March 21, 2011 at 5:00 pm #

    Thank you. Just the perspective I needed today! Now I will get stuck into my work and be grateful for what I do have.

  80. 80
    Mama Bear March 21, 2011 at 5:02 pm #

    Sorry Mir, some people truly just suck (can I say that here??) at life. Hoping your load gets a little lighter every day.

  81. 81
    Joshilyn March 21, 2011 at 5:07 pm #

    MY FAVORITE HARDSHIP OLYMPICS STORY.

    On facebook, I posted that I was feeling SO SORRY for my 7 year old daughter, who had STOMACH FLU the second we got to Disney world and had spent all day puking instead of meeting Cinderella….

    One guy responded by asking how I could feel SORRY for child so privileged that she got to GO to Disney and suggested I QUOTE “stop whining and pray for KATRINA VICTIMS.”

    I felt like answering “HI! I can feel sorry for a stomach flu addled child missing a much anticipated vacation AND pray for Katrina victims AT THE SAME TIME. These are not mutually exclusive states, and since I am clearly a MULTI-TASKING GENIUS I can ALSO simultaneously call you a buttmunch!

    But instead I just unfriended him.

    He has the honor of being one of only TWO people I ever unfriended. The second one was on MY SPACE had their genitals as a profile pic. SO. You REALLY have to be LOW to to make me drive you from my virtual homestead.

  82. 82
    Lise March 21, 2011 at 5:27 pm #

    There’s a huge difference between reminding yourself that things could be worse, and telling someone else the same thing. One comes from inner strength and the other comes from utter callousness.

  83. 83
    Patricia March 21, 2011 at 6:41 pm #

    Amen to the 9 billionth power! But to answer you…

    “So what does your friend in battle need?” You ask…

    This is my standard answer to any of my friends in need… When you tire of what you are trying to do to make it better, I will be more than happy to pick up where you left off.

    For example, when all you can do is pray and you can’t pray anymore, I will get on my knees and pray for you (maybe even with you). When all you can do is have a good solid cry and you have no tears left, I have many to share and I will cry for you. When all you can do is cook and bake to hope that it makes someone feel better, I will bring sugar and stay to help you eat it — since I’m looking for you. When you’ve made the last sane call you can make, I’ll make calls for you — scream at those in need or comfort those in pain.

    We have a lady in my church whom I love, her husband died unexpectedly and shockingly right before Christmas. I have no words of comfort that could possibly matter. So, the first time I saw her I hugged her and said, “I have no words, but if you ever need help crying, I’m your girl.” Sometimes the biggest comfort during the suck is knowing that someone else is willing to share a piece of it with you for awhile.

  84. 84
    Bethany March 21, 2011 at 7:14 pm #

    Well said. I try to avoid being baited into “I can top that” conversations, both negative (hardship olympics) and bragging (my kid climbed everest barefoot yesterday!). It is really hard. Be strong!

  85. 85
    Julie (Five Star Parties) March 21, 2011 at 7:41 pm #

    Mir, some people try to remind us of this because they think it’s a way of getting us to look at the blessings in our life. But, like you, I don’t think of it as a way to make me all warm and fuzzy inside. In fact, it pisses me off frankly.

    Just keep writing Mir ~ we all love and appreciate you for exactly who you are exactly WHERE you are.

  86. 86
    Neil March 21, 2011 at 8:31 pm #

    I absolutely hate when people do that too, because, like you said, it is silencing the person’s voice. There are no standards of happiness or misery. The guy who drowns in the Japanese tsunami is not worth more to the world than the woman who dies in a fire in the Bronx. Or in the fire in Bel Air. And considering that you write a personal blog, what exactly are you supposed to be writing about — if the hangnail is sufficiently important to you, who am I to judge?

    That said, it can be helpful at times, to remind someone in pain about the good in their life, even just to make them laugh. My mother is an expert in this technique. No matter how bad someone’s day can be, she will always tell the person that her “hair looks good,” and it usually very appreciated.

  87. 87
    mamaspeak March 21, 2011 at 9:01 pm #

    Em– you and I are in the same boat. I’ll share your oar if we’re short one.

    Patricia — I usually say something to the effect of, “I have no words to express that I’m here for you.” But I really, really like your “share your misery version. I’m totally using it in the future.

    Mir–I know that I to have been guilty of the “I’ll jump in the boat w/you,” intent, and I’m sure while my intentions were good, at times it has been less than validating for the ventor (person who vents, I just totally made that up.) I have 2 reasons for starting my blog: 1-so my 2nd kid has some sort of “baby book” that can be looked at, bc otherwise nothing was getting recorded and 2-to vent, so that I don’t completely lose my mind.

    I’m sorry you were in the place you needed to convey this, but I’m glad you shared it. You are so articulate. It helps me convey my emotions too. You are pretty & deserve much wine, chocolate & doggie snuggles. ((hugs))

  88. 88
    Leanne March 21, 2011 at 9:33 pm #

    Sing it sister! You’re right. Oh, and I love Patricia’s comment too.

  89. 89
    Chris M. March 21, 2011 at 10:43 pm #

    I just had to write to say that I completely support your views. I have a pretty good life, so good that I’ve started a foundation to help children in need in my native country. Because of that foundation, I know how hard some families have it.

    But really? When I read your posts about the obstacles you face to find a therapist for your son, etc., I’m never thinking “Oh, she shouldn’t be complaining, there are people in much worse conditions, blahblahblah”.

    That’s just stupid. Just because a tragedy happened, or people are dying of hunger somewhere, etc., etc., it doesn’t mean we can’t talk about our much smaller problems. I have no problems to speak of (mostly because I’m happily married without kids) and still can empathize with people who do have them — small or big, I respect their suffering.

  90. 90
    Kathy March 21, 2011 at 10:52 pm #

    Indeed!

    Keep up the good work and blog on!!

    xoxo,
    kathy

  91. 91
    Melinda March 22, 2011 at 12:17 am #

    I pink puffy heart you right now, Mir. Thank you for so succinctly defining something has has been driving me bananas lately.

  92. 92
    Jomama March 22, 2011 at 2:20 am #

    Perfectly said, Mir, and by you and so many of your commenters. I need to print this out someplace.

  93. 93
    Ingrid March 22, 2011 at 5:49 am #

    Yeah! I was in the supermarket checkout line a couple of days after my dad died. The cashier looked at me and said, “Cheer up!” I almost punched her. That probably would have cheered me up, now that I think about it.

  94. 94
    Stephanie March 22, 2011 at 6:01 am #

    Boy, do *I* hear you, Mir. I can’t tell you how many times, over the past few years, since the death of our financial life, I’ve heard things like “well, at least it’s only money, not something REALLY bad”. I KNOW it’s “only” money…I KNOW I’m lucky in a million other ways, but that doesn’t keep if from SUCKING BIG TIME!!!

    Many people really don’t like to think about anything other than “sunshine and roses”, and thinking critically seems to be a challange for a huge number of them, as well. They don’t want to be too close to someone with a problem, or it might rub off on them. Do I sound bitter? You betcha…but, the one thing you *won’t* hear from me, when you tell me about your problem, is how much worse someone *else* has it.

    Hang in there.

  95. 95
    J from Ireland March 22, 2011 at 6:23 am #

    I may have to print this off and hand it to a few people I know. Very well said Mir. Fucking drives me mental.

  96. 96
    Debra March 22, 2011 at 6:37 am #

    Go get ‘em Mir. I would just once like for someone to ask “How are you feeling today?” instead of hearing “What? You aren’t in a good mood again?”

    The hurts you can’t see hurt the most and because you can’t see them it doesn’t mean they aren’t there and it doesn’t mean that the words spoken aren’t like salt being poured right into the open would of them.

  97. 97
    Sharon March 22, 2011 at 8:05 am #

    Awesome.

  98. 98
    Brigitte March 22, 2011 at 8:54 am #

    As if those people never complain about anything! If they were really that happy, they’d feel no need to nag others about daring to have (gasp!) emotions! You’re right, they just want to feel superior and rub your nose in it.

  99. 99
    amy March 22, 2011 at 10:00 am #

    This is my favorite post of the week, month, probably even year. You rock. Thanks. (Came by through Notes from the Trenches.)

  100. 100
    The Domestic Goddess March 22, 2011 at 10:06 am #

    So well said.

    Damn, it just pisses me off when folks compare difficult situations. They like getting in pissing matches, methinks. “Oh, my kid is more autistic. My kid escapes more. My kid doesn’t talk AND eats hair.”

    Please. We’re all dealing with difficult stuff. And you don’t win a gold medal for having it rough, or seemingly rougher (more rough?) than other folks.

  101. 101
    vanessa March 22, 2011 at 10:17 am #

    Word.

  102. 102
    gillian March 22, 2011 at 10:23 am #

    your pony is on it’s way – because you deserve one

  103. 103
    Rhiannon Fieri March 22, 2011 at 10:44 am #

    Amen.

    There’s a fine line between perspective and comparison (let alone competition), and that line can make or break relationships…with yourself, and with others.

  104. 104
    All Adither March 22, 2011 at 1:11 pm #

    Yes! Yes, yes, yes. Thank you for articulating this.

  105. 105
    Nancy March 22, 2011 at 2:51 pm #

    I get the feeling that a lot of us agree with you!

  106. 106
    Daisy March 22, 2011 at 5:26 pm #

    Love you. Hope things get better soon. Maybe I’ll learn to comment in complete sentences.

  107. 107
    Cele March 22, 2011 at 6:21 pm #

    I really despies when people have a bigger story than the one you told, because like you pointed out it negates your original story when sometimes it just needed to be said because holding it in makes you feel alone and without hope and support.

    Month after month, year after year I have watched your readership swell. Mir the struggles you share with us, your readers, reminds us we’re not alone in our personal trials. My life is extremely blessed, while my grandson is an aspie too, the fact that you have shared your adventures and misadventures with Monkey and Chickie have made my road easier, shown my daughter Psam that she’s not alone, and given her avenues to explore because you shared your stories. I am blessed I found this blog, the information and the inspiration that you have shared (and yes I read your subscription blog before I read this one – be it noted that I am commentor 106 today).

    My personal view point is that People who “one up” need love too… and they will get it from me, right after I am finished being annoyed with them for their unkind selfishness.

    Girl you rock,

  108. 108
    Kethrim March 22, 2011 at 9:09 pm #

    Thank you for this! You said it better than I ever have, I think. Just because someone is worse off than me doesn’t make my problems inconsequential!

  109. 109
    Jenn March 22, 2011 at 10:31 pm #

    I love this, Mir! You are right on about it not being a competition. There are no medals. Just like with grieving. We all have to do it in our own way. Those who have the most tears don’t “win” there. Wonderful words to remember here.

  110. 110
    Lara March 22, 2011 at 11:15 pm #

    When discussing my battles with my challenging children with my parents, my father has often pointed out how many people are worse off and it has always irritated me but I couldn’t quite put my finger on why. You are so right, it is a lack of validation to our emotions. You are pretty AND smart!

  111. 111
    PastormacsAnn March 23, 2011 at 12:11 am #

    Right on the money. Well-said! Brava!

  112. 112
    Laurie March 23, 2011 at 2:25 am #

    Word, baby, word.

  113. 113
    jodifur March 23, 2011 at 11:59 am #

    Sing it sister.

  114. 114
    Andrea March 23, 2011 at 2:41 pm #

    See, I guess I’m the weird one out here but I appreciate remembering/hearing/thinking about how someone else has it worse, because it helps me get a grip, put things in perspective and be thankful that my things AREN’T worse, as they always could be, in times when I’m feeling sorry for myself or just generally at the end of my patience rope. I find it comforting, to pause and be thankful, focusing just for a moment that I don’t have something worse to deal with.

    I am guilty of offering that perspective to others when I see them struggling since it’s something that’s worked for me. I don’t mean to trivialize real struggle, say that people don’t have problems that are real to them and that some days truly are just that hard, I understand that, I can’t help but offer this “could be worse” perspective though when someone complains to a bunch of laid-off friends about a having had a tough day at work, for example. Talk about insensitive…

  115. 115
    Kim March 23, 2011 at 8:27 pm #

    Only kindness matters….and everyone wants to know they matter.

    The older I get the more I understand that,
    Hang in there!
    Hugs from a Grandma

  116. 116
    Jasmine March 25, 2011 at 1:58 am #

    I like the Plato quote, and will use it! It also reminds me of a piece of Desiderata:

    “If you compare yourself with others,
    you may become vain or bitter,
    for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.”

    I see that comparison game all the time and I completely agree.

    My husband has to remind me all the time that all my feelings are completely valid. It helps. Growing up, I was taught that some feelings were ok to have, and some not. It’s good that you continue to know and remind yourself that all feelings you have, they are for a reason! And, yes, the feelings that you have about other people responding to that are valid too. ;)

    Here’s to the strength, knowledge, and perspective you gained, or will gain, in your battle today!

  117. 117
    bonuela March 30, 2011 at 4:42 pm #

    hi,

    me again. i will be sharing this with a friend. she is a gold medalist in the hardhip olympics! she posted on facebook about laughing when her childless friends that work one job and don’t go to school complain about being tired. gee thanks. just because i am an underachiever in her world doesn’t mean i’m not tired too. :-(

  118. 118
    KWombles March 30, 2011 at 5:42 pm #

    Excellent post.

  119. 119
    Aimee Crane April 5, 2011 at 2:30 pm #

    Amen. I read the “Unintended repurcussions” post first and am trying to imagine a friend “dropping” you over this post. I gather she was the one playing Hardship Olympics (great phrase, btw). Surely, with a little reflection, she’ll be able to just say, “whoops. I hadn’t thought about that possible perspective,” and you two can work past this tough place. If not, I’m sorry for your loss of a friend. I lost a very dear friend last year, and it still makes me sad when I think about it. I think maybe friends are like spouses….you only have one if both of you want to be one. May the adoration of all your readers lighten your load a wee bit today.
    You are spreading love and light into the world through your blog. Thank you.

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