Abandon Text!

W. H. Auden once said: "Poems are not finished; they are abandoned." I have been abandoning writing projects for many years, since only the pressure of deadline and high expectations ever got me to finish, or even start, anything of merit. This blog is an attempt to create a more consistent, self-directed writing habit. Hopefully a direction and voice will emerge.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Poor me

Whenever I am driving off to some job I am dreading, or maybe even off to some routine chore but I'm obsessing over some other problem, I will experience the EEHIETM effect: "Everyone else has it easier than me." I'll see a guy riding his bike on the sidewalk, or a pair of blondes in Carolina sweatshirts running (and there are always, at any time of day, multiple pairs of blondes in Carolina sweatshirts running in Chapel Hill) and I'll think, mostly unconsciously and barely articulated: "They have it so easy. They don't have the worries I do. I wish I could be one of those normal, untroubled people." The effect is nearly universal; everyone I see gets the same reaction. Only the homeless or the profoundly ugly prompt the opposite response: "Jeez, I'm glad I'm not them."

These thoughts don't stand up to a moment's rational analysis. I know that I'm one of the luckiest SOBs on the planet, and I wouldn't trade places with anyone. I know that no matter how carefree someone else may seem, they have their own seething cauldron of anxieties. That guy throwing a frisbee in the quad is probably putting off doing his thesis. Those girls maybe trapped in dead-end relationships with guys with dead-end jobs. For all of my worries, I don't have any real problems: my family is healthy, I have enough money, I enjoy my job, I am hopeful for the future.

And yet, in the moment of anxiety, everyone else seems to be better off. A self-righteous narrator screams in my head: "Why can't these idiots understand how much stress I'm under!?!" Nor am I alone in this line of thinking. No matter how busy I am, every single person I meet, be they college student, housewife, or CEO, seems to think they are busier than me. "No, I couldn't possibly, I'm way too busy for that, maybe some other time."

So, it's become a mindfulness exercise for me:
If other people don't have the worries and troubles I do . . . that's ego.
If nobody understands how hard I have it . . . that's ego.
If the stress of my commitments seems unbearable . . . that's ego, too.

Everyone has worries. Everyone is busy. Nobody is appreciated as much as they ought to be. You will bear up under the stress.

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