No, I’m not talking about the Incredible Hulk today.
Although that was a good guess, as I often feel a deep connection to Bruce Banner, about which I love to pontificate. But not today, Chronics. Today, I’m talking about:
Bum, bum, bum…
I really wish my blog had the ability to add in sound effects. You will have to settle for me writing them in…
Ok, so here’s the deal.
I have really awesome friends and family members, Chronic and non-Chronic. This is good.
I have Facebook, which allows me to connect with said awesome friends and family members, plus all of you super fun readers (Like my page: www.facebook.com/iamchronicallywell ) This is also good.
Because you see, Facebook has created this weird little phenomenon that is apparently common enough to get an acronym and be referenced in “scientific” studies. It’s called FOMO, or fear of missing out. The short version is that people mostly post about all the super fun things they’re doing using only the most flattering photos of themselves. When we scroll, scroll, scroll though our Newsfeeds, smiling face after smiling face, some part of our brain goes “Hey! We are NOT having as much fun as everyone else. Why not?” Then you freak out just a tiny bit (or a lot bit) and think you are missing out on something, hence the scientific acronym.
In truth, most peoples’ lives are not one giant party all the time. Your vacation may have led to 4,352 pictures (which you felt the need to share), but it only lasted 10 days. Just because your significant other and you are competing for the “most ridiculously in love with my S.O.” award in that profile pic doesn’t mean that you never have days where each of you needs your space. However, Facebook and the human brain have one very specific thing in common:
Neither seem to care too much about REALITY.
My brain is not immune. I will eat your vacation photos for breakfast, and go back for your concert pics for lunch. You swam with dolphins? I love dolphins! (Nic Note: This is not referring to any one person. I know a lot of people who swim with dolphins. Someday, I resolve to also swim with dolphins.) You saw Carrie Underwood? I love Carrie Underwood! I could go on…
In all seriousness, though, being envious is something everyone has to deal with, at some point or another, Facebook or not. Jealousy was not concurrently invented with social media (all though it was a huge PR move for them!).
In case you haven’t heard, it is hard to be a Chronic. As I lightly touched on in Friday’s post (College!), chronic illness at the very least interrupts, and at the very worst destroys, dreams and ambitions. It’s a lot easier to get jealous of others when you CAN’T do something because your body isn’t able.
Boy, do I get jealous.
My immediate family loves to tease me because I am a fan of what I call the “Life Plan”. This is a “magical thinking” technique in which you plan your whole life based on one tiny detail. For instance, for as long as I could remember, I wanted to be a Broadcast Journalist. I was even in my state’s Junior Miss Pagaent senior year of high school because Diane Sawyer had won the National title her senior year, and I wanted to do everything I could to emulate her (except I didn’t win, so, yeah…). So, ok, Broadcast Journalist. I picked out a college with an excellent program, researched where I’d intern, decided where I’d apply to work after graduation, decided where I’d live, etc., etc., Life Plan, you get the gist. Problem with the Life Plan, as with all magical thinking techniques- it’s unrealistic. Enter POTS, stage left, exit College, stage right, Curtain on Life Plan.
From 2007 to 2013, I changed my major and accompanying Life Plan approximately 492 times. I tried to plan around my illnesses, over them, under them. I couldn’t figure out how to work with them.
All the while, I lived on a steady diet of Facebook profiles.
See where this is going?
Nowhere good, that’s for sure!
Let me tell you, no one posts about how homesick they are or how weird their roommate smells or how they got a D in Bio when they are pre-med and maybe should rethink their career plans (unless they have a real problem with serial oversharing). No one is out there advertising that, chronic illness interference or not, they also have NO IDEA what they are doing, either (not just in college, but post-graduation, too).
Do you know when they do tell you those things?
When you do a revolutionary thing and talk to people in person.
Again, chronic interference has meant that online communication has been my go-to for a looooong time now. It’s been way easier to drag my MacBook to the couch with me than to drag myself to a coffee shop of over-stimulation horrors (Fluorescent lighting! High pitched elevator music! Overpowering smells!) to have a conversation with someone. You do what you have to, when you have to.
I’ve recently been trying to work on “showing up” in person and not just online (which sounds totally weird to say, but it’s the truth so there you have it), and it has really made a difference in my jealousy levels. Do I still get super envious of people who are not Chronic because I am dealing with stuff that doesn’t even enter their stream of consciousness? YES, <OhMyGosh> but that is a personal thing I am working on.
(For instance, I was at the beach this past weekend, and walked past a group of people my age-ish going out for the night while I was headed in. They were eating ice cream. My brain was like, “Whyyyyyyyy??? Some people are so Luckyyyyyy. They don’t even knowwwww.”)
Talking to people, I’ve come to a startling conclusion about Life in General:
Chronic illness doesn’t kill dreams so much as Growing Up changes them.
Here’s the thing. Somewhere around my 21st birthday, I was watching the news, and I thought to myself, “Wow, I am really glad that I’m not a broadcast journalist.”
I didn’t think that because at the time I was really sick and would never have been able to handle the job. I thought that because as I watched the news anchor deliver a gruesome story with the same level of emotion as the previous “fluff” piece, it just didn’t seem so appealing to me any more. I had taken some college courses online by then, and had realized there were tons of interesting subjects to learn about. Sure, there were aspects of broadcast journalism that I still found appealing (the traveling, the excitement, the power suits) but as a whole, I don’t know. It just didn’t seem like the thing for me, even though from age 10 I had always thought it would be.
Speaking of what I thought about when I was a youngster, a few years ago I stumbled upon a story of the “Future” I had written for myself and my friends when we were graduating 8th grade. Based on our personalities and hopes and dreams of the time, I had written about 20 pages about what we were going to be like when we grew up. You know how many of us are doing the things I wrote about way back when?
Um, yeah, that’d be none.
Pardon the profanity, but seriously…
There were 7 of us in my prophetic story, and all of our Life Plans changed.
Everyone’s life evolves over time. Even if my chronic illness had never happened, chances are my life would have taken a detour from my plans at some point for some reason.
Long overdue Conclusion: Jealousy is a wasted emotion. I am probably jealous of things I perceive about people that if I told them, they would probably laugh and say “Oh, wow, that’s not really how it happened/ is/ looks like.”
Reading back over this, I feel like I’m making it sound as though “reality” is a negative thing where everything is always worse than it appears. That’s not my intention, because it’s not true! For instance, maybe you have 986 pictures of your great night out, but the best part was when you went home and ate pop-tarts while watching Netflix with your roommate. That’s not going to translate into Likes on Facebook, but it’s the reality.
What I mean more than anything is that Jealousy doesn’t care to look at the whole story. It’s looking at the trees (and their lovely leaves that are so much greener than mine!) and not the forest.
On the flipside of my being jealous of others, I do have to take a second and make a note about a very strange and kind of infuriating occurrence that tends to happen for Chronics: people telling us that they are jealous of our illness. As in “You are so lucky that you don’t have to do anything.” Or “I’m so tired, I wish I could stay in bed like you do all day.”
Let me help you out, moronic person who thinks this is an acceptable thing to say. It’s not.
If you’d like to be jealous of me for something, I much prefer that you envy me for my acerbic wit and captivating writing talent.
I’m also a very good baker, and would love to share with you my recipe for Humble Pie, but I seem to have misplaced it.
In short, if you are feeling envious, take a minute to take a step back and look at the whole story. Then take another step back, turn around, and look at your own story. Are you too busy looking at others to realize all the great things about yourself?
I just recently (as in, while I was writing this) wrote myself this note and stuck it on my computer:
When I am scrolling more than what’s good for me, I need to remember what I’m good at, what makes me special. I make pretty awesome stuffed elephants (see The Crafty Chronic (2) August 27), that’s my thing right now. It’s a pretty cool thing, if I do say so myself. Focus on the pretty cool things, Nic!
I’m hoping that having a sticky note reminder is enough to get my green-eyed monster under control, or if nothing else, interrupt him for a minute so I can see clearly again.