Once upon a time (around 10 years ago), in a land… right here, actually… I was almost always in terrible, constant, excruciating pain that would sometimes make me double over at random, clenching my jaw to bite down the scream while tears filled my eyes.
When I would get out of my chair at night, my left leg would stay in the same 90 degree position, like I was still sitting. It wouldn’t straighten anymore.
The ball of my hip joint had moved slightly outside of the socket, and the corner of that socket was grinding against the bone all the time. Anytime I moved. Or breathed. You could sometimes hear the ba-ba-ba-ba noise of the joint forcing itself over the uneven surface of the other bone.
It was awful.
I eventually would have surgery that chopped off that ball of my hip joint entirely. It is much better now.
But while I was enduring that, somehow, I realized something. I was having one of those attacks that I had 50 times per day, the kind that made me suddenly bend over toward that hip, squeezing my eyes shut for a moment. When I opened my eyes and looked up, I saw somebody wincing, trying to deal with a splinter in their finger. And for a second, I was annoyed. How could this person be bothered by a splinter while I was going through this consciousness shattering cacophony of torture? How ridiculous. How selfish of them. Didn’t they know how bad I had it?
We are told to be grateful because other people have it worse.
“Hey, at least you have a roof over your head. That’s more than many can say.”
“There’s people starving in India.”
“At least you don’t have cancer.”
And while it is true that we should have some perspective about our trivial ass, first world, bullshit problems, it is also important to remember that we are all living our own separate, independent lives, and the severity of our experiences are all relative to what we’ve personally gone through.
And even though I was on the verge of passing out from hip pain that Mengele would have been jealous of, that didn’t make that splinter suck any less for my friend. Somebody having brain cancer doesn’t make your headache any less shitty. Someone losing their husband of 47 years doesn’t make your break up any less sad for you.
Perspective is important. But you don’t need to feel guilty for cursing and hopping around when you stub your toe because somebody, somewhere is getting their foot amputated. That shit hurts. And that comparison won’t make you feel any better.
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