I need to first say this is not pointing fingers at anyone, but it is pointing out a social epidemic. I say “epidemic” because I know this happens to quite a few people. It is very wide spread.

I hear “So and so won’t understand” or “I wish I could talk to (blank) but they have too much going on. I don’t want to worry them with MY life too.”

I took Kadlin to Primary’s this week, first for a clinic visit, then hospitalized because she was having issues that if at home I could have taken care of easily, but driving home was unsafe. To me this visit wasn’t that big of deal. Kadlin wasn’t dying, she wasn’t even all that sick. I just couldn’t drive home safely being the only adult in the car. While in the hospital, I had someone dear to me tell me about a difficult aspect of their life with seconds later saying “Never mind. I shouldn’t bug you. You have a bigger problem. Sorry.”

I have NEVER said my problems matter more than anyone else’s. Because they don’t! Are they different? Absolutely!! But, that doesn’t mean one is more important than the other. While Kadlin is intense, medically and timewise, that doesn’t mean I should ignore and forget other people’s problems and put myself on a pedestal talking only about myself and how hard my life is. My experiences do not in any way discount yours!!

I’ve heard this type of comment quite often and I get it from other special needs families as well as typical families. They tell me of experiences with their special needs (or normal) kids and then immediately retract what they say because Kadlin has more equipment, or because she is just a touch more severe. This KILLS me. I live by the saying “mourn with those who mourn and rejoice with those who rejoice”. If it is important to you, it is important to me.

We are more similar than we are different.
You have a child? Guess what! I have 2!
You are married? No way! Me too!
You have a family? Seriously? Me too.
You spent a week in the NICU? Man that’s hard. I know it’s scary to see your baby hooked up to equipment you don’t understand and relying on others to take care of everything.
Your spouse leaves dirty clothes right next to the laundry basket? Dude, I drive myself nuts because I just toss mine and hope its close enough to in…
Your kid is freaking picky eater? I go insane at the “I hate anything you put in front of me” phase.
New born doesn’t sleep? It’s hard to run on no sleep.
Your son takes selfies on your phone when you put in down for 2 minutes? Yeah, mine too.

Conor selfie.jpg

We are far more similar than we are different.

There are things that deserve praise and joy. Things that are worthy of being shared and rejoiced in. Whether it is you personally or your child or spouse, an accomplishment is still just that, something you (or others) accomplished!

You got the promotion at work? That is wonderful! It’s nice to see hard work pay off.
Your kid sat for the first time unassisted? It is amazing to see them as they grow and learn new things.
Karate belt? Gymnastics medal? Top grades? Won a spelling bee?
Kept their temper under control in a very trying setting?
Figured out a solution to a hard social situation?
Saw a need and took care of it?
Did the best they knew how in every aspect of life?

Todd and Kadlin.jpgJust because we are different, doesn’t make any situation more or less meaningful than the other. By not sharing your life with me you are putting me in a corner by myself. You aren’t letting me be with you. You are isolating me and at the same time, yourself. No one has the same life. We are all unique with different things that have shaped our lives. We could benefit each other and enrich our lives by giving each other time listen and learn about others. We could gain compassion and empathy.

It is a beautiful opportunity to have a shared moment of commiseration with you. Life is not meant to be lived alone. I may not completely understand the depth of your feelings and challenges you face, but not telling me because I “won’t understand” or “you have bigger problems” denies us both the chance to try. And I hope that you would try for me too.

Now, you may not have all the same circumstances as I do, but I bet you have had to deal with situations that others may not envy. Share that compassion with me. Don’t make me stand alone because we aren’t “on the same level” and I will do my best to do the same for you.

I’m not saying that if you don’t want to talk you HAVE to share. If it’s personal and you don’t want to tell me, don’t. But please, don’t avoid me because you believe my situation is “harder” and you can’t complain to me. If it’s hard to you, then it is hard.

We all have problems. That appears to be a huge characteristic of the human experience. We all have problematic aspects in life. Some things are certainly more grueling than others.

With so much pain in the world I think we could all do with a little more kindness on a personal level, a little more empathy, a little more understanding, and a chance to grow together instead of isolating differences.

-Mary Beth Stubbs

“Share our similarities, celebrate our differences.” – M. Scott Peck