It has been said that Comparison is the ultimate thief of joy. If you want something special and beautiful to lose its shine, the best thing you can do is compare it to something else.
Recently in a session it came up about how a local sports legend from here in Chicago Land was once a rather high stakes gambler of sorts. He would frequent the casinos and make enormous wagers on craps and black jack. As I recall and “Old Lore” story from one of his casino visits, Someone once asked him “Why do you place such huge bets?” referring to a 25,000$ per hand visit to the black jack table. To which he replied, “I have been on the biggest stages, in the most clutch moments, I have hit game winning shots in the finals, and taken home tons of hardware. I place this size of wagers, because 1: I can afford to, and 2: because the high stakes are what it takes to give me that rush, the higher the stakes, the higher the rush. Its what gets my heart racing.”
The chase. The rush. The pursuit. The comparison. Always looking for something bigger and better, always comparing the size of our potential rake, against the size and shape of our current bank roll. The higher the stakes, the bigger the potential rake, or loss. If we’re sitting on Billions of Dollars, then perhaps it does take such massive bets at a craps table to get the same rush as us commoners receive when we place a 10$ chip down on the circle, hoping to net a 9-to-1 take on that “Plus three”.
But anyways, the above is just a bit of an illustration that I think we can all relate to. We humans tend to become enamored in a multitude of ways, with the newest pickup trucks, or getting our new set of acrylics done, new tattoos, new IPhones, new things, new experiences, or perhaps upgrades or remodels of existing things that we love- a new back splash in our kitchen. Or a new stove, or a new washer and dryer. Sure, ours works just fine, and it fills the need that we have, but that new one, oh boy, that one would be so much better, wouldn’t it? We tend to compare. We compare our lives with the hand picked and often filtered photos of someone else’s life on social media, either for the better or for the worse. We compare out neighborhoods with those getting shot up on the news. We compare our kids, our jobs, we compare moments we have experienced against each other, like “oh this vacation was really fun, but that other one…Man that one was the best.” Sometimes it seems like information is coming at us so fast, that we cant help but process, compare, and digest it at such a basic and primitive level. Compare, judge, keep scrolling. Style over Substance. And that’s the opposite, I think, of the way things should be.
For me, I have personally experienced this, and it has become a bit of an obstacle. I often times feel bored, because were not constantly engaging in something stimulating FOR ME. I find myself comparing a Monday to a Thursday, because this day was “great” and this day was “bad”. Or I have found myself from time to time, doing something which has proven to be particularly damaging to myself and my family and life: Comparing my own Joys against each other.
I suppose, that even though I have stopped shooting dope, and smoking crack; and moved on to become a Family Man, and a successful writer, business owner, husband and father, I have still very much so been exhibiting addict traits and behaviors. I suppose that maybe, I become enthralled with: Volunteering, being successful, being needed, work, church, image, money, coaching, owning a home, writing, speaking, and all of the stuff that has come my way at a blinding pace over the last several years, that I lost myself. First of all, I was very much ill equipped for all of this success, and family, and emotions, and coping, and stress, and etc that came my way- on just the basic mature human levels. I was not mentally or emotionally prepared for being a step dad, or a dad to my Bio Son, Luke. I was not mentally or emotionally mature enough to handle a marriage, buying a home, starting a company, doing a fucking TEDX talk, or any of the 1,000’s of things that have come along. I have very much just been flying by the seat of my pants for a long time, and relying on my moral compass to get me through. “Just be a good person, and do the best you can. Say yes to new challenges, and help people along the way.” Was pretty much my motto up until recently. And it ate me alive. The stresses that came along with it have probably take about ten years off of my life, and have damaged some pretty damn important relationships. Not broken, but damaged. But the equally damaging flip side to it all, is the more I did, the more I said yes to, the more I put on my plate, and the more plates I stacked on to the sticks- Like the Unicycle Guy in the Circus- balancing all the spinning plates up in the air. The more families I helped, the more volunteering I did, the more the Adulation and Praise would come, the more I felt needed, the more the Dopamine flowed, the more cherished and value I felt- in the “wrong places”. Couple that with all the other stresses and shit that were coming and it was like a massive avalanche just waiting to Fall. To smother me. To come crashing down.
Psychobabble, I know. But there’s a point here, and it’s coming.
You see, The “basic” and “status quo”, the seemingly mundane joys, that are hidden in plain sight- a meal with our children and wives. A car ride to the car wash and ice cream parlor, Haircuts, dog walks. Playing catch with the boys, or taking the daughter driving for her license- these are the big joys. The moments and the milestones that matter the most. These are the cups that deserve to be the fullest. Not our jobs, not our status, not our labels, or our bank accounts.
Perhaps I’m an “emotional addict” too, if that makes sense. Or maybe all the crack smoke and injected Heroin has just done irreversible damage to my brain chemistry and I’m left always chasing that massive flood of dopamine, that can only be obtained by bigger and deeper emotional booms. Maybe I’m just an emotional person, who’s always thought that if it wasn’t that “Bottom of the 9th, 2 out bases loaded, down by three, game seven of the World Series, and I’m up at bat to Save the day- and Bust one deep over the right field fence to walk it off and win the series” Type of joy, then it wasn’t “real” at all. And that’s all stinking thinking. The fact of the matter is, that it doesn’t have to be “Giant” to be a joy. In fact, its the simple, its the moments where we can just breathe and take it all in, when we can notice the fall colors change, when we can just sit and enjoy a very uneventful meal with our families that are the “big” joys. The “Ho-Hums” the everyday, the moment to moment stuff, that’s important. If “Giant” joys come along, that’s cool, those are good too. But it doesn’t have to be monumental to be real. It doesn’t have to be compared to be special. It doesn’t have to have some deep and special and mystic meaning to have any meaning at all. Sometimes, its just a drive down the road, listening to your kids talk about whatever the fuck is important to them. Sometimes, its not hearing or saying anything at all, and just breathing, and having the privilege of being alive.
There is no external remedy to an internal conflict.
Not stuff. Not other people. Not chemicals. Not Money. Not status.
Sometimes, we just have to take a moment for ourselves, and breathe, and enjoy being present.
This is Psychobabble.