Sunday, October 3, 2010

Whole Lotta Comparing Goin' On

I met a little Elf-man, once,
Down where the lillies blow.
I asked him why he was so small,
And why he didn't grow.

He slightly frowned, and with his eye
He looked me through and through.
"I'm just as big for me," said he,
"As you are big for you."

-- John Kendrick Bangs

I've written before about how hard it is not to compare. Or, I suppose more importantly, how hard it is not to make destructive comparisons. In the post I just linked, the comparing had to do with Joy's developmental trajectory versus Rose's. In Joy's (still rough) kindergarten entry right now, the obvious comparison is to her neurotypical classmates, with whom she's not able to spend very much time at all right now.

There are many other ways to compare destructively, though. One can make comparisons along the autism spectrum, for example. As in, my child is less impaired than your child, so we can at least feel superior there. Or -- my child is more impaired, so I should feel sorry for myself and you should feel sorry for me and we all should feel sorry for him/her. Or cross-disability comparisons -- I just read an interesting piece at Reports from a Resident Alien from a spectrum perspective, cautioning people with autism against falsely building themselves up at the expense of people with other more "severe" disabilities.

Funny enough, parent bloggers do the compare thing to ourselves too. For example, I've been seeing a delightful set of new spectrum-parent-bloggers setting up blogshop, and find my recent blogging to stack up poorly next to the wit and the insights and the speedy build-up of followings and commenters... as I am posting less often, less in-depth, finding it harder to find suitable words to write about this part of the journey. Difficult not to cringe at the comparison. My dear friend over at Autism in a Word wrote recently about her struggle with becoming too focused on the hit counter and the pats-on-the-back in the comments. I may need to consider doing as she did, and taking a blogging break... but depriving myself of this community might not be healthy for me either.

Then there's the self-flagellation self-comparison within the professional sphere, eloquently expressed over at Professor Mother (another fine relatively-new blog). Oh, does it resonate. I'd been hoping that all the wonderful new knowledge and contacts I'd gained through the LEND program last year would create some new opportunities for me on the professional score, an area of my life that's been less than ideal in recent years -- but that's not turning out to be a obvious path either, particularly in this economy.

I need to figure out how to hang on to being "big for me" and keep out of the destructive comparison cycle. Sometimes it's just not easy to see.


Anonymous said...

You will have a tough time shaking me off your blog-leg. And more than a few relatives - even if they don't comment often. Struggling as you are, just stating you have a firm fan base. It's all relative.

Niksmom said...

"...finding it harder to find suitable words to write about this part of the journey." This resonated the most with me as it is where I am in our journey. I, too, have really fallen off with blogging and, for a bit, worried that I'd lost/alienated some followers. But I have to remember WHY I am blogging, even when the reason seems to be shifting; it is MY story and I am the one living it. I figure, we all get our fifteen minutes of being "the new/the popular/the cool" and then we all go back to just being ourselves and those who relate to us will stick with us. Even if they aren't relatives. :-)

FWIW, I'm still here. Just not commenting on as many blogs lately. Much else going on. But you are in my thoughts.

Big Daddy Autism said...

I feel you on both counts. With our son, we used to compare him to a friend's daughter born around the same time. It was devastating and built resentment. We eventually learned to accept it and joke about it. That's when life got better. Now that girl is ready to babysit our son and we feel fortunate. As far as the blogging goes, I too am guilty of looking at my stats and getting discouraged. But, in reality, what difference does it make? Writing the blog makes me feel good and brings pleasure to a few people. That's all that really matters.

Anonymous said...

Just saying Hi. Have been reading and not commenting much anywhere. Just about my only time at the computer is when nursing, which really doesn't allow for responding much.

I understand very much how you feel here and can relate to it in many ways.

By the way, do you know how Mama Mara is doing? She's been quiet for so long...

AuntieS said...

Funny, how that comparison thing goes. I have been thinking, at times, of starting a blog of my own. But, after I read yours, I think that I couldn't come close to writing as eloquently and as clearly as you, or even have a topic that is as vital as yours is to share. Heck, I don't really have any topic or theme at all, just thought I'd like to do some journal-style writing. I just don't think that anyone would really want to read mine in the way I look forward to reading yours!! It's great to hear about my nieces and their progress or problems, as well as you and my brother's lives, but I also have so enjoyed the more intellectual and analytical writings that you do. And even if you haven't been as prolific, lately, or haven't felt that what you have offered has been as stellar, it has still seemed like a hundred times better than any blogging I might do!!! So, how's that for comparison and some pats-on-the-back for you all in one post!!!
For me, I hope you do keep blogging in whatever way it evolves to be best for you and the family.

Tim said...

Visiting you blog has become part of my daily routine and I check it regularly. Sometimes more than I should - I often have to stop myself in order to maintain a healthy professional distance, and good self care. However, I am always a bit crestfallen when I don't see a new post. I say this not to make you feel bad, but to illustrate the importance of your blog to better understand and approach your daughter, you, and your family when I make my visits. It will be two years this November that I have been apart of your lives, and you have been a part of mine. Your blog is not a about competing with other blogs (although we all know yours is superior), but it is about, in part, informing and staying connected those around you, and your family.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the link- I laughed when I realized that I'm not the only one who checks those darned numbers! :) I know that I don't often comment, either, but that's more to my own busy-ness- and honestly, shyness- than anything. Comparing is toxic- I keep reminding myself of what two friends of mine have said "Women can do it all- just not all at the same time", and "There is enough success for everyone".

You're among friends- who get it. :)

jess said...

I was always far shorter than my friends (and everyone else for that matter) growing up. After looking with me' at a class picture in which the contrast in height was clownishly clear, my Dad said, 'You are perfectly in proportion, kiddo - to yourself.'

We walk a different path. But we're walking it together. As alone as it feels, I assure you, we're ALL here with you - walking at our own pace.


JoyDad said...

Compared to my other girlfriends, you were (and remain) quite a catch....


Liz Coyne said...

Hi new friend,
Hope you don't mind me already claiming you as one, but blogging can give you that feeling.

I appreciate 2 sage little reminders I've found here —

1) every now and then, chk in and make sure your friend knows you don't take them for granted and

2) wow, how I connect to Comparing. It is strange how often I've felt I should blog about this, but didn't because my blog is focused on my children not me, isn't it? But in a blog focusing on "difference" of course comparisons would figure heavily.

I grew up with an identical twin, as did my husband. We bonded over the comparisons we suffered daily. Commands to "stand side by side," while people, so unaware of the affect this might have determined or asked a long string of superlatives such as who's smarter?, who's prettier, who's taller, who's whatev-ER or -EST between us.

Can you believe I spent my childhood longing for my difference to be recognized simply as my individuality — not as some winning or losing attempt at a superlative rating.

I love differences and distinctiveness. I love individuality.

You may have just given me a new topic to write about for the weekend. Mind if I share it with you?

JoyMama said...

I've been slow coming back and responding to this -- wish Blogger had a threaded-response option, so I could easily go back and respond to each of you under your own posts! Thank you all for the empathy and encouragement, and nudging me to re-focus on why I do Elvis Sightings in the first place (the hit counter is of minimal importance in that scheme of things!)

JoyMama said...

Liz - Welcome, and always glad to meet a new blog-friend! I agree, blogging can create that feeling, especially if you've read a few of the person's past-posts... (yes, I did scroll back and get acquainted a bit on your blog too.)

I'm happy to have given you a new weekend topic! Looking forward to seeing your reflections.