Having cancer really puts things in perspective. You kind of stop sweating the small stuff when you are literally sweating from the chemo-poison raging through your body. Gross, I know.
What happens when we have a Big Problem is that you scroll through Facebook and kind of shift into one long, giant eye roll as you read about people’s all-consuming deeply challenging circumstances such as the sniffles, running out of ranch dressing (someone actually posted about this once like it was a major life disruption) and choosing cocktail dress A or B which both look ridiculously good on. You sigh as you read about a friend’s daughter not having a date for the dance (she’s 12!!!) someone complaining about the rain and your neighbor’s agonizing decision about whether to get a cockerpoo or a labrodoodle. Eye roll. Eye roll. Eye roll.
You start gravitating toward people who either don’t complain (bless you, you easy going, thankful optimists out there!) or people who have actual problems. Your heart is soft toward the acquaintance facing divorce, the friend who just lost a parent and your old roommate who just had her third miscarriage. You even begin to feel a little bit superior to the folks bitching about paper cuts. Maybe a lot superior.
It’s easy to play the “Shut up, I have cancer, you jagoff” game.
But here’s the thing. Whatever someone is dealing with is what they’re dealing with. I remember 18 months ago, my biggest problem was a house that just wouldn’t sell. We agonized. We despaired. We prayed. We complained. And then, when we actually sold the house, you would have thought our moving agenda was the battle plans for taking over a small nation. And now…a year and a half later, it seems so ridiculous. What I wouldn’t give to have those problems. Packing boxes? Bring it! But they were real and big and stressful then. I cried. There was arguing. It felt insurmountable.
It’s not fair to put labels or values on others’ struggles. Unrequited love. Injury. Illness. Unemployment. Betrayal. Financial problems. Unruly teenagers. Losing a competition. Loneliness. Infertility. Screwing up at work. The number on the scale that won’t budge. Depression. These all feel enormous when they land on you.
What I’m learning is two-fold. One is that I have little patience and compassion for struggles that seem significantly smaller than my own. Two is that that’s wrong. It’s selfish and prideful and immature. God cares about your sprained ankle and so should I. I’m working on it. But you should probably shut up about the ranch dressing. It’s gross anyway. And a girl’s got to draw the line somewhere.