This pandemic is throwing a wrench in our lives like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. Aside from the real impact, like the people who have lost loved ones and those who are battling for their lives, there are smaller ways our lives are impacted as well. Events, big and small, are being postponed or even canceled. From concerts to weddings, our plans for these spring months are being completely changed. While it isn’t life-shattering, it still affects our lives. However, I’m starting to feel that I have no room to complain about these things because there are people suffering because of this pandemic in a worse way than I am. Are we allowed to be upset when there are others who have things worse than us?
I asked one of my friends how she felt about this, and she agrees she’s struggling with this too. “I think it’s something people struggle with all the time,” she says. “It’s just a little extreme because of what’s happening in the world right now.” We had a conversation about how people like to find excuses to avoid talking about their problems, and saying “other people have it worse” is another way to do that.
“I think people need to give themselves space to complain. This lets them validate their feelings themselves, which is something we often look to others to do for us. It’s an important mental process for learning to be okay with yourself and how you’re feeling.”
How do we complain enough about our lives to validate our feelings, but not blow things out of proportion? While we are allowed to complain, there is a very real problem that is out there affecting other people in way more dramatic ways than canceling the production of Les Miserable I was planning on seeing this past week. “My mom always told me to keep things in perspective,” my friend said. “I think she meant that you can spend time feeling sorry for yourself, but in the end, you have to remember how other people are struggling and be thankful for what you have.”
My mom and I had a saying for when we felt like everything was against us. She’d heard a story about a pregnant woman who, during a terrible hurricane and flood, had to seek shelter inside of a tree. There, inside the tree, she was waiting for help when her water broke. When the rescue team finally found her, she was waiting with her newborn baby. So, whenever my mom or I would feel like we were on a patch of bad luck, we would remind each other that, “A lady had a baby in a tree.” This was our way of remembering to keep things in perspective.
I think it is important to remember that, while keeping things in perspective is important, we should give our problems the attention they deserve. We are allowed to be upset that our trips are getting canceled, as long as we remember that we understand our privilege and recognize those who are suffering from this pandemic directly. “It comes down to balance, I think. While being conscious of other people, you can’t brush your own experience under the rug.”