This past summer I accidentally dropped my iPhone when I was stepping out of my car. It hit the pavement and the screen shattered. I didn’t have a protective cover on it because the previous one had become too worn to be effective and I was planning to get a new one but just hadn’t gotten around to it yet. I swear to God, when people saw the cracked glass, they reacted with the emotional equivalency of an unplanned pregnancy. Friends exclaimed, “Oh my God, what happened?!?! Why didn’t you use protection???” I would tell the story (despite how boring it was) but secretly be judging them for giving so much of a fuck. Yeah, I get it, it’s basically a really expensive, pocket-sized computer but it’s also just a phone. No one died and I’ll eventually either get it fixed or get a new one. Until then, oh darn, guess I’ll be a little inconvenienced while constantly staring at a screen that’s taken hours and hours away from my actual life. What a shame. Talk about white people problems.
People say problems are problems and pain is pain—whether it’s a busted piece of really pricey technology, a cancer-ridden parent who can’t afford the care they need, the aftermath of a collision car wreck or not having enough TV credits to move forward in one’s performance career (LA problem alert). But I always maintain that some are definitely worse than others. Just like there will always be someone richer, more attractive and more talented than you, isn’t there also always going to be someone poorer, less attractive and less talented, too? (Unless you’re Taylor Swift, of course.) That, my friends, is one of life’s few constants. Yes, our country has experienced a horrific amount of mass shootings but there are people in other countries that experience full-blown war most days of their life. So yeah, whatever I think I’m “dealing with,” I still always try to remember I’ve had a pretty easy ride. Sometimes remembering how bad others might have it helps me get a grip. They tell alcoholics not to compare and despair but what if we compare and breathe a sigh of relief? That’s okay sometimes, right?
My go-to comparisons for lives I wouldn’t want are, in no particular order: a waitress at a Cracker Barrel, or a restaurant of that same caliber, near an interstate exit in middle America (nothing wrong with this profession AT ALL but for me personally, it seems like hell and every time I’m at one of these places, I basically get hives thinking of what it would be like to work there every day); an impoverished resident in any country with extreme temperatures where women are second class citizens; or a solo employee at an airport kiosk. Yep, these are all my, “Well, at least you’re not———“ examples. Why do I put an oppressed female in Pakistan on the same playing field as the guy peddling flat irons at LAX? Good question. Shout out to all the airport kiosk workers though—maybe you’re flying high (while watching other people literally flying high) and I’ve totally got it twisted.
Sometimes it doesn’t work, realizing how good I might have it compared to others. I’ll still find a way to convince myself I’m doomed. How can I feel perfectly satisfied and content one day, then completely negative and brooding the next, despite the fact that my (comparatively comfortable) circumstances are exactly the same? It’s because I have alcoholism—you know, that thinking problem disguised as a drinking problem.
Now that I’ve learned that the “My life is crap” on Tuesday followed by “My life is great!” on Wednesday seesaw is an alcoholic trait, I feel a lot less insane. I have met others like me and they too had to give up alcohol only to realize booze wasn’t the problem at all; the problem is our crazy heads and the warped perspectives they create. Sure, getting drunk all the time, and all the negative consequences that come with that, only served to create more problems. Taking that off the table has helped tremendously. No matter how bad of a day I’m having, I can always remember how much more awful it would be if I was still drinking. That alone is enough to keep me grounded some days.
So much of my anxiety comes from the running commentator in my brain that I call Negative Nancy (I know, I would expect something more original from me as well, but I don’t want to give her any more attention than she’s already getting). At least in sobriety, I’m learning to recognize Nancy is just that, a running commentator in my brain who isn’t me at my essence. If I decide to really listen to and believe Nancy when she says I’m not funny enough, smart enough, pretty enough or earnest enough to get what I want in life, I will just end up drinking. So I have to keep my perspective in check. And most of the time, I can eventually understand why something I perceived as a problematic assault to my life (my agent dropping me/having bed bugs) ultimately happened for a reason or quietly resolved itself with minimal drama (I wasn’t happy with the agent and am not at a place of needing representation right now anyway/I got a much needed new mattress). Other times, I can’t make sense of something so I have to just experience the discomfort and “deal with life on life’s terms” as they often say in 12-step recovery programs. Feeling shit can be a real bitch but luckily, feelings are fleeting. So while one day I might be convinced I’m going to be living in my small studio apartment until I move when I’m an old lady to a government-run nursing home because I’ll have no family, I now have enough perspective to remember I won’t have that fear forever.
“But what about your phone???” That’s the question you’re probably all asking, am I right? Eventually, the pain of having a muddled screen got to be too intense so I did get it fixed. I found a guy on Yelp, forked over his $90 asking price then moved on with my life, free to compare and despair/sigh with relief over other people’s lives via social media, without that oh-so-horrific cracked glass. A few hours after leaving the store I realized the home button no longer worked to unlock the phone. I have to press the side button to light up the screen. Once it’s unlocked, then it works fine. I decided I can deal with that problem. At least that home button isn’t malfunctioning while I’m trying to navigate a busy shift at the Cracker Barrel in the suburbs of Tulsa. That, for me, would be the true tragedy.