For some reason 2014 is the year that I cannot seem to formulate many serious or deep thoughts when discussing my “life overseas”. I would like to believe it is simply “a season”, and not some major personality flaw.
With a virus spreading like wild-fire, life in Haiti has been especially rough for the last several weeks, it doesn’t appear that it will let up anytime soon. My husband and I are walking through new things with our adult kids that we launched not so long ago while trying to be present with the five we still have at home.
Things just feel a little more intense than usual. Maybe laughing at myself (and you) is my favored way to remain positive.
When things get rough, find something to laugh at, even if it is yourself.
A few years back there was a skit on Saturday Night Live based on a character named Penelope. She was the person who was always driven to one-up everyone else, in every situation, even when it was to celebrate how much more miserable she was than everyone else.
Perhaps you stated that your relatives came over on the Mayflower. Well, Penelope’s came over a month before yours did on the “Aprilflower.”
You got in a bad car accident yesterday? Penelope had been in three that very day.
She was often not even invited into a conversation, but still, she would interject and get the spotlight and out-do all other stories being shared with her over the top competitive one-upper neurosis.
I get a kick out of the way humanitarian workers, missionaries, and expats can come off a little bit like Penelope without even lying or trying. Sometimes we scroll through our Twitter or other social media accounts and see our friends in the developed world airing their legitimate grievances and we nod in agreement. Often times the Penelope in us comes out.
Now, remember, most of us are being totally honest and not necessarily trying to be a one-upper, but by default and by life circumstance, we just ARE.
Here are some possible examples,
A pal in Minnesota says, “I have been so sick with this nasty cold for more than a week.” Expat/M/HW says: “Yeah, I have had Dengue Fever, Cerebral Malaria, and Chikungunya this last year, being sick really stinks.”
Your little sister says, “Please pray for my daughter to do well in marching band try outs, she is very nervous.” Expat/M/HW says: “Yeah, my daughter is getting on a puddle jumper in a few hours to escape civil unrest in our country and she is nervous (about being shot) too.”
Person says, “Oh my gosh, our hot water broke and it has been a week without it!” Expat/M/HW says: “Yeah, we don’t have hot water (like, ever) – I hear that!”
Your aunt says, “The storm took out our power and we have gone without power for three days!” Expat/M/HW says: “Yeah, our batteries and inverter got stolen and the generator is on the fritz too, we won’t have power for six to nine months – we have to fundraise 5K first.”
Friend says, “Oh.My.GOSH. I sat in traffic forEVER today on the way into the city.” Expat/M/HW says: “I totally understand that. I do that every day of every month of every year. As a matter of fact, last night I slept in traffic.”
Brother says, “I paid $4.20 per gallon for gas this morning, how atrocious.” Expat/M/HW says: “Oh, gasoline? We haven’t had any here in three weeks. I would love to pay $4.20 for some.”
Co-worker says, “The grocery store was totally out of my brand of Greek yogurt, I was so bummed.” Expat/M/HW says, “The country I live in never built the store that had refrigerators for Greek yogurt. So, yeah, also bummed.”
Your buddy says, “We went out to eat and it took 45 minutes to get our food! Can you believe that?” Expat/M?HW says, “We did too, there was nothing available on the menu so we had warm Coke for lunch.”
While the truth may be that your day-to-day inconveniences consistently trump those of your friends “back home”, I advise you to leave your Penelope responses in your head.
If you do, you will always have friends.
Is it ever hard to offer others your sincere empathy or a listening ear when the complaints seem smallish from your point of view?
Do you bust out your Penelope on them, or hold your tongue?