From the moment a new little American takes their first breath, everything in their lives is already a competition. Heck! We can turn anything into a competition. A-N-Y-T-H-I-N-G!
Our parents brag about whose baby was the first to roll over. To talk. To take their first wobbly step. Our progress is anxiously charted against sundry baby books. We're enrolled in baby swim classes, baby language classes...and rushed into public school almost before we're out of diapers!
At school, the competition ante is upped or at least it was when I was in Baptist school. Who gets the most A's on their report card. Show-and-tell. Gym class. Mathletics. Sports. Languages. Homecoming King and Queen. All competition.
By the time you hit adulthood, competition is ingrained in your DNA. It's an instinct you don't think twice about. It's only taken me forty years to figure out that turning Life into a competition is bullshit! (Sorry, Nancy. Language! I couldn't help myself.)
Competition Has Its Place
Don't get me wrong: Competition has its place but like OCD, it's a good servant but a bad master.
Don't worry. I'll clarify.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is DNA-deep, passed down through generations. I should know. I'm a fourth generation obsessive. But at its core, OCD is merely a mechanism to relieve stress. To symbolically remove the "ick" from our lives when we can't control it any other way.
Some people smoke for stress relief. Some people drink. Because of my OCD, I tweeze my eyebrows too much, well, I did until I temporarily lost 25% of my eyesight. When I couldn't see to tweeze, my brows grew in and I'm glad of it.
People obsess about their OCD which is, in itself, even more OCD. If your OCD doesn't hurt you or anyone else too much, use it as a stress relief but don't let it control you. Make it your servant; don't let it master you.
The same goes for competition: If competition inspires you to excel at something you love, so be it! Use it as your servant to make you happier and the world a better place. But don't let it control you.
Competition OUT of Place
Competition becomes a bad master when we blindly carry it from our High School football field into our adult lives.
Every facet of our lives becomes competition: Who we marry, what house we select, which vehicles we drive, how "impressive" our children are. All needless competition!
It took me forty years to figure out Life is not a competition.
Life is for living/surviving. It's not a game.
But if businesses can hoodwink us into continuing our High School mindset of competition, they can make billions off us. Follow the money!
Keeping Up With the Joneses
While I was growing up, my parents acquired two new (always used!) cars. Immediately, both of our nextdoor neighbors rushed out and acquired new-new cars within a week. It was ridiculous!
They were participating in a who-has-the-nicest-car competition alone because we certainly weren't competing with them. We just needed reliable transportation.
Later, in 2011, when I bought a five-year-old foreclosed townhome, my mother insisted I video the whole place so she could show it to her mother. Shades of my childhood as the Poster Childhood for how great they were as parents. The Little Lego Kid. The Project raised to reflect well on them.
I felt like, once again, Mom had stuck me to her refrigerator with a magnet. I resented having to put my sanctuary of solitude on display, but being an obedient codependent, I quietly obliged.
Later, when I sold the townhome to embrace the Simple (Cheap) Life, we moved to this 1912 cobbled-together cottage...and no one wanted a video.
You see, our cottage isn't impressive. We'd stopped competing.
Calling it Quits
It sees like such a stupid simple thing but to me it was an epiphany when I realized that, unless your an entrepreneur or something, life has nothing to do with competition.
Survival, yes. Enjoyment, hopefully. Competition, no.
Society tells me I should start Botox in my twenties. Why!?! Does it trouble them that I've laughed a lot in my life? Heck! I could have fun in a paperbag! Oh wait. They just want my money.
I guess that's why I loved the bluegrass/old-timey/Celtic music crowd. There's no superficial competition. How you look doesn't matter. They just want to hear you fiddle!
At the core, competition is about three vices: greed, pride and judgmentalism. I'm guilty of all of them and pretty damn sick of!
Here's Where I Get Off
So I'm getting off the competition merry-go-round. Well, I never was really on it except mentally. This is where I get off it mentally.
Nothing about my life is ideal nor impressive and that's hunky-dunky with me.
My husband has one of the rarest lung diseases on the planet and lives with chronic pain. My dog flunked Obedience Training. (She was bored!) My cat, Cuddles, is defective: she falls off everything. Michael's cat, Snuggles, eats dog food. The kibble is a little large for her but Snuggles ain't no quitter!
The kitchen linoleum is patched with duct tape. The paint work could use some work. The carpet is old. We don't have a bathtub, just a shower. The dryer died years ago.
Everything is just a little eccentric..but all our needs are met. We're warm, clean, safe and fed.
What our cottage lacks in impressiveness it more than makes up for in sturdiness: ancient rough hewn oak beams! Good bones!
It ain't gonna win no bozo buttons for looks but it's Home.
Why the heck are our homes a source for competition, anyways!?! They should be about warmth and shelter.
Why are our children a source of pride? They should be about love.
Why are our hair and faces a source of judgmentalism? "Wrinkles are just where smiles have been" but wrinkles don't pay for plastic surgeon's vacations in the Maldives!
I'm done! Done with all my pride, done with other people's greed and judgmentalism.
If my husband, my hair, my face, my home, my defective pets and my old vehicles offend you, then turn your face and walk on by! I'm in the business of surviving this cockeyed thing we call "Life." I'm not competing. I'm not making my Mommy proud anymore. And I'm certainly not impressive in any way.
In the words of Archie Bunker, "Well, if they don't like, they can lump it. Take it down the road and dump it."
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