Let me start by saying that what Iowan’s consider “bugs”, the average non-midwesterner (me) could mistake as small dinosaurs. Opinions aside, the “bugs” in Iowa are LOOKING FOR LOVE. They are full of hugs and kisses, and waiting for some sweet skin to sink in on. This sweet skin comes walking into my office as the form of an elementary age child a minimum of 13 times per day. Strolling in post-insect adoration at recess, they leave with hydrocortisone cream seeping from their pores and ice sponges covering the fresh welts.
It was no surprise this past week when two kiddos found their way to my land of antihistamines mid-morning. I was just finishing up with one – her left leg triple the size of the right and bruising beginning to settle from said “bug” (dinosaur) bite as the next walked in. Boundaries are transparent at this age, and medical privacy is at a loss. The one walking in asked, “What happened to you?”. In response to her classmate, she said “I’m here for bug bites, too.” I was pleased thinking maybe this meant they were well on their way to a formed friendship out of their mutual discomfort.
In the next breath the new girl stated, “But MY bug bites are SO much worse”, a sinister smile coating her face from one ear to the other. The girl getting ready to leave replied, “My bug bites are BAD. My whole leg hurts almost all the time, and I have medicine for it”, showing off her swollen, polished skin. She almost didn’t get out the entire statement before the new girl chimed in with, “But I have about twelve, and look, these aren’t even the biggest ones I’ve ever got. Mine hurt SO much worse I bet because I have more”.
Back and forth they calmly, and thoroughly, fought over who had it worse.
I could have played it off as kids being kids. But truthfully, I sat in disbelief after putting a halt on the conversation. Not because it was ridiculous, but because it was accurate. I don’t know what the “old days” were like because I never lived in them. I submerge myself in an unhealthy amount of Woodstock documentaries, but I don’t think that’s quite the same. What I do know is that this new world we live in, the only world I’ve ever known, there is always this nagging feeling of “who has it worse”. It is often not as direct as a bug bite-off between two 7 year olds- but it is there… alive and well.
Really, I mean REALLY, miraculous people that have fought incredulous circumstances are exploited through news and social media. These human beings, who have been through hell and back, are idolized exactly the way that they should be. These icons of motivation and inspiration shed light on their most vulnerable selves, and offer a sense of strength and peace to the world. There is nothing I adore more than the individuals that are capable of doing that. Sometimes bad things, bad diseases, and bad circumstances happen to really, really good people. In one respect it eats me alive that that’s the case. In the next, I couldn’t be more thankful for those people and what they offer to this universe and society through their perseverance. They have horendous days, they have agreeable days, they have just plain regular days, too. But they are strong. They are beckoning. They are captivating. They are superhuman.
I think that humans are naturally made to inspire one another, and crave the ability to be the one that inspires. Oftentimes, it is in the wake of hardship that we find truthful relationships and a genuine sense of belonging.
But connecting hardship to strength, belonging, and purpose is a recipe for discontent.
In nursing, pain is the fifth vital sign. It’s always been controversial in the scientific world because what the patient says is their pain, is their pain. There is no measuring. There is no proving it. There is only trust in their pain. It is the same with unfortunate events, illnesses, or circumstances. There is no disproving how unearthing the pain of a hardship is- whether it be physical, emotional, or spiritual for an individual.
We all have tough days. We all have problems. Big or little, we have problems. But to be entirely honest with you, we will always have tough days and we will always have problems. That is the nature of humanity. It is how we ourselves perceive, or how we actively make the world perceive, our problems that matters most.
We all know that one friend who ALWAYS has something wrong with them. It doesn’t matter what day of the week, or what is going RIGHT in life, something is always more significantly going wrong. Do we perceive them as strong, miraculous, beckoning, captivating, or superhuman? Probably not. In fact, most times, we hear about their problems so often that we remain exhausted and disengaged in the relationship, and even manage to displace their problems onto ourselves or our other friendships and then EVERYONE has a problem. In the process, we become desensitized. We turn inward, become selfish, probably speak poorly, and plan to carry our own weight and nobody else’s from that point forward. Because we just can’t keep up anymore internally.
I have recognized that often when humans elevate their struggles, it is not because their life is bad – although they may begin to believe this through the wiring of their thoughts. It is because they yearn for connection – to be perceived as brave, strong-willed, and inspirational in the complexities of their daily life.
Just shy of seven-years-old you don’t plan to seek attention through pessimism. But you quickly begin to notice that those with broken limbs get the most signatures. Have the most aggressive bug bite, and you just might be the strongest girl in the school. I think we carry these observations into adulthood and cling to hardships because they inherently show our durability.
I will leave with this,
“When you lower yourself, the world elevates you. When you elevate yourself, the world lowers you. When you arrive at the peak of enlightenment, you will understand: Your peak is the same height as your neighbor’s. At the peak, you see everyone’s holiness.”
– Haemin Sunim
Our bug bites are not the same. Some are by the many but small in stature, others are large and ominous. But we all have them. Whatever your bug bite looks like or feels like, you are strong, loved, and noticed. You do not have to fight for that affection. Allow the world to offer it willingly and wholesomely without extensive guidance. There is no winner in the game of “who has it worse”.
We all get bit, sometimes.
Light & Love.