Speaking of Leo, several years ago we were sitting around talking and I was complaining about a twisted elbow I had gotten during a bad day at work. I bitched about it for a bit- it hurt like a sonofabitch and having to use it at work did not help, and then I remembered that Leo has fibromyalgia and is in life-disrupting pain pretty much all of the time. I stopped and apologized to him for complaining when he was in worse pain, and he laughed. He told me that all pain was valid and relevant to the sufferer, and that his being in a greater amount of pain did not relate to nor invalidate my own. People are obsessed with measurements- any look at the Guinness Book of World Records will show this- but life is not a contest of who has the biggest misery dick, to borrow a phrase, and it is not a case of only the most injured having the right to speak up. Pain is not a meritocracy. It is a state of being that we all experience, and each of us has the right to declare their pain valid. Not better, nor worse, nor equal- in fact, it’s best if one doesn’t compare it to others’ at all- simply valid. An actual experience that one is going through that affects one’s life on whatever level. It is not a competitive sport, and it is not helpful to oneself to try and apply the “clean your plate there are starving children in China” adage to oneself or others. The soul of that statement is that one should feelbad and guilty simply because others are worse off than oneself, which is, of course, ridiculous and useless as far as utility- explain, in detail, how a state of mind on one’s part directly affects, for better or worse, the lives of others. Does finishing the food on the plate feed a starving child? Was that food directly plucked from the hungry hands of that starving child, and its waste be thrown in the garbage as that child looks on? Of course not. It’s a pointless exercise- nothing is accomplished to help that child nor oneself. I would argue the point that approach breeds resentment rather than compassion and teaches that pain is something to be as strictly measured as much as height or weight or volume. Why not explain that there are starving children and then work with the child/person/oneself to do something tangible to help- volunteer in a soup kitchen or collect for the Heifer Project? And instead of comparing one’s pain for validity with another’s, why not either work on alleviating one’s own pain or helping another with theirs, both with compassion and respect, and then you can go on to help someone else?