I (DeAnna) recently read a blog post by Tara Livesay on a life overseas blog spot. This blog’s audience are people who work outside their passport country as humanitarian workers and missionaries. It was convicting. The theme is one-uppers.
Since our return in November 2012, I haven’t been able to formulate many positive sentences when sharing about our lives overseas. I could justify it with how difficult things have been for us since our return like working through some PTSD issues, many ex-patriot and national colleague deaths, David being completely overworked, Jonah working through post-traumatic issues, Jonah’s concussion, Joshua’s ever spreading plantar warts, security issues, etc… Things feel intense, sometimes overwhelming.
We’ve all heard that laughter is the best medicine. Did you know that laughter lowers our stress hormones, boosts our immunity, relaxes our bodies, decreases pain and helps protect our hearts. As I’ve blogged before, I have the choice to laugh or cry.
I know from experience sometimes in the most heated discussion, laughter cools things off like nothing else. I enjoy relaxing by watching something funny. In this blog I recently read by Tara, she refers to a Saturday Night Live character named Penelope. I haven’t seen this character in action, but she sounds quite funny. Below is Tara’s blog post.
Penelope 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.
I have to admit that I’m convicted by the blog post because I’m Penelope. It came out with the recent reverse culture shock experience. It comes out frequently when I read social media posts, I quit following some people moving them from friend to acquaintance because I couldn’t handle the emotions that were stirred within me when I read their status updates. I want to extend to you my apologies if I haven’t held in my Penelope side and blurted out my Penelope thoughts.