Recently a friend linked back to an old post of mine about the Hardship Olympics, and so I got to have the somewhat uncomfortable experience of witnessing a lot of commentary about what I’d said, years after I’d said it. On the one hand, I’m glad much of it still resonates with so many, and I also recall writing down my frustration at the time feeling cathartic. On the other hand, I cringed, a little, rereading it. I was angry. I was furious, really, and only partly due to the situation which had evoked the post. I was floundering in a scary time of wondering if my child would ever be okay, and I felt like I’d been kicked while I was down, when really I was just a giant, pulsing glob of fear and sadness and anything could’ve set me off in that state.

I stand by my assertion that there are far better ways to be supportive than the tired “it could be worse” approach, but with the benefit of time and hindsight I realize none of that mattered as much as learning how to take care of myself when life was hard. And lashing out in anger, as I did, was satisfying in the short term, but not who I want to be in the long run. A couple of years after my post, the now-iconic How Not To Say The Wrong Thing piece ran in the LA Times (with the brilliant accompanying “Ring Theory” graphic showing how to keep from being That Person) and went viral, and that is more how I wish I’d been able to organize my thoughts. My piece said “People can be real jerks and I wish they’d stop,” whereas the LA Times piece said, “Crisis is hard on everyone, but here’s how to make sure you’re not being a jerk.” It’s a kinder, gentler approach.

In the spirit of growing and learning (and surviving, though sometimes it may feel like just barely), I thought I’d revisit this topic from another angle; let’s forget about everyone else. Here are my rules for myself when times are tough, as I both take responsibility for my own choices and free myself from the guilt that can accompany them if I get too mired in “shoulds.” Read More