Comparing Yourself to Others: The Game Nobody Wins

I think I have become too competitive.

Paul pricks my finger, squeezes out a tiny drop of blood and places it on a measuring strip.  “Come on, come on,"  I whisper. The blood sugar monitor beeps as the digital screen displays my reading.

“104, boom! I win!” I shout.

“Plus, I just ate two pumpkin donuts,” I add.

Paul, Marisa and Beanie stare at me emotionless. Paul mutters “Congratulations.”  I have just claimed victory over my diabetic step-daughter by producing the lowest blood sugar number.

Something needs to change.

I grew up as the second child of four boys.  When you are one of four everything becomes a challenge.  It runs through your blood. In the summer we would race against each other to become the first one to develop skin cancer.

“Put your arms out,” I’d say and all four of us would throw our skinny forearms together like a pile of varying colored sticks.

My older red-haired brother never stood a chance.  The most he could hope for was that his freckles would merge together and my youngest brother, six years my junior, was too young to really throw his heart into “Laying out”.  But John naturally had a darker pigment and this is where the use of an impartial judge would be requested.

“Mom! Who’s the darkest?” I’d shout at my mother who would be broiling herself in baby oil during the peak tanning hours (“PTH”).

“John,” she’d say lying motionless behind her Jackie O sunglasses.

“You didn’t even look!” I’d whine.

“I didn't need to, he’s my little Mexican boy,” she’d smile while sitting up to untie the swimsuit straps behind her neck.  I secretly wondered if my mother had an affair with a Latin man just to produce a child who could beat me at tanning. The trip my parents took to South America always did strike me as suspicious.

Once we were old enough to sit in the front seat of the car, which was four years old, We’d all run for the front door, kicking and tripping each other along the way.  After several pairs of torn jeans, scabbed up knees and bloody knuckles, my mother changed the rules and told us we had to shout as soon as we were all outside. Even today, I still cannot leave a building without stifling the urge to scream “Shotgun!” in order to claim the front seat.

The race to ride shotgun paled in comparison to the competition for food. The last chocolate chip cookie, the lonely slice of cake and the remaining potato chips were never safe in a house full of boys.  Be the first to spread a little DNA by licking it and weren’t nobody going to claim it after that.

After all these years of competing, I’m not quite sure how to turn it off.

How many followers does this person have?

How many comments did so and so get?

Why aren't they promoting my article instead of that piece of crap?

It’s exhausting and in the race to achieve my personal best I have displayed my personal worst; 
Exhibit A the victory dance while eating a donut in front of a pancreas-challenged child.

It is time for a change and nothing brings it home more than the sting of an intense pulsed light on the blotchy skin of my sun damaged neck.  When the dermatologist asks me if the setting is too strong I ask her what most people can handle.

“A few clicks higher,” she says.

“Crank it up,” I reply.

This is going to be tough.

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