I Yam What I Yam
Don't Let Comparisons Steal Your Joy
“Why can’t you be more like her?”
Sometimes, this damning question comes from a relative, loved one, co-worker, or friend.
Sometimes, it’s the Resident Critic Within who repeatedly demands an answer.
It doesn’t matter where the implicit comparison comes from . . . either way, it’ll diminish your ability to celebrate your unique talents, traits and abilities.
Comparisons are downright joy-canceling.
Once upon a time, a romantic partner of mine wanted to know why I didn’t dress like Peggy Sue. If you know me at all, you know I’m not a fish net stockings and high heels kind of gal. Peggy Sue was . . . and probably still is. She was also at least a few inches taller and her physique was lean. On the receiving end of that question, it was hard not to conclude that my body type and the way I dressed was inferior. I’m made of many things but certainly not Teflon.
Why do we do this to ourselves? And others? Why must we judge someone as inferior if they lack some quality that we happen to revere?
I wish I was exempt from this tendency to judge but I’m not.
I can talk myself out of writing poetry because I’ll never be a Mary Oliver, Billy Collins or David Whyte.
I can convince myself I should stop drafting memoir because I was so blown away by the depth, heart and courage of Laura Davis’s The Burning Light of Two Stars. Or Nora Krug’s graphic memoir, Belonging: A German Reckons With History and Home.
“How can anything you write ever measure up?” that Resident Critic Within asks.
“Comparisons are irresistible but
and very often
our self-torture of choice.”
~ Sarah Ban Breathnach
What we need when we get stymied, silenced or way-too-humbled by such comparisons is a quick comeback.
“I yam what I am,” is Popeye’s iconic exclamation in this seven-second clip from the TV cartoon.
If you’re looking for a more literary comeback, the first line in Walt Whitman’s poem, Song of Myself, might do the trick: “I celebrate myself, and sing myself . . .” Hidden much further in this fifty-four part poem, another gem: “I resist any thing better than my own diversity . . .”
Finally, Dr. Seuss offered a few lines that bear repeating:
“Shout loud at the top of your voice, ‘I AM I!’”
“But you … you ARE YOU! And, now isn’t that pleasant!”
Imagine if we got as good at saying such short sentences to ourselves as actors who commit lines to memory via repetition and rehearsal.
Imagining crafting your own comeback. “I can’t be what I’m not” is a current favorite of mine.
Imagine someone else celebrating you, finishing it off with “And, now isn’t that pleasant!”
Imagine keeping company with those more able to say, “And, now isn’t that pleasant!” than “Why can’t you be more like . . . ?”
Judgments leveled at you could lose their punch. Comparisons might not sting so much. Consequently, joy would be more possible.
And because “you ARE YOU,” you deserve that. Don’t you?
Comments on this blog post are welcome — see the bottom of this page. No need to log in, just type your comments in the box, and press "Comment." Your comments will appear pending moderator approval.
Advice to Myself in These Found Lines
April is National Poetry Month. I’ve posted a poem that I didn’t actually write. Rather, “Advice to Myself in These Found Lines” is a collage of lines gathered from poetry by Dr. Seuss, Rumi, Louise Erdrich, Juan Jimenez, Pablo Neruda, Leonard Cohen, Mary Oliver, and a few others. You can find it here.
Fault Zone: Reverse Wins Gold
A hearty congratulations to dynamo editor, Laurel Anne Hill, as well as authors, poets and editorial staff members who contributed their time and talent to produce the outstanding anthology, Fault Zone: Reverse. This title won gold in the recent Independent Press Award (IPA) competition, anthology category. Fault Zone:Reverse was published by the California Writers Club, SF-Peninsula branch, in December 2021. I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to provide editorial guidance for some of the excellent prose within. To purchase a copy, click here.
I occasionally post collages created long ago, such as the one below, or those more recently completed, on Instagram. Click here if you'd like to follow me. If you already do, thanks!
Why Assemble a Life? An Interview with Author and Artist, Martha Clark Scala
What motivated me to write Assembling a Life: Claiming the Artist in My Father (and Myself)? Check out this video to find out. Comments and feedback welcome!
Prompts For Joy
Click here to celebrate what can bloom even in dark times.
Click here for a quick triple-dose of canine cuteness.
(Thank you, Patrice Catanio!)
About the Photos
Above: Spring Splash. Palo Alto, CA. Photo by Martha Clark Scala.
Next: You a Masterpiece Collage by Martha Clark Scala.
Below: Sans Souci. Watercolor painting by Geoffrey Clark.
"Martha shows us how to transform a list of names, dates, and unanswered questions into a bona-fide memoir that is compelling to read whether or not you knew the person of interest. She also shares autobiographical vignettes that convey the many ways writing and creating grow the writer/artist, and that side story is also an inspiration. I love that she discovered how very much she and her father had in common. What a gift!”
~Judge, 27th Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards
My father's painting of the Sans Souci, a Star boat he once raced, is featured in Chapter 19 of Assembling a Life: Claiming the Artist in My Father (and Myself). This memoir is loaded with color photos (and some black and white) on just about every page. A visual feast.
Get the Limb Monthly
If you are not already a subscriber to this Out on a Limb blog, click here to get on my blog mailing list. (It's free, and the blog is sent out monthly.)