R is for

April 21, 2014


R is for…

…recrimination.  Particularly self-recrimination.  To accuse oneself, to bring charges or countercharges against oneself.

As a perfectionist and a teacher, I am my own worst critic.  I guarantee you that I find more fault with myself than you ever will. I like to think of it as preemptive; if I point out my faults and failures first, then you can’t point them out for me.

When I used the phrase “beat them to the punch” recently, my counselor likened it to literally punching myself.  Here, let me hit myself in the face—that’ll show you!

Hmm.  Yeah.  Sigh.  How stupid. (My counselor also says that “stupid” is “stooping
your id”—in other words, taking away your own power.  Ah.)  (She has a lot of those really freaking insightful word explanations.  Love it!  I’m learning so much.)

How do I speak positivity into that space?

Well….actually, I don’t have to figure that out, because a friend already told me how to.  In fact, she assigned me to write about it when we got to the R post.

R is also for…

…radical self-care.

That sounds like working out and eating clean and getting enough sleep, while also indulging in a little pampering, massage, aromatherapy, and vino, doesn’t it?  And it certainly can include those.  But that’s not all radical self-care is.

Anne Lamott speaks of this in her book Help, Thanks, WowIn an interview in Spirituality & Health, she defines the notion this way:

Radical self-care means that I gently bust myself out of the desperate lifelong need to please, and it means that I start to say no as a complete sentence. Women get so used to leftovers, helping everybody else get it together, and then living their lives from what time and life force and energy and family goodwill are left over. My mother ate every broken yolk, because that’s how we were raised, and so this is about a new paradigm of saying, Everybody in the family should take a turn with a broken yolk. […]

In a very paradoxical, pathetic, natural way, we calm ourselves by worrying about others. And obsessing about others keeps us out of our own worry. Black-belt codependents like me use other people as a drug to keep from having to deal with our own aloneness or feelings or care about the world, so that instead of thinking about global warming, you can think about your children’s swim lessons—we think it’s all more manageable. The fact is, it keeps us stoned and worried in obsession. The very most profound thing we have to offer our children is our own healing.

I am not a mother, so I’m not putting my family’s needs in front of my own—in the place of “our children,” I would simply say “other people”—but I am still putting others’ needs before mine, in the sense of feeling the need to please others.  (This despite my wiring for rebellion—how’s that for a paradox?)  Of course, as Lamott says, it’s avoidance behavior.

In the interview, Lamott suggests three truths of human existence:  “That we are so ruined, and so loved, and in charge of so little.”

Further, she goes on to cite lines from a favorite William Blake poem that resonates so hard with me:

And we are put on earth a little space, 

That we may learn to bear the beams of love

to which she responds,

I didn’t know we were here to learn to endure the fact that people adore us anyway, and that it really is a “me too” situation—that we tell people about our darkest corners and ickiness, and they go, “Oh, thank you, me too.” So to understand the mystery of that much love, it brings tears to our eyes. It is devastating.

Radical self-care is the practice of enduring the beams of love, love devastating in its undeservedness and relentlessness and abundance.  Mystery indeed.


That’s a third prayer in the book: Wow. “Holy shit,” is another way to say it. And I think our liberation begins with understanding how disappointing everybody else is—and that we are all in the same boat. We screw up right and left.

Radical self-care is receiving and giving love, despite all the screwing up.  It is practicing healing the leaky heart, allowing it to fill up and be juicy with love, instead of letting it leak dry and starve all night.  And I’m told that the power to do that is infinite and has always been available to me.  Mystery indeed.

Wow.  Holy shit.

everything you need

4 thoughts on “R is for

    • Angela, I love Annie Lamott! Her book on writing, Bird by Bird, is delicious. But then I love all of her non-fiction, and most of her fiction, too! I’m a little bit biased.

  1. Wow and Holy Shit indeed. You may very well be the next Lamott. (My sister had lunch with her on a houseboat about 30 years ago and I’m still pissed.) Please don’t stop sharing the insights of your counselor, as it saves me a lot of money. When mine threw me out I screamed “But we haven’t even discussed my childhood yet!” Honestly, I love everything about this post and wish I’d said it myself. You rock at writing and truth and may you always be “juicy with love.”

    • And speaking of holy shit, Deb—I’ve never been compared to Lamott before! Ye gods! I humbly and startledly thank you.

      You can tell your sister there’s more than one person who’s exceedingly of her houseboatian fortune of yore!

      I think there may be a poem in your comment, something about writing and truth and a heart juicy with love.

      And you can talk about your childhood here anytime you want to. 🙂

Overheard at a kiln: "The main teaching of all religions is, don't be a dick." You heard the man--comment away, but...you know...

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