Monday, November 8, 2010
The Gold Standard of Pity Parties
I can be the Martha Stewart of pity parties and I know how to throw a good one. From early childhood I struggled with depression and I've made some very bad choices over the course of my life. Listing them would take too much time, be overwhelming, and as well, it would be pointless. The important thing is that as I've grown personally and healed and I've been willing to confront my dark side. One of the hors d'oeuvres I've always liked to serve at my pity parties is the "what-might-have-been" recipe. It's been a frequent favorite.
This past week I was watching an episode of Oprah that focused on the incidence of sexual abuse of boys. During the show, the issue of forgiveness came up, and for me, one of the pearls from that show was a comment that Oprah made that part of the forgiveness process includes the task to "give" up our wishful thinking that the past might have been different. This struck a chord with me. I've always been aware that we have to let go of the "what-might-have-been" thinking, but I've never before associated it with the forgiveness process.
What I realized at that "aha" moment was that the person I've most had difficulty forgiving was myself and my bad choices. During way too many decades of my life I have run away from myself even down to the simplest decision not to major in English in college when literature was my deepest passion. For way too long I focused on trying to be what I thought others needed me to be. Indeed there have been many people in my life who were quite happy to encourage me to try to march goose-step with their pictures of who I should be, and thus I certainly have known betrayal.
However, the biggest betrayal was self-inflicted, and anytime I spend wishing I had done this or that differently is simply another form of self-betrayal. The truth is that I did not do things differently. And what if I had? Which of the many, many blessings would I have missed, and do I really think I'm so smart that I could do a more perfected life if given a do-over? I don't think so. If there is anything I've learned in life, it's that it really is true that at each moment we all do the best we can. To paraphrase Kurt Vonnegut in Cat's Cradle, "We do doodily do, what we must muddily must."
I have written before of The Mother's instruction to be simply goodwilled and to do the best that one can (August 18 blog). Perhaps once we have been willing to look at and acknowledge our dark side, the person to whom we should most afford our goodwill is ourselves and to make a space for the light within that is our true Self. Self-reproach should not be confused with self-evaluation. Indeed, self-reproach is just another hors d'oeuvre at a Martha Stewart pity party. The real task is to keep on turning toward that which is our truest and best self. Recognize the tar baby (Sept. 30 blog) and keep on moving!