Re-view

brocFor more than six months I’ve been ingesting and digesting thoughts from many disparate sources, regarding shame, body image, addiction and fat stigma.  Chewing and pondering these various bits of information and insight, sometimes semi-publicly on the blog and also in private writing, has helped me move toward shame reduction. At moments when I feel most ‘out of body’ (which is a hysterical turn of phrase when talking about body size), I feel ‘shame-less’ or shame free.

That is, without shame, in a positive way.bana

This reminds me of my desire to re-frame the words self-ish and self-less, which desperately need to have their connotations expanded. To be self-less is actually not always positive.  It can mean not acknowledging or valuing the self. In fact, it can indicate blatantly negating the existence and value of self, as if others – people & things – are of greater importance, to the point where there is no room for self. Oh yes, there are positive meanings of self-less, but for women, I dare to say that being without self, as part of serving others, is far too common and self-destructive. Of course, destroying the self  implies having a self and, to speak for my self, the insubstantial and mightily distorted sense of self with which I came of age didn’t require much effort to destruct. Addiction is a speedy tool of destruction.

clemmySelfish, of course, has virtually nothing but a negative connotation. Greedy, not caring for others… It is thus a perfect word to use when accusing a woman of not taking sufficient care of others. In fact, any lapse in care taking, of spouse, children, parents, friends, colleagues, who-ever, is a spot-lit, glaring event. Over the course of centuries, patriarchy has inscribed the edict quite deeply, (like the Harry Potter character writing, scarring his own skin, as punishment), that females exist to service males.

This invisible writing, the tattoos of the established female role, has been diluted bit by bit, over the last century or so. And there were always exceptional women, (the exceptions) who were not, for whatever reason – and I would love to understand the hows and whys – fully oppressed by the code, the cultural norms. But for a woman to elevate self-care, even to the level of other-care is still a radical notion.

Mothers, particularly, speak of needing ‘me time’. It is a commodity, marketed now, of grapishcourse. (I think of those intensely sexual television ads for chocolate, where a woman swoons while nibbling a small square of chocolate while in the background a man stirs & pours sensuous vats of molten chocolate…)  ‘Me time’ for a woman is promoted as if it is something apart from ‘normal’ life.  On the other hand, with the exception of ads showing men driving cars or drinking alcohol and watching sports (since cigarette ads have been banned for many years), one rarely sees males yearning for ‘me time’.  They freely ‘indulge’ in these pastimes as a matter of course, every day.

It is the ‘norm’.

Okay, I went off on a bit of a tangent.  I drifted into this diatribe on self-less and self-ish rhub(behavior) due to their similarity to the expression shame-less. Another generally negative expression, with the implication that some wrong is being done and one ought to ‘be ashamed’ of the behavior. In fact, this connotation is not inaccurate for some situations. When I think of particularly obscene avarice or bigoted behavior, I wonder:

‘Do they have no shame?”

But this is a far cry from the shame of which I have been writing: the inlaid shame which hobbled me for so many years.  I feel tremendous gratitude that I walk comparatively unencumbered today.

 

Post Script: D’ruther

I think I was a bit negative in the first part of Sunday evening’s blog post. The “Should/Don’Wanna” inner dialog is so familiar to me and perhaps to others as well. But what I didn’t include, in fact I removed it from the title line, was: “D’ruther”. And that omission is important because that’s what was really stumping me. The question is/was: “What would I rather do, instead of the Shoulds?”   It’s all well and good to whine and rebel against the (perceived) Shoulds with a petulant ‘Don’Wanna. It’s childish, but perfectly understandable from time-to-time.

But the grownup me, the one that has learned its okay to refuse some Shoulds, some of the time, (see 4/2/14 post…) is involved in a larger life lesson about choice. What do I want to do? To quote the esteemed and astonishing poet Mary Oliver: Tell me what it is YOU plan to do with your one wild and precious life? Might be the best question ever. But… Here’s the thing; at age 60+ it no longer seems like a question of planning, at least not long term planning. It’s about today and now.

Today is when my wild and precious life is happening, and choices abound. Forgive me if I have previously shared this quote from another esteemed writer, Ellen Goodman (formerly of the Boston Globe). Some years ago, I believe it was on the occasion of Hilary Clinton’s 50th birthday, she wrote these words: “Pick carefully and boldly… Triage what you want to do and what you want to quit… Live intentionally.”

Live intentionally; that’s what I want to do. Goodman’s essay also included these words of encouragement: “Leap and the net will appear.” Hmm. In my last post I stopped my self at the brink, before plunging into the dark abyss. But if I rotate my self, my perspective just slightly, the view is quite different. I see that I am on the brink of a new choice; standing on the ledge of possibility, not hopelessness. Really, why bother with hopelessness at my age? Isn’t existential angst for the young? Elders want to fly, or at least leap.

So, its time to face the D’ruther question head on. When I was unexpectedly and unwillingly unemployed five years ago, I presented myself with three possibilities: Study homeopathy, Start a business or Write. Sometimes I think that I have been spinning in circles ever since. However, as I whirl around, I haven’t drilled a hole in the ground. I’ve traveled a small distance. I think the famous dervishes also travel across the floor; and I’ve read that their spinning takes them into an altered state of consciousness.

I know how to write. I have always written. I cannot imagine my life without writing. I have (reluctantly) been working to acquire and strengthen some necessary skills: self-care, along with diminished care-taking of others; the urgent and delicate art of triage; saying ‘no’ and pushing through resistance (sometimes known as discipline), to name a few. I’ve even experimented with ‘reading until I am bored’, something I did not think was possible. These efforts have helped me to clear the space, literal and hugely figurative, to make writing a focus.

Now I seek the magic to maintain a belief in my self worth, that I have something to say and the ability to say it. Or when I occasionally (ha!) lack that strength, to rally my stubbornness and write anyway. I do know what I want to do. I know. I’m just scared.

I said “No”

I said “No”. no1

A casual friend asked me to do something to help her out – for pay – and I answered, “I’m sorry, but I have another commitment on Wednesday afternoons”. Here’s the big news – the commitment is to myself. In the (not so distant) past I would have felt compelled to alter my own schedule for 2-3 months in order to help her.

You see, because I could do it, I was programmed to say, “Yes” and abandon whatever I had planned. In this case, I would be giving up something that it’s taken me years to begin doing for myself. Somehow I found the clarity of mind, the actual (not pretend) belief in the importance of my own life choices to say, “No, I have another commitment.”

I may be belaboring this point, but the urge to take care of others, to meet their needs before my own, to save them (from the consequences of their own choices), that compulsion is very strong. I really thought that the drive to serve was hard-wired in my little brain, after all these years. But its true what the neuro-psychologists say, you can alter your brain circuitry. All the years of reciting affirming words about my self-worth seemed silly; honestly it felt like a joke. But the little, powerful synapses or whatever, have triumphed. New grooves!

no2I have held the deeply seated, life-long belief that the only way to be a ‘good person’ (whatever that means… probably ‘a ‘good female’) was to selflessly rescue others. I’m certain that I said “No” as a child. I must have. Every child does. But the older I get, the more I am aware that those were different times.  I was trained to acquiesce, to agree, to do what I was told or asked to do. Long before I had any significant cognitive abilities, (age two?) the habit of saying, “Yes” was well established. Certainly the family unit functioned more smoothly that way.

I was a docile, compliant girl, trying to please even those who treated me poorly, even when my inner voice began to protest.  As a college student, I began to participate in public protests regarding social/political issues. But in the personal arena, I remained a “Yes” girl for a very, very long time.  Now I’m rewriting the script.  I said “No”.

 

Wrapping up…

This is the third and final part of ‘The MIddle’, which will soon appear as a separate page on this website.  Reading the previous two posts, along with this one, may make more sense.  Anyway, picking up where I left off on 4/2…

So, I was primed: emotionally clearer, with a modicum of time and momentum for writing my story. Then a few pieces of insight and information began to drop, noisily, into place. Books and the thinkers and researchers who wrote them came my way and like pieces of tinder, ignited spontaneously. I was on the brink, but still a-feared, reluctant to speak, as a writer, from my deeper self. Skating on the surface, using image and metaphor, dropping hints that led nowhere. I needed to be brave; to step up.

Enter NaBloPoMo, a challenge from BlogHer and WordPress to post on a blog every day for the month of November. (National Blog Post Month)  As I have seemingly done so many times on this journey that is my life, I decided, ‘on a whim’ to do it. I was ready to try out the deeper waters; to publicly poke around in the depths of my shame history and share the results of the excavation.

In terms of writing, I think this was the toughest task I’ve taken upon myself: to write and post daily. Yikes; it was hard work. And the ‘inner work’, or shall I say turmoil, was messy, messy, messy. However, although I do not credit myself with drive or ambition, I am stubborn. I said I would do it, so I would do it, ‘even if it killed me.’ And I did it. I survived a glorious and agonizing month. As the calendar drew closer to December 1st, the question loomed… “What have I done? What have I begun? Do I just stop after 30 days?” That felt wrong; a waste of the momentum I’d created. And I knew ‘the work’ wasn’t done, whatever I meant by ‘the work’.

So I’ve continued to post, twice a week, which has been fun and annoying and everything in between. Sticking to the practice of posting, as with meditation, writing ‘morning pages’ (a Julia Cameron technique) and practicing tai chi, is grounding. If I can do it/them on the days when it/they make no sense, when I don’t want to, then I have at least an inkling of who I am and where I am. I am in the middle of something. It is my life, it is this writing work, this exploring, exposing and sharing, owning my story.

MFB1_4I receive such kind support regarding this blog, from friends and family.  Thank you all for taking the time to read and sometimes respond to my thoughts.  My readership is very small, and that is fine, quasi-public is enough exposure for me. I’m still focused on fruits and veggies, but here are some peonies I drew.

 

 

The Middle

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I am in the process of revising the pages on this website.  This is the first part of that draft.  The Eeyore drawings are for my mother and a writer friend. eeyore on head

I don’t know if this is actually The Middle, but in a way, that’s how it feels. Anyway, this is what follows The Beginning, as posted on this EAW website. Along the Way or In Process, any of these would be apt titles. It began, four or five years ago with a drawing pad on which I did randomly inspired drawings of food, encircled by writing, having a conversation with food; which itself grew out of a (still un-evolved, that is, un-promoted) consulting business and the ‘discovery’ that everyone has a Food Life Story. This project has led me deeper and deeper into my self, my own story, my writing and healing. Other circumstances have aided and abetted this process. All of these gifts, these open doors, some arriving unbidden, but welcome and some actively sought, have grown and expanded my inner and outer lives, producing changes.

And the largest changes have manifested in the writing, here. A few years ago, I began blogging. On the AaCL (Assembling a Cooking Life) site I was sharing ideas about creating a more pleasurable cooking life, given that “Everyone eats, so someone has to cook…” It was intended as promotion for the consulting business and in it’s way, it was satisfying. But I guess my heart wasn’t really in it; I’ve never been much for self-promotion. I was also blogging here on the EAW (Eating Art Work) site, journaling my way through the pages of drawings I had already done.

Now that I think about it that was the beginning of the middle. The writing was personal, albeit carefully edited. Taking baby steps into the world: putting my words, thoughts and feelings out there. My story. That too was sometimes satisfying. Satisfying, however, is not, was not, fulfilling. I was not fed by the effort. Simultaneously, the needs of my elderly father and the miserable chain of our mutual his-tory were draining me. And the slightly appealing and slight success of an EAW business, producing and selling products using the drawings I had done, was distracting, as well as time-consuming.

eeyore & poohWere these distractions false turns, tangents, and ‘wastes’ of time? I have thought that; I have railed against the draining, the siphoning off of my sap; to what end? Hindsight has made it clear that I had to complete that journey with my father, to the bitter end. After decades of submission to misery, I had to spend some time with him while I was aware of my anger. That was the only path to eventual self-healing. Was it fun? No. Was it necessary for growth? It most certainly was.

HowTo

I once read an article about the genesis of Self-Help books. As I dimly recall, there were scores of pamphlets produced soon after printing became commonplace. People are always ready to tell other people how to solve their problems or share the secrets of their own success. Certainly by the middle of the 20th century, printed advice was pouring into the marketplace. Diet books and cookbooks were, and have continued to be major players in this field. Help is offered for learning and improving skills of every kind: interpersonal, business, parenting, fitness, even, and not surprisingly, writing. With the birth of the Internet and our 21st century post-Google lives, the HowTo howl has become a cacophony.

open bookThere is a recently published book, which I’ve requested from the library, called Promise Land: My Journey through America’s Self-Help Culture, a memoir by Jessica Lamb-Shapiro. As I understand it, she set out to research and write a book about the self-help industry. In the end it became a memoir. The snippets I’ve been able to read on the Amazon website were entertaining and thought provoking. What motivates the proponents and writers: altruism or commercialism? She shares some scathing commentary on a conference headlined by the man who co-authored the gigantically successful series of Chicken Soup for the Soul books. She also comments on the uplifting ‘words of wisdom’ that appear everywhere, including a yellowed sign hanging in her local auto body shop, which says WE CREATE OUR TOMORROWS BY WHAT WE DREAM TODAY.

Which takes me back to my email inbox. One glance at the contents and you would recognize me as a soul with a weakness for inspiration. Also seeking answers to HowTo questions and, well, just seeking. Nothing wrong with that. There are a few healers, writers and guides whose words have had (and still have) extremely positive impacts on my thinking and choices, therefore, on my daily life. I’ve written about and quoted some of them on this blog: some repeatedly. But a couple of thoughts slapped me in the face when I looked at my inbox today.plate-1

The first is the excess of HowTo opportunities that come my way, every day. Some are offers to take a course – online or in some beautiful, perhaps exotic locale. I am assured that my life will be changed by the experience. Many I delete immediately. Some raise a whiff of fantasy and I read on a bit before I hit the disillusionment wall. Delete. But I wonder, what is getting stirred up in me, time after time: hope or dis-satisfaction? The same responses arise when I hear of a book that seems to speak to my issues… Gotta have it? This could be the one? Why is there often a feeling somewhere between disappointment and disgust? Is that with the author or myself?

A seemingly more benign type of missive that you would find clogging my inbox is the inspirational quotes. I am hungry for wisdom; I am a word-lover who is endlessly searching for someone who has distilled experience into a pithy, beautiful sentence or two. Could be a poem or a quote from the Dalai Lama, Emma Goldman, MLK Jr., a Native American elder or – gasp – a Self-Help guru. There are days when the words that show up on my computer screen seem prescient; “Exactly what I need to be reminded of today!” Sometimes a link posted on Facebook by a distant friend hits just the right mark. And some days, many days, there is just too much. It can’t possibly all be wisdom and its drowning out, rather than stimulating, my own knowledge.

pageWhich brings me to the second, and more thorny thought, with regard to my own writing. It may not be clear to a reader of this blog, but I am heading somewhere with all of these words, written and posted over all of these months. There is an urge in me to share my ‘experience, strength and hope’, my journey of de-constructing shame. And today I wonder if I am just another HowTo Self-Help voice adding to the din. Not saying that I’m going to stop what I’ve begun here.

Just sayin’…

Revising & emending

“If your mind carries a heavy burden of [the] past, you will experience more of the same. The past perpetuates itself through lack of presence. The quality of your consciousness at this moment is what shapes the future.”        Eckhart Tolle

Revision is about re-seeing.

Revision:  1. emendation, correction  2. reconsideration, review, reexamination, reassessment, reevaluation, reappraisal, rethink,

Revise: reconsider and alter (something) in the light of further evidence

ORIGIN: mid 16th cent. from French réviser ‘look at,’ or Latin revisere ‘look at again,’ from re- ‘again’ + visere (intensive form of videre ‘to see’ ).

As the stories from my past, those little blots of shame, are exposed to light and air, they lose their substance, do a little cartoon-like “poof” and virtually disappear.  I honestly didn’t believe it could happen.  I took it on faith that sharing them was a good thing to do; I hoped it would sap their power.  I’ll be damned; it did.  If I search for the hurtfulness of that comment by my grandfather’s friend (see post on 2/27), even the memory is as insubstantial as a bit of fog. And the sting?  I truly cannot summon up the pain and shame, even if I try.  It’s gone.

“Revise:  To reconsider [my life] in the light of further evidence.”

Further evidence.

“Most of us can remember shaming events from childhood that felt defining.  But more than likely we remember them because we didn’t process those experiences with parents who were open to talking about shame…  I don’t blame my parents for that… They didn’t have access to the information we have today.”            Brené Brown

For months now I’ve been asking “Why?” these shaming episodes have retained so much energy all these years… and the answers keep coming.  With each new insight, my life story can be emended.

Emend:  to correct.  It’s not about changing the facts, altering what happened to make a prettier story.  It’s about correction; in light of new information, correcting the story I’ve been telling myself for 50+ years.  As I cast off the ugliness of the events I’ve used to define myself, the spaciousness is hard to describe.  The challenge & delight now is choosing how to move forward.

“The quality of my consciousness [today] is what shapes [my] future.”

Game on.fog

Shrinking patriarchs

I want to express profound gratitude to two individuals whose writing and insights have given me enormous comfort and courage as I proceed with the examination of my life story.  They are not alone in the pantheon of the wise and kind, but they are stellar.   Star Fruit 1 Thank you, Brené Brown and Eckhart Tolle.

I will begin with this quote from Brené Brown:

“Our stories of worthiness – of being enough – begin in our first families.  The narrative certainly doesn’t end there, but what we learn about ourselves and how we learn to engage with the world as children sets a course that [may] require us to spend a significant part of our life fighting to reclaim our self-worth…   (Brené Brown, Daring Greatly, p 216-217)

Here’s one of the first memories that comes to mind.  I’m a preteen, visiting my paternal grandparents.  We spend an evening at the home of their long time friends, people who have known my siblings and I since we were born. After supper we play a game of Scrabble.  I’m enjoying the experience; not exactly a ‘grownup evening’, but special nonetheless.   When there is a debate about the Scrabble acceptability of a word, I am sent to the next room to fetch the dictionary.

The moment I am out of sight (but not ear shot), Mr. G pronounces “It’s a shame Cathy takes after her mother; she could be a very attractive girl.”  My grandfather concurs, deriding my mother’s body size and agreeing that I am not likely to marry well. At the time, I didn’t even notice that their wives did not speak up; I shut down completely and didn’t hear another word all evening.

How or why has this ‘minor’ incident continued to be so charged?  Well, I’ve answered this question before:  I have given it power for years.  I enhanced its strength because I never spoke about it.  I never even imagined telling my parents what I overheard.  Never.  Why?  Did I believe that they agreed?  Was I already so convinced that I was unworthy and therefore had no reason to complain, since they were just speaking the truth?  Was I scared of what my parents might say?

                                                          * * *

Owning my story does not mean making it my life story – creating my reality by perpetuating the story line.  So, I’ve made a museum.  Actually I think I made it long ago, enshrining the incidents and people who caused me to feel pain and shame; those who shamed me.  The central gallery has contained larger-than-life-size images of my father and his father.  That has been the core, the heart of the collection:  Childhood.  There is also an Adolescent wing.

For many years I’ve wandered these halls, having locked myself in; I was trapped inside.  While there, I regularly re-lived these events and the figures of these men grew with each replay, like characters in a tale by the Brothers Grimm.  In silent action clips, I fed their looming shadows, swelling their images for decades.

As I’ve begun sharing these stories, owning them and sharing them, owning them by sharing them, I realize I’m no longer alone in the halls of my museum.  As I stand in and walk through these halls of shame with others, I see the images I’d created of these men are beginning to shrink into insignificance.  They no longer dominate my life story.  Powerful shame-loss.

The tightly sealed doors, now open from the outside, have allowed others to enter and join me in the museum.  As the enshrined figures shrink, the storybook power that had sustained them is broken, triggering the release of the interior locks.  I am able to leave, to exit these galleries built of my stories.  I own them and now I can leave them.  With the shattering of the spell, I awaken, seeing where I have been trapped and discover that I can walk away!  As I take each step, with each bit of distance, my vision clears.  The museum shrinks and I begin to see so many other elements of my life: things that are also and now my life.

Connections

I write a post for this blog twice a week.  When or if possible, there is a connection, however tenuous, between one post and the next.  Much of the time daily life intervenes and what I write feels quite separate.  I try to make my peace with that. Then again, sometimes it takes a short remove from the writing to perceive the linkage.  Since I do largely believe that the best of what I write “comes through [me] not from [me]” (cue Khalil Gibran poem **), this experience of awakening to connections is not entirely surprising.

**I apologize for the digression, but I must offer you two links:  first to a printed version of the Gibran poem from which I’ve borrowed the phrase quoted above.  Then a link to a recording of the amazing A capella group, Sweet Honey in the Rock, performing a song based on the poem. I’ve been fortunate to hear them in concert a number of times and I love this piece more each time I hear it.

The post ‘Unapologetic’ apparently resonated with a few people.  I’m very glad about that. This morning I found myself contemplating the ‘Why?’ of excessively saying ‘I’m sorry’.  What popped into my head was: ‘Oh yeah, resentment.’   Hustling to meet the needs of others, to be of service in order to feel worthy (from 2/19 post) is linked to reflex apologies for being alive.  Does this make sense?  Well, of course it doesn’t actually make sense… it’s maladaptive behavior.  What I might privately call ‘stupid’.  However I want to poke around here a bit and see if I can unravel the thought.

Perhaps if I start with anger the picture will be clearer.  Even when I am thoroughly caught up in the unholy pattern of ‘feel unworthy, therefore serve others in order to create a sense (an illusion) of self-worth’, that’s not all that’s going on.  Although I may deeply believe in my unworthiness, at the same time I am pissed.  Underneath, inside, in a parallel sense of self, I’m angry.  The situation, that is, the behavior, is self-perpetuating, so a LARGE quantity of anger gets pushed aside, repressed and, in fact, saved.  Yeah, saved.  That’s scary, but true… I’m not sure that it can be called righteous anger, but a perverse value gets connected to ‘being wronged’.

Okay, that begs the point that I made in the 2/19 post, that while deeply ingrained, this ‘serving others’ behavior is still in some way my choice.  But therein lies a link back to shame.  If I blame myself for my choices, then I shame myself.  If I hoard and hold close my anger, then I feel shame.  In fact, in the universe of my childhood, to feel anger, much less express even a tiny speck of anger, was prohibited and therefore, quite shameful.  What I’m getting at is that collecting anger = resentment.  Yes indeed, there is a connection here.

steamA stockpot of anger, pushed onto a back burner where it simmers for years, yields a potent and volatile reduction called resentment.  One of the by-products of this stewing is the pervasive and scalding vapor of shame.  The thickened and reduced sauce is sometimes served as bitter and sarcastic apologies. Uh huh.

That analysis relates to the angry/resentful wellspring of sorrys, but what of the others… like the ‘sorry for being alive’, the sad, hurt, pathetic apologies?  I don’t think that the stew of anger, which becomes concentrated into resentment is necessarily what produces the sad sorrys.  There’s disappointment in the mix.  Some blend of ‘I’m disappointed in something or someone’ and ‘I believe that I’ve disappointed others’.  This linguistic and culinary de-contruction obviously needs further investigation.  Anon.

Owning my story

Back to de-constructing shame for a bit.

 “… that core belief that we are enough comes only when we live inside our story.  We either own our stories (even the messy ones), or we stand outside of them – denying our vulnerabilities and imperfections, orphaning the parts of us that don’t fit in with who/what we think we’re supposed to be, and hustling for other people’s approval of our worthiness.  Perfectionism is exhausting, because hustling is exhausting.  It’s a never-ending performance.”

from Brené Brown, Daring Greatly, pp132-133

Perfectionism and performance.  Ouch.  The effort to ‘look good’ continued far beyond my adolescent years of hustling for appearance-based acceptance and approval.  Long past the drive to ‘look right’ physically, I was caught up in a trap of questioning: ‘What should I be doing?  Is this how I should behave?’   Frequently feeling like a failure, but worse than that, an empty failure.  Questioning why I was doing this or that and if I really wanted to be doing it.  Failing at the doing and at the same time not really having my heart in the doing.

What am I trying to get at here?  Is that hollow feeling actually resentment rattling around inside my head, asking ‘Why am I doing this?”  And how does this relate to the Brené Brown quote above?  The part that resonated for me was ‘owning [my] story’.  I want to do that.  All of it.  I want to feel that I am enough.  I want to know, to find out if I can be enough without hustling and performing and meeting the needs and expectations of others, or more accurately, what I believe they expect or need from me.

In some ways, that’s what is at the root of my messy stories:  the deeply ingrained habit of ‘reading’ and responding to the emotions of others.  Hustling to meet the needs of others, to ‘make’ others happy, has set me up for a lot of misery and manipulation.  Feeling used and resentful, but at the same time, blaming myself, knowing that I’m the one making the choices.  Each time I do this, (and there is/has been too much of it) it feels as if I’ve again stepped away from my path, my story.  My needs and desires and dreams.  Or am I?  Is this my path?  Service?  Service with a smile?

A therapist once asked me, astounded, “Are you really only as good as the last good meal you cooked?”  Yes.  This is still very often the truth.  If I write something that feels honest and expressive, that is another good feeling, which gives me a flickering sense of self worth.  But meals I have to cook every day.  Writing, I don’t have to; because cooking is for other people and writing is for me, the cooking has greater value?.

I’m able to feel pride and self-acceptance in terms of cooking.  I have confidence in my ability to make a meal.  I find value & self-worth in feeding others.  (So frigging retro.)  A corollary to the question “Are you only as good as…?” is that if I make a meal that’s imperfect, sub-par or even one that I like, but others don’t, I can serve it.  I do serve it.  I may feel twinges of shame, but they are survivable because I have a reservoir of feeling worthy as a cook.  The shame does not win in those situations.  I do not crumble when I fail to reach perfection.

Here’s another quote in Daring Greatly, from an interview Brown did with Gretchen Rubin (author of The Happiness Project).  She says, (cribbed from Voltaire) “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”  What a concept: doing something imperfectly is better than not doing the perfect thing at all.  Two examples that hit home for me are “The imperfect book that gets published is better than the perfect book that never leaves my computer.  The dinner party of take-out Chinese is better than the elegant dinner that I never host.”  Hmm.  I obviously have more thinking to do about this…

In closing, here’s a political cartoon from today’s paper. (see 2/15 blog post)

I laughed out loud. globe