Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Not At My Shining Best (and Response to LaMott)

This is a typical end-of-workday mood, when it seems the day has flipped by like pages blown by the wind (in an open book, out on the lawn . . .).

I've just finished listening to Annie LaMott's Grace Eventually: Thoughts on Faith. How is it that Bush-hating no longer seems, oh, so very engaging any more? The administration-we-loved-to-hate is gone, flown away in a helicopter shrinking, shrinking, becoming a speck on its way to Texas. And - it's feeling just as grim, just as perilous, now with another 200+ points falling in the stock market yesterday, now with impending lay-offs in my University (place of employment), now with my dear but not world-wise older son off in New York soon to fall out of my health insurance plan by turning 25. It isn't right that health care is doled out only to the productively employed, or those employed by big enough enterprises (which he, working for a Philly Cheese Steak dive in Manhattan, is not).

(That's my kid.)

But reading LaMott does reassure me that self-loathing can co-exist with being a worthwhile person. I was fumbling at trying to describe this (regrettable) feature of my own psychology back in the depths of late November, when I thought of tying it in with a discussion of SAD and the Dark Night of the Soul. It was so dark, so cold, and I felt so wan, so inadequate. But, really, that was a touch grandiose: who am I to have a full-blown Dark Night? I have a dear friend who is suffering a full-blown depression after the death of her father and the shredding of a recent hopeful relationship. My own anhedonia, distress, discomfort, slippage - not at the same level. Except that I don't believe I've been weighted down by quite this level of self-dislike since, oh, seventh grade. And I'm not really sure where it's coming from.

LaMott has a narrative arc in these quick, comic sketches where there is the build-up of distress and dismay, the overreaction or blunder, and then the interruption of the arc by a realization/recollection/intervention that is what she means by grace. There's a restoration of hope and tenderness. I'm familiar with this experience of self-recovery, or recovery of clarity and reconnection with the sources of joy, but it's not happening as easily these days. And I feel shamed by my stuckness, embarrassed by it (which adds fuel to the inner burn of fear-of-inadequacy, etc. etc.)

Whew! Well, I've said it out loud. I'm having a hard time being me, and not confident that there's some wind, some wings, some easy rise out of this particular muck. But at least I'm comforted that it's not some hideous singularity, some repulsive secret flaw nobody but me has ever experienced. Annie LaMott feels shitty from time to time too, even after becoming a successful writer with many people who are fond of her and let her know it. If only I didn't have inner parental voices that sneer, "So, just get over it and think about someone else for a change!"

(And in the other room, from the television, comes Barack Obama's voice exhorting Congress. . . .)


Minka said...

What can I say? Sometimes a good rest (or vacation) helps to think about things all over and then see them from different perspective.

To be honest, I think I'm quite nice, not too stupid (not too clever, either), I'm a regular minestrone soup of personality traits. So I also believe that I'm not as good as I'd like to be. I'm lazy, I whine, I'm ashamed of one thing or another. Just trying to become better is good. Every effort counts.

Smell a flower or listen to a nice song... or just look at that wonderful child of yours and ... think again.

Besides, without the shitty days, the good ones wouldn't really mean anything, would they? we wouldn't even know they were good! :)

Mary Ellen said...

Point well taken - though sometimes I find I don't have the energy to do the metaphysical bootstraps thing. Today, however, the sun is shining - just for today, just for about another half hour.

Minka said...

The sun is good ... :)

California Girl said...

Your thoughts are well expressed. Are you a Writing or Lit professor?

I was a Lit major in college tho' my goals were unformed and I did not seek a teaching degree. I understand the profession is going through very tough times for alot of professors.

Tough times for all. I hope the President knows what he's doing.

Minka said...

The whole world hopes your president knows what he's doing and many many wish him luck.

Minka said...

Mary Eeeeleeeen.... :)