There are times when our feelings are hurt. We are left out or left behind; things change; it is inevitable. Growth, and that which it casts off, is inevitable. The sensitivity arises, and with it, a familiar ache.
Our very human, very normal reaction, sometimes, is to curl in, and hunker down with a blankie provided conveniently by our psyche. There are many blankies. The one made entirely of fire from a dragon’s mouth comes to mind, and makes me giggle a little, but that’s not the one I’ll talk about today. Today, I’ll touch on the one made of self-pity.
We are a culture of memes and divides. I peeked into Pinterest, using the search term “self-pity humor.” It was anything but funny. It was sad, and mean. That, I believe, is bullying, and riding the wave of castigation.
I get it. This is hard stuff, and a hard place. Ride that if you must, for some of us have a hard time facing vulnerability with grace. We all have our moments, where our caring parts have nothing to give. And sometimes, it’s just easiest to push off of someone’s childlike show of sorrow, and push on.
Recently, in the midst of feeling pretty big, pretty bold, and pretty brave about life, I had a little moment, an evening of smallness. I felt alone. Then, the strangest thing happened. I started to feel self-righteous, and blame-casting, and well, a little mean.
Because I am in sync with myself more often these days, some alarms rang. It felt familiar, and old. Juvenile. It felt like being little and having less control—of myself, my emotions, my environment. Also, observing it with my new, more tolerant mind, I felt curious. What is this? The name came immediately; “Hello, I am self-pity. Poor, poor you.”
At first, I felt like something from the chicken coop had stuck to my shoe, or gotten onto my hands. Disgust. I wanted to flick it off, or hose it off, or anything…just get it off of me.
Then, Shame. What a jerk! What a baby! Suck it up, Beard. Get over yourself. Blah blah blah mean blah. The memes. Ugh.
Then, the word “Wait.” I know better. I spent about 5 minutes sifting through the occurrences of the day.
A gentle morning. Then a melee of reuniting with my children. A baby bird on our walk, fallen from its nest and dead. A talk about nature’s wildness with my daughter. We buried it in the yard with a sage flower. Covered it with a rock. An extremely efficient, no nonsense ceremony to honor its short life, and hard truths.
The chaos of multiple transitions, a store trip. (Blargh. Flurg. Four year old boy in grocery story. No.) Then, I recalled a bittersweet rush of emotions that was nicely pocketed right in there. Suffice to say, I’m traveling through yet another transition, and some grief showed up about leaving what has been an incredibly soft landing pad. I hurdled right over it to “get shit done,” as we say. A moment forgotten completely until now.
In my house, kids in bed, with quiet, I understood. That little moment I passed right over, has meaning, and bears watching—part of a bigger fire. With purpose, if I can tend to that just a little, maybe it won’t have a chance to flare up whenever it wants to, sending me confused messages from the emotional abyss.
Taking that little look helped it dissipate as quickly as it appeared. Dandelion seed into the night; thanks for listening; you’re welcome; a curtsy and g’night. I settled back into my happy hub, smiled at the ways we turn little so quickly, and made a promise to remember. Self-pity: a little white flag.
Sure, it’s not an accurate compass, and the stories it tells us are misguided truths…best not to clutch those. But maybe it’s not a sign of weakness, to be stomped into oblivion after all. Use it, friends, because sometimes our fallacies are all we have to guide us back home.