The Downside to “Know Thyself” is Realizing you Suck at Stuff

Lately, I have had several days, thankfully not in a row, of feeling overwhelmed by life and inadequate in my duties. A recent sample conversation between a friend of mine and I:

Amanda: “How’s your morning been?”

Rhea: “Oh, the usual. Woke up at 5:30am and laid in bed listing off to myself all the things I’m not doing well. A little litany of my recent failures.”

A: “Ooh, that’s fun. I love when I do that. And then you end up feeling bad that you wasted all that time thinking about things you’re shitty at, when you could have been doing something about it.”

R: “Yeah, then there’s the shame for feeling shame, exactly. Total shit-shame spiral. Then I think about recent studies about how sleep helps you lose weight, so at the very least, I could have been sleeping in that time, shedding some extra pounds.

A: “Exactly! Instead you’re fatter, more of a failure, and now you have to get up and do your life!”

I love that she gets me. In fact, reaching out to friends about how I’m feeling has been my number one coping mechanism. It’s actually really working out, helping me get out of the loop quicker each time, shortening the recovery and getting me back into living my life. Which is, despite what my dumb mind tells me sometimes, a really friggen awesome life.

There’s this prayer that got me through my early twenties, with the loss of my father and struggle for mental health, that I’m sure you’ve all heard of, but perhaps you could, like me, use a little reminder? It’s my very favorite, and I’ll write it out for you here:

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you and I hope that I have that desire in all that I am doing.
And I know that if I do this, you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and will never leave me to face my perils alone.

It’s by the contemplative monk Thomas Merton, and basically the gist of it is: I have no idea what I’m doing, but if you’re with me, God, I think I’m gonna be okay. Even when it certainly does not feel that way. At the very least, I think the attempt helps. Which is an important part for me — that the trying is pleasing to God, even when it feels ludicrous to me.

Thomas Merton, by iconographer Mark Dukes

Thomas Merton, by iconographer Mark Dukes

I have also been writing myself out of my bad moods. I am doing that right now. In fact, this whole blog may be an attempt to write my story in a way that builds community, increases healing, and gets me out of my self-involved pity parties and into the flow of life, which is, in essence, gratitude.

My recent writing has spanned many topics, from co-dependency and boundaries, to recollections of sweet times in college, to memories of my father. Just putting one word down in front of the other helps sometimes, even if I scrap it all later. I recently read an excellent Anne Lamott quote: “No one cares if you write or not, so you have to.” I have to do it for me.

The only part of the Merton prayer I transcribed above that I no longer resonate with is when he says he doesn’t really know himself. I believe that I do, now, after over a decade of therapy and nearly a decade of marriage (which is a mirror), know myself. I think that is the problem — I know myself so well that I am intimately familiar with the parts of myself that are not awesome. And since I’m working so hard every day just to keep my kid and myself alive and well, I’m annoyed that I’m unable to put more time and energy into making those parts of me that are lacking, any better right now.

So, that brings me, once again, to acceptance. To feeling enough. And, sweetly, to this quote by Raymond Carver, which is hewn into his headstone:

image by Lisa Congdon

image by Lisa Congdon

So that is what I am striving for, each day, no matter how many times I have to dance, pray, reach out, and write myself out of the pit.  To feel myself beloved on the earth.

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8 thoughts on “The Downside to “Know Thyself” is Realizing you Suck at Stuff

  1. i like this piece and i feel like that most of the time but just like you ‘i have do it for me’ i need to get out there rather than just sitting and wondering and you’re right writing helps me overcome those feelings too. thank you

  2. I love Lisa Congdon. I want to wallpaper my house with her handwritten quotes. So beautiful.

    Second, I totally get the feelings of inadequacy. I feel that way all the time. I’m just not brave enough to write about it, privately or publicly, quite yet. Instead, I hide from it, all the while knowing that’s the worst thing to be doing.

  3. Don’t forget, dear Rhea, that so much of what you are going through right now is called “early childhood”. This is not what your marriage, your apartment, or your mind looked like before your little Olive. I’ve been reminded of this many times. ANYTHING you can accomplish at all during these years is a victory.

    I am glad you know yourself so well at this age. I am almost in my mid-40’s. I know people say this all the time, but if I could have my 30’s physical self back with the head on my shoulders I have now, WOW! And I feel strongly that you are loved. You give off the vibe of someone that is loved, for sure! xoxo

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