Learning to not be my own worst enemy

Learning to not be my own worst enemy

I am my own worst enemy. Maybe you’re familiar with the syndrome. I spend so much time in self-flagellation that there’s little time left over to make progress or to find comfort.

My husband warned me about the ice on the sidewalks in our neighborhood, hidden by several inches of snow cover. But I forgot about it when I took my dog for a walk last night. I had gotten to a spot just in front of my house when I wiped out and fell…hard.

I laid there for a bit, catching my breath, and pathetically wishing that my husband had seen me fall and would come running to help me up. I finally scrambled up and continued walking, in the street instead of on the sidewalk, and started cycling through a series of emotions.

It starts with self pity. I’ve been down with the flu for over a week and it just seems unfair to fall. Then I move into fear—of walking my dog, of blowing out my knee, of breaking my foot, of aging. Then I move into despair, the “I can’ts.” I can’t deal with getting older, I can’t cope with being dependent, I can’t face the complications of life. I just can’t.

And then, I shrug on the hair shirt of anger aimed squarely at myself. I’m an idiot. My husband warned me about the ice. If I weighed less, my balance would be better. I’m stupid and I’m not resilient. I’m lazy and haven’t gotten anything done this week. I should be…. I’ll let you imagine all the shoulds that follow. Hint: they are legion and focus on far-ranging aspects of failure in my life.

All of these emotions cycle through in just five or ten minutes and then I cry. I think many people would cry after hearing all that crap directed at them.

The problem with the “worst enemy syndrome,” or at least one problem with it, is the kernel of truth in all of the stages. Aging has hit me squarely in the face in the past few years and fear is an important component. I am woefully behind in my work. I’m out of shape.

And so on.

But the truth, or lack thereof, isn’t the most critical problem. Instead, I have to ask myself what I would have done if I’d seen a friend fall on the ice. I would have helped her stand up and sympathized with her. I’d have gotten her hot chocolate and run her a bath to soak her aching shoulder and hip. I’d say, “Damn, that ice is wicked.”

And, if I’d done that for myself, I would have felt better. It’s quite a concept for me. Feeling better.

It’s late in the year to establish resolutions, so I’ll call this a hope for myself for the year: May I take the opportunity to feel better this year.

If you’ve read this blog over the past few years (thank you!), you will have noticed that I haven’t been writing. Part of feeling better, for me, is to keep writing. Writing is good for me. It helps me sort out where I’m going and what I’m doing.

So, here you have it—step one towards feeling better.

Happy new year!

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