This is an example of how I work through something in my journal. It took several days and then some of the realizations only happened while I was typing it up a month later. These are in italics.
Big snowstorm predicted for today. This is when I miss my stove. A day to curl up by the fire with a good long book.
I look at the Book of Joy on my side table. The Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu. It’s about how to find joy in a painful difficult world. I started to read it and then couldn’t keep going. I think it’s because I don’t believe I will ever find joy. Not because I’m too wounded, but because I refuse to do what it takes. I’m too stubborn. Nothing ever works for me. Damn. Added later: I see now it’s an old old belief: “Nothing ever works for me.”
Erica said something about being grateful for the pain because it shows me what is really important to me. Be grateful for the loneliness because it lets me know how important connection is to me. Sometimes that’s comforting — yes, that’s what I want! Sometimes it’s painful — I don’t see how I can make it happen.
O dear. I read the next chapter in “Joy.” It said joy happens when you are doing good for others. When you radiate joy. This happens when I’m teaching dance, when I’m teaching astronomy. But only then. I’m really not able or willing to be helpful to F, or S. It see that I’m very judgmental, along the lines of “attractive” and “unattractive,” and I want the attractive people to like me and I’m not really interested in spending time with the unattractive. I’m not willing to go be with people who are lonely. It makes me think of Mother taking me to visit the Rogers sisters. They had been my grandparents’ servants. And how it felt like — this is how my life will end. In a crowded room smelling of urine.
I’m seeing myself as a rather nasty person right now.
I’m really going through a spasm of self-hate. I see myself as really useless in the larger scheme of things because I don’t have enough relationship skills. I’m unhappy because I don’t do anything for other people.
Comment while typing up: Once again I’m judging myself by my mother’s values — no, not her values because she didn’t live up to them. She used them to manipulate me, and possibly herself. Or maybe it’s that the way she did “good to others” was like her driving for the Red Cross. She was a high status woman helping a lower status person. I am seeing that my wish to share my excitement about astronomy and dance is a contribution to the world. I think of the story of someone getting to heaven, and God tells him he wasn’t supposed to be like Moses, he was supposed to be himself. I’m not good at helping people I don’t find “attractive” and part of that is personality, not just looks. God designed me to teach astronomy and circle dance, so that’s my cosmic job.
Such an odd day. I think I finally felt/thought something like “I’m just going to quit trying.” After that things were much easier. I stopped worrying about hating myself. I stopped being so impatient. I let myself just sit and read.
Good talk with Elizabeth. I told her about the Book of Joy and being “too self-involved.” She reminded me that the Dalai Lama is the one who didn’t understand what “low self-esteem” meant. We had a really interesting talk about “selfish” and “unselfish.” and how they were really useless concepts.
Actually, calling someone “selfish” is often a manipulative ploy to get them to do what you want. I think about the story of Eknath Easwaran, whose grandmother and mother greeted him when he came home from school, and wanted to know every detail of his day. When you are given that much attention, you are able to grow a good strong base from which it’s easy to give to others.
There’s another paragraph I want to copy. Something about research suggests that unhappy people are too self-involved to have attention for others. (p 62) I don’t think this is true for me. Could I say that I am unhappy? all the time? I do feel that my day is often a struggle just to get through the day. I don’t get much satisfaction from doing something I “have to do.” It’s just work. I see that I’ve stopped writing “good for me!” after things I do accomplish. Maybe that’s part of the problem. I never learned to feel satisfaction from getting something done. My motivation was too often to avoid getting yelled at. I never got praised for doing something, but if I didn’t do it I was made wrong. So that’s what I learned to do to myself. To have impossible expectations and then be angry at myself when I couldn’t achieve them.
Talk with Erica:
The sentence from Tutu needs something added: When we feel disconnected from that community, then we are unhappy. Experience of disconnection is painful
My feeling of not being happy is to my credit
I can feel and see the lack of connection
My unhappiness is a sign of disconnection, not self-centeredness.
Jenny is suffering from the culture of disconnection
it’s a disease, not who Jenny is
Erica just turned the whole world upside down and inside out. It’s not that I’m unhappy because I’m too self-involved. I’m unhappy because I suffer from the disconnection that is “normal” in our culture.