Yesterday’s post reminds me of the crisis I went through as we were building my house, when I realized that I hadn’t designed the house with environmental principles in mind. I experienced a moment of intense fury and then a blast of hate at myself that was stronger than any hate I’ve ever felt for another human being. I was shocked. I knew I didn’t love myself, but I always experienced the hatred as the one being hated, not as the one doing the hating. If I had felt that degree of hatred for any other human being, I would have worked hard to change it. I knew I had to change how I felt about myself, even though the idea of loving myself, caring about myself, seemed like the blackest of sins. I learned this from my mother who was constantly telling me “Don’t think you’re so great.” I suspect that she also hated herself, and projected her hatred on to me, which is why I experienced myself as the hated one, not the hater.
The crisis was precipitated when I realized I hadn’t thought once about the environment in designing my home. How could I forget that caring for and reverencing the world of nature is among my highest priorities? It was too late to change the house, the foundation had already been poured, so I had to learn to forgive myself. Not only to forgive myself, but even to love myself. I’ve been working on that for six years. The first step was to begin to see and appreciate the good things about myself.
In 2005 my friend Elizabeth wrote me a letter praising “your boundless generosity, the depth of your commitment, the breadth of your vision.” At first I was astounded, and then as I came to accept that these things were true of me, I experienced enormous relief. I’ve become the person I want to be, I can stop trying so hard. Of course it didn’t last, but the door had been opened. In the late spring of 2007 I was feeling pretty good about myself. I’d had some big successes. But I did too much, got exhausted, once again tried to get off medication, and plunged down into a pit of terror and despair that was worse than it had ever been. It took me a year and a half to climb back out and it was hard work. That struggle appears in many entries in this blog. I finally learned to love myself even when I was too depressed to cope with daily living and had to ask my friends for help making meals and walking the dog.
The house turned out really well. I think it’s beautiful, and I really enjoy living in it. I love the way the sun travels around the house during the day, and how that changes with the seasons. I love my big “masonry hearth” where the hot gases from the burning wood transfer their heat to the stone, and the stone stays warm long after the fire has gone out.