(Written in February 2003 and posted April 25, 2010)
Yesterday I was thinking that I had this wonderful new technique for transforming my life, that my relationship with terror and despair is completely different. Well, actually that’s still true. Just because the misery doesn’t change right away doesn’t mean I’m not doing the practice. There’s a quality of hopelessness this morning, and then the feeling that life is a chore, a difficult unrewarding task that nevertheless I must go on with. I see Jenny in her disappointment with herself this morning, and my heart goes out to her. It’s not hopeless at all, it’s just difficult. At least when the misery comes I turn to it as my first priority. Nothing is more important than healing my relationship with myself. I think that, because this is so, when I take a break from the work I’m able to be free to enjoy life instead of having the misery around me like a cloud.
I see what’s so strange this morning — disconcerting and disorienting. Spending time with myself and especially taking good care of myself has always felt like the most god-awful chore and burden, and now suddenly it’s my top priority. So I’m going against all that old conditioning that Jenny is worthless and not worth spending time, energy, patience, mercy, tenderness, on.
This is a practice, dear Jenny, obviously you are not going to be good at it right away. Just because you are now moving toward yourself in misery instead of away does not mean you are any more skillful at it than you were before. You’re working on transforming the habits of a lifetime, of course it’s hard. You’re offering caring and patience to that little girl who is so disappointed and hating herself for being disappointed, and whose parents never took the time to be with her, just pushed her away when she was upset and needing comfort and wise guidance.
Came back from massage bummed out. But it’s different from the usual bummed out because it has to do with remorse for having directed so much hate and anger at a little person who was just doing the best she could with no models or examples or guidance. It’s very clear to me that this is where the work is, to bring mercy & compassion to the anger, hatred, and remorse. To forgive myself for having treated myself so badly. To go into those unpleasant states instead of trying to run away or change them. To let all the pain in. And then I become aware of how much I don’t want to feel the pain. A temptation to make myself wrong for that, and immediate understanding that I must allow myself to feel how much I don’t want to feel the pain, how much I have run away and denied, and how I have refused to believe that the damage was really that bad, and kept on pushing a “shell shocked” person to do things that were too hard for her. O little Jenny, I am so sorry.
Note from today, seventeen years later: I see that I’ve come a long way. Going into misery, choosing to be with myself in the pain, has become almost automatic. That’s what I did when I sat with Little Jenny in the Pit.