Weighty Matters

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How We Talk to Ourselves

on May 16, 2012

I’m not a stupid woman.  Most would say, and I’ll admit if pressed, that I’m actually pretty smart.  This doesn’t mean that I don’t sometimes do stupid things.  Take this evening, for example.  My contractor friend is going to fix/patch my porch columns, and then repaint the columns, railing and porch floor.  I’m psyched.  This work is wayyyy overdo and I spend a lot of time on my porch, so I want it to look nice and be comfortable.  For many, many years, I’ve had a very old set of wicker furniture.  Not the kind you mostly see today which is wickeresque in some sort of plastic material over steel.  No, this is the old fashioned woven stuff.  The set is more than 40 years old.  I’d guess it’s closer to 60 years.  It was in our family home when my folks bought it in 1970.  At times, I’ve used it for living room furniture in my first few apartments and when I moved to the Keys over 10 years ago, it was the perfect set for my porch.

Ten years of Florida Keys atmosphere with heat, sun and salt water takes a toll on pretty much everything.  The set has served me well, but its collapsing and falling apart.  Time to put away the nostalgia, bid it a fond farewell, and replace it all with something new, sturdy and comfortable.

I should have asked for help from friends to move the furniture off of my porch prior to the work beginning later this week.  Shoulda-Coulda, but didn’t.  No big deal.  The contractor said he’d remove the two biggest pieces.  I knew I could handle the chairs.  That was my task for earlier this evening.  I thought I was saving steps and strain when I decided to sort of toss the chairs over the low railing into the side yard instead of carrying it down a couple of steps, out through the gate and around the house.  Everything went fine with the first chair.  Then I picked up the second and didn’t quite heave it with enough strength.  Instead of clearing neatly tumbling over the railing to the ground, the chair hit an outside faucet, snapping the plastic water pipe.  The faucet and hose hit the ground and water gushed from the broken pipe.

Chanting a litany of curse words and berating myself for my stupidity, I ran into the house to grab the tool I needed to turn off the water at the street.  I then quickly called a plumber and lucked out when they answered the phone and promised to send someone out right away.   When the guy arrived and asked what the problem was, I answered, “The problem is I’m a lazy idiot who knocked off an outside faucet.”

Luckily, it turned out to be an easy repair.  The problem’s fixed and water service is restored.

At least that problem’s fixed.  There’s still the matter of how I instinctively spoke in less than glowing terms to myself.  That’s something that definitely needs some repair.  The fact is that the idea might not have been the brightest, but if I’d executed it properly, dumping the chairs over the railing would have been a time and strain saver.  My problem was in execution.  I made a dumb mistake, but making an error doesn’t mean that I am stupid.  I’m not an idiot.

Rationally, logically, I know all of this and can definitely differentiate between the two things.  It puzzles me that I sometimes still fall back on some sort of “believing I’m not good enough” reflex and beat up on myself.   Believing I’m Not Good Enough is one way to spell binge and the shaky self-esteem was a big part of my overeating disorder.

I’ve come a long way from the worst days, but apparently I still have work to do.  I don’t think it’s a coincidence that, even though I had a delicious, adequate dinner, I’ve felt hungry all night.  It’s definitely not physical hunger, but pangs of the emotional variety.

Keeping it in perspective, I don’t want to blow this evening’s situation out of proportion and make it have more of an impact on me than appropriate.  I think it’s healthy to look at it calmly.  Doing so, I think it’s fair to attribute my reaction to the stress of the moment.  Now that I’m writing about it and working through the process, I can pretty much laugh at it, give myself an affectionate head smack, and remind myself not to take it so hard the next time I do something that doesn’t quite work out as planned.

It’s important to separate the action from the person — whether that person is someone else or me.  Self-awareness will be a helpful tool.  Instead of treating myself poorly or speaking badly to myself, I’m going to work on treating myself with respect, compassion, and love.  I can give myself a motivating kick in the butt when necessary, but I’m not allowed to call myself disrespectful names.

How I talk to myself can tear me down, but done with positive intent, it can also support the journey to healing.

3 responses to “How We Talk to Ourselves

  1. We all do stupid things. What I’ve found with raising kids, which goes with how you treat yourself, is that you can label the action – “that was a stupid thing to do” – but don’t label the person – “you are a stupid idiot for doing that.” I left my cell phone at home yesterday while out running multiple errands including a dentist visit and then went to the high school to pick up my daughter who had told me she needed to stay after. I waited for about 15 minutes and then saw one of her friends and had the friend text her to see where she was. She was home. So I went home and saw that Rachel had tried to both text and call me but obviously I didn’t get either. I was a little annoyed at myself, but then I said “HUMAN!” and made myself laugh.

    And what you did was a good idea, it just had a few issues on the execution of the idea. We’re all human. We’re all gonna screw up. Do we get pictures of the porch when it’s done? Did you decide what colors to go with?

    • Mary Stella says:

      I like the idea of exclaiming, ‘Human’ the next time I do something screwy. I could not find a pink-rose color for the concrete porch floor that I liked, so I’m going with a deeper blue. When we held the chip next to the lavender wall of the house, it showed hints of purple in the blue, so I think it will go quite nicely. I need to order new furniture now that I’ve literally heaved out the old stuff. The cushions will be neutral, so I’ll pick up pops of color in throw pillows. (And hope that my one dog doesn’t snack on them.)

  2. Susanne says:

    It’s sobering to think how hard we are on ourselves, while we’re so understanding with our friends and family. Maybe we should treat ourselves like our best friend 🙂 with plenty of understanding and love.

    Best wishes for your courage in changing how you approach life.


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