BELLE FOX-MARTIN: Hello pity

Self-pity is a dirty word, and our instinctual response to it is to bury it deep whenever it raises its ugly little head.

Wash hands? (check). Mask? (check). Social distancing? (check). Gloves? (check). Call friends & family? (check).  Be grateful? (check). Disinfect? (check)…

O.K., O.K., you are doing everything that you can do to not get sick or to get others sick. You are trying hard to buck up, meet new challenges, to act responsibly, to reach out safely to others but something is missing. You know something is off because you are going around feeling like there is a stone in your heart. A stone that can’t be dislodged or explained away by prodding or inquiry. A stone that can feel like a bolder on any given day. A rock that casts a shadow on all of your other attempts at the new normal.

What is this thing that follows you wherever you go? Well, I’ll tell you, but first, let me say that you’re not going to like it. Ready? That rock is self-pity. (See, I told you you wouldn’t like it.) Self-pity is a dirty word, and our instinctual response to it is to bury it deep whenever it raises its ugly little head. That stone in your heart is the self-pity that you have been trying to smother. It whispers:” Someone should rescue me from all of this.” “I want my hairdresser back yesterday.”  “No one is in touch with me.” “I hate Zoom calls.” “I don’t like Scott’s I want Charmin” ..… and all of this is then wrapped up in  the mental retort: “You’ve got it easy compared to so many others.” – “Be grateful you’re not sick.” “You have a roof over your head and food on your table.” “You’re lucky you have toilet paper at all”… but this internal banter of reproach doesn’t displace the stone in your heart; it just lends weight to it.

So, what to do? Well, here is my suggestion. First, find some quiet time for yourself (not hard to do these days). Second, set the timer on your phone for 10 minutes. That 10 minutes is now allocated for you to fully indulge in expressing your self-pity without recrimination. Give it some room. Just lay it all out: write it out, speak it, sing it, shout it out. Let it rip. Leave nothing unspoken. When the 10 minutes are over, stop and sweep up all of your offerings into a tidy pile and toss them out — out of your way and out of your mind. Voilà! No more rocks; no more simmering self-pity! Now there’s room to plant something else in your heart.