Category Archives: self-pity

30 Days of Wisdom — Day 7: Sufferin’ Socrates


So I had this low thought this morning, that my sense of “wisdom” in my life is inauthentic. That only true wisdom comes from knowing what we don’t know and then experiencing or discovering it as insight. Here is today’s quote:

The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.
― Socrates
tags: knowledge, wisdom 8032 likes

Last week on Facebook, a friend posted his status about other peoples’ New Year’s resolutions. He stated that some people spoke of getting to know heaven better while other people spoke of moving away from their concepts of hell. He posited (and I agreed) that we all have the capacity to create our own heavens and hells right here and that we may as well just live the best lives we can.

That got me thinking. This is not always a good thing. It started me down a path of wondering “What the hell I do know?” and then this quote. So it’s all about timing as we know. But it also has a lot to do with staring down the barrel of 30 days of writing about other peoples’ thoughts about wisdom, which is sort of a heavy subject. I should’ve chosen 30 Days about Ice Cream.

So … about that thought …

I write a lot about a lot of different things. I seem to be a generalist. One thing I am sure of though is that optimism begets optimism as much as pessimism begets more pessimism. This thinking then led me down a path which was most unpleasant. The bottom line is that I felt like I was a fraud. There. I said it. Plain and simple. That I was a fraud who writes about her insipid observations from the comfort of her home at the pleasure of her discretion and that is that. That in order for me to actually have a right to be spouting off here as I do, to wax philosophic as I do and to encourage anyone, including myself, to look on the sunny side of things means that I don’t know pain. I don’t know suffering and I don’t know hell.

This has long been a sentiment about myself that I’ve managed to quiet for the most part, but sometimes it just comes back into my consciousness like a freakin’ freight train and it literally derails me for hours.

Last night, my husband was talking about a book he’s reading, Dying To Be Me by Anita Moorjani. He’s almost done, he reports, but he’s been bristling lately from it because he said she was starting to sound preachy.


That word hit me like a grand piano. I sank internally and he noticed it immediately.

“What?” he asked.

“Preachy. You said ‘preachy.’ Am I preachy?”

“No. You just share your observations. You don’t tell people how to live, in fact, you make it clear that you’re no expert about it…”

And down the rabbit hole I went.

“No! That’s what’s great about your stuff! You are humble. You say you don’t have all the answers! You know this about yourself! It’s good….”

Where did that rabbit go? “Humble?”

“Yes, you are humble about it. You know that your life is fleeting. You know this is all we have. You know that you need to break cycles, pay attention to your patterns, do the best you can….”

Ouch! A root, or is a rope? I didn’t see that coming. Humble… Am I humble? Am I grateful? Or am I just a fraud…

I gave up. I fell asleep reading some Alice Munro because I wanted to read more Nobel Prize writers. My husband bought me two of her books for Christmas. I like her, but she’s spartan. Canadian. You can tell she grew up in the cold; her timing is precise and she doesn’t waste words like I do. I like word wasters savorers like Fitzgerald and Twain and just about every other human being who talks too much.

So when I woke this morning, the concept of humility came up. I wondered about my humilty: has God or the Universe shown me what it means? Do I really have ANY idea of what it means? My children are healthy, my marriage is strong, my life is blessed: I am an educated white American female in the 21st Century… that’s pretty kush.

So then that got me thinking, that I don’t know suffering and that the suffering I endured as a child and as a young adult and even now as a white American mother in one of the country’s most affluent counties is bunk.

I have friends and loved ones who have traveled the world; they speak of great art, literature, architecture and crowding, suffering and joy. I have not traveled the world. I have been to England twice, Canada many times, but mostly one place, Bermuda, NYC, San Francisco, Seattle and Las Vegas. I have not seen drought or famine. But I have seen the wretched, the “tired, [your] poor, [your] huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” One of the saddest things I’ve seen lately was a collection of gray, dirty, weathered, soggy and sad-looking teddy bears nestled and tied to the trees and desolate front porches of homes as memorials where drive-by shootings or child deaths occurred in Buffalo.

Does this lack of worldliness make me a sham? For about four deep and dark hours this morning, I thought so. Then because it’s a mess, I started to vacuum my house, clean up the bathroom, dust and dump stuff out of the basement and clear some stuff out and I came to the conclusion, with Socrates on the mind, that he never rode on a plane; nor do I believe Shakespeare ever saw Africa. That worldliness might invoke a greater appreciation of suffering, but it doesn’t necessarily validate it … or better still, that a lack of worldliness doesn’t INvalidate anyone’s concept of suffering. We can create our own little hells, right here, without moving an inch.


Wild stuff. And with that, >poof!< the suffering –the feelings of fraud– that I unconsciously invoked while feeling sorry for myself, went away. What this tells me more than anything is that I need to keep writing and that it’s OK that I’ve lived the life I have; it’s not a sin, or something to feel guilty about (DAMN YOU, CATHOLICISM!) simply because I’ve lived the way I have so far. Would greater suffering or more epic harm to my family make me a better person or writer??

I didn't feel stupid anymore, I didn't feel insipid nor did I feel unwise. It was as though that pocket of low pressure arrived to flush out my self-pity crap; that Socrates is right: when we allow that we know nothing at all, is when wisdom can thrive.

So how about you? Do you ever feel fraudulent? Do you ever compare your suffering or woe with someone or conditions that are impossible to empathize? But that's the point I suppose: that even though we might not be able to have those experiences, we know what it's like inside ourselves, to feel low and to feel suffering. That's when we become wisest; that's when we can connect.

Thank you.

This is How I Roll: Some Parents Need to Grow Up


Look, I’m not going to sugar coat this: I’m grossed out by people who think it’s funny to have kids and then bitch about them, or habitually talk about needing booze, or a line, or a joint or a valium or whatever to get through the day.

It’s all over the Internet. Apparently it’s what sells. “No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.”- Henry Mencken. I prefer to not engage with the “foolish consistencies [which] are the hobgoblins of little minds.” -Emerson. I guess I will never hit it big. That’s OK, drunk people can’t read very well.

What those people need is a few moments alone and several deep breaths. That’s all. Oh, and likely therapy, which they are probably avoiding.

Ask anyone who knows me or who has interacted with me, and they will tell you, I’ve got a sense of humor, I am resilient, I can roll with punches. But just not this one. Not about parents who get their drink/joint/whatever on to cope with their holes, fears, inadequacy issues, mommy issues, daddy issues, shitty childhoods or whatever that are being activated by triggers that parenthood presents. I’m not talking anxiety, we all have that. I’m talking deep, real, soul-wrenching stuff. Oh, and regarding those who habitually make jokes about it? Grow up.


So, here’s the deal: I grew up with crap like that happening to me. I can’t tell you how many times I heard, “You drive me to drink” as a kid. It’s sick as hell. Those days, and my decisions to talk about them are prickly. It’s partly my story to tell, in terms of how it affected me, but I can tell you this: if you need a drink, or think it’s funny to crack wise about being a mom or a dad who needs *needs* NEEDS something to “get through your day” I have a proposal for you: get fixed.

No, not with a shrink, that’s later, but tie your tubes, clip the lines, get your act together before you victimize your kids with your so-called, “I was just kidding” banter and jokes and Facebook groups and blog titles, and all that stuff. Because what you do to your kids, in the end, when they’re like me: 45 and wondering where the hell you were all their life, it’s not gonna be so funny then. You will be “Granny needs a drink” then. And that’s even sicker.

This is real. Kids are not saints, they are micro versions of me and you, and they have memories, and they have feelings and they have access to the Internet. If you find yourself turned off by their behavior, I have a suggestion: look around and look in the mirror. They learn from us, peers, teachers, siblings, but mostly from us, their parents, who appear godlike in their eyes. They believe everything we say, they don’t understand sarcasm until they’re about 15, despite our insistence that they get it beforehand. We are their go-to resource, unless we are half in the bag, spending the night at the office, on a little yellow pill, or pulling a toke.

But I’m just joking. Right? Because we all are. We’re all just trying to loosen up, have a little fun, don’t be such a stiff, Mol…

This isn’t our second shot at being in the cool group in high school or being popular with the pretty people. If you (like just about everyone) have some weird torch you’re holding for the glory days of your youth and you’re pinning your hopes on your kid to Make It this time… Wake up and smell the music. It’s pathetic. Get your act together and behave.

Maybe if you’re lucky, when you’re old and decrepit they will just feel sorry for you. Maybe if when they’re in a state where you will need them, when they have to take care of you, they will do the right, honorable and human thing: respect you and help you age and eventually die well. Or maybe they’ll get drunk and make jokes about it. You know, because it’s all in good fun, right?, crapping on the concept of being there for people who need our help. Or maybe they won’t resent the hell out of you for putting yourself first all. the. time. Or maybe they will do their best, numbly go through the motions, but be unable to give back what wasn’t given to them.

As a parent, I’m all for cutting loose and having fun, but not as a brand, not as an identity, and certainly not as a thematic function for who I am. Life’s hard enough sober and single. Marriage adds a whole new dimension. And then kids?! Innocent people who are legitimately needy and completely dependent on us for everything until they aren’t anymore?! Holy cow… I can’t imagine life drunk and with kids. And I certainly can’t imagine it being clever or glib or witty to make jokes about needing a mind-numbing substance to get through the day.

I can’t stand that stuff, it makes my blood boil. I have moments, trust me, of when I wish I could run away, or of when I wish I could be more resilient, more aloof, but no… This is life. When you get it on and make a baby, it’s not only all about you anymore. It’s about doing your best, everyday showing up mentally and physically and doing two very simple things on paper, but hard as hell to practice at times: love them with all your might and protect them. Love and protect. That’s all.

Therapy is cheap compared to how our glibness affects our children.

I’m dealing with my own set of challenges: I’m the PB&J in my family sandwich. My parents are getting reeeeally old and my kids are almost all teenagers. I will need every ounce of presence and sanity to navigate these waters. I could do the easy thing, do what my parents did: get drunk and avoid my responsibilities, but that’s not who I am.

If I’ve pissed you off, it’s okay. We aren’t right for each other. Just being real.

Thank you.

just finished a book


i just finished a book this morning that i’m pretty sure will affect me for the rest of my life.

i hope it will anyway.

i won’t mention the title right now because i’m sure there are people out there who are familiar with this tome, but who have either biased opinions of it due to the nature of its content and its message.  for those of you who grace me with your faithful reading of this little and inconsistent blog, i will tell you at the end. like dessert.

the writer chose words and phrases that painted pictures of an austere, spartan post-apocalyptic world. it didn’t matter where, but i inferred it was America, the beautiful, bountiful, abundant, mighty America. reduced to ashen shadows, dry creeks, leafless forests, relentless murky skies and loamy seas.

the wonderful irony however in the construction of this book is that while the words depicted desolation, they were so perfectly poised and used that not even apostrophes were wasted. to overuse them would be callous.

the author, a master, is my current hero but not because he’s such a great story teller, it’s because the route of his work touched just about all my senses. fitzgerald does that for me too, but in an entirely different fashion: FSF wrote in the modern world’s most glamorous and flagrant times, the roaring 20s. a time which i often wax romantic as being The Best Era in which to live. so FSF’s usage was decadent although precise as well. this author’s usage is not decadent, but just as precise and it’s definitely not about the 20s.

one of the greatest gifts this book gave to me was that my tears were spared until the end. i got this feeling from the author and his characters that crying and emotional anchoring would be indulgent and cowardly. that we must press on. get the cart. look for food. press on.

i have friends who have suggested to me that they couldn’t read the book; others that couldn’t finish the book, that it was too much. for me, i had to press on. the characters pressed on, despite challenges that would only be defined by our worst nightmares, i mean really bad nightmares, they pressed on. they kept their heads up looking forward, staying the course no matter what.

i checked on my children in their beds each night i read. feeling for their breathing, their warmth and thanking the fates for my fortune. it doesn’t matter if you have kids or not, if you can read this sentence, what you have is worth thanksgiving.

i visually checked the front door to make sure the deadbolt was locked. at times i wished we had a gun in the house. it made me care about China again and consider Iran. it made me hate Target and Walmart and their reckless promotion of consumerism and waste. so in a way, it made me suspicious.

but you can’t live in suspicion. the protagonist in the book reminded me that despite any devastation, we mustn’t live selfishly and angrily at our situation. that we always have something to share or give to those who have less — even if we think we have nothing, we have a smile or a kind word or simply a kind thought. even giving ourselves a kind word or thought is not wasted. try that sometime.

it’s fiction, for the most part. but it really isn’t because despite the book’s setting there isn’t one person in this world past or present or future who won’t feel apocalyptic at times about their own situations: the health might be compromised; the finances are in shambles; the spouse is estranged emotionally or physically; the children are floundering; the job is aimless; life seems pointless; the ambition is gone; the self pity is ABUNDant… these are all parts of The Human Condition and man, if we get to feel these things in our lives, we should realize just how lucky we truly are. because it’s not worse.

what perspective!

perspective is a gift. and i realized viscerally after reading this book that we are lucky because we have been given a second breath which is a second chance every moment. and what must we do when we have those second chances? press on, my friends, press on.

but pressing on does not mean doing the same thing day in and out. it means reinvention of ourselves and adapting, engineering and thriving. it’s not easy, but it’s really the only way to press on.

i am one who has fears. insecurities and shames just like everyone else. sometimes i don’t know what keeps me pressing on. but something does. is it my children? my outside reputation as being a go-getter, hard charging, driven, loyal to the end, my own worst critic, eternally vigilant and cautiously optimistic (all of which are true)? i don’t know. i could spend hours wasting time trying to figure it out, but in the end and after reading that book, i have learned that thinking about it is not wasteful, it’s just not always useful.

i have learned however, that self-pity is an indulgence that the industrial person needn’t allow, and we are all industrious. i’ve heard about that, that “just feeling sorry for yourself” is wasteful and all that, but i never connected with it because whenever i felt it, ‘it seemed like a good idea at the time.’ but i get it now. whenever i feel sorry for myself i will think of The Boy and Papa.

the tears i finally shed were sincere. i feel the author gave me permission to weep, gently, privately and briefly. i was proud to tear up and i was proud of the point at which i wept. we had come so far, these people and i. it was time to let down our guard because we were “the good guys” who had “kept the fire.” but when the tears were over, it was time to bootstrap, to remind ourselves of hope.

thank goodness for those old bootstraps. they’re always there.

thank you.

(the book is “The Road” by Cormac McCarthy and well, i can’t recommend it enough.)