I Am Beautiful and Everybody Loves Me
Evidently I am progressing into a new, winged phase of my life. Not sprouting feathers, exactly… no, the change is actually more entomological than avian.
Do you know what happens to the caterpillar transitioning from sluggish, scaly, wormlike creeper to bright, free, elegant, pirouetting butterfly? Having knit itself inside a protective casing — the cocoon — the homely little insect then proceeds, basically, to melt. Strange but true; “the caterpillar begins releasing enzymes that literally digest nearly all of its own body. What’s left inside the chrysalis is mostly just a very nutrient rich soup from which the butterfly will begin to form.”*
Out of the ooze of the onetime caterpillar gradually emerge wings, antennae, legs, eyes, and other equipment suited to a life of flitting from blossom to bud on a bucolic hillside in midsummer, now and then lighting on a thistle or a knot of grapevine to pose for photographs.
There’s a late-stage-caterpillar, early-stage-butterfly quality to my life these days: It’s dark, it’s stuffy, I’m melting, and I’m never quite sure where I am. I begin to fear that I will never progress past the goo phase. Now and then I put aside my copy of What to Expect When You’re Metamorphosing and check on my progress, like someone working on a tan. My vision is hazy, but I feel like a scrambled egg-to-be — de-shelled, dropped into a pan, indifferently stirred, and forgotten.
Sometimes I sense that I am actively bubbling. My spirits soar. More often, though, I suspect that the stove is on the fritz. Maybe there’s been a power outage. At such times, I become as sad as my eggy emotions permit. My future looks rather bleak. In my mind, instead of cavorting among the poppies and coneflowers and acres of sweet clover, borne by my pretty new wings, I am slithering down the drain into the septic tank, where Friendly Enzymes will gnaw at me until my soul leaves my body, bound for the great Cistern in the Sky.
What is an inert, nearly raw scrambled egg supposed to do, exactly?
A twice-daily fifteen-year meditation habit does not make one immune to depression, I have learned, but it does make the episodes comparatively short and benign. I’m not overwhelmed. I am cold and weary. On a bad day I feel lonely, powerless, and unnecessary. On an exceptionally bad day, I am agoraphobic. Practicing the Meditation of Not Being in a Plummeting Aircraft usually brings some relief, but I still manage to feel sorry for myself despite living in the U.S. rather than, say, Haiti, where everything that could possibly go wrong usually does, often all at once.
- Wasn’t I, after all, basically plucked up out of my sunny, high-ceilinged, oak-floored, utterly charming Victorian apartment in Omaha and set down in a travel trailer in Tucson, Dorothy-style except that instead of Toto I had luggage, consisting of a hastily packed (by someone other than me) suitcase full of socks?
- Is it not true that ninety-five percent of my possessions were clandestinely discarded after I’d been shipped off to Arizona? — not that there would be room for much of my stuff in the trailer, but I’m still spending more than half my social-security check every month replacing items such as office equipment (laminator, comb binder, paper cutter, computer peripherals and software), dishes and kitchen doodads, clothing, books, bedding, a watch, three pairs of eyeglasses, and so forth.
- Are not my trailer and my son’s house next door all but isolated from the civilized world? It’s at least two miles to the nearest anything — and I have, alas, no vehicle.
- Do I not have some annoying medical crap going on — a teeny-tiny cerebral aneurysm, which I’m not supposed to worry about, really, and a seriously damaged spine requiring palliation with hard-core narcotics? Worrying allowed re the spine….
- Don’t I sorely miss my Omaha friends and family, my neighborhood thrift store, my church, the halting rhythm that was my life?
- Didn’t my very best friend in Tucson turn me away in a time of confusion and loneliness? Wasn’t he so happy to see me that he bodily ejected me via his front door? To be fair, I don’t think he actually intended to bounce my head off the driveway, raising a golf-ball-size lump. What he meant to do was sever my head altogether and feed it to the coyotes.
On the other hand…
- I have Eli, Tracy, Ryder, and Adalyn, all just a few dozen steps away. They are delightful, and they love me, and deep down I know this to be a blessing that hugely outweighs all my complaints.
- I have, finally, a working computer that enables me to write, read, learn, and entertain myself. I have a yoga CD and, thanks to YouTube, I have mastered the Macarena, the rumba, and the Merengue.
- My trailer is cute, comfortable (the mattress, however, is lumpy), and cozy, lavishly decorated with houseplants, Chinese lanterns, and fairy lights.
- I have good friends in the area, people who are very dear to me but whom I see rarely or never because of transportation logistics and persistent melancholy.
- I have projects, plans, and ideas. So far I haven’t managed to sustain the energy for or the interest in them for any length of time, but they’re not going anywhere….
- And… for the first time ever… I have…
I’ve never been a proponent of “affirmations,” as touted and practiced by Louise Hay, founder of the publishing company Hay House and the author of You Can Heal Your Life (1984) and several other New Thought self-help books. This is a woman, bear in mind, who thanks her bed every morning for affording her a good night’s sleep.
I just couldn’t see the point of engaging in a candy-coated monologue during which I was supposed to insist upon… over and over and over … a proposition that was manifestly untrue. “I am beautiful and everybody loves me”? Oh, please.
On the other hand, having just turned 85, Louise Hay is a walking testimonial for the efficacy of positive affirmations, and she has made a convert of sensible, funny Cheryl Richardson, coauthor (with Hay) of You Can Create an Exceptional Life (2011) and the author of The Art of Extreme Self-Care (2009) and numerous other books for Hay House.
A couple of weeks ago, I was in a funk so deep and dark that I canceled my own birthday party. With nothing to lose, I put together a playlist of Louise Hay–inspired affirmations on YouTube and began listening to them in the evenings as I was falling asleep. Some of the affirmations are truly ludicrous, but others really did capture me — in particular, “I love and approve of myself exactly as I am.”
This assertion worked its way into my consciousness like an earthworm in newly turned topsoil. I realized, to my astonishment, that rather than loving and approving of myself I spent most of my time me-bashing: bewailing my failure to live up to my own expectations, mentally boxing my ears, considering myself unworthy of any effort on my behalf on the part of friends and family.
Happiness is free
(My framed affirmations are $4.95)
I’m obliged to say that, except for depression and anxiety around divorce, death, and a few other calamities, I am a happy person who has had (and will, I expect, continue to have) a deeply satisfying and productive life. But such happiness as I have enjoyed I considered myself to have “earned.” Loving myself unconditionally simply never occurred to me. Now it doesn’t seem like such a bad idea. If only I could silence the stern Presbyterian in my psyche….
The affirmations shown herein will be offered for sale on eBay, with the exception of “I am beautiful and everybody loves me,” which (whether or not copyright-protected) belongs to Louise Hay. They’ll be shipped in four-by-six-inch “frameless” frames and will be priced at less than $5 each plus $4.95 shipping. (If you’re interested, drop me an email.)
With prayers for your physical and emotional well-being, achieved with or without the reciting of affirmations… Mary