May 23, 2014

Dragon Slaying: Conquering Self-Pity

Not all dragons are big, bad, and bold like the one featured in last week's post - May's Dragon Slayer - "So You're Saying There's a Chance" - featuring two-year-old Luke Call's battle with leukemia.

Image courtesy of hinnamsaisuy / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Many lurk in the shadows, hidden from view.  Others hide in plain sight, relying on manipulation and coercion.  When they attack, it isn't with fire or life-changing diagnoses.  No, they are more crafty and far more subtle.

They whisper. 

They murmur. 

They suggest.

"You didn't go to college," says the Dragon of Self-Pity as he slithers past.  "No one thinks you're smart or worth their time.  They all look down on you.  In their eyes, you're next to worthless."

"Your house is so small and dirty," he says, lounging on the couch, sipping a soda from the fridge. "You're stuck in this hovel, even though you deserve better."

"It's too bad you aren't pretty," he says, gesturing toward the mirror.  "Look at you.  On second thought, don't.  No one wants to see that."

"No one cares about you," he says in soothing tones, stroking your arm and leaning in close.  "They only care about themselves.  You're just an afterthought."

Yeah, he's quite the charmer.  Jerk.

And yet we listen.

Not only do we listen, but we believe.

I did.

Until a few years ago, I cried a lot, threw self-pity parties, vented to anyone who listened, and was perfectly miserable.

At first, I received the attention and pity I sought.  But as time went on and I continued to vent about anything and everything, people stopped listening and it felt like my complaints were justified. 

No one liked me. 

No one cared. 

I was an afterthought. 

I was forgotten.


Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The Dragon is Revealed

When I first joined Facebook, it was just another way to vent, to play the victim.  To get the attention I desperately needed.  I vented when my husband did something I didn't like.  I whined about feeling like crap.  I complained about my kids.  I was one of those people.  And I was more alone and miserable than ever.

Then one day, I discovered a Facebook app called "My Status History".  It compiled all my posts in one place.  Scrapbooking and writing my family history was now going to be so much easier.  Woohoo! 

Uh, or not.

As I read through my previous life-is-horrible posts, my eyes were opened.  Was this how I was being presented to the world?  This negative, self-absorbed, whiny person? Was this how my children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren were going to remember me?

It hit me hard. 


Slaying the Dragon

After yet another self-pity party - complete with tears and self-loathing - I picked myself up from the floor and made a decision.

It wasn't to quit Facebook.  Or to cut myself off from everyone.  Or to hide.

No.  I chose to act - to make sure every future post had a happy spin.

Even if I didn't feel happy.

Especially if I didn't feel happy.

Brand new lampshade colored on with crayon?  Wipe away a tear, then joke about now having a one-of-a-kind piece.

Spend the evening and part of the night in the emergency room with a hurt kid?  Blow my nose and laugh about the way the male nurse was so uncomfortable dressing the wound that I had to do it myself.

Going in for surgery the first part of May?  Take a deep cleansing breath, then point out how I'm guaranteed breakfast in bed for Mother's Day.

Admittedly, my original motivation was to keep from looking bad.  I didn't want others to think poorly of me.  I wanted to present a more perfect version of my life than I truly had, to hide the less-than-desirable things so others would like me more.

But something remarkable happened.  Not all at once, but gradually - so slowly, I didn't notice it happening.

I became happy.

My life still wasn't perfect.  Far from it, in fact.  (Gotta love when you hit your medical insurance deductible more often than not.)

But I was no longer focused on the bad things.  Instead, I saw beauty and joy everywhere I looked.

Sunsets.  Little boy kisses.  Random acts of kindness.  Driving with the windows down on a cool summer evening.  Snuggling under blankets during a thunderstorm.  Freshly painted toenails.  Clean sheets. 

Did I mention little boy kisses?  Because those are the best.

Feeling better about life in general, I took action - got serious about my writing, decluttered, helped perfect strangers, complimented others, took care of myself, complained less.

And I transformed.  I evolved.  I blossomed.

Today, I am truly happy.  I love my crazy, sometimes chaotic, tipped-dressers, broken-bones, car-needs-repair, two-houses-with-two-mortgages, gotta-stay-on-a-budget, don't-color-on-that-wall, please-don't-bite-your-brother, I-can't-take-you-anywhere, do-they-make-straight-jackets-in-toddler-size life.

Do I wish for something more?  Of course.  But how am I suppose to continue to improve if I don't have a goal in mind?

Do I sometimes feel sorry for myself?  More often than I'd like.  I cry a few tears, then get to work.

Because I am the one in charge of my happiness.  I choose to be happy.  I choose to see the silver lining.

I choose to live my life on my terms.

Image courtesy of Jennifer Ellison / FreeDigitalPhotos.net


Take that, you slithering, slimy Dragon of Self-Pity!

Consider yourself slain.


~ Lysandra



Update:
Luke Call's GoFundMe account has surpassed $10,000!  He's completed what should be his last ever round of chemo and is undergoing his bone marrow transplant this week.  Mr. Smiles celebrated his second birthday - something his family once believed he would never see.  Keep slaying, little dragon slayer!

If you know of a Dragon Slayer or a Dream Chaser (someone actively pursuing his or her dreams) you would like featured here, please email me.  I would love to share their story!

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