“The Milk of Human Kindness”


The above quote from Macbeth – when Lady M is berating her husband for being a wuss – has got nothing to do with today’s post really. It was just the only thing I could think of with the word “kindness” in it.  I’ve got plenty of “the milk of human kindness” in me when it comes to others (especially for the dispossessed, and for animals) but I don’t seem to know how to be kind to myself.

Now that I’m in my early thirties, I do now at least know that I can be very hard on myself but, this is something that I only “know” intellectually. When I’m in the middle of berating myself, I’m not capable of recognizing what I’m doing, and stopping myself.

There is nothing that I don’t criticize myself for – my inability to go to bed at a regular hour; my inability to get up at 6:00 a.m. every day to go running; my inability to walk my dogs as much as I should; my inability to become a freelance writer; my inability to play piano for at least 30 minutes every day, and write songs; my inability to do sit-ups every day; my inability to eat as much fruit as I should; my inability. My inability. My inability. My inability. I could go on and on. There is no end to it, and all the criticisms running round my head 24/7.

I know that the negative voice in my head shuts down any possible hope I could ever have of being happy and successful. But I don’t know how to stop it. I tell myself that if only I could stick to a routine, and organize my life better, I would have time for all the things I want to do. But I get myself so tied up in knots trying to create a schedule for myself that I don’t know where to start. I now don’t have any schedule at all, and I get this huge knot in my stomach whenever I think about doing chores or errands, because even the idea of it is too much for me. The anxiety overwhelms me, so instead of doing something, I just sit at home, wasting hours looking up pointless shit on the internet, as that seems to the only thing that calms me down.

I can’t go out and have fun because, when I do, all I can think about is what needs to be done.

I need to chill the fuck out…but how?! Oh, I know, I know – “positive self-talk” blah blah blah. Well, of course it would help to say nice things to myself and to stop comparing myself to other people, but this all seems like “too little, too late”. My perfectionism has had the last thirty-three years to build itself into a gigantic monolith, and “positive self-talk” would be like taking a toothpick to chip away at Mount Everest.

What I want more than anything is for somebody to come into my life and tell me what to do. I work well with structure imposed from outside. I know that’s terribly passive and pathetic really, but that’s what I would love. Sometimes I think that having a life-sentence in prison wouldn’t be half-bad. No longer any need to worry about bills, relationships or meals, and there would presumably be plenty time for reading and writing because they don’t stop you from doing that in the clink, do they?!

I don’t see how being locked up physically would be any worse than what I have now because I’m not free. I feel like I’m trapped in my own head, and I don’t know how to get out. I also wonder if there’s something wrong with me. God damn, I want some kind of mental health diagnosis because then I’d feel like it’s not entirely my fault that I feel this way, and maybe somebody would be able to help me, and give me some meds. But there’s no magic pill. At the end of the day,  I have to do all the work myself, and I just don’t know how.

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8 thoughts on ““The Milk of Human Kindness”

  1. LazyBuddhist August 7, 2011 at 1:33 am Reply

    First, let me say, how good it is to read your writing everyday. You’re a damn fine writer and I’m always interested in what you have to say and how you say it.

    Now, as for this post, damn! I understand what you’re feeling far, far too well. Last year about this time, I got so sick of being stuck – stuck in my own head, stuck in my relationship, stuck in my own body – that I made a rather rash decision to simply call a retreat leader I once sat with who had a private counseling practice. Normally, I would research the hell out of such a decision and then get stuck in indecision about who to pick. No, I just called him because he seemed like a nice man and he told me at the end of the retreat that I was luminous (I later learned, he tells a lot of people that). When we had our first session and he asked me what he could do for me, I told him “just tell me what to do and hold me accountable for doing it.”

    That’s not exactly the way it worked out, but a year later I now have a daily meditation practice and a regular workout routine, and a lot more forgiveness for myself for my lack of perfection. I honestly have no idea how therapy or whatever the fuck we’re doing (frankly I’m on not even sure he’s licensed), but having someone else besides my own sorry ass to be accountable to has been really helpful. Also, his approach is more about being present in this moment rather than dredging up the landmines of my past. Sure, they come into play, it’s not the focus.

    Anyway, I know therapy ain’t cheap, but I consider an investment in my life and happiness. It’s worth considering. You’re way too smart and talented to be miserable all of the time.

    • petrichoric August 9, 2011 at 11:10 pm Reply

      Hi, LazyBuddhist. Thanks so much for the compliments about my writing. That always cheers me up although it’s hard to believe you! I don’t feel that there’s much good writing on here, especially these days; all I seem to write about is having lunch while sitting on a stone!

      I’m conflicted about therapy. It has never seemed to work very well for me. I’ve never found the right therapist – they’re either too smiley, and too accepting (when sometimes I need them to bust my balls) or they’re too into busting my balls (when sometimes a few smiles and acceptance would be nice). But, apart from that, I just can’t afford it right now.

      To be honest, I think I got way more help from just writing on here than I ever did from therapy.

  2. Left on Walnut August 7, 2011 at 7:31 am Reply

    I’ve read some psychologist use the metaphor of a monkey swinging on a vine: we swing, worry about that tree for a bit, swing, worry about that tree. If we could calm our thoughts and deal with only one issue at a time, maybe we’d be in a better place. I can’t do that, but I did like the metaphor.

    • petrichoric August 9, 2011 at 11:11 pm Reply

      Yeah, it is a good metaphor. To carry on the metaphor, I think I’ve swung on every bloody tree in the jungle about ten times each!

  3. Reluctant Blogger August 7, 2011 at 1:43 pm Reply

    I do kind of know what you mean – I like to be organised for a while – and then it drives me mad.

    The only way I keep sane (I am prone to being a bit crazy) is by focusing on what is within my control ie to make those changes that are important to me, not worry about what others think and most importantly not compare my life to that of others or that which I expected to have. If I am happy then that is fine and if I’m not then I tinker til I get happier. I do have to use my diary often to talk myself through such things but for the most part it works. But I think everyone has to find their own way. You are an overthinker like me and you probably do need a strategy to deal with that – others can just drift through life being happy or sad according to events.

    So I need to come here every day!! Can’t promise that – but I will try.

    • petrichoric August 9, 2011 at 11:13 pm Reply

      You don’t have to come here every day – but it would be nice to hear from you every once in a while!

      Yes, you’re right – I am indeed an overthinker. I envy those people who “just drift through life being happy or sad according to events”.

  4. williamx August 9, 2011 at 12:59 am Reply

    What you need is a complimentary companion. Or a personal Trainer . . .

    • petrichoric August 9, 2011 at 11:14 pm Reply

      God knows what the fuck I need, Williamx! I’ve never been able to work it out really.

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