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AN UGLY VOICE WITHIN
June 25, 2004
 
When you have pain, you don't minimize it. You stop and rest. It is not lazy to do this.

If you don't feel well, you stay home. Even if you told somebody you'd do something. This is not being irresponsible; it is the reverse.

There are things in life worth dying for, but going to a meeting probably isn't one of them, unless the meeting you are going to is certain to end the possibility of nuclear war or something on that order of magnitude. And it must be certain.

People don't usually die from being refused a favor. When you can't help someone, all they will do is find someone else who can. It just won't be you.

These unexceptionable statements feel radical and dangerous to me. I follow their sensible counsels with extreme difficulty. I don't feel liberated when I acquiesce to them; I feel terrible. They feel like the toe in the door to a lifetime of sloth, the first trickle of a deluge of disaster that only I can avert. Why is it so hard to be sensible about the limits of one's strength? So hard to admit that there are any? Why does cancelling an appointment fill me with such dread? Who do I think is after me?

I am after myself, I guess, like little Noodle, who sometimes chases her tail with great gusto, catching it only to have it slip away, always before her, just out of reach. A stern taskmaster lives within me, tapping its foot, looking pointedly at its watch, tilting its head sceptically as it regards me -- it does not believe for a moment that I am ill. It thinks I am malingering. You're fine and you know it. Get up and get back to work.

So kind to others, so solicitous of their health, so full of wise counsel about how they should take care of themselves, be gentle with themselves. None of them suspect the existence of the dominatrix within, under whose stiletto heel I writhe invisibly.

This does not work. It must end. I must take up the cudgels of battle against it --once again -- and see if I can't make some headway this time. And not just for my own sake, not at all: years ago, a mentor told me this: If you love your neighbor and hate yourself, God help your neighbor.

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