“Yesterday I got clear (for a minute anyway) about the benefit of practice:

The doorbell rang at my office at about 6:15pm. I stayed late to finish up some research and I was alone. My office is in a very safe neighborhood but it’s a big building and I felt a little nervous about who might be ringing that bell. When I got to the door, there was a man with a cart full of boxes and a delivery slip. Something about him didn’t sit right with me.

I opened the door and he told me he was there for a delivery, running late, sorry, could I just sign for it?

I asked him a question:

“Are you going to need to unload all of that in the office?”

Yeah, but I’ll be quick.

I took a few breaths. “If you don’t want me to come in, you could unload it.”

It was a heavy looking load.

“I am really sorry, but I am very protective of myself. You’re late, right?”

“Yes, but I tried to get here on time and I was held up by an elevator –“

“I’m sorry, but I’m not letting you in. You’ll have to come back tomorrow.”

As I walked away, I thought about my office mates, who might have needed that delivery, and I smiled. I put myself first. I’m getting better at that.

On the drive home, I thought:

I can handle more hard stuff.

But I can’t handle hard stuff caused by my former self-destructing, abnegating, denigrating self, who spent a lifetime smashing down traumas and staying away from exposure by never ever allowing me to be ME.

I let an eight-year old child tell me what to do. She lived in my subconscious, scared to death, ashamed of herself and making sure that she was not put in an experience where everyone might discover that it was all her fault. Success felt fraudulent and dangerous to me.

Last night, I was in charge, not her. I know now what I need to feel safe. I am particular about this, as I respect the impact of my life experiences and my brain chemistry, but I no longer operate within the ill-fitting burlap wrap of a traumatized young thing.

This ability to take care of me is a direct result of meditation, therapy and telling the truth in writing and everywhere else.

I still make mistakes and missteps; I hate myself on a semi-regular basis like everyone else. I feel like I weigh 1200 pounds some days, that I am ugly as hell on other days. Some days I feel like a brilliant writer, other days I ask myself why I ever thought I could write. I feel pretty, happy, sad, depressed, anxious and energized, depending.

But I’m not fucking up my ovarian lottery win again. I was born with talent, looks and good health.

I am making sure that Mary feels safe, that Mary is taking care of herself, that she IS herself without apology or shame. Anything else feels like death to me.

Before, practice, it felt like life.”

~ Mary Gustafson