To do without self-respect, on the other hand, is to be an unwilling audience of one to an interminable documentary that deals with one’s failings, both real and imagined, with fresh footage spliced in for every screening. There’s the glass you broke in anger, there’s the hurt on X’s face; watch now, this next scene, the night Y came back from Houston, see how you muff this one. To live without self-respect is to lie awake some night, beyond the reach of warm milk, the Phenobarbital, and the sleeping hand on the coverlet, counting up the sins of commissions and omission, the trusts betrayed, the promises subtly broken, the gifts irrevocably wasted through sloth or cowardice, or carelessness. However long we postpone it, we eventually lie down alone in that notoriously uncomfortable bed, the one we make ourselves. Whether or not we sleep in it depends, of course, on whether or not we respect ourselves.
(Joan Didion, Slouching Towards Bethlehem)
I’ve been reading a lot of Joan Didion this term break. This passage, in particular, struck me as I sit alone in my living room on new year’s eve because this is historically a time when I look back on the year and account for all of my unskillful responses to events that occurred. I take inventory. What does that even mean? To lie awake at night…counting up the sins of commissions and omission. This speaks to me.
I’m not saying I’m a complete knob or that I’m a horrible person walking around doing horrible things that I have to atone for at the end of the year, an arbitrary time to take an inventory to be sure. On the contrary, I’m doing the best I can. I think this “self-respect” can be paired with the “self-awareness” that comes with age. I’m aware I’m being an asshole at my job right now. I’m aware that life always seems to be in a state of flux. I’m aware that I’m essentially lazy now that I’m in school again and that I give myself lots of license to do nothing. I’m aware that my family and friends are flawed and that has nothing to do with me.
Anyhoo…no deep thoughts or anything. I just loved this passage, as it spoke to me and all the nights I lay awake counting my sins of commission and omission.