Pick Myself Up

In the past two years, my proposals to present at two different national conferences were accepted. The successes inflated my self-esteem, just as this year’s rejection deflated it. I was hurt and deeply disappointed to learn recently that I would not be on a conference agenda this year. Disappointment soon turned into anger at how I got the news. I received the conference announcement and saw pictures of all the presenters. I scrolled through them and didn’t see mine. Then I wrote to the organization, suggesting a more respectful way of notifying those of us who didn’t measure up.

The reply from the organization’s events director was immediate. What proposal? There was no evidence that I had submitted a proposal, even though I had met the deadline and completed every item in the application process…so I thought. In that moment I remembered getting an email message from the events director hours before the March deadline. “You still haven’t provided the TITLE of this presentation.” I replied right away with the title. But replying to an email is not the same as entering the title into the portal. Oops!

Self-compassion for a self-defeating experience was not a consideration for at least two weeks. It seems in order now. Acceptance of uncomfortable feelings is…uncomfortable. I was humiliated at first. I indulged in self-pity and self-righteous anger, and then I became determined to know what happened. Once my investigation revealed the answer, the relief was fleeting. Attaching to a negative thought was easier. One brief moment of mindfulness had been consequential, and a familiar feeling swept over me. Embarrassment got its hooks under my skin. To make matters worse, I became embarrassed that I could not transcend embarrassment.

This is hard for me to acknowledge publicly. I know there is life after embarrassment. I know deep down that avoiding the discomfort of embarrassment is less useful than allowing it. I know that I can act in some constructive direction if I can decline the invitation to fight my irresponsible self, this phantom self that I’m capable of constructing. There is a better path. I can start writing my next book, as planned, using the proposal outline. I can propose to present at another organization’s conference, as I did two years ago. 

I can choose either to allow my feelings or avoid them. Avoiding is easier and more comfortable. I could have avoided secondary embarrassment by embellishing this story to make me appear better than I am, or make the situation seem funnier than it is to me. I could have pre-empted criticism from others by harshly criticizing myself…I have a long history of doing that. 

Here’s my takeaway. Tripping over my own feet on occasion does not mean I am failing to walk the walk. In Living well with ADHD, I referred to a Dorothy Fields/Jerome Kern song from 1936, “Pick Yourself Up,” originally written for a movie. I pick myself up, dust myself off, and start all over again. I’m not beyond the effects of ADHD symptoms. They can derail me in pursuit of a valued goal. Perhaps I need humbling experiences to remind me of the power of mindlessness, equalled only by the power of mindfulness.

Today, my butt is back on the meditation cushion. Meditation fixes nothing and heals everything. I will sit quietly…with simple ease of being…then pick myself up and start over. 

Footnote: If you look up “Pick Myself Up,” you will read that it was composed by Jerome Kern “with lyrics by Dorothy Fields.” Female lyricists were not so visible in the thirties and forties. Who would know that Dorothy Fields co-wrote over 400 songs? Among her best-known are “The Way You Look Tonight,” “On the Sunny Side of the Street,” and “I’m in the Mood for Love.”

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