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Self-Respect and Magic


I had a real 'ah-ha' moment during my weekly Meals on Wheels volunteer route this week. I was listening to Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Big Magic” on audiobook during my drive, having started it several months ago and somehow neglecting it since. My reading attention span has looked like this over the last several years. I used to blame travel and the fact that I would pick up a new book at an airport because I left the current one on the nightstand. Now I have multiple stacks in multiple places all over the house, even after six months staying at home. I’ve learned I’m not alone in this practice and am therefore far less troubled by it.


I don’t necessarily abandon a book because of a lack of interest. At least, that was certainly not the case with Gilbert’s book. Her advice on creative living convinces me that in addition to crafting words, she has a secret mind-reading ability.


How does she know I feel that way?

I’ve asked myself this a hundred times over as she's read to me.


I think I just become really intrigued by a new topic or subject matter and simply cannot wait to learn more about it. I’ve found that every time I settle back in with Gilbert’s soothing voice and dry wit, however, I find myself hoping the book never actually ends.



Friday’s epiphany came when Liz (I like to think her familiarity with my human condition puts us on a first-name basis; that and the fact that I was on a live Zoom call with her last month) was describing the relationship between courage and self-respect. I’m familiar enough with Brene Brown’s work to know shame is the enemy and resilience is essential, but I'd never thrown self-respect in the mix. I suppose I came close when I wrote about esteemable acts, but I failed to recognize the genuine self-admiration I was generating. Higher self-esteem was the desired outcome; self-respect, the action it took to get there.


Later that day, I was interviewed for a new podcast. Similar to the Brave Kind, their project was born of the pandemic and compassion is a key component in the stories they share, stories of vulnerability and triumph. I was especially grateful for the morning’s revelation as I logged onto the meeting. It gave me the strength I needed to talk about my journey of codependency and alcohol addiction objectively. I shared the shameful moments of blackout drinking without actually feeling shame. My self-respect is at an all-time high because of my courage to change and the grace I show myself.


The interview is a total blur and the episode won’t release until early November. What I do remember is finishing up a fun conversation (and yes, even seemingly painful conversations can be fun when shame is detached from them) and respecting myself even more for taking another giant step out of my comfort zone. It is in these moments of bravery that I develop self-respect.


Respect as a verb is defined as “admire deeply, as a result of their abilities, qualities or achievements”. For me, it is not about pride or ego for grand achievements, although big milestones like my move to Arizona or my decision to get sober making me pretty damn proud. It’s the respect I build for myself every time I do breathwork instead of spiraling into an anxiety attack. It’s choosing diplomacy over a need to be right. It’s moving my body when I’d rather sit on the couch. It’s the willingness to learn when I could just as easily coast through mid-life and say "there is nothing more than this".


As it pertains to age, I also remember sharing these rather cliche words on the pod: “it’s never too late”. I was able to shed decades of disrespect during this growth journey: my move at 37, my career change and sobriety at 42, my new passion project at 45. All of these now serve as reminders of my transformation, which is happening right on time. I cued up “Big Magic” while I cooked breakfast today and soon after, Liz read that exact same phrase while sharing the story of a 90-year-old who took up academia at age 80. I hope that for someone out there, my message is just as magically timed.


"Character - the willingness to accept responsibility for one's own life - is the source from which self-respect springs." -Joan Didion



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