Poor Me status updates are largely negative: ill-health, the misadventures of children, looming deadlines, crushing work loads, exhaustion, the intransigence of schools, employers, medical services; the inadequacy of tax-payer money funnelled towards their needs, the anguish of the entitled!
And then, on the other hand, there are Amazing Me status updates. Amazing Me won a prize; travelled to Antarctica, conjured up this gourmet creation, pulled off this domestic Goddess feat, moved mountains today, oh Amazing Me!
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We started playing these roles in our childhoods. In my childhood, Poor Me would have met with no sympathy. I would have been scolded for whatever led to my Poor Me plight. Why did you allow yourself to gain weight? Get sick? Get writers’ block? Fail? Go, do something about it. Run a mile. Eat vegetables. Write a page.
And I too get impatient with Poor Me, and come up with solutions. (Though, of course, I am silent, and my tears flow freely when there are no solutions, an incurable illness like motor neurone disease, say, an inoperable tumour, or the sudden death of a loved one.)
Amazing Me was the script I was expected to follow in childhood. Amazing me, always winning prizes; Amazing Me, dazzling my teachers; Amazing Me, achieving, achieving, achieving.
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Poor Me and Amazing Me have this in common. They are both symptoms of emptiness. They both want something from other people. Poor Me wants attention—and sympathy. Amazing Me also wants attention--and praise. Both their cups are half-empty, the one who proclaims the emptiness of her cup, and the one who declares her cup runneth over, but still wants affirmation from other people.
* * *In middle age, I am less interested in old scripts. I am not interested in Poor Me. When people Poor Me me, I hate it. I want to shake off their sympathy, which feels like a clog on my feet (though in the case of tragedy I can do nothing about, yeah, I will accept sympathy, and cry on your shoulder, if I can).
And when I tend to Amazing Me, on the days I am smart, I remind myself of the eternal fountain always flowing, flowing to fill all empty places.
And I tell myself, “Anita, you are indeed Amazing Me because you are a child of God. You are Amazing Me because you can climb into his lap and lean on his shoulder. You are Amazing Me because he sings over you; you are Amazing Me because he protects you; you are Amazing Me because no matter what goes wrong, he comforts you. You are Amazing Me because when you blow it, he puts his arms around you, and blows his spirit into you, fills you with the water of the Holy Spirit to overflowing. You are Amazing Me because he patches you together again, and you are as good as new. You are Amazing Me because he will take you to places you never dreamed you’ll go. You are Amazing Me because he loves you.
Anita Mathias is the author of Wandering Between Two Worlds (Benediction Classics, 2007) and blogs at Dreaming Beneath the Spires, anitamathias.com.
A winner of an NEA writing fellowship, Anita now lives in Oxford, England with her husband, Roy, and daughters, Zoe and Irene. Visit her at Facebook at Dreaming Beneath the Spires or on Twitter @anitamathias1.