Tonight someone asked me jokingly what I'd accomplished. I responded with a spew of comments laden with vitriol, calling the person out for calling me a slacker, and enumerating the things that I've done and do that feel were worthy or good, and all of the ills that I've survived that haven't turned me darker.
He replied to me, upset at my tone and what I'd said. I hadn't realized that he had been joking. I probably should have, but I'm not good at that at the best of times, and online I can be downright terrible about it. I apologized, and cleared it up, but could tell that he was still hurt. I had said some harsh things.
I was sickened when I realized how hurtful I had been, and how proud I'd sounded. How proud I was of little victories, and of supposedly surviving things that I felt had made me stronger. I had, and am still riding, and unpleasant wave of humility and perspective; not the virtous kind but the kind that puts you in your place. The kind that reminds you that you are small, and that no matter what you've done, it will never measure up to what you'd really wished you'd do. Even now I'm fighting to write this in an impartial way, neither to fall to the error of giving myself too much credit or generalizing my faults as being things that "we all do".
I work close to myself. I help my friends and loved ones where I can, but maybe I'm still a lazy and selfish creature in a lot of ways. Maybe I am an ass. I certainly acted like one tonight. All of the paths that people consider to be the greater paths of service to humankind are things that paralyze me: as a modern soldier, how could I be sure that I would be fighting for right? As a charity worker, how could I ensure that the things I provide wouldn't just go to supporting a corrupt system? That's why I try to work locally, on the people and places and things that I know.
At the same time, I am fully disgusted with myself for my laziness, my small-mindedness, my elitism, arrogance, and pride. While I was penning that outburst, I was full of self-righteous anger, defining myself by my accomplishments. When my friend replied to me, hurt, I could only see how small and petty those things were, and couldn't but feel that I'm fooling myself about my own positive effect on the world.
How can I know that what I do is good? How can I be sure?
I wanted to beg the Goddess for forgiveness, for some kind of absolution, and very clearly felt in my heart, "Only you can make your heart as light as the feather. Only you can absolve yourself. Only you can forgive yourself." I can only absolve myself of my guilt at laziness, arrogance, and wasted time by behaving differently, and to my satisfaction. I want to take this lesson, take this feeling of smallness, and keep it as a reminder, a calibration along the rod by which I measure myself.
I've done good things, but when I look at myself I realize that I can do more, and that I am not satisfied with what I have done thus far. People tell me that I think too much of others and not of myself often enough. Right now I'm fairly certain that the reverse is true. I don't know if I want to be selfless, but I want to feel worthy of my own admiration and that which others give me again, and not be satisfied to be puffed up on false pride.