I've read a bit of Dostoyevsky (almost all of The Idiot in an old cottage in the Cotswolds years ago) but not entire novels because I can't ever keep up with all the names. However, Hemingway is said to have revered the Russians and to have read them for inspiration. I should probably do that. After reading The Road, I have this feeling that life is too short not to be reading the classics, the books that really move us and move inside of us instead of the books that act like a sitcom, passing time but nothing more than a glossing over.
I'm getting off point.
This quote means a lot to me. I shared it with my brother a year or two ago, and we had a long discussion about this quote and what it means to us in our lives. We've talked about it several times since.
Above all, don’t lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others. And having no respect he ceases to love.
Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov
We have all, at times, lied to ourselves. When I was younger, it was less obvious to me perhaps because I was just less obvious to me; I didn't really know myself.
But even then, I recall traces of the biggest lie we all tell: I'm doing my best.
Have you ever noticed that when you say 'I'm doing my best,' you almost never are? The statement, I'm doing my best, is a defensive one, one I employ when I'm actually not doing my best but am trying to convince someone (and myself) that I am.
I learned a few years ago (really, these things come late to me in life), that if I wanted to feel good, happy, at peace or any of the myriad emotions we're taught bring joy and contentment, I had to work really hard. I couldn't coast or get by. I had to truly do my best, which didn't mean perfection. I could fail or get it wrong or mess it up, but if I was genuinely trying my best, I felt self-respect.
When I'm not doing my best, when I half-ass it, I don't respect myself.
When we don't respect ourselves, it infects everything else, every other relationship, our work, our home life, our parenting. Everything.
This work, for me, is at the heart of a well-spent day.
It's easy to think of well-spent as lying on a chaise lounge with an exceptionally good novel (McCarthy, Hemingway, Haruf, Cather) and a good, strong cup of coffee. It begins early enough, with a spectacular sunrise, and it involves almond baby cakes topped with fresh fruit and full-fat yogurt. There might be another cup of coffee as the morning shifts into a bright, hot, dry day (I'm in Sedona, after all), and friends stop by for lunch and have the loveliest stories to tell while we sit in the shade and wait for the sun to go down. Dinner is light and accompanied by a glass of wine, my body grateful after the two-hour yoga session I did with the Red Rocks in the distance.
You get the point.
The reality of well-spent is less romantic in some ways but much simpler in others.
Get up. Eat and drink well and not too much. Move a lot. Do your work. Be kind to your kids. Do more of your work. Drink a glass of wine. Watch the sunset and feel good in a chair, with the wine, because you worked hard and steadily and didn't sit around on the computer reading celebrity gossip or shopping for another wool cardigan, particularly as you're allergic to wool.
We lie to other people, and as we mature we realize how damaging that is, even the little lies. It's a relief when we stop doing that.
But when we stop lying to ourselves, it's a revelation.
Whether it's about who we love, how we love, the work we do, our goals or dreams, the way we want to parent....whatever it is.....each time we lie to ourselves, we give away of sliver of our self respect.
If anyone is up for it, what's a lie you've told yourself? When did you realize it? Is life better now that you've stopped?
With all of that heavy thinking behind me, I'm off to dig around for some Dostoyevsky in my bookshelf. There's got to be something there.