Day 17: Respect yourself!

Each day when I get to the end of another blog entry I am relieved to publish it. I’m grateful for this process, as I uncover yet another layer, because even though it’s been difficult I can clearly see changes in myself and the people I’m connected to. But today I could feel the pain welling up inside me. How had I been so unaware of all this stuff inside me? To be totally honest, now that I can feel it I don’t want to know about it. I know I have to go down the rabbit hole to find my way out, but I don’t want to go there. I get why people don’t want to go here, why they stay in their anger and blame others – because it feels like shit! But I’ve vowed to go forward and light the way for myself, my family and any and all who would like to follow.

Even as I wrote the title of this blog post – ‘Respect’ – I felt the energy of this word move over me, hovering like a bird of prey waiting for its moment to swoop. Today it was everywhere. In the afternoon I was in a store looking at expensive winter coats. As I tried one on I began to feel suffocated. I was overheating and so uncomfortable. I paused, took a few deep breaths and asked myself what was going on. I was suddenly 14 again, in Chicago on a freezing cold night standing on a street corner waiting for my sister to pick me up. As the snow fell all around me holiday makers rushed passed, laughing on their way to somewhere warm and inviting. I waited there for 2 hours before my sister arrived to pick me up. I was so cold and felt so alone. I could have just gotten on the bus and gone home? Why hadn’t I? I think I was worried about my sister being upset if I wasn’t there waiting. When she did finally arrive she offered a half-hearted sorry. I don’t think she would have cared if I hadn’t been there. Maybe she just drove by to see if I was stupid enough to wait so long. In the car I discovered her new prize possession and the reason she was late, her $350 coat (this was in the 80s). She had been shopping for a coat? Even though we were sisters we lived in completely different worlds, I was cold and lonely on the street corner and she had her fancy new coat. I stayed quiet in the back seat as she and her friend laughed the whole way home.  I couldn’t even imagine that someone would or could spend that much on a coat. It seemed so foreign to me, like something I could never have in my life. So there I was today so many years later with the same style of fancy coat staring me in the face, and still I was not respecting myself enough to even imagine that I could have a coat like that. The price tag seemed to demand more respect than me.

I gave up and went to buy some new sheets, thinking this would be an easier task (emotionally), but you can never escape from yourself for long. I could hear a familiar voice from the store sound system. Rolling my eyes, I tried to ignore it. I tried to focus on the bedlinen. I grabbed the best of the worst and headed to the cash register. Then just to make sure there wasn’t a better option, I headed upstairs to TJ Max. The security guard welcomed me in, this was a good start I thought. I walked by the coats and stopped to look, I felt myself sink as I told myself ‘this is what I could choose from’, and then there it was again, the same voice I had heard in the other store! and now it was singing a song I knew well. It was a song I had sung for 5 years as the lead singer of 10,000 Maniacs. This was a period of my life filled with great pain, a time when I had made many choices in my life from a place of not respecting who I truly was, and some of those choices led me to sing with the Maniacs. It was in a taco place in Jamestown, NY, my second meeting with the Maniacs, and even though my true voice was telling me ‘NO! Don’t take the job!’, I answered yes, thinking it was as good as I would ever get. Only a year before I had had 5 labels wanting to sign me, but again I sabotaged that opportunity through lack of self respect and by giving over to fear and shame. I felt that singing with the Maniacs was my punishment for evening trying to have my dream.

After leaving the store today, instead of trying to shove them back down, I sat with my feelings for a while. What does it mean to respect myself? Then the answer came. It means listening to my feelings. It means sitting with myself rather than running away from myself. By doing this I can truly move on, I can begin to live the life I dream of rather than living the life I can get.

So I did this today, I sat with myself and what happened was miraculous! I began to respect myself. I listened to my feelings and I began to see the real Oskar, not the victim Oskar. I began to respect this person who overcame her shame, fear, self-hate and intense shyness to become a successful musical artist in her own right. A person who gave her all, in every performance. Who, despite her choices continued to move forward, rather than checking out of life. Respect means seeing her growth, her accomplishments and her bravery, and this self-respect has helped me to see and respect the opinions of others who’ve helped, encouraged, liked and loved me along the way and still do, instead of pushing them away. Respect helped me to see that maybe Natalie Merchant wasn’t reminding me of my pain today, as I had thought, but was reminding me of my greatness and to respect the Maniacs for carrying on, despite her leaving, and for giving me the opportunity to tour and make music with them. And respect  helped me to see that my sister knew she was more then a price tag.

SO, I encourage everyone who reads to give it a try. R-E-S-P-E-C-T yourself! You’re worth it. It will change your life. It will remind you of your greatness and all the things you have accomplished.

with love,


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