The Names We Call Ourselves
There's a poem by Kaylin Haught that I'm fond of, called, “God Says Yes To Me.” I quoted it on a post not long ago, so I won't copy it again. But you remember, God tells her yes and calls her Sweetcakes. I thought of the poem when reading a recent article by Sylvia Boorstein on The Lion's Roar site, titled “Restoring the Mind to Kindness.” When she is in a bad way, she tells herself: “Sweetheart, you are in pain. Relax.”
From the article:
““Sweetheart” reminds me that it isn’t my fault that my mind is embittered, that something has upset it, that I’m in pain. Even if I see that the source of my suffering is my own mind’s refusing to accommodate to its challenge, I can still feel compassionate about that. No one purposely suffers.”
So then, I was thinking way, way back to a poem I wrote in my first book, All the God-Sized Fruit. The poem is about that iconic painting by Ingres, The Grand Odalisque. And there is a history of name calling surrounding this image, because of course the model's proportions are a bit bizarre and problematic. My goal in writing the poem was to somehow reclaim things for the woman, the model, to talk about and subvert the name calling, to make those name callers somehow 'take it back.' And to take back the painting for myself. She'd been called a jellyfish, spineless, a monster, a hybrid. It had been pointed out that she formed the letter S, in her deformed, boneless state. The poem ends by hoping:
Foolishly, i wait for your next trick
wait for your body to shape
the other letters.
I think it's been pointed out frequently in self-help literature that we often say things to ourselves, call ourselves names, that we wouldn't call anyone else. Idiot, loser, how could you be such a fool? We berate ourselves. Or perhaps we did when we were younger.
What if we called ourselves sweetheart? Sweetcakes? Darling? Cookie?
What if we came up with a list of names to call ourselves. Terms of endearment. No one else need know.
Sugarplum, dove, flitter-mouse, lovey, cabbage, pumpkin, sweet-pea, tulip.
You name it.