On Self-Compassion, Inner Critics, and Becoming the Beloved – Part 2

I love this poem by Fleur Adcock.  Take your time and read it.  I’ll share some thoughts after it…

Weathering

My face catches the wind
from the snow line
and flushes with a flush
that will never wholly settle.
Well, that was a metropolitan vanity,
wanting to look young forever, to pass.
I was never a pre-Raphaelite beauty
and only pretty enough to be seen
with a man who wanted to be seen
with a passable woman.

But now that I am in love
with a place that doesn’t care
how I look and if I am happy,
happy is how I look and that’s all.
My hair will grow grey in any case,
my nails chip and flake,
my waist thicken, and the years
work all their usual changes.

If my face is to be weather beaten as well,
it’s little enough lost
for a year among the lakes and vales
where simply to look out my window
at the high pass
makes me indifferent to mirrors
and to what my soul may wear
over its new complexion.

What strikes me about this is that Adcock has found a place beyond the “metropolitan vanity” of looking young forever.  She has discovered a place that “doesn’t care how I look and if I am happy.”  We aren’t told much about this place, but it seems as if it is without expectation, forgiving, accepting.  And perhaps the most vivid image is one that strikes us at the core of our narcissism:

where simply to look out my window
at the high pass
makes me indifferent to mirrors.

Adcock has encountered a beauty which has so captured her that her own vanity is pointless.  Once obsessed, she is now “indifferent.”  And she is happy.

happy is how I look and that’s all.
My hair will grow grey in any case,
my nails chip and flake,
my waist thicken, and the years
work all their usual changes.

Vain, obsessed, and narcissistic, a part of us longs for her freedom.  We are curious about this place she’s found where her waist can thicken.  It must be a place without advertising billboards and rampant pornography.  She can grow grey, a feature of distinction in men but not so in women.  Ask any actress over 40.

In our vain world, the Inner Critic shouts its harsh message. It comes in different packages:

Fat. Ugly. Unsightly.

Old.  Irrelevant.  Yesterday.

Unwanted.  Worthless.  Stupid.

Failure.  Useless.  Expendable.

Which is your loudest critic?

This place Adcock has found comes in many names and with many different descriptions.  But it is the safest place one can find.  I find it in the embrace of the father in Luke 15, the moment where the prodigal son is welcomed into the open arms of a father whose love is unbridled, unleashed, undignified.  To his own embarrassment, the father risks social ostracism to embrace and welcome his outcast son.  The son is safe – loved, welcomed, celebrated, empowered, covered.  If only this display of reckless love was characteristic of today’s churches.  Perhaps, fewer would experience the power of the Critic.

To live in this internal and external world dominated by the Critic, we need to find this safe place.  Adcock found it.  I struggle each day to live in it myself, as the day is often marked by loud voices that demand, expect, require, demean, and devalue – and most are within. Many who I see for therapy report the same battle.  Life has conspired to create many challenges to our wholeness, to our self-compassion, to our enjoyment of being the beloved.

What is this place for you?  How do you experience moments of self-compassion, of happiness, of being the beloved?  How do experience this extraordinary space in which Adcock can declare:

But now that I am in love
with a place that doesn’t care
how I look and if I am happy,
happy is how I look and that’s all.

One comment

  1. Great post – great poem. I love the thoughts on being indifferent. I feel the Lord has and is painfully bringing me to the sweet, restful place of indifference. In my walk – I’ve not used the word indifferent, but ‘small’. God is helping things (idols) become ‘small’ that have been ‘large’. As they become small – I am becoming indifferent  – less enslaved. I say this knowing I have many things that are still too ‘large’.

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