Last week Anne Lamott posted a friend’s quote on Facebook: “I have a fatal disease of Extreme Coping. When I was little, in my family, and ever since, if you needed someone to do Extreme Coping with you, I am your go-to guy. It didn’t matter that I was only six, or thirteen…I could cope, no matter what shape you were in, no matter how heavy the lifting. But I grew to be a man who needs someone to need me to do extreme coping, in my work, in my relationships. It’s how I felt fully alive, and of value. But the price has been extreme, too. Some AA woman told me that healing begins with Step Zero: we wake up and say, This shit has got to stop. I am on that step. It feels like a huge act of disloyalty to my family of origin. And it feels like a miracle.”
I think I have this disease, too. Extreme coping that manifests in over-yesing, over-accomodating, and over-nicing. For years I believed that these traits were requirements for living. Merit badges of worthiness, if you will. Today, I don’t find them as useful. This once necessary skill for survival has become a detriment to life in the wild. The lions, tigers, and bears of the wilderness don’t respond well to yeses, accommodations, and nice girls. OR perhaps they respond very well–as in–hello nice prey. Not the response I’m hoping for.
Don’t get me wrong, kindness, compassion, and care are vital in or out of the wilderness. I’m not speaking of these virtues. I’m talking about the nice girl. The one who stays silent when the not-so-funny sexist/racist/heterosexist joke is told. The one who offers ideas freely and doesn’t comment when credit is given elsewhere. The one who says, sure, I’ll switch my schedule and juggle my life to make yours easier. That’s the nice girl. And I have been her or played her at times.
Today I find that role no longer fitting. I believe it is time to retire her costume, remove her script from my library, and prepare to mourn her death. Rest in peace, Nice Girl.