i continue to remember and explore and plan and imagine and sometimes I stomp my feet or swat the air with a loud “Pfffft.” Other times I weep and wail, my body wracking from the release and recognition and realization. Angela and I talk about what we want engraved on our tombstones and simultaneously decide we do not want our legacy to be “She helped a lot of people.”

That shocks both of us. We’re Good Girls From The South. We know better than to say such a thing. We know we were bred to help others. We know there’s no higher calling, no better way to spend a life. We know we ought to be ashamed. We know we just told The Truth.

I wonder who I might have been and how might life might have been different had I thumbed my cute little nose to all the things I’m not supposed to do:

Be attached
Care who gets the credit
Talk about my self
Talk about others
Wear glasses
Get too big for my britches
Draw attention to myself
Be sad
Start an argument
Continue an argument
Carry a grudge
Wrestle with pigs
Talk back
Cry over spilt milk
Fly over the cuckoo’s nest
Speak up
Take up too much space
Take more than my fair share
Make too much of it
Be any trouble

I wonder if it’s too late for nose-thumbing.
It feels so good, I wonder why I haven’t done it before.

I wonder if I’m done enough nose-thumbing for now.

This is one time it probably doesn’t matter if I told the truth or not. I start to explain what I mean, even though I’m not really sure. Maybe some explanation – any explanation – will lessen the impact of my words.

I wonder who or what will smite me for saying I don’t want to help people.


There’s freedom in hitting bottom, in seeing that you won’t be able to save or rescue your daughter, her spouse, his parents, or your career, relief in admitting you’ve reached the place of great unknowing. This is where restoration can begin, because when you’re still in the state of trying to fix the unfixable, everything bad is engaged: the chatter of your mind, the tension of your physiology,the trunks and wheel-ons you carry from the past. It’s exhausting, crazy-making.

Help us walk through this. Help us come through.

It is the first great prayer.

Anne Lamott


Maybe it’s not that I no longer want to help people, maybe it’s that I don’t want to devote my life to helping other people and when I do set aside some of my life to give to others, I will help them in a different way because maybe – just maybe – the way I’ve been helping hasn’t really been helping at all.

Maybe I need to help myself first. Maybe that is the best – perhaps the only – way to help anybody anyway.


  1. Renae C

    keep talking — I need to hear it and stop shoulding all over myself

    • whollyjeanne

      “shoulding all over myself” – lawd sugar, you crack me up.

  2. Meredith S

    Maybe I need to help myself first. Maybe that is the best – perhaps the only – way to help anybody anyway.

    Ah, this is what I ultimately decided with my Cultivate project. This is what you meant when you replied to my comment. Aka, don’t feel bad for going back to the root of that project — fixing my own problems and leaving everyone else for later. If they want in, they’ll join me. If they don’t, oh well. You just validated my feelings all the more.

    • whollyjeanne

      Good. It’s counter intuitive for caring women, yet I sense it’s an essential truth. Things have turned in the past year or so – things like reciprocity, for example. But that’s another conversation for another day. Glad you posted your page on FB tonight. xo

  3. ☆little light☆

    Oh, I love this..love it, and you..
    It’s hard to let go of that training, that wanting to help them all, putting yourself 4th, 5th, some where down that line.
    Not even sure what the first step is…
    but I am gonna be taking notes! you betcha I am!

    • whollyjeanne

      I wonder if I’ll EVER stop that nonsense. Will I ever be woman enough to just turn and go another way?

  4. Jane Cunningham

    oh lordy yes… that is what i struggle with every day (and why i made my course) to turn away from the shoulds and to the truth of our experience is part of what i am sure i am meant to do with this human life… and YES to by doing that we are helping others… when you give yourself permission to be your self you allow me the grace to do the same – do you feel the weight lift off your chest just by thinking about that chain reaction because i sure as hell do! <3

    • whollyjeanne

      you know, sugar, i did feel lighter just writing this post. embarrassed that i STILL continue to struggle with stuff like this. i mean, really. when will i shove it all aside and just be who i am? ahhh . . . i think i just answered my own question – with another question of course: who am i, really? at least the shoulds gave structure, defined things. it’s not how i want to live, and i know in my bones it’s not the authentic, essential me, but i have to say, i knew the rules and sometimes black-and-white is just plain easier.
      i guess i also struggle because it’s been around for so damn long – how dare me, little ole’ jeanne, challenge something with such entrenched tenure. you know what i mean?

  5. angelakelsey

    PS: I think we decided that what we want our tombstones to say is, “She shipped,” with a nod to Steve Jobs, who said, “Real artists ship.” I don’t think we’ll be smote, and I think we’ll survive it even if we are. xo

    • whollyjeanne

      Especially if we can manage to be buried side-by-side. Maybe changing the tombstone to “They shipped.” xo

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