“Let me think about the people who I care about the most… and how when they fail, or disappoint me, I still love them, I still give them chances, and I still see the best in them. Let me extend that generosity to myself.”
—zefrank, “An Invocation for Beginnings”
I do a lot of things wrong. I’ve been thinking about/trying to quit smoking for three years. Yes I have. I’m an ethical vegetarian but sometimes I eat chicken wings… because I like them. And ham. Ham. Also food related, I’ve gained about 15 pounds since last summer and can barely fit into any of my clothes. If we’re being completely honest, some of my pants won’t even slide over my thighs. Sometimes I yell at my kid and sometimes I would rather troll Facebook than tinker with Legos. Sometimes I gossip and sometimes I dislike people for no really good reason other than that they’re easy to dislike.
So there’s that.
I get stuck on the bad from time to time. It’s not conscious. I don’t recognize it, and I don’t feel particularly sadder or hateful, and I don’t wallow in self-loathing. It’s more that… I just forget. I neglect to be mindful and to stay right here, in this moment. This can go on for weeks, sometimes months. It’s insidious and it’s quiet, the way this beating-up myself starts to change my thinking and my actions. But every so often, as I’ve slipped into the vicious habit (or, more accurately, neglect) that eats into my contentment, I wake up. I shake it off. And I remember:
I also do a lot of shit right. I’m a good mother, and I go out of my way to treat my child and Matthew’s children with compassion and respect. I have an amazing relationship with one of the best human beings I’ve ever met. I am really good at a job I love more days than I don’t. I’d do just about anything to help and friend and I’m fiercely loyal. I am honest and I am sometimes funny. I’ve cultivated cool-ass, cooperative friendship with the Kaiser’s father, and it’s one that I’d not trade for anything. And I’m sober.
How much do I talk about compassion? All the damn time. And how often do I have to remind myself to cut myself a break? All the damn time. I’m not talking about self-esteem; this is a very different thing. Being kind to yourself has nothing at all to do with being (or feelin’) special or with being (or feelin’) above-average. Rather, I’m talking about looking at our experiences mindfully, without over-exaggerating our own pain. Self-compassion isn’t dependent on day-to-day experience.
Randy Taran wrote an article about this in the Huffington Post. She says, “On an airplane, you are asked to put the oxygen mask on yourself first, so that you can help other people. Self-compassion is like that too. If you don’t take care of yourself first, you won’t be fully equipped to help others.”
How can you give something to someone else that you refuse to offer to yourself? It’s not laziness. It’s not indulgent. It’s a necessity.