Compassion and Forgiveness
I learned something very important the other day.
I’ve read lots of articles and listened to numerous podcasts the past few years wherein self-forgiveness and self-compassion are talked about at length. Intellectually, I understood the concept but my heart didn’t catch up until a few days ago so that the IMPORTANT understanding could settle in.
Self-forgiveness is not dependent on rectifying a past action or mistake.
Perhaps you’re thinking, “Well, duh – you can’t change the past” but believe me, my previous inability to forgive myself was based on wishing I could change the past and because I could not, forgiveness was not possible. Had a friend experienced a similar faux pas as me, would I castigate her? Would I shame her? No, I would not, so why be a jerk to myself?
I have finally forgiven myself for previously unforgivable mistakes – the ones that still pricked my conscience – and I have become a free woman where those matters are concerned.
My shoulders and my heart have been relieved of a VERY heavy burden.
Don’t Worry. Be Happy!
Whether it’s because the Holidays are fast-approaching, or we’re relocating to a different area, or we are faced with a life stressor that threatens life, limb, and sanity, we are oftentimes encouraged to stay calm and relax. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!!!
Being on the receiving end of such an admonition is not a welcome moment, to be sure. “Try being in my women’s size 12 shoes and say that again! You have no authority here.” Boy can I relate. Given an opportunity to break down that comment, however, I might eventually get to the point of being able to at least realize that if I were to take a few deep breaths I would feel slightly better as a result.
I fully understand the impetus behind someone telling us not to worry. Certainly I have said the same thing to someone in need and I absolutely meant it. But staying calm is not an easy venture, is it? But boy oh boy is it called for.
I react and I overreact – just ask my husband. You know what they say about teaching old dogs new tricks? Well, I’ve been trying to learn the calming lesson/trick for quite some time now. The more I overreact and discover later that such a reaction was not needed, I get that much closer to learning a lesson that will most definitely help my well-being. When an overreaction takes place, the fight or flight response gets set into motion which sets in motion bodily anomalies that never do the body good: accelerated heart rate, increased pain where pain might already exist, and if you’re me, the gastric juices start churning and a sour stomach ensues.
Being able to witness time and time again that things most of the time turn out okay, that most disasters are readily avoided, and life goes on regardless of any perceived evidence to the contrary, then we can settle down and carry on. But if you’re at all like me, you will need to administer compassion and loving kindness toward yourself to attain such a state of well-being.
I hope you succeed in doing so, as much as I hope to do so myself.
You Are Not Stupid
Thoughts aren’t always true, they are just thoughts.
We are oftentimes admonished not to be judgmental of others, but what about the judgments we have about ourselves? I catch myself being very self-critical, repeating what I oftentimes heard my mother say to herself when she, for example, made a sewing mistake. “Oh Patricia! You’re so stupid!”
My mother was far from stupid, nor am I, so declaring oneself stupid is very inaccurate. A far less harsh statement might be, “Oh, Irene, that wasn’t a smart thing to do/that was a stupid thing to do.” I’m not stupid, but the action wasn’t the best delivered action at the time.
All I’m saying in this minuscule post is to be careful what you say to yourself – whether out loud or in your mind – because I guarantee, you are listening, and some day, you just might start believing what you hear.
The Wisdom of Baby Steps
My husband and I became avid hikers in 2016 once my husband had retired from a lengthy career as an engineer, and I had switched to writing and publishing my novels (Requiem for the Status Quo and A Jagged Journey). Hiking during the week in the Pacific Northwest is the only way to go as our area is a hiking paradise and we completed many non-weekend hikes for three solid years.
Then both of us had body structure limitations that were addressed and treated as effectively as possible so we could consider heading out on the trails again.
Then Covid happened.
We chose not to head onto the trails because even though we were extremely diligent in our masked day-to-day proactive way, hiking with a mask on was not an attractive option for us. So even though we went on neighborhood walks and took Cabin Fever Drives (CFDs) since winter 2020, we had not been on a trail since summer 2019. Until last week.
We understand the psychology of starting slowly, gradually building up to more challenging physical activities, so a close-in, 2.5 mile RT hike with 419 feet elevation gain was our starting point. What we didn’t take into account, however, was how much elevation gain would occur in 1.25 miles. We turned around once we realized our error in judgment and learned just how out of shape we are and how to better gauge elevation gain – a skill we were well-versed in just three years prior.
But we made an effort, and even though we didn’t quite master that day’s trail, we still lapped everyone sitting on the couch. Baby steps will be our practice going forward so we don’t doom our renewed commitment to Western Washington hiking.
The Soul’s Spring Cleaning
I know summer is upon us, but I’m still enmeshed in spring cleaning so I want to address that topic, but in a FAR different manner. I’ve been bored because the weather in Washington State has not been conducive to outdoor activities so every nook and cranny of our 2-story house has been purged beyond recognition – and it feels good.
You wanna know what else feels good? Doing spring cleaning on my soul: the me-ness that has existed for sixty-nine years.
Merriam-Webster defines soul as follows: 1) the immaterial essence, animating principle, or actuating cause of an individual life; 2) the spiritual principle embodied in human beings; 3) a person’s total self; 4) the moral and emotional nature of human beings.
I am very transparent in what I write on this blog, so if you’ve been following my blog and my stream of thought, you already have a pretty darn good sense of who I am. If I had to characterize the 2021-2022 timeframe for me, however, I would say that most of my new efforts have been directed toward kindness…toward myself. The other day, my talk therapist suggested I check in with myself each day by saying:
What’s the kindest thing I can do for myself today?
Oddly enough, that very day I said to myself, “I’m going to take care of myself today” – inspiration I received as a result of listening to a mindfulness podcast. If you viewed my post, A Dose of Serenity, you read about the phenomenon (to me anyway) of being open to learning a new lesson and then the lessons about that lesson start bombarding you. Well, I have been in the classroom of self-compassion for awhile now.
I am very hard on myself – demanding is more accurate – and more often than not I end up as my worst enemy. When I catch myself being so self-judgmental, I shift gears and talk to myself as I would a friend or loved one who is going through a similar situation.
The description I crafted for my online Facebook profile reads, Author, always ready to dish out kindness. I strive to promote truth and kindness wherever I go. Well, I guess my profile is a lie because I am always wherever I go so I’d best dish out some soul nourishment towards me on an ongoing basis.
Suffice to say that patience is a hard-earned virtue, and even more difficult when needed to be directed self-ward. But in order to have a productive soul spring cleaning, I need to gift myself with patience and understanding, and leave self-judging behind me where it belongs. That’s certainly my personal goal; how about you?