I had big plans for this year and they included writing about my ongoing Personal Campaign for Kind. I knew I was pretty good at being kind to others although I could be more generous. However, I had no idea how difficult being kind to myself was going to be, especially when the going got rough – and it did.
In January I talked about how contagious kind gestures like smiling at strangers can be – even when the drab and dreary central North American winters make us feel less than willing (like in February, ugh). But that was kindness to other people. I needed to turn my attention to how the lack of self-kindness was showing up in my own life.
In March I noticed a trend with my memoir coaching clients; one that I was only too familiar with in myself. As talented, enthusiastic and committed as my clients were, they were sadly not making time for what was important to them. Instead they were caving into their own excuses and they weren’t being very kind to themselves about it. I was doing this, too. I wasn’t happy and I was not making the strides with my work or personal goals that I’d promised myself at New Year’s. Inspired by my clients, I wrote: Self-Kindness Meant Getting Out Of My Own Way. I had only recently learned about boundaries and the value of reinforcing them with the people I let scoff my time or try to load up my guilt-o-meter. The easy part of my Campaign for Kind was over and the painful learning had begun.
By May, deep into the rewriting of my own memoir, my cracks were showing. I was spending days delving into my vulnerability and history and that meant hearing self-talk that I couldn’t edit into oblivion. In my strain to get clear on my discomfort I had to do some self-kindness medicating which included walking away from my toxic relationships and learning the phrase “No, thank you.” While I gave myself four months for rewrites, I still had to address how ill at ease I was in the rest of my life. I wanted a life redesign…just a renovation, not a demolition as I wrote in June. My future needed to include more travel, more writing time, more wandering. I realized I was going to have to unburden myself of other things – the responsibilities that I’d tied myself down with. It was epiphany time. My situation was my own fault. Yep, I’d made my own discomfort. I’d limited my own ability to move into a simpler space, to have a less-cluttered existence and most of all, rendered myself immobile in the short and long term. I had no one to blame but myself and that made self-kindness almost impossible.
By the summer months the branches on my path had diverted my “best laid plans.” I was writing and on schedule for once but my house wasn’t selling so I couldn’t make travel plans, financial commitments or even relocate. I clung to my visualization, featured in the photo in the July blog, that every path leads to a bright spot. I tried desperately to remember that the right time would come, that hope is victorious. I reminded myself that just as the reward on every hard hike of my life (literal and figurative) had always been the bright clearing after the struggle on the wet, uneven terrain of the trail, things would work out. To hear that message, I needed a lot of reinforcement from the people who care about me. I didn’t know how to reassure myself. I didn’t have the a big enough well of self-kindness.
In the fall I was forced to learn some patience and practice self-talk that included: “It will all work out.” and “There is no fixed timeline for my dreams.” Unfortunately, I was (and still am) filled with resistance. I found acceptance that I could not control the timeline for a lot of things in my life. I could not predict the real estate market collapse or the cruelty of business associates.
I was writing about the way remembering is a kindness to ourselves and how our memories reflect our ownership of our story – key reminders of the months spent reworking my memoir. I had to learn my own message that whatever the cause of the bends in the road, they too must be traversed AND the reason will be clear later. I was safely on the other side of a tough year and able to look back on the overall gains by the time I started writing this. I hope you can look back now and ask yourself these questions:
- How did your year go compared to how you planned it last New Year’s?
- Were you really hard on yourself when the path wasn’t as straight as you might have liked?
- What were your tools for survival?
- Were there opportunities for self-kindness that helped you get through?
I still have a lot to learn about where kindness lives. But it is the simplest and most gratifying education. All we have to do is pick up the crumbs that kindness is throwing down. It’s the holiday season so keep your eyes and ears peeled for chances to put some good juice in the universe. Hold that door a little longer for the mom with a stroller and whiny toddlers, pay for coffee for the next guy in line who can’t find his card, say thank you every time. When you screw up, (and you will) try congratulating yourself for trying and not chastising yourself for being imperfect. Be you this season. You’re awesome!