For many of us, our childhoods were pretty structured or were spent pleasing others to the point where we don’t completely know what we enjoy or what brings us pleasure. One of the joys of adulthood is laying down other’s expectations and pressures and discovering who we are deep down.
Emily says it well,
is not really how it works. You aren’t a ten-dollar bill in last winter’s coat pocket.
You are also not lost. Your true self is right there, buried under cultural conditioning, other people’s opinions, and inaccurate conclusions you drew as a kid that became your beliefs about who you are. “Finding yourself” is actually returning to yourself. An unlearning, an excavation, a remembering who you were before the world got its hands on you.
Take a minute and think about what you loved as a child before ‘the world got its hands on you’. Is there a way to return to that joy in some way today?
How are you doing? For many of us, we are stressed and overcome by the events of the day, with each day revealing ever more things to keep us up at night. How do we cope?
Blaming ourselves for this stress, or piling on isn’t kind. We wouldn’t do that to someone we cared about. Instead, we would remind our loved one how much we care about them, of how glad we are that they are part of our lives, and of how we will get through these challenging times. After all, we have survived every difficulty life has thrown us so far.
Perhaps we would remind our loved one of the things that bring them joy and look for ways to help them incorporate more of these things into their days.
These are some of the ways we can help each other with the stress. We need to help ourselves in just this way as well. Remind yourself that you have gotten through many difficulties before and will get through this. Look for ways to bring more joy and connection into your life. Seek out things that bring you comfort, and learn how to de-stress
From Shari: What are some ways you have brought yourself comfort during this pandemic?
For me, I’ve found that long-distance running brings me relief. I have an elliptical now so my knees don’t complain, and I can run and run and run until I feel calm.
If one of your friends were struggling with the problems you are facing right now, what words would you offer in support? Would you call them names, berate them, remind them of all the other times they messed up just like this and how, honestly, can they ever expect to get anything right, ever?
Probably not. Right? But often this is the way we talk to ourselves. We replay all our other mistakes in our minds, call ourselves stupid, sink into our shells scared to face the world.
But why do we do this? If the words we would offer our friend are what we think would help, why are we so reticent to speak kind encouraging words to ourselves? Maybe today is a good day to try a different approach.
Be a kind friend to yourself. Offer yourself words of support and encouragement. Focus on all the many times you got things right. Tell yourself the truth: you are precious and beloved.
From Shari: These are hard times. For many of us, these are the hardest times we’ve been through.
What are some of the things that are helping you deal with the stress? What are some ways you’ve been able to help others?
There is no one right way to get through a pandemic. Perhaps you’ve seen social posts suggesting you write a book, paint your house, or finish some other huge project. And some people do respond to stress by throwing themselves into activity. (And, apparently, love to post about it.) But others don’t. And that’s ok. We are each unique and need to listen to our own hearts and bodies to figure out what self-care looks like right now. Perhaps it’s enjoying tea, watching the sunset, reading a good book, or cleaning out a closet. Perhaps it is being still. Perhaps it is taking a break from social media to enjoy some introspective time. There are as many answers as there are people asking the question, ‘How can I best care for myself right now?’ Listen to yourself, and be gentle with yourself. This is tough.
In an interview with Oprah, Elizabeth Gilbert talks about her Inner Crone — a version of herself old, happy, and well past the point of fear — that she pictures when she needs a shot of courage. She considers her Inner Crone to be “a badass old lady who already dwells somewhere deep within [her] and whom [she] hope[s] to fully become someday.” Picturing her Inner Crone gives Gilbert gumption.
But she also remembers her Inner Child, and pictures that child particularly when she is feeling depressed or hard on herself:
Many years ago when I was going through a dark season of depression and self-loathing, I taped a sweet photograph of myself at the tender age of 2 on my bathroom mirror. Looking at that photo every day reminded me that I once was this blameless little person, deserving of all tenderness–and that part of me would always be this blameless little person deserving of all tenderness. Meditating upon a smaller and more innocent version of my face helped me to learn to be more compassionate to myself. I was finally able to recognize that any harm I inflicted on me, I was also inflicting on her. And that little kid clearly didn’t deserve to be harmed.
We could all benefit from picturing our Inner Child when we are being hard on ourselves. Would you criticize that little child the way you are criticizing yourself now, or would you be more patient and encouraging? Would you demand perfection from that child, or would you celebrate progress? If you were wounded by adults when you were a child, you now are an adult who can support that little child in a healing way.
Think back. Can you remember that Inner Child who is still a part of you? The joy and exuberance, enthusiasm and trust, innocence and promise? No matter how far you’ve come from that start, treat yourself with kindness, patience, and compassion. That Inner Child is alive and well…and trusts you.
For better or worse, we have pushed a collective pause button. Our world just got narrower on the outside. Perhaps this is the time to broaden it on the inside. Enjoy the moments. Reach out to people to check in and tell them you care. Savor the little things. Pause and reflect.
What do you think heaven looks like? Certainly, if we can see there, it is a place of great beauty and marvelous complexity where we marvel at God’s creation. If we can hear there, music that stirs the soul must be the score. And so on through our senses
But what if we are not corporeal in heaven and don’t have senses per se? What then? Perhaps it is a place of harmony, of communion, with everyone different but united in common purpose.
These are good things, yes? Appreciating beauty in God’s creation, enjoying music that stirs the soul, being so present in our bodies that we marvel at its systems? And, of course, communion, harmony, peace? These are good things.
Perhaps, today, we can take time to bring a bit of heaven to earth. Pause to admire the beauty around us, savor, marvel, be astonished. And then with our senses full and renewed, have courage to bring peace and harmony to our day.
Sometimes life is hard. Really hard. Relationships falter. Obstacles seem insurmountable. And just getting to the next day feels overwhelming. At times like these, we have to remember that it is OK to struggle.
We don’t have to be perfect. We do not need to have all the answers. Sometimes all we have are questions. But that is often a good place to start. And then we begin again, one foot in front of the other, perhaps not seeing the whole path ahead, but just enough to know where to put each foot.
“Just because something is difficult doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Uncomfortable? Yes. Exhausting and overwhelming and painfully hard? Yes. But not impossible. And it won’t necessarily feel this difficult and debilitating forever. You’ve made it through similar hard things before. You’ve survived every single bad day and every obstacle the universe has ever thrown at you. You’ve survived all the things you felt convinced would break you. Every single one. And this is evidence that you can make it through this too.
“You don’t have to figure everything out today. You don’t have to solve your whole life tonight. And you don’t have to tackle everything at once. You just have to show up and try. You just have to focus on the most immediate thing in front of you. And you have to trust that you’ll figure out the rest along the way. It’s okay to struggle. It’s okay to feel overwhelmed. And its okay to make mistakes. You’re still learning how to navigate this new path. It’s going to take time, and you’re allowed to give yourself that time. You don’t have to be perfect. You don’t have to get all A’s or be the best version of yourself or outperform everyone else. All you have to do is show up and try. It’s always been enough before. It will be enough this time too.”
— Daniell Koepke
Here’s to you finding the light to take that next step, and then the next and the next, until your path leads you out of this present darkness. It is OK to struggle.
Consider the birds. They have so much to teach us. They sing; they fly; they soar. When the storm is over, they come out and sing, fly, and soar again. They vary dramatically from the tiny hummingbird to the great bald eagle, but they have so much in common. And, when we are quiet, they remind us to look up, to look to the future and the possibility that lies there. It turns out considering the birds is good for our well-being, keeping depression at bay.
Be still and notice the birds. Do you see the vulture with its huge wings soaring above you? Do you hear the hawk shriek? Do you see the crows tuck in their wings and dive to open them again and rise only after you gasp, worried?
Watch the little sparrows bathe in a puddle, delighting in the way the water splashes around them. Listen to them sing.
If our bodies are gardens, what’s growing there? Is your garden body overcome by weeds and neglect, or is it a colorful explosion of bloom and fragrance? Is it a barren landscape or carefully and lovingly tended?
Self-care isn’t selfish; its vital. Time spent caring for your own body and soul will flower into every aspect of your life.
Today, consider giving your future self a gift. Maybe you can start a gratitude jar where you jot down little things you’re grateful for as you go through the day to toss into the jar. Your future self can pour out the jar a month or year from now and be blessed again by all those memories. Or change your sheets and give them a spritz of fragrance. Your future self will smile tonight when they tuck into the crisp linens. Or set aside a bit of money each day for a week for a future splurge down the road. Or, perhaps, start today something future you will thank you for later.
There are so many things you can do for future you if you take a minute to think about it. Taking the time now to do something for the you later reminds you that, even as you pour yourself out in caring for others, you matter, too.