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December 16, 2022

Try self-compassion

This morning, I wait for the words to come to me. I wait patiently while they pair up to create sentences that still haven’t reached my mind.

I read a nice text last night in bed and it brought a few tears to my eyes. It was on self-compassion; that sentiment that makes us sensitive to our own misfortunes. My sentences aren’t flowing freely this morning. They hesitate and whimper. How can I write about my own suffering, how can I open up to it instead of shoving it under the pillow? I have the feeling that I have already explored it at length in my writing. Have I ever faced my weaknesses and failures without any self-judgement, without any accusation towards anyone and without any excuses? Have I ever considered my trials and misfortunes framed within the common human experience?

Most of us live in an incessant whirlwind of setbacks. We come across far too many potholes, letdowns, losses and sufferings of all kinds along our journey. And all humans, me included, have a tendency to be negative, whiny, unsatisfied and disappointed. On more than one occasion, I believed that I had been deprived of my fundamental right to happiness!

I discovered, while reading about self-compassion, that a solution exists. When we are faced with disappointment, instead of reacting negatively, “we can treat ourselves with loving kindness and self-compassion. We can give ourselves emotional support, just as we would a close friend or family member who’s suffering. Self-compassion is not about telling ourselves that we’re better than others in some way. It’s about accepting reality: no matter how special we’d like to think we are, we’re human just like everyone else. And part of being human is that we’ll all face failure, disappointment and loss at some point. By accepting that we’re imperfect, we can change our inner voice to one that’s supportive, self-accepting and self-compassionate. As a result, our brains will make fewer stress chemicals so that we can feel and cope better.” (excerpt from Self-Compassion: One Key to Mental Health)

I came to the conclusion that, in our daily lives, self-compassion means accepting reality, regardless of what may happen. When we are understanding, self-accepting, conscious that we are imperfect and treat ourselves with kindness, we feel a lot better. Back in the day, I didn’t know much about life and I had a bad habit of severely judging myself. It was difficult for me to give myself even the smallest comfort or self-compassion, especially when it came to my relationship with my children. I was strict and made no exceptions with them, especially during our verbal clashes while at work at the restaurant, and our differences of opinion often followed us home. More often than not, I blamed myself, felt apologetic and never went easy on myself.

I did carry a lot on my shoulders during those years of long hours and hard work. Thank goodness, my obligations lessened and I had the time to get used to self-compassion and kindness. All of you who have entered the stage of eternal youth like I have, take very good care of your heart. Be kind to yourself. Avoid useless confrontations and arguments that seem to never end. Give yourself a break even if your strawberry jam burns at the bottom of the cooking pot. It happened to me the other day! And, instead of being furious with myself, I remembered what my mom used to say about doing two things at the same time. While the strawberries were bubbling away, I was typing a new story on my iPad. No wonder the jam burned. Last fall, I delayed calling the snow removal company to renew my contract and, when the snow came, I had to beg on hands and knees to get a new contractor! Instead of panicking and banging my head against the wall, I should have considered the excellent lesson to simply plan ahead. More than a thousand irritations busy our minds every year; an average of 2.5 each day. They try our patience and shoot our blood pressure straight through the roof. That alone is reason enough to let things go a little and be kinder to ourselves.

In February 2019, the water in my house stopped running suddenly. I immediately called the public works in my city only to learn that I have an artesian well on my large plot. I had no clue where the well was located and, even worse, where the pump that brings the water into the house was. The entire yard was covered with a thick layer of snow. I finally found a team of brave fellows who searched the yard with instruments in vain for two days. It took me three days to go through a pile of pictures taken during summers when the kids were playing outside on the grass. Finally, in one of the last photos, there it was in the background: a brown steel post sticking out of the ground, very close to my tall cedar hedge. I called the workers back, who dug at that very precise location and found it. They repaired everything in a matter of minutes! Never in my life have I been so relieved to recover something. Something so mundane and common, that the possibility of losing it never crossed my mind. I will never forget the sudden rush of water in the large kitchen sink. It was a miracle, a blessing!