The list of things that I haven’t quite learned is endless. But I’m learning to cut myself some slack on that though, because after all, isn’t learning the point of living? For example, I’m still learning how to take care of my body, this thing that carries around my mind and my soul. Seems important, but you wouldn’t know it based on how we tend to treat it. Nearly four decades of life has taught me that I suck at being sick, and I’ve had a lot of practice! But, practice doesn’t always make perfect, especially if you’re practicing the wrong way!
For years I practiced the wrong way to “be sick”. Instead of resting and recuperating, I learned to push through and ignore. Somehow that didn’t catch up to me until a few urgent health crisis in my twenties forced me to recalibrate how I respond to my body. Even now, it’s a work in progress. Case in point, after our glorious cross country trip where no one got sick, upon our arrival home everyone has come down with some form of Covid. It took a few days, but it finally made its way to me by the end of the week.
So here I was, constantly, gently, reminding myself over the past few days…you my friend are sick, and sick people don’t do this. What’s different now is that I’ve picked up a few new tools to help, namely compassion and curiosity. No one is harder on me than me, so when I say I suck at something, you can bet my internal critic has been working overtime reinforce that point. That’s where compassion and curiosity have come in handy.
I’ve clearly overdone it more than once in the past few days and I’ve paid for it. However, I’ve tried not to add insult to injury by trying on these new tools of compassion and curiosity. In the past, after getting fatigued from taking the dog for a walk with the girls, my old voice would have said, well of course you’re exhausted. I told you not to wear yourself out. Now we’re going to be sick forever! (My internal monologue is a bit of a drama king). Instead today, I made a deal with myself, and the conversation went something like this…dude, that was a bold move right there stepping out into that heat, are you ok? Perhaps we need to relax a bit today. I bet it’ll help you feel better.
If any of this sounds familiar, it’s probably because as a parent this is the way most of us talk to our children (or at least try to). Our first reaction usually isn’t to shame or condemn them for you know, being children. They’re still learning. Learning isn’t a crime, not knowing isn’t a crime. In fact, not knowing things is an expected part of the process of growing up. It’s a feature, not a bug.
Why then do we expect anything different from ourselves, as parents, friends, and leaders? Honestly, when was the last time you responded to something you didn’t know or a situation you suck at with the phrase, I guess I still have a lot to learn, and earnestly meant it? What if we made room for ourselves through the practices of compassion and curiosity to actually learn? Sure it might be a bit difficult to admit to yourself some of the things you’re realizing you don’t quite know (trust me, the people who know you best will thank you for it).
But, I’m guessing that once we learn to turn that same curious and compassionate self talk inward towards ourselves, it’ll lead to a much better outcome. I’ll leave you with one final thought from the book that inspired the title of this post from an introspective author who I admire.
Self compassion is giving yourself credit for showing up, not beating yourself up for taking so long to get there. – shauna niequist