Thursday, March 12, 2009
"We have to learn to be kinder to ourselves, much more kind. Smile a lot, although nobody is watching you smile. Listen to your own brook, echoing yourself. You can do a good job. Please give yourself a good time."--from The Pocket Chogyam Trungpa
What does it mean to be kind to ourselves? Does it mean being easy on ourselves when we fail? Does it mean it's OK to procrastinate because we're just being good to ourselves? For me, being kind to myself is scary. I mean, I can be kind to myself with a salon visit, or a new blouse, or a chocolate eclair. But truly being kind to myself...it would mean accepting the things I want to change but haven't. It might make me lazy and complacent and mediocre. I don't want to be kind to myself if that means I become a mediocre person.
Not that the alternative is working out so well. Chastising myself for not getting something done fast enough or not knowing how to do something, or having a bad hair day (or week) is supposed to whip me into shape, but it only seems to bog me down even more. My husband and I are alike in this way--the constant recording in our heads ticking off our failures is so loud that it drowns out the bird songs, the wind chimes, the pleasant things. And when has negative reinforcement ever worked for me?
I don't laugh enough or even smile enough. I take life too seriously, like it's a terminal affliction. Well, I guess it is, but still...Trungpa's phrase really resonated with me: please give yourself a good time. It's in my power to do this. How will I feel if, decades go by and I'm looking back from my sick bed, wondering why the heck I didn't have more fun?! I don't want to have that regret hanging over me. In fact I'm 35 and running out of time to be a more lighthearted, fun-loving girl. And I'm not just talking about the times when I'm tipsy or on vacation--I mean, a happy person even on a Thursday when nothing exciting has happened.
My friend Linda who I see every Tuesday has had some problems with depression. Because she's practically a shut-in, she spends a lot of time just staring at the wall. She struggles to find purpose in her life. I tell her she has purpose--everyone does--I mean, if she wasn't around her lovely cat Maxine would be homeless and probably even dead, her disabled friend Chris would not have someone to spend time with who he can also help out. I think depositing her checks and picking up coffee from Shaw's--even lending her his old laptop--makes him feel good. I'm starting to see how much people actually LIKE helping. Anyway, without Linda, both of us would be less.
So I encourage Linda to appreciate her life, even as I struggle to do the same. I tell her to take a short walk, get some sunshine on her face, read a great book, or cook something yummy. Linda plays the recorder, and performed for me. She's good and the sound is pleasant. If she can do more of these things--be kinder to herself and be more lighthearted--then maybe the depression will start to lift. Ditto for me.