I’m hoping to talk more about self-compassion soon, about what it looks and sounds like, and how one might actually practice it, if they were so inclined. I also hope to relay some of my experiences on this journey to self-compassion, in case they may be helpful to others who are curious about walking this path.
Thrice this weekend I had opportunities to practice self-compassion, and you know what? Not only were those moments not nearly as drawn out and wreaking of resentment, at the end of each I actually had some insightful realizations about thoroughly entrenched thought process.
First, when I was mentally adding up my grocery spending for the month, I started to realize it was going to be almost exactly the same as last month, even though I hoped to bring it down $100. Right as I started telling myself how dumb it was that I didn’t make any significant changes but still thought I was going to spend less (this is how I hide my self-criticism, by saying what I’m DOING is dumb, and not calling MYSELF dumb. Well played inner critic, well played), I stopped myself and changed tracks and said: This is really hard. Changing deeply ingrained habits is really hard. All people struggle with this, and it’s so easy to feel like I’m the only one who hasn’t been able to change the way I do something. But every struggles with this. And it’s really hard. And it sucks to feel like you are failing. But you are really trying, you just don’t know how to make this change.
It was that last sentence that struck me: I DON’T KNOW HOW TO SPEND LESS BUYING GROCERIES. I mean, sure I know what other people do to spend less, but I haven’t really sat down and thought about which of those strategies might work for me and my family with our specific strengths and weakness and our unique restrictions. I honestly had never considered that before, the fact that I didn’t have any plan to actually change the way I buy food. I just kept telling myself, This month I’m going to spend less on groceries, and then I just didn’t buy one or two things randomly and hoped to see a significant difference in spending. Of course what I’m spending hasn’t changed! I haven’t changed the way I buy groceries! It was a real a-ha moment for me.
Later I got into it with my husband, but I stopped myself, and instead of berating myself for losing it with him again, I hugged myself and recognized how hard being married is, and how hard it is with kids, and how I’m really trying but it’s fucking hard and everyone does shit in their marriages they regret and it’s okay that I made a mistake. And I cried, but I calmed down faster than I would have and I didn’t feel any resentment toward my husband. I thought about the things I normally do after a blow up, all the reasons I feel resentful and upset (like how I think of ways to make his life easier and offer them, but he never does that for me, he just comes home and sits on the couch while I race between bedrooms at bedtime until I can finally collapse on the bed at 9pm), and I thought: If I didn’t ask for what I needed he’d never offer it to me. I have to duck out of work early to make time to exercise and provide my own self-care because he never gives me the time. And then I thought: I’m lucky to be able to carve out those moments, to leave work early and run before I pick up the kids, and then shower while they are watching TV and dinner is cooking. And then I realized: it must be hard for him to carve out that time for himself, his work hours go later and he doesn’t have as much flexibility. And those hours on the couch are really all he has.
I can’t tell you what an incredible moment that was. It has been SO LONG since I saw his situation in a sympathetic light. Whether or not he feels like he can’t carve out time for himself or not, for me to have that thought was momentous. TRULY.
The third instance came shortly after when I was outside with my son in the backyard, which is completely overgrown with weeds. I was lamenting how everything I planted two years ago died after a few months (I couldn’t water them because of the drought, but they probably would have died anyway), and now the clover is back and the wild grass and both have taken over and I am a failure for letting it get that way and I will never be able to rip it all out. And then I looked out at it and my daughter was standing in the middle, blowing on a dandelion. I was about to call out to her not to blow on it because then a million more would be growing in the yard, but I stopped myself and said, Girl, you better not tell your daughter not to wish on that dandelion. They are going to grown regardless and shame of you for even thinking of telling her to stop. I was thinking that as I looked up and saw her, standing there, blowing with all her might as she made her wish. Suddenly I recognized how beautiful our yard is, with the green and the yellow flowers and the white blossoms, like a long forgotten garden, a secret treasure lost to anyone but us. Why would I want to pull up the clover and the grass? So we can sit in a landscape of brown dirt? Where is the beauty in that?
I sat there thinking that I’ve been annoyed at the overgrowth of clover for months, thinking only of how I didn’t plant it or want it there, ignoring the fact that nothing I did plant could grow anymore anyway, and that the clover and grass made it beautiful.
These were three really big moments for me, and I attribute them all to treating myself with compassion when I was feeling upset. I think when I’m kind to myself I’m better able to see what is actually happening, because I’m not busy judging or labeling any part of my experience.
Late Saturday night my husband told me that he wants us to see a marriage counselor. I fee like I should be happy, because it means he’s willing to work to improve our relationship. Instead I feel deeply sad, knowing that he’s as unhappy as I am.
I’ve spent a lot of today attempting to treat myself kindly, to let myself feel my sadness even when I don’t really understand why I’m feeling it. Surprisingly, when I’m nicer to myself, I find the space to be kinder to my husband as well, and that has made today a lot more pleasant than it would have been. I’m not 100% sure where this journey to self-compassion is taking me, but walking this path intrigues me.