Showing Kindness to Myself

Showing Kindness to Myself August 10, 2018

When we found out we’d be moving back to the Bay Area in the middle of May, I cloaked myself in bravery.

Pixabay

I would be brave.

I would put on my bravest face, and even if tears fell – because they always, inevitably do – I would be brave and strong and resilient, for my husband and our sons. After all, it wouldn’t be hard to return to Oakland, because the place kind of runs through our bones, with people who seem to speak the same language. But still, it would be hard to leave because leaving is always hard.

Transitions are hard.

Good-byes are hard.

Giving up old normals for new and shiny not-yet normals is hard. 

But we would do it together, because doing it together was the only thing we could do.

Before we left, though, I had to get through my list of Really Brave Things. I had to say good-bye to people, noting the limitations of what I could and couldn’t do in the midst of transition: I had to say no to opportunities and invitations. I had to let things go. I had to not be able to be all things to all people.

Eventually, after last coffee dates, an epic camping trip in Central Oregon, one last sermon at our little Episcopal church in Seattle, a couple of days with my parents, and ten and a half hours in the car, we pulled into the driveway of our new home.

And I was exhausted.

Suddenly, all the bravery in the world didn’t matter.

It didn’t matter that we’d gotten through the good-byes or hours upon hours in the car. Like a young child who holds it together during the school day because they have to but melts into a mushy, gooey pile of messiness safe once they reach the safety of home, I too began to melt when I reached the safety of my new home.

Up until a night or two ago, I found myself in bed by 8:30, eyes glazed over by a decades-long war between the C and D blocks on Orange is the New Black. I was too tired to read, for crying out loud, all my energy going toward keeping two small humans and one large human (that’s me) alive during the day.

Life no longer called for bravery but for kindness.

Of course, the funny thing is that our family talks about kindness on a regular basis, uttering a daily mantra that sounds something like this:

We use our bodies for good, we use our words for kindness. 

But when it comes to speaking kindness toward myself, I’m not always so good at that part. Kindness toward my husband and our boys I can do, even if it takes a big pause and a deep breath in and out. Kindness toward friends and strangers I can do too, especially when the Quiet Voice Within reminds me that we’re all doing the best we can, that we’re all fighting some sort of battle.

I say this and I preach this and I model this to other human beings, but I’m not always so good at showing kindness toward myself.

But caring for myself by being kind first to myself is necessary for me to truly be kind to other people. 

I can’t help but think back to the film, Won’t You Be My Neighbor, which I wrote about a couple of weeks ago. Fred Rogers was a man of deep faith, a devout Christian ordained by the PCUSA specifically for a children’s television audience. Repeatedly, the filmmakers emphasized his mission to love your neighbor and love yourself, but when I first heard it I cocked my head to the side.

In the Bible we’re told to love God and love other people, I thought to myself. Where’s the God part of his philosophy, and where in his rendition of the Greatest Commandment does it tell us to love ourselves?

I wanted to believe in his message of love and kindness, because I do believe in his message of love and kindness – but the Old Me still wanted to play it safe within the lines of a coloring book religion.

After all, the Old Me believes that it’s all up to her, that it’s all about what she can do and how she can perform so God will love her more.

But the New Me knows that God already loves me, that I am already a Child of God – that you are already a Child of God, that we are all already beloved Children of God. So with this already-loved already done, I am free to love others and love myself, because it’s in receiving God’s love that I am able to give love away.

It’s in knowing who I already am that I’m able to love myself and the people around me – and by loving others, I subsequently, automatically, wholly love God in return. 

But this loving myself and showing kindness to myself I still have to work on.

So, tell me: is it the same for you?

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