Last weekend I totally screwed up. For my health I have to avoid certain foods. If I eat those foods (on purpose or on accident, it does not matter, the result is the same) I feel really really rotten. If I eat more of those foods I feel more rotten. So I read food labels and do my best to avoid those foods. And usually I do pretty well.
But then there was last weekend. I was already feeling rotten when I bought something to eat at the airport (because I had accidentally eaten the food I was not supposed to eat the day before at an event). At the airport I thought I read the label and I thought it specifically said the food did not have what I was avoiding. Great! I can eat this, I thought. So I bought the food and I sat on an airplane for a couple hours eating that food. And I ate that food all the way home. And I continued to feel worse and worse. And I could not figure out why I was feeling more and more rotten. And I kept eating that food.
When I got home and was clearing out my bag I happened to look at the package for the food I had been eating all day and, well, there was my answer for why I was feeling rotten. I read the label wrong. In fact, I read the label so wrong that it even said the food contained the exact thing (in bold) I was supposed to avoid. So, I screwed up. And I paid for it for 3+ days. And at first I was really angry with myself and hard on myself about not reading the label and making that mistake. I gave myself a lot of not-so-nice lectures about reading carefully and paying attention and being smarter. And not only did I feel physically rotten but I started feeling mentally rotten too.
Then I remembered if I were my own best friend I would tell myself to be a little bit kinder to myself. I would remind myself we all make mistakes, honest-to-goodness mistakes. And we hopefully learn from those mistakes (like reading more carefully). And we give ourselves a hug, and make a cup of tea, and drink some broth and know that in about 3 days we will feel better again. And that is life.
Have you made a mistake recently? Were you kind and forgiving with yourself? Were you harsh and punishing? Did you learn anything?
In the past month I have started posts about
- helping people
- being helped (and being vulnerable)
- reaching out if you see someone struggling
- being your best self (and being your worst self)
- being stretched vs being centered
- being kind
- recognizing cruelty (and what to do about it)
- standing up when you are scared (to stand)
I have published none. I cannot seem to finish them. I cannot seem to find a way to resolve them or say what I want to say. It might be because I don’t know exactly what I want to say, but there are a few common themes.
- Be kind
- Help each other
- Dig in the dirt and spend time outside
- Challenge yourself but know where your center is
- Stand up for kindness (and against cruelty)
And that is how it works when you are blocked.
If I were my own best friend I would tell myself to look back at where I have come from (lots of unpublished posts), reflect on where I am (frustrated with a steaming pile of unpublished posts), and move forward (publish a post that is a compilation of all the steam). Done. There might a train analogy in here (steam and locomotion) or a compost analogy (steaming pile and creating something new). But I am going to leave you on your own to mull that over (cider and such, mull, get it? ha. tis the season).
It was Halloween in these parts last week. Everyone left to go trick-or-treating and I stayed home to hand out goodies. I was alone. The lights were mostly off in the house. It was dark outside. I was playing music in the background – Spooky Symphonies. Lots of string instruments and drums and rumbles and suspense.
Someone would knock on the door. I would open the door, hand out treats, then return to my mostly dark house with spooky music. Over the course of about 30 minutes I felt myself getting more and more anxious, more and more on edge. What was going on? I normally like Halloween and seeing all the costumes. It took me another 10 minutes to figure out it was the music making me anxious.
I switched to country pop music, turned on a few lights, and within another 10 minutes I was back to mellow and happy. Moral of the story? If I were my own best friend I would tell myself not to stay home alone, turn off the lights, and listen to scary music unless I want to scare the be-jeebies out of myself. I would also tell myself to change the soundtrack from time to time. If the background noise is not working for me, then change it up. This can apply to so many things in life, in this case it was literally the background music, but it can apply to so much more. How would your life be different if something in your background changed?
It is hard to be mindful and focus on one thing when there are so many things pushing in all at once. Sometimes I like to imagine I am in a box and I can push the walls out to give myself space to be able to focus more completely on one thing at a time. I push the walls by meditating or exercising or literally pushing back and saying ‘no’ to things. I push the walls by taking a moment to breathe or to be quiet or to look outside at the sky. I push the walls by holding my arms out and refusing to let anything distract me from what I want to be present with in that moment (spouse, kids, family, friends, sunset, sunrise, delicious scone, and so on).
If I were my own best friend I would tell myself to make space – to be able to be present and focused – push out the walls. Do you ever do this? What kind of things do you do to give yourself mental space?
Title: A Helping Hand
Author: this blog
Characters : Lion and person
Lion: ROOOOARRR ROWR Ro-Ro-ROAR (I am really really not having a great time and I could use some help, like a hand, a helping hand. I am struggling.) ROAR.
Person: Hey lion. I can help. What do you need? Can I lend a hand? That is unfortunate you are struggling.
Lion: Roar. (That would be great. I could sure use some help. Come in.)
Person: (walks into lion’s den) So lion, what’s going on? What can I do?
Lion: Roooo-ar (Well, I could really use a hand)
Person: OK….. Owwwwwwch.
Lion: Nom-nom-nom (hand tastes good)
OK, I know. Sooo wrong. Sooo very wrong. But it’s been in my head for a couple weeks now and I finally decided to go for it and post it. But I know, soooo wrong.
Now if I were my own best friend I would say there a few lessons to be learned here from lion and person –
- Lion might be kind of a jerk (or maybe lion’s not ready for help).
- Lion asks for help but maybe lion really just wanted to take advantage of some person’s good nature and eat their hand (jerk).
- Or, lion asked for help but did not really want help or was not ready for help. Sometimes asking for help and then receiving it is a big scary step. Sometimes you might want to be a lion out on the plains doing your own lion-thing and not need anyone else for anything else. Freedom and dependence on no one. But here is the thing about being human – we need other people. We need community.
- Sometimes we need help.
- Person might not be very bright (or very committed to helping).
- Don’t offer a hand unless you are willing to truly give a hand (to a lion).
- Think about what you are offering and make sure you are not being taken advantage of (by a lion or a jerk).
- But also do not offer to help someone unless you really mean it – usually offering help does not mean literally giving your hand but sometimes it means giving up time or money or both and you have to be ready for that.
- Sometimes we need to offer help.
So basically it comes down to this. If you need help, ask for it, and be ready to accept help if someone offers up. And if you answer the call for help be ready to step up and provide. Don’t be a jerk and take advantage of people who are trying to help. Be honest. Be present. Be human. Be helpful.
Low touch. High touch.
I was at a public park last week for an event and I had to use the bathroom. I have become so accustomed to automatic flushing toilets, sinks that turn on with the wave of a hand, and towel dispensers that respond to movement that I was caught off guard when I had to touch the toilet to flush, turn on water with a handle, and pull the towel out of the dispenser. I actually had to touch something, many things, to take care of business as it were. Weird, right? It’s not as if I have any of those automatic gadgets at home – everything at home is self-serve. Yet in public places it has become much less common to actually touch anything.
This got me thinking about other ways in which we “touch” less. Like the “virtual hug” I might send a friend via text. Or the “high five” I might offer over the phone to a colleague. Or the email that congratulates someone for a big life event with the words “congratulations (hug)”. No touch. Low touch.
Now what about the actual hug I offer my neighbor when she tells me her kitchen sink backed up all over her kitchen and she has a pile of dishes three feet high? Or the high five I give an acquaintance when he mentions he is buying his first home? How about holding a child’s hand when he is scared? High touch.
So I know a public bathroom is an odd way to try to illustrate this. (And I know that not touching the flushing mechanism on toilets or handles on sinks or towel dispensers ultimately helps reduce the spread of germs.) But I also know that there are a lot of other ways we are losing touch, not just in bathrooms. We are losing the hugs and the high fives and the physical connection with friends, loved ones and neighbors. And while I think it is great to have low touch bathroom environments I think it is equally important to have high touch relationships with people in our lives.
So if I were my own best friend I would remind myself to reach out to those I care about and offer hugs, hands, and connection. Remember that touch is one of the senses and it should not be used for touch screen devices only. It should be used for fuzzy blankets and puppies and holding hands of loved ones. Please go hug someone you love!
Treading water or swimming? What’s the difference? They are both in the water. You are putting effort into both. You are expending energy. You are getting wet. You are using a combination of small movements to do something.
But with one, treading water, you are expending energy to stay in the same place and keep your head above water. With the other, swimming, you are expending energy to move and you are going from one place to another.
Which one are you doing in your life right now? Are you treading water or swimming? One is not necessarily better than the other – they are just different motions with different end results.
If I were my own best friend I would step back and take a look at where I am at in my life (this could be with any area or aspect) and decide if I am treading or swimming. Am I staying still and stable or am I moving towards something (or away from something)? And if I am treading water, but I want to be swimming, what do I need to do to shift my position and start moving through the water that is life?