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Born in the US, raised on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, lived in Italy, the US, and Canada. Lover of language, travel, colour, and the natural world.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Mid-week compassion

"Don't walk behind me; I may not lead. Don't walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend." -Albert Camus

The past two weeks have been tough ones for me. I almost don't want to use the word "tough" anymore because the past year and a half since I left Canada have been tough, and I think I may have overused the word to the point where it has lost its meaning, but lets just say things have been hard in my universe. I have had an incredible number of amazing experiences, and have been surrounded by superb friends non-stop, which has made the challenges easier to bear, but they have not ceased to exist completely. I injured my neck two weeks ago doing an inversion yoga workshop, and my doctor recommended that I visit a chiropractor who specializes in adjusting the atlas -- the vertebrae right at the top of the spine -- one one that the scull sits on. I have been going to this specialist for two weeks now, and he has not yet managed to get the atlas to sit in the right place, so I have been feeling nauseated and having headaches on and off for two weeks straight. I have also been having stomach problems that my doctor has not been able to diagnose, which means that I have stomach aches on and off pretty much every day.

I have always had a strong body. Everything else could be falling apart, but my body was always right there for me, so coming to terms with the pain and uncertainty the last two weeks has left me feeling overwhelmed and discouraged.

I also decided this past week that I was setting a deadline for finding work for January. By January I want to have steady work again. In order to take steps towards making that a reality, I delivered job applications to the only large (hiring) bookstore in the city, and the local food coop, in the hope that they might offer me at least part time work.

So far neither my job applications nor my doctor appointments have proven successful in accomplishing my goal of become both employed and healthy. Today I got home from a doctors appointment and collapsed onto my couch with a box of tissues. I felt like playing "it's my party and i'll cry if I want to" (for the record, I didn't ;-)).

Fortunately my dad is on vacation right now, and he witnessed my complete meltdown and knew it was time for some compassion. He told me to grab my bag and my dark sunglasses, and meet him in the car. When I finally made it out to the car with my wad of tissues, he announced that we were going out for burgers. I looked at him like he was crazy. "Dad, it's 3.30 in the afternoon," I said. "Nobody will still be serving lunch at this hour." "This is California," he said to me. "We will find somewhere." So we drove to a (practically empty) restaurant that was serving, and ordered burgers and fries. My dad just sat there with me. He didn't try to be funny or attempt to make me feel better. He knew I was at the end of my tether, and just needed a good meal in my belly and the presence of someone who cared. We ate mostly in silence, and by the time we were done I was feeling a good deal better. He drove me home, confident that I would be able to make it through the rest of the day (I did. And managed to get work done before the end of the work day, which given my state earlier, was a tremendous accomplishment).

This evening I had a date to talk with my dear friend Ahava on the phone. But by dinner my head was hurting so much that I didn't even feel like supper, let alone chatting on the phone. I sent an email to Ahava telling her that I was not up to our chat, and asking if we could postpone it til another day. Fortunately she did not get my email, and at the designated time, the phone rang. I started our conversation by telling her that I was not sure I was up for our chat, but within the first two minutes of our conversation, I could tell that I talking with Ahava was exactly what I needed to be doing. We talked for about an hour, sharing our news and accomplishments, our fears and challenges, our hopes and plans and moments of joy and vulnerability and uncertainty. Best of all, we laughed. We always do.

Talking with Ahava, and my dad's kindness today reminds me that sometimes when I am trying my hardest, and nothing seems to be working, the best thing to do is show myself a little compassion. Laugh. Take a bath. Make myself a cup of tea. Call a girlfriend who knows that I am not all disaster and disintegration -- that I can laugh at life and myself, that I am continuing to do my best even when there are few visual indications that I am making progress...I tend to be very self-critical, and remembering to just "be," as Ahava says, is so vital to regaining balance when the equilibrium has been upset.

I am working on editing three poems to send off to a poetry competition on Friday. It is the first time I am submitting poems to anything in a few years, and I have been so nervous about it that I kept putting it off and putting it off. This afternoon, after my hamburger outing with my father, I edited my second poem. On Friday I will send the poems off.

I was speaking with Ahava this evening about baby steps. Sometimes, I am realizing, baby steps are actually giant. This week just getting through the work week is going to be a major accomplishment. Sending off my packet of poems is going to be truly monumental.

In this world where success is measured by constant growth, and rewarded with even more work, it is hard to give ourselves permission to just "be." To admit that our bodies are not always going to function perfectly, and that even if we try our hardest, sometimes things just do not work out the way we had hoped. I have always been someone who, when looking around me at people who had no work, or did not enjoy the work they had, or were not earning enough, etc, etc, always assumed that they were just not trying hard enough. That I should encourage them to just keep trying. I see now that this assumption was simply ignorance. I also see that often the best thing that I can offer others who are going through a hard time is my friendship and compassion.

I almost did not write a blog entry today. I didn't know what to say, and the idea of sharing how I was really feeling today seemed unwise. Who, I thought to myself, would want to read about more challenge in a world full of so much of it already? But you know what? I think we do need to start allowing ourselves to be more human. To be honest about the fact that we have times when we can go it alone, and times when we need the support and encouragement of friends and family. It is part of being human.

How do you show compassion for yourself when you are having a tough day? How do you treat people who cross your path who are obviously struggling? Can you treat yourself and everyone who crosses your path a greater degree of compassion? Give it a try over the next week. See if it changes your experience of life and relationships. I would love to hear your reflections if you care to share. Have a lovely, compassionate-filled Thursday, Friends.

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