Wednesday 11 January 2017

One Thing (on Resolutions and being KIND)

On Sunday at my church community's gathering, we were encouraged to think about ONE THING that we were going to focus on this year. I think we all struggled to narrow things down, straight away at least five things popped into my head. And while life does generally require us to balance more than one plate, I think there is a lot of wisdom in choosing one thing, one word, one activity. That way when it comes down to a choice between two important ways to spend an evening - for example - you've got your one thing to measure that choice against. I just listened to another of the Minimalists' great podcasts, on priorities, and again, they were saying how having several priorities realistically means we probably won't get any of them done.

Maybe the obvious one for me, this year, is WRITE. There's also PHOTOGRAPHY and DANCE. Maybe CREATE is more apt --- and I think this has always been the issue, that I try to spread myself too thin, that perhaps I don't want to risk just focusing on one thing because I might miss out. Or #FOMO as I've recently learned (fear of missing out). That's been quite a clear thread throughout my life - from A-level choices (I was the only person at school who studied Maths, Geography, Theatre Studies and Biology) to seeming to prefer to have three jobs simultaneously. In the end, I never get very far. Maybe that's fine, and there's definite value in variety and being a bit of a generalist, but I would like to at least attempt the discipline of ONE THING.

Having said that, this exercise at church brought me back to the whole Being Kind To Myself idea which has been a bit of a mantra in recent months. Because actually, I think all these creative things I want to achieve have to stem out of that. Otherwise it's not sustainable, joy is not nurtured, and I run the risk of losing any passion and burning myself out. I want to extend that to Being Kind To Others too. Which I think is increased when we are kind to ourselves. I judge myself very harshly, and in turn I also judge others.  I have high expectations of myself and of those around me - which means it's very easy to disappoint myself or feel let down by friends and family. I don't necessarily verbalise most of this, but I know it's going on inside, and I'm sure it displays on my face quite frequently since I cannot control my expressions!

I suppose I want the motivation for my actions to be coming from a healthy place. That doesn't mean not doing stuff that's challenging or painful - but the reason behind it should be positive. One definition of being kind is being generous. I like to think of that as being generous with grace, with understanding - making space for mistakes, for getting things wrong, for stopping and starting again. That might mean laughing at myself instead of swearing at myself when I lose my keys for the 100th time in a day. It might mean slowing down to really listen to a friend, being generous with time. It might mean that tricky balance of allowing myself to feel upset about something and not calling myself stupid for it, while at the same time being quick to forgive the person that hurt me. This is not easy!

Another definition of kind is 'not causing harm or damage' and again for me that relates to what's going on in my mind. The tiniest mistake or misunderstanding can trigger a barrage of negative thoughts, which lead me to feeling anxious throughout my whole body and then, often, depressed. Just yesterday something happened at work which was not really my fault, but it caused someone to be upset which made for an awkward and uncomfortable end to the shift. All evening and all day today I've felt like I've had a dark cloud over me and my heart and stomach have been doing anxious flips as I re-run the conversations as well as rehearse how I might try to rectify the situation tomorrow. I'm worried about how it might affect my working relationship with that person, that I won't be able to communicate what I need to. Even though I know it wasn't intentional, despite reassurance from Mr Q and singing "Let it Go" to myself, I'm finding it impossible to shrug it off. My instinct is to think about running away.

These intense responses over "small things" are part of what has made previous jobs and also living situations and pretty much LIFE feel so hard at times. I know that living in the 'real world' means conflict, confrontation, disagreement, disappointment will happen, as much as I try to avoid it. I had a session with a Life Coach over the summer who was really helpful in showing how these thought patterns and reactions and physical responses are all connected - and she also said it's possible to train your brain to respond differently. I want to believe that's true because I would love to able to deal with all this in a much better way. I need to be able to. But to be honest I'm not very sure how, right now. So I guess that's what this whole Being Kind thing is about for me - hopefully this year making steps towards that mix of gentleness and strength that will enable me to walk through life without either building a wall around me or dissolving into a puddle on the floor.

Well, that got a little deeper than I intended, but I guess that's where I'm at today. And maybe my ONE THING is still a bit of a mixture, but if kindness is the starting place then I think I can't go far wrong.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wondering if Ali Edwards 'One Little Word' concept might be helpful as you try to focus on one thing for 2017?

Even if you don't take part formally, it can be a helpful practice - choosing one word focusses the mind, while exploring the different dimensions and implications of the word throughout the year makes it more expansive than choosing a single resolution...