Why Bother Being Kind To Yourself?

Why Bother Being Kind To Yourself?

     It is summer holiday. I am on vacation. I don’t normally see any students or any of my coworkers during the summer months. I don’t get in my car and drive to school to spend time in my classroom preparing lessons. I don’t have a pile of papers to correct, report cards to fill out, data to enter or meetings to attend. I am on recess from all that work, but I am not on recess from myself. There is no such thing as time off from “me.” As the saying goes, wherever I go, there I am.

    Getting to Know Thyself 

     Am I good company? Am I easy to get along with? How do I like spending time with myself? These may sound like odd questions to ask ourselves, and yet they are probably the same kind of questions we’d ask about someone else. “What are they like?” is a legitimate and common query when wondering about someone we don’t know very well.

     It would seem that we would automatically come to know ourselves and at the same time, like ourselves too. Yet, just like becoming comfortable in the company of our spouse or a new friend, it takes time and effort to acquaint ourselves with who we are. Though we can “unlike” a friend or even divorce our spouse, that option is not available when it comes to ourselves. Since we cannot escape from our own presence, it is worth the effort it takes to find compatible ways to coexist with ourselves. 

      Getting to know me has taken time. Getting to like me has taken even longer. I’ve given up on understanding myself and only require that I be kind to myself. I am a recovering taskmaster who is in the process of letting themselves off the hook of perfectionism. It is a work in progress and I am grateful for the progress I’ve made.

     For instance, I know I do not work well under pressure. Instead, I give myself plenty of time to do what needs to be done. I also know that I cannot work at any one thing for any great length of time, so I chunk up projects into smaller portions. Even if I don’t accomplish what I thought I could have within the allotted amount of time, I don’t berate myself. I can walk away before something is completed without criticizing or scolding myself. I’ve realized that beating myself up does not make me want to work any harder. Instead, I’ve learned to cut myself some slack and allow myself to take up the project again, later. Given enough time, I know I will complete whatever needs completing because I’m not a slacker. 

     I don’t like being around cranky people and I know what makes me cranky: lack of sleep, not enough exercise and too many sweets. Knowing I need 7-8 hours of sleep to stay happy, I go to bed early. Knowing I require exercise to stay content, I carve out time every day to swim, bike, run or practice yoga. As much as possible, I listen to my sweet tooth, but I don’t let it dominate my diet. Being kind does not mean giving into every whim. 

     Getting to know myself allows me to accept myself as I would any friend. And just as I’d never use intimate knowledge against any of my friends to do them any evil, I don’t use what I know against myself either.  Instead, I use it to be gracious, pleasant and welcoming.

     Why bother being kind to yourself? It is worth being kind to yourself since you are the one you are with twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, year in and year out. 

Why Bother With Old Friendships?

Why Bother With Old Friendships?

As a teacher, I have consoled more than a few of my fourth grade girls, who with teary eyes have said to me, “Nobody wants to be my friend.” When I tell them that I did not have any good friends until after I’d grown up and gotten married, they are shocked. Their tears dry up, at least for a moment, while they consider how much more unfortunate my life must have been in comparison to theirs. 

“There is plenty of time to find good friends,” I tell them. “If not this year, maybe next.”

Long-Terms Friendships 

Recently, while sitting at dinner with a group of girlfriends that had come together for no other reason than to enjoy each other’s company, I felt the richness of my long held friendships. 

I’ve known all of these women for a great length of time. Some of them for more than thirty years, my most recent friend, for ten. While sitting around the table, we reminisced about the men we fell in love with and why we fell in love with them. 

“It was his legs,” said one friend.

“He was so handsome with his long brown hair,” said another. 

None of us have been divorced and we acknowledged to each other our plans to stay married to the men we fell in love with even though they no longer have those attractive legs, even though their brown hair has turned to gray.  

All these friends of mine are mothers and grandmothers, and some  are still working in their careers. One is a nurse,  one a teacher, one an office administrator and one a chaplain. With some emotion, we reflected on the days of our pregnancies, miscarriages and the those tough years of raising our teenagers. 

We shared our concerns for each other’s health raising our glasses to toast the two at the table who have survived breast cancer. We exchanged stories about our grandchildren and our worries about what the future holds for them. In essence, we shared with each other what we’ve always shared with each other, our hearts.  

My friendships with these women reach back a long time. They knew me in my younger days and I knew them. The seasons we have weathered together have made us more genuine with each other. We are familiar with one another, yet we do not take our fellowship for granted. Our sisterhood did not happen instantly, but over time and in that time our sense of our camaraderie deepened.  

 These friends of mine have made my life richer, and my heart happier. They accept me and my many idiosyncrasies, yet they also make me feel like a significant part of their lives. I may have had to wait a long time for these friends to become my confidants, but they were all worth waiting for. 

Why bother with old friendships? It is worth it to note that we do not make old friends: we make new ones so that someday they too can become our old friends.


Why Bother to be Grateful for Change?

 Why Bother to be Grateful for Change?

I don’t mind when I get to choose to shuffle things around in my life, but when deviations from the norm happen to me, then I tend to see them as an inconvenience, an annoyance and a nuisance. 

 Last summer, my hairstylist retired. I am not a high maintenance gal, I don’t color my hair, perm it, or even require a shampoo. I just need my dead ends cut off every so often. My barber, whom I’d grown accustomed to, knew just how to trim my locks, fluff them up and send me out the door feeling pretty once again. I don’t blame her for ending her relationship with me, but I didn’t quite know what to do without her.

Feeling Pretty

 At first, I tried cutting my own hair as well as handing the scissors over to my husband so he could try. But of course, the look was not the same. Neither of us knew how to fluff my locks to make me look and feel pretty once again.

Then, I realized that putting off finding a new stylist was making me frumpy on the outside and on the inside. At last, I asked a trusted friend for a recommendation. Without hesitation she said, “I’ll call my beautician and ask if you can come with me on my next appointment.” 

Fortunately, the beautician agreed to adopt me as a new client and I followed my friend to her shop one afternoon. Without her guiding the way, I’d never found my way. The shop was located up a snowy county road, off the pavement, and off the grid.

Driving behind my companion in her jeep, I followed her as she drove down the highway then turned off onto a county road. From the county road, I followed her onto a one lane road that resembled a trail more than a road. The ruts in the trail were ice covered and filled with water, raising my adrenaline level.  The route took us around bends and tight curves and at first, I wondered how I’d find my way. But at each bend in the road, my friend waited for me.  In spite of the treachery of the drive, up and down dips and around tight curves, the ride reminded me a little of a roller coaster and I gave into grinning. 

Finally, pulling into a flat dirt driveway in front of the hairdresser’s shop, I got out of my car and walked toward my friend. 

“I’ve never seen the road quite that bad,” she said while laughing.

“I’m just glad you waited for me after each curve.”

“Yeah well, I wasn’t about to lose sight of you in my rearview mirror.”

Inside the clean and warm shop, the new stylist trimmed off my accumulated dead ends, fluffed my hair and made me look and feel pretty once again. 

“Text me if you have any trouble,” my comrade called out as I left her in the salon chair. I was confident she meant what she said and turned my car toward home.  

Although I’d rather my stylist had not retired leaving me to find a new one, deviations from the norm can’t be helped. But trustworthy friends who are willing to give you a recommendation and who don’t leave you to find your own way on an icy trail, make a difference. 

Why bother to be grateful for change? It is worth it when you have someone who turns those inconveniences, annoyances and problems into a little adventure.