"Be Good to Yourself" :: Not Just Some Pithy Pablum
Yes, that is the unwieldy title that came to me as I washed last night's dishes. I'm not supposed to baby my arm, so after removing the wound dressing yesterday and showering (glory be to the shower), I'm easing back into everyday chores.
Standing at the sink, reflecting on coaching sessions from yesterday with people at various stages of the writing process. One who is barely writing at all, as her life has taken a dramatic turn and there must be some transition time to recalibrate the body, to settle into new daily rhythms, and to simply tune in. One who has compiled all of her blog posts and lo and behold, perhaps the book is closer than she thought so what are her next steps? One who must complete an academic paper on which her future career hinges, who is facing down somatic trauma in laying bare her some deeply intimate experiences for a panel of male academics to read and evaluate.
My little tagline: "Start. Keep going. Be good to yourself."
The unusual-for-me number of Facebook friend requests lately. I can't figure out their source. Is it that I'm talking as much about coaching as I am about writing these days? There's a disproportionate number of folks who appear to fall into the "lightworker" category in this mix. I'm mindful of my own judgement. I want to be open-minded. But the truth is also that I'm wary. And I'm wary of my own wariness.
The journey of speaking out against injustice while staying awake to my own privilege (white, multiple degrees, social networks), and not falling into the black holes of a) saviorism ("omg how can I help those poor people"), b) avoidance ("I'll just focus on what feels good), c) self-righteousness or d) performative "woke-ness" (yuck) is, you guessed it, a journey. In other words, it's a daily thing, like doing the dishes. You can either do a rush job and find greasy residue and food bits later, or you can take your time with each dish, top, bottom, side, lather, rinse, repeat.
So back to the tagline, "Be good to yourself."
In light of so many recent friend requests from people who might think this is a love-and-light, feel-good thing, I suddenly felt the urge to write a little about what the hell it has to do with writing and also with showing up to a world filled with agony and unconscionable acts and telling our own stories.
We are masters of self-sabotage. Repeating trauma loops, re-injuring ourselves long after the scene of the crime, no matter the scene, has been cleared, and experiencing pain addiction -- these are not weak, they are human.
If I say, for example, I am committing to writing an installment of my memoir every Sunday, and then six Sundays pass without writing because "life happened" (life has a way of doing that), I have a fundamental choice. I can beat myself up, stepping into the role of inner prosecutor: "Your honor, may I present further evidence that this woman is not what she claims to be. She is most certainly not a Real Writer." Or I can practice being good to myself. This does not mean giving up on the writing. On the contrary, it may be the only true way back to it.
Over time, being good to myself has come to mean something akin to unconditional kind regard towards myself. It doesn't mean I'm always happy with myself. It doesn't mean I don't fuck up. It doesn't mean I don't fall down on my goals or fall prey to my blindspots. Believe me, all of those happen on the regular.
It has to do with how I meet myself in the living. How I choose to relate to everything as an opportunity to find some kernel of gentleness and compassion -- not to be conflated with coddling.
You can love firmly and fiercely and hold a person to their highest potential AND be deeply kind to them. "Them" being "you."
I talk a lot about "writing and life," and this is why. I believe that how we relate to ourselves in the writing process is a microcosm of how we relate to ourselves in the larger context of life, too. You can keep yourself bound to such unreachable standards that nothing, nothing will be enough. Perfectionism is not an easy habit to break, but it is a habit nonetheless.
Hating on yourself is not cool. It doesn't exactly open the creative floodgates. And "being good to yourself" is neither as easy as it sounds or as shallow as it may seem. In fact, I'd argue that its depths are vast, and when you dive down, you'll find wreckage and treasure alike. And isn't that where the writing lives?
Maybe today is a good day to practice this. Pick one place where you've been stuck and being hard on yourself about it. Consider sitting for a few minutes with yourself. Hand on your heart. Quiet. The way you would with a really dear friend.
And then, when you feel ready, commit to one thing. One action. It can be really small. Tell one other human about it, or your cat or dog. (Cats and dogs are awesome accountability buddies.) Play with this. Call it practice. The important thing is to start -- and then to keep going.