Grace. Amazing.

Think for a minute of your best friend. That person you call first with good news or bad. The one who listens intently and lets you vent or offers advice depending on which you need, and knowing you as well as they do, they intuitively know which it is. Think of the times you’ve celebrated one another’s achievements, wept and mourned together, gotten angry over the same injustice, because if one of you is wronged, it may as well have happened to both of you. This is the person whose energy is a reciprocity of your own…they carry you when you fall, and as time goes by, they inevitably stumble and there you are, switching roles. These gems are the human forms of life support when life, itself, is stepping on our air hose. I have a “For emergencies only,” phrase I use with one of my closest friends. During these times, if I call her and she can’t answer, I text, “My back is against the wall.” My phone is ringing within minutes. The same applies to her. This level of urgency has been used only a handful of times, by both of us, over a period of five years. We have called each other out when we see choices being made that we can forecast with near certainty, will lead to less than desirable results. We’ll probably exchange sibling-like retorts, take space, and come back together, apologetically and stronger than before. But, always, ALWAYS, we lean into the comfort of knowing we each have the other’s best interest at heart. I wanted to conjure up the image of YOUR individual for each of you to hold in your mind and heart while we go on a little journey. Sometimes, we, as vessels, are full and can easily meet another suffering human where they are, offer solace and provide support and reassurance, filling them with some of our own positivity. We can stand guard over them, in a sense, carrying a light and extending love that creates a sense of safety that all will be well, again. Other times, it’s not that easy. We may be having our own inner dialogue that has drained us of the ability to offer anything of value to another human being. Not because we have nothing to offer, but because we are not first acknowledging our own self worth. In the worst cases, this falsehood is chronic and permeates all aspects of the individual’s life. They feel permanently unable to be enough, just as they are. It can stem from abuse, toxic relationships, substance dependence, and various forms of self loathing. It will hold us back from pursuit of everything from a dream job to a conversation with a stranger. Such harsh self judgement, then, hardly provides a soft spot to land with someone for whom you may have shown up a thousand times. They may “owe you,” but their emotional tank is empty. They take, because they do not first see that they have anything TO give. Stop banging your head against this impenetrable wall. This futile attempt at seeking genuine support is fruitless and maddening. They aren’t withholding simply because they are users and their world centers around their ego, (although these people, of course, exist and should be stiff-armed as we fiercely guard our own safe space.) It can elicit a range of negative feelings, from anger and bitterness to disbelief and mistrust. This is especially true if you tend to be the “strong friend” to whom others feel safe relaying their troubles. Then, when YOU need a strong friend, the crickets are your only company. While this sense of rejection is painful, there is one that is more damaging than all other forms of desertion. Beyond the best friend, our broader circle of friends or even the toxic relative…what are we saying about OURSELVES to ourselves? If you’d like to experience a truly cathartic moment, write a letter to yourself. Write it to the person you hope to be in ten years. Write it to the younger version of you before the world made you harder and less tolerant. Before we ever grow cynical and harsh to our environment and the people in it, we’ve already grown judgmental and frustrated with ourselves. That it comes out as criticism and judgement against others is merely a reflection of the quality of our inner selves. We can wake up feeling pretty good. And, before you’ve even had breakfast, the record starts playing in our heads: “You are such a loser. You don’t DESERVE to win and your hair looks like shit.” We could make an entire, horribly non-melodic song using the demeaning language we speak to ourselves. Think “Phoebe” from Friends, with her guitar in hand, strumming an equally non-melodic tune: “You are not a good daughter, your mom’s birthday package is still in the backseat of your caaaar. You shouldn’t have worn those pants until you lost fiiiiive more pounds. Muffin top. Muffin top. Muffffin toooop. Get a job. Oh, nevermind…no one has returned anny of your calls from your intervieeeewws.” You get the picture. It’s all that negative, sick self speak that highlights and assumes the lowest version of ourselves. It’s not healthy. It’s not accountability. It’s not about being responsible. It is demanding more of ourselves than we can give in the moment, and it’s demanding the wrong things…that we undo a piece of the past and redo it, better. Pointless. Stressful. Infuriating. And, if you can’t take on one more thing, you can’t take on one more thing. Not if you want to regain any semblance of sanity and eventually, tranquility. In a society of, “now,” “instant,” and “fast,” we aren’t conditioned to slow down when that is precisely what should happen next. We tend to speed up in an attempt to clear the to do list so that we can finally relax. Few things are more backwards than putting off self care until we have time to do it. By repeatedly ignoring our own needs, we are sending a message to ourselves that we are not worthy of a break, a massage, a time out…that whatever is on “the list” is more important that ourselves. This warped, but prolific mentality fosters inefficiency, mood swings and exhaustion. We keep going even though we’ve long since ran out of gas. It is in the midst of stress that we have an opportunity to step back, create space for our well being and return to manage the upheavals with a nourished and more balance mind, body and soul. Only in the most extreme cases will the problem not be waiting for you after a run, a chat, some yoga and meditation, a meal or some simple breathing exercises. Even the change in environment by walking outside or taking a 20 minute drive can reset our hippocampus and our reactions to the drama will most likely be significantly decreased to match the size of the issue. It seems anywhere you go, you hear people in conversation trying to, “out-busy” each other. At some point in our society, being frazzled began to carry with it some bizarre sense of nobility. Before  deleting them, we’ve all ran across those social media ‘friends’ with posts that take up the entire computer screen, touting every last task the poster accomplished that day. Never mind that it was 216 things and they don’t have a solitary ounce of healthy self preservation remaining. They “got ‘er done.” (I detest that phrase, so it seemed fitting here.) What are they then able to offer the world, a friend, their family, themselves? Chances are, it’s like poking a bear to interact with them. Hence, people avoid them and they move through life as a martyr, seeking credit, pity and praise. And, so the cycle goes. I speak a lot of grace. It’s a deeply held personal belief that there is a shortage of it in the world. We don’t extend it to each other nearly enough and, often, to ourselves, even less. The oldest definition of grace is described as, “…the unmerited favor of God toward man.” We can just as easily adapt that definition to extend that unmerited favor toward mankind. Did I do anything to deserve you being tolerant and respectful in the midst of an acute mood swing? No. But, you were. And, it diffused the situation at warp speed. It’s nearly impossible to be angry/frantic/operating in chaos when someone looks you in the eye and says, calmly and matter of factly, “Looks like you need some help. It’s gonna be ok.” Too often we (finger pointed back at self) inflame an already delicate situation by bringing more kindling to the fire. We need WATER, people! So many relationships, both romantic and platonic, have ended over the inability to extend grace. Small things. Hurt feelings. Misunderstandings. We pole vault over mouse turds. What, exactly, keeps us from WANTING to move past a perceived wrongdoing? We definitely don’t feel better. We don’t have a sense of resolution. We are more irritable, or, just as bad, ambivalent about people and things that should matter to us. In other words, not extending grace is EXHAUSTING. Who knew? And, who would have thought it was as simple as beginning with ourselves. Letting it go, even if …ESPECIALLY…if we mess up. Offering an apology is important, but guess what? It’s not really fruitful if you don’t forgive YOURSELF. All of this, every last bit, comes back to our ability to show up for ourselves. To find the capacity to simply say, “How very human of me.” With practice, we are soon mastering what, at one time, felt utterly foreign. Our new normal is walking to our yoga mats or our hiking trail or in to visit our massage therapist with a tornado roaring in the background. And, we return calmer, more adapted to handle the stress and more capable of giving grace and emotional bandages to our fellow humans. All because we were first kind to ourselves. Now, go have a snack, or a nap, or a trip to Perth. And, grace? Spread that stuff like peanut butter. Here’s to a better world because you’re all it. Peace, Warriors

 

 

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