Wellness Wednesdays #5: Compassion
Today is the fifth installment of a weekly series where I will ask a question related to the themes on my blog (mental health, self-care, community, poetry, etc.). I am trying to get people talking, build a sense of community and increase awareness about mental health. I want to see what’s going on in people’s heads, hear their stories, and gain some perspective and solutions. This week’s question is:
Name a compassionate way you’ve supported a friend recently. How can you do the same for yourself?
I worded this question very intentionally. A writer being intentional, WELL I NEVER! Tee hee. I wanted to examine how many people who are selfless or have great compassion for others tend to either be hurting a lot inside themselves and/or not directing that great energy or advice to themselves. So here we are.
I recently gave a very kind ear and some major advice to a friend, who asked, I don’t do unsolicited advice… actually usually not even solicited. Mostly I hold back advice because some people will feel shame about not following it when shit crashes and burns. I try to stay mostly out of it. However, this time I felt greatly compelled to dig deeper and be direct, honest, and thorough about a friend’s situation. I had been through something damn near identical and just knew that maybe I could break through because of how passionate and intensely personal the issue was. There is a great perspective shifting power in “Girl, I have been feeling the same way too.” (Sidenote: You are NEVER going through something that someone else hasn’t. Nunca. Jamais. Nah, B.)
I dug deep and gave useful, doable advice, it was straightforward but still loving. Aforementioned friend actually took my advice down to the letter. Her situation improved and she thanked me for the tough, yet compassionate love.
I need to be willing to take my own advice, embrace brutal honesty with myself, and at the same time have a little compassion and patience with lil’ ol’ Alise. I have to start remembering that some things may be hard to let go or to stick to, but to find the balance of kicking myself in the butt and gentleness is extremely beneficial.
Two of my cohorts out in these creative streets and Professional Black Girls, Omisade Burney-Scott and Monet Marshall also added to the conversation:
Omisade (“Omi”) wrote:
I have a dear friend who is going through a divorce. The details of the divorce that have been shared with me let me know that my friend had been holding so much pain inside their body. As the days have progressed into weeks and the weeks into a few months, every now and then they get triggered. They get triggered into asking themselves why they stayed so long, why they tried to make it work, what was or is wrong with them that made their partner act the way they did. They toggle between anger, doubt, self loathing, being resolute and clarity. I have been an listening ear without judgement or advice. I have been a listening ear that ask “what do you need from me in this moment? How can I help?”I have reminded them that there is no shame in loving someone. No shame in wanting things to be better and no shame in letting go. I am also there to remind her that she is more than enough. That who she is at her core, the most vulnerable parts of herself as not lacking, but amazing, beautiful and human.The compassion I have asked them to show themselves, the lack of negative self talk,embarrassment and shame has been a harder row to hoe for myself, As the “big sister” in this scenario, it is so much easier for me to be kind to her without feeling need to pass judgement or make grand sweeping gestures around “what you need to do is”. Perhaps the compassion I can show myself around my intimate relationships or love choices—in particular when things don’t end well or the ending is a long protracted experience is the not judge myself harshly. That doesn’t mean I shouldn’t learn from my mistakes, but it is not useful to beat myself up. It is important to be kind to myself and to sit in the experience of what I have learned about how I love and what I need and deserve from a partner without shaming or blaming myself for past relationships that didn’t end well.I have been divorced for almost 4 years and there are times where the conversation in my head around why I am now single, what “went wrong” or “who is to blame” end with sadness and disappointment, but they don’t have to end with me bullying myself. So, I think the same gift of compassion I extend my friend I should generously extend myself as someone who is still learning how to love in healthy ways and believing that who I am is more than enough. Who I am in amazing.
A friend of mine is having a stressful time being a caretaker for someone as they fight cancer. I know that my friend puts everyone before themselves to the detriment of their own health and wellness. So I invited, ok more like coerced, them into joining me for dinner and a movie. They reluctantly accepted (there are so many ‘what ifs’ when it comes to illness) but the night of we went and had a great time.What I learned is that sometimes we need to give ourselves permission to put down the pen, ignore the bill, hush the buzzing and dinging and escape. It is not irresponsibility, its survival. Our minds can’t be on all the time and we deserve reprieve in whatever way that shows up. This is why during the Great Depression the government specifically set aside funds to support small theatre companies across the nation. Because they understood in that moment folks needed a way to leave their lives and be transported elsewhere–to a place with neat story arcs, songs, dances and happy endings. I am committing to allowing myself time to escape without guilt or shame.
The floor is now open for you to answer the question in the comments below!
Click here to check out the entire series.