Memories and Self Compassion
Today was a beautiful, warm, sunny day in San Diego. As my Sunday went by with intentionally less things on my to do list, I found myself early this afternoon debating, do I stay in perhaps enjoy a good book on my balcony, watching the sailboats elegantly glide the waters of the bay or do I leash Blue (my Great Date) up and take him down to the car and get out. I knew what the answer needed to be, with so many hours spent just Blue and I working from my apartment getting out would feel better even if there was a part of me that just wanted to stay in her bird’s nest.
Decision made Blue and I set out and to take advantage of the beautiful, sunny day I put the top down on the car. Blue loved it, being able to sit up in the back seat fully and enjoy the breeze, he made quite the site as we drove through downtown San Diego. With cars waving at us, shouting through their windows, “beautiful dog”! I wanted Blue to take all the love in. At 7 years of age Blue has developed cataracts so his eye site is not great. Sometimes outings are an anxiety producing event for him but not in the car, in his little bubble he feels safe and was just able to enjoy the sunshine and the breeze.
Michael would be tucked in for the journey with toys, books, snacks and drinks. He always seemed to just enjoy the ride looking around, playing and even sometimes giving in to a nap.
As I sat waiting to make the turn, I saw us all on that sidewalk as we would have been in those days and I was crushed by a weight in my chest and then tears came. It was an emotional wave of grief passing through. I remembered that I have been told to just let the emotions flow through when they come. Today I am a bit better at letting them come and go but it is still not easy. Usually when the sadness comes, I just want to make it stop. I want the memories to feel happy and joyful not so sad. And yet, my mind is not controlling this ride, my heart is. So, today, I just inhale deeply and push the air out using a visualization of the sadness riding out of me on that wave of my breath, this helps. I allow the feelings and the tears to just flow through me, I don’t try to dam them up or hold them back. This process is not at all how I have handled anything in my entire life so sometimes I am a bit fearful that there are 58 years’ worth of tears and emotions that are damned up inside me. The fear is that they will all want t release at once but that isn’t really how it works. With each out breath it feels a little less heavy, a little lighter, a little more to connect to the joy in the memory.
Growing up, I was taught to be tough while at the same time receiving conflicting messages that I was fragile. My grandmother was leading the charge to toughen me up while my father thought that at any time, I was going to succumb to heat stroke or a heart attack both because of childhood issues where he took the worst-case information delivered by a doctor and decided that that was what he needed to prevent. Thus, he wanted me to stay put, take no risks and “be okay”. This while my grandmother told me that I should never let anyone see me cry because that was seen as a sign of weakness.
Today, I know how absolutely unhealthy all of this was. Today, I am focused on what is real, not what did happen (the past) or what might happen (the future), I am trying to just stay present in the moment and if I feel tears, I let them flow. If I feel tough, I conquer the harder things in front of me. If I feel fragile, I allow myself some space and compassion.
I have always tried to be a loving and caring person and practice compassion for others but there was one person that I never did that for and that was me. It has been a long journey to this point, but I now see how absolutely valuable it is to practice self-love, self-care and self-compassion.
When I am able to show myself this kind of unconditional love first then it becomes possible to bring unconditional love and compassion to others from a much more balanced place. I have loved others unconditionally in the past, with a deep commitment to unconditional love but I allowed that to become out of balance because I was not taking care of me in that equation. Love only works when it is shared in balance.
I look forward to the day when I can remember that family memory and not feel so sad but instead remember the joy of a little boy sharing a few precious hours with parents who love him while we explored the outdoors.