There’s nothing quite like reflecting and seeing how much you’ve grown over time. The older I get, the more I recognize the changes that have occurred in me, and how those changes have impacted my overall quality of life. I feel inspired to share some of those lessons that have come to me when I sit in silence and allow the highs – and lows – to show me what I need to master. Here are three of the hardest lessons that I’ve had to learn, and how I’ve approached and incorporated each of these lessons in my life.
The hardest lesson I’ve had to learn is the art of being gentle with myself. I often behave as if I have inexhaustible energy (despite having fibromyalgia for the past several years), so when I fall short of the goals that I’ve set for myself, I tend to beat myself up over it. My fibromyalgia diagnosis was a turning point for me, since I found myself physically unable to complete activities that I once enjoyed. I felt a tremendous amount of guilt over the fact that I had to rest more and stop feeling bad for it. For me, resting and being gentle with myself felt like laziness.
,This is something that I still struggle with, though mindfully practicing gentleness every day (slowing down and grounding myself daily, yoga, and gratitude practices help) has made it a little easier to accept that this is the path I have to walk, and there is no shame in it. I continue to indulge these practices, as well as listen to YouTube videos of people advocating for gentleness with ourselves, like Alina Alive, Sarah Armide and Ella Ringrose.
Another difficult lesson I am still working on is setting boundaries based on love, not anger. I think it’s normal to react to a hurtful or angering incident with the immediate establishment of a boundary. But I’ve been playing around with proactively setting boundaries based on loving myself and having love for others. This sounds a little contradictory, because in American culture, we’re taught that love is supposed to be without boundaries, all-absorbing and unconditional. However, I’ve found that the most loving that that we can do is have boundaries that maintain our dignity and sense of self.
Again, I struggle with this because I was previously more reactionary as a default. But, with time, I realized I feel more relieved by setting boundaries before offenses happen, as well as standing resolutely with my boundaries when others – even well-intended loved ones – attempt to encroach them. I have to practice this daily as part of my self care, since I have a few of my family members living with me. Some powerful tools that I’ve utilized on my journey have been the book Boundaries by Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend, as well as YouTube videos published by Dr. Ramani Durvasula, Dr. Tracey Marks, and Irene Lyon.
The third hardest lesson for me to learn was learning to play, particularly, how to do so without guilt. Going back to the art of being gentle with myself, I had to learn ways to care for myself that would help me to heal my body and mind. For me, that involved recreating periods of joy in my life, and that meant I had to reflect back on the times when I was unabashedly, overwhelmingly happy. I found most of those times occurred during my childhood, so I had to start indulging myself and doing the things that made me happy again, which, for me, was playing games and creative expression.
The same guilt behind being gentle with myself crops up when I’m indulging in play. I have to continually remind myself that playing *is* productive, and more play = more creativity, which I can channel into other, more “adult” tasks. It has become easier for me to participate in play, because I have several younger children in my circle of family and friends, but I also have to indulge in play by myself, usually in the form of painting, making jewelry, working on a puzzle, or playing in makeup. I also find it helpful to connect with personalities that are light and playful, which is why I often go to YouTube for inspiration. I really enjoy play and fun from various perspectives, so I love videos by Mintfaery, Darling Desi and The Unexpected Gypsy.
Are there any difficult lessons that you’ve had to learn? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below. Also, if there’s any way that I can support you all, please feel free to leave a comment or send me a message. This journey through life isn’t an easy one: the most important thing we can do is share resources with each other, so that we can make our journeys a little smoother.
Take care, and I’ll talk to you all tomorrow.