Kindness & Fumbling
“Hey – Be kind to yourself, okay?”
We talk every Friday morning, nearly without fail. In a time when almost nothing has been consistent or enduring, he has been. But while my intuitive would often remind me to feel better or to rest or to text him if whatever we picked to work on that day didn’t move through in the time he had estimated it would, he had never told me to be kind to myself before.
In the last eleven or so months I have learned a lot about self-care. I had been figuring it out a little before I got into the rooms, but it wasn’t something I truly focused on until then. And after my surgery and once chemo began I really had to learn how to make self-care a priority. I put yoga on my calendar and I wake early enough to make sure meditation happens in one form or another. My calendar is nearly wide open for the first time in years and its not unusual to find me doing nothing other than curling up with Hope and a podcast or meandering aimlessly on my bike.
I think I had assumed this was the same as being kind of myself.
* * *
This time of year is when I think Virginia is at its prime. The leaves are brilliantly orange. The sun goes down so early that there isn’t much choice but to curl into sweatpants and knit by the candlelight. Reading on the deck in the afternoon now requires a quilt and a very large mug of hot tea.
The oven is full of root vegetables and I can smell them roasting from my spot on the chaise. Hope’s little paws are crunching through the fallen leaves and when she makes her way to me I find fragments of red and yellow clinging to her curls.
In addition to reminding me to be kind to myself, he had warned me that we had stirred some stuff up during our session that would keep releasing all weekend. So the incessant crying wasn’t really a shock. Nor was it all that frustrating, since I knew to expect something like this to happen.
But I was mildly annoyed with myself. Over and over as the weekend wore on.
Why wasn't I over all this crap already?
And that’s where the whole being kind thing comes in. With his voice echoing in my head, I realized I wasn't.
* * *
If my consistent walking companion is the Mayor of our neighborhood, I’ve at least got reign over the coffee shop. I can’t make my way through there without at least one conversation each morning these days. My biggest supporters seem to be the 55+ crowd. I love this.
I can’t pinpoint when it started, but over the last seven months I have developed friendships with a cross-section of people I never would have put in my corner if you had asked me to pick my team this time last year. Some of them have given me nicknames (my personal favorite being "Kaity Kaity The Tattoo Lady"). Some stay very on top of my appointment schedule (or try to, anyway). They all check in with me each time I am there and they all say the things I can’t quite manage to say to myself.
“Don’t work too hard yet – you’re still healing.”
“Your hair is really looking fantastic!”
“Make sure you are still taking things slow.”
"You need to have a piece of cake!"
They are kind to me.
* * *
Its not that I am mean to myself – quite the opposite, in fact. My gratitude level when it comes to what my body and heart and spirit have done in the last year is through the roof. Which is part of why I was so surprised when my intuitive’s parting words to me this week were to be kind to myself.
I thought I was.
What I hadn’t noticed, though, is that my expectations of myself aren’t in line with reality and, frankly, aren’t particularly kind. True to form, I expect myself to be healed already. Healed and back to where I once was, or, more accurately, to wherever it is I am going. And when I realize I’m not, I get frustrated.
And that frustration isn’t kind.
* * *
As Hope and I roam the neighborhood this morning I contemplate the many things I had hoped to accomplish over the weekend but failed to, opting to get some extra sleep instead. I am still not sleeping through the night and this – of course – frustrates me.
I decide I will start channeling the voices of my retired friends when these annoyances come up. When I can’t manage to stick crow or hold a headstand, I’ll let them tell me its okay – surgery was just seven months ago. When I am over needing a nap in the afternoon, I’ll let them remind me that it takes time to recover from chemo, and its okay if three months isn’t enough to undo all that damage. When I feel uncomfortable being around most people, I'll let them tell me that God still needs most of my time right now. When I’m not comfortable with my physical appearance or when I am wishing I could run further or when I am expecting myself to operate at 110%, I’ll let their voices deliver the kindness that I seem to lack toward myself more often than not.
* * *
I think I’ve written before about this whole idea that healing is not linear. I am grateful that I am at a point where I seem to take about ten steps forward before I take one back, but sometimes a weekend of tears can make you fear that you are headed on a downslide. I know I’m not. And I know this last weekend isn’t the last time I’ll feel a bump in my trajectory. That’s just how it goes.
My intuitive and I keep talking about what is so unsettling about the place I am currently sitting in. It’s the fact that I am existing in something of a void. A lot has been removed and I am feeling called not to chase anything to fill the space, but to sit and wait and patiently allow God to deliver what it is that He has in store for me – in His time. This is new. And its foreign. And it feels at the same time peaceful and right and unsettled. Because it is. Its all of that.
I forget sometimes that its okay to feel awkward as things change and develop. I don’t need to know it all now – I’m not meant to know how to do it right.
And that’s okay.