Today is my 37th birthday, and here is my birthday wish: THAT I WOULD CONTINUE TO UNDERSTAND AND PRACTICE BEING A FRIEND TO MYSELF INSTEAD OF AN ENEMY.
This has been the single greatest revelation of the last year. Basically, there are so few things in life that I can fully control. One thing I can control is how I treat myself. Am I “for” myself, or am I against myself? Companion or critic? How I put radical self-acceptance into practice changes everything. It changes my parenting, my marriage, my relationships, my capacity for enjoyment, my writing, and my ability to participate in my own life.
I cannot walk out into the world courageously, I cannot parent authentically and wholly, I cannot write vulnerably, I cannot relate honestly . . . without first being there for myself as I would a friend. This is my birthday wish. That in this next year I would even more fully be on my own team.
What a poorly timed post, you may be thinking. With our most precious and gorgeous children killed in horrific violence. With the young life of a SEAL ended in Afghanistan. None of these losses recoverable. How can we take the time to be thinking about ourselves? How incredibly misguided.
I once heard Parker Palmer share about how deeply he wrestled with the violence and senseless loss of September 11. How he tried to understand some aspect of the tragedy. So he asked himself a very vulnerable question: What do I have in common with the terrorists of 9-11?
His answer? We are all heartbroken.
There isn’t a human on this planet who isn’t heartbroken in some way. Heartbrokenness accompanies our humanity. Part of the gig.
And if we rage against ourselves in that heartbrokenness, we will remain egregiously in our own way. Stuck. Impotent. Even worse, destructive. But if we can learn what it means to be there for ourselves as we would a friend, we might be able to get out of our own way long enough to change the world, or play on the floor with our kids, or get some words written, or just get up and move, or love someone.
So, in the face of such tragedy, this is precisely the kind of thing we need to be thinking about. Humanity’s heartbrokenness. Our own version of that heartbrokenness. And what we can do about it all. One of the most essential things we can do is take better care of ourselves. Stop punishing ourselves for being imperfect. Stop pushing ourselves to physical and emotional breaking points. Stop assuming the worst about ourselves. Stop believing we are flawed in some way. Stop buying into the lie that everyone else has the secret figured out and we didn’t get the memo. Stop trying to be God.
If we could begin to companion ourselves instead of being A#1 critics, we just might be able to get out there and make some kind of difference. We just might be able to be there for someone else. We just might be able to write something that matters. We just might be able to help someone feel heard, a little less alone. We just might be able to create a masterpiece.
My birthday wish is that I, and all of us, would better understand our own version of heartbrokenness and choose to be a companion to ourselves in that broken place. By God’s mercies-are-new-every-morning grace. And then — miraculously — see what kind of crazy magic might be made from such courageous living.
Believing in you. Believing in me.
All my love, Leeana