Waaaaay back in December 2009 I read a New Year post by the lovely El over at Fresh New England. She was reflecting on things she’d learned over the last year. Reading through her list I felt alternately teary, affirmed and cheered. When I shared it with a couple of friends I was visiting with online, I had to chuckle because all three of us immediately printed out the list and propped it up on our desks. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve looked at it over the past month and or two.
It’s such a simple list, and maybe that’s where the magic lies.
For me, being in a cult for seven years left deep scars and a mind chock full of false guilt, fear, and a habit of always thinking the worst of myself. Reading #1 on her list startled me:
1. Never, ever put yourself down. Ever. And don’t let anyone else do it either.
I thought, “Can I really do that? Am I ALLOWED to do that?” Turns out I can, and I am. 🙂 I’ve spent the last while discovering the joy of being kind, gentle and patient with myself. The cult taught me that I should die to myself, crucify myself, suppress myself in favor of what my authorities told me was right and acceptable. They told me there was nothing good in me, credited others with any right I did do, and taught me to always look for ways to give up my rights and die to my dreams, hopes and expectations. They warned that any other behavior would result in me becoming prideful, self-centered and arrogant.
The opposite has happened.
I have never felt so gracious, loving and accepting of others. It has freed me up to see us as we ARE, in all our lovely frailty and strength, beauty and ugliness, wisdom and silliness. I’m no longer afraid or ashamed of myself. When I do something wrong or foolish, I don’t berate myself or wallow in self-loathing, I simply acknowledge it, apologize if necessary, and press on with hope, joy and greater understanding.When someone praises me for something, I can now say THANK YOU with a free and happy heart instead of looking for ways to put myself down or deflect the praise to someone else. I can listen to the hopes and dreams of my dear ones and support them fully, even if I don’t understand or agree, simply because we are all on a journey and have the right to try new things, make whopping mistakes, and putter along as best we can.
I hardly got past #1 when #2 popped up:
2. Every week, plan at least one activity that you’ll look forward to.
I LOVE this! 🙂 I’ve always tried to do at least one happy thing a day, but I love the notion of PLANNING jolly things, giving myself something to anticipate, especially when times are rough.
I’m poor as a churchmouse these days, maybe worse :-), but that hasn’t stopped me from planning at least one happy thing a week. Sometimes it’s very, very simple (and cheap!): looking through old Victoria magazines, setting aside two hours to talk with a dear friend, or having a slumber party with my goddaughters and letting them plaster my face with make-up and tell me I’m “so beautiful, honey dear”. 🙂
Sometimes it’s just Danish pastries on a Saturday morning while having coffee with my parents and grandies.
Or making scones slathered with lemon curd and piled with Devonshire cream and fresh berries for tea and a good ol’ chin wag with a friend.
One day my friend Stacey and I decided we HAD to see snow (she was visiting from Texas, so this was important!). We got in my car and drove up into the mountains and it started snowing!! We cheered and hollered and got soaked and loved every minute of it.
This weekend I get to watch Foyle’s War with my pals, Toby and Mike, have my goddaughters and their parents/my friends over for Sunday dinner, and watch the Super Bowl with friends at my folks’ house. So much happiness in one little weekend. 🙂
I’m sure El had no idea the impact her simple list would have, but it watered good changes in this girl’s heart and brought much, much joy. 🙂
So, dear ones, what happy thing are you going to do this weekend?