“Rest, play, and be very, very gentle with yourself.”
That’s what my new specialist told me when I went to see her a couple weeks ago. She knew the therapies we’re trying would knock me flat for a while, so she wanted to make sure I was taking the very best care of myself.
I’m so glad she told me, repeatedly, for such things do not come naturally to me. When I didn’t know how to deal with trauma and the results of it, I became a first rate workaholic, an absolutely spiffing martyr, and my inner critic was given free reign to castigate me at every turn.
But I don’t need those self-protective, Survival Mode crutches anymore. Now I get to bask in safety, freedom, and a whole lot of love, and such a life demands a different set of tools to navigate it: rest, play, and gentleness.
So I’m learning to care for myself, and, I must admit, it’s ridiculously fun.
In the past I just focused on resting my body, but now I rest my mind and spirit too. Sometimes that means a movie marathon while tucked up in bed with hot chocolate and toasted, buttered crumpets, or sitting on the veranda with a journal, pen, and good book. Other times I sit in the shade of a big tree and watch the goats toddle about, or take Luna and Kebab (dog and sheep, respectively) for a walk with lots of stops for ear scratches and belly rubs (them, not me). This morning I took my camera out to my veggie patch and took pictures of dew drops on the asparagus fronds (pure magic).
My friend Parker is really good at incorporating play into her life, so every day she cheers me on with suggestions and ideas that help me think of things that make my own heart happy.
This week I sewed a medieval Bedouin robe with poofy red trousers that make me smile. Bear took me and our friend Oma up into the hills for an entire day of jollity. We stopped at our favorite market stand and got enormous quinces, perfectly ripe Roma tomatoes, a whole bundle of leeks, and a stack of boxes filled with new season apples. Our car smelled amazing. Next week Oma and I are going to make Hungarian sausages together, and the week after that, Bear and I are getting together with dear friends for our first medieval event of the season. Such good, happy, soul-nourishing things.
I like spending time with people who are gentle with themselves, because they’re also gentle with everyone around them. They have a peacefulness about them, a confident way of thinking and speaking that is rooted in a deep understanding of human nature. They don’t have ridiculous expectations of themselves or others, but instead are comfy with who they are, at peace with their place in the journey they’re on, and accepting of the people they come in contact with. I like that so much.
For most of my life I believed that I had to love others, be kind to others, be forgiving and generous and patient with others, but I had no idea that I could and should extend those things to myself first. I didn’t know that those things can only come from a heart that is full of them already. I wish I’d know it earlier, but I’m so happy to know it now, so grateful that I get to spend the rest of my life filling up my own heart with good things that will spill over and link arms with the love of others. Loving ourselves, loving others, I think that’s how we make this world a better place.
“Rest, play, be very, very gentle with yourself.” What does that look like for you today? xo