That Time I Forgot to Have Fun

It’s been a rough time for me the last couple of months. We hit the first anniversary of my Dad’s death, the holidays (which I still haven’t pared down to where I need them to be, but I’m making progress), and then my husband’s month long trip to Chicago for January term. I thought I had a handle on it. I lowered my expectations for work a little (at least in my planner if not in my head, which would have been a really important extra step to take), despite my sense that January is a REALLY important month for life coaches. I called in some backup with the kids so I could have a little adult time. I hired a neighbor girl to watch my kids on choir practice nights. On paper it looked pretty good.

pexels-photo-366063And now my hubby is home, which is nice. But I’ve been really grouchy. I’ve been whipping out old and reliable complaints to argue about. I’ve been feminist ranting in my house while I tidy up. I’ve been snarky and sarcastic and generally less pleasant than I could be. I’ve also been SO unbelievably tired, some of which makes perfect sense, but it didn’t seem to be letting up. My body was speaking to me, but I was paying more attention to the angry story in my head.

And it finally overwhelmed me, that angry story. So I reached out to a coach friend. And she questioned. She gently prodded. She questioned some more. And as we talked, I felt my old angry arguments step to the side like the distraction that they are (they matter but weren’t the point). As we talked, I found the hurt under the anger. And then we talked about the hurt, because that’s what a great coach can do for you.

And what came out is that with all of this work: my business, my parenting, my husband’s seminary, I just haven’t been having very much fun. I’m not saying I haven’t had any, I’m just saying I’m not having much and given the difficulty of the last few months, I could have maybe benefitted from a little MORE fun than average rather than less. She laughed and said she was picturing that moment in The Shining: “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy….” Yeah. Seriously. HERE’S Julia!!! If you don’t understand the reference, Youtube that scene so you know what really not having fun and listening to angry creepy stories can do to you. My lovely coach friend and I talked about a way out. We figured out exactly what I was thinking, how it made me feel, and created a path for something new. I am so grateful to her.

pexels-photo-341520-2I talked to my seminarian about our fun-less time and he agreed. We’ve sort of lost track of planning fun as a couple and neither of us take much time for fun for ourselves. It is draining. It is wearing. It feels like a grind and I KNOW the life that I’m building doesn’t need to feel like a grind. I’m in love with the things I’m doing, but no matter how much you like your job, sometimes you just need to be completely immersed in the fun zone with the people you love the best.

So I’m putting my creative thinking cap on to come up with some options and later today my seminarian and I are going to put some things on our new shared digital calendar so we can make sure we’re making time for that. We will honor our calendar. We will honor our fun and we will both be better for it.

How’s it going for you? Are you remembering to have fun? If you’re not, what are you going to do about it?

When We Are Hurting

Learning Self-LoveAre you hurting today? I am. And so are so many people I know and love. Even in times of lesser tragedy and hardship, there are always people hurting. It is so easy to get lost in the analysis of it, to get paralyzed by the horror, to get stuck in the outrage. On Sunday my minister reminded us that one of our values is an ever-widening circle of compassion. Cultivating that circle may require a break from analyzing, being outraged, and being paralyzed. Nurturing our compassion is a practice.

I’m not sure where it started, but there is a bit of a mantra in the self-help world that says that we have to love ourselves in order to love others. We would have to feel compassion for ourselves in order to feel compassion for others. I get the sentiment, and agree that deeper levels of love and compassion are easier to reach when we have love and compassion for ourselves, but making those things a bar to entry to love and compassion for others? I don’t think so. I’m pretty sure any self-loathing parent will tell you that you can love your children despite how you feel about yourself. Suggesting to that parent that they must start with themselves seems like a great way to stall that growth altogether.

How to Grow Compassion and Love – Even For Yourself

What if, instead, we saw the practice of compassion as one of simply widening the circle, with the center being exactly where it already is naturally for you? Where is the focus of the compassion and love that you feel easily? Is it kids? Is it animals? Is it victims of tragedy or circumstance?

If you’re not sure, ask yourself what gets to you. What makes you well up? What makes you angry? What makes you sad? What makes you feel things even when it’s uncomfortable to do so? Are there news stories or fictional stories you find it difficult to watch, read, or listen to? These are the key to finding the center of your compassion – the place where your heart meets the world. Find that center; this is step 1.

Find Your Edges; Stretch Your Borders

After you’ve figured out where your compassion lives, feel out the edges of that group. Imagine the people on the borders. If you naturally feel compassion for kids, consider teens , mothers, and parents. If you feel compassion for animals, consider animal lovers, nature, the earth. If you feel for people struggling with physical medical problems, consider people with mental illness, consider caretakers. Find the folks on the edges of the community that you already feel compassionate about.

Step 3? Imagine those border folks. Imagine being them for a moment. Imagine part of a day for them. Imagine that they are just people with all of the insecurities, uncertainties and challenges of the group you already feel compassion for. Imagine that they are as capable of love and affection, joy and courage as those who move you. Imagine those border people in pain. Imagine them laughing. Imagine that your loving focus might, even in some small way, be helpful. Believe in the power of your own affection. In your mind’s eye, surround this growing group with light, a glow of whatever color pleases you. Breathe deeply and continue to stretch the edges of that light to include others.

Self-Compassion

Here’s where things can get tricky for a lot of folks. I hear a lot of people talk about how others don’t have compassion. That’s not what I see in my universe. I see plenty of folks who are serving up compassion for others, but who are unforgiving and unkind to themselves. Learning to serve up some compassion for yourself can be an extension of the love you already give to others.

Think about that group you’ve been growing in your mind. Find the way that you might be like them. Where in your life do you feel like a hurt child? Where in your life do you act like a wounded animal? Where in your life do you feel limited or misunderstood? Where in your life are you called on to rise to challenges you’d rather not have to face? How can you connect to the recipients of your compassion?

Learn to Love YourselfFind that link and then return your attention to your mind’s eye – the big glowing group. Draw the edges of your circle of loving focus out so that you are included. Let the light envelope you. Let it connect you to others. Allow yourself to bathe in the light you so willingly shine on others.

Place your hands on your heart, and say: “I hear you. I know. I love you.”

Widen your circle and make sure that eventually it includes you.

Namaste.

 

 

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