Day 357, Self-Compassion Amidst Chaos
If you have no compassion for yourself then you are not able of developing compassion for others.” – The Dalai Lama
Today was chaos. We had a water leak in our air-conditioning system. Unfortunately, some of our clothes in the master bedroom closet got wet and worse. My cream-colored blazer got a rusted water stain down the arm. My favorite travel bags are covered with mold.
Fortunately, the plumber responded to our call right away. He was the same, very nice plumber who inspected our toilets not long ago. He got things under control very quickly. Tomorrow morning, we have a flood restoration specialist coming over.
I am exhausted after driving into Littleton for my husband’s therapy this morning. I programmed the GPS for the wrong location, so after driving to the wrong location, I had to find the correct place from there. I did that without the GPS.
The therapy went okay. It is just that his therapist wants him to come in several times a week for more therapy. I do not think I can keep up with all the driving and pushing the transport chair, and I doubt my husband can muster the energy required either. I told him I would support him though if he wanted to do it.
A difficult aspect is that we do not yet have a handicap placard for the jeep. To get one I need to get my husband a Colorado ID. To get him a Colorado ID, I must get him a birth certificate. To get him a birth certificate, I must fill out an application, which must be printed, but I have no paper. To get paper, I must drive, but I am too tired to do it again today after the trip this morning. Then I must get the application notarized, another trip. Then I must take my husband to the DMV, another trip. It could be a while before we have a handicap placard. In the meantime, parking is a nightmare.
To add to the chaos, right now, the bathroom tub has my husband’s antique comforter spread over it, which is drying out after being washed by hand with distilled water and vinegar. The master bed has the clothes and hangers from the master bedroom closet piled high on it. (We are planning to sleep on the living room floor tonight.) The kitchen has more than a day’s worth of dishes all over it. (I do not have enough energy to clean them right now.) The carpets badly need to be shampooed. My eczema-covered finger is bleeding, so I put a band-aid on it.
If I sound like I am complaining, I probably am. Yesterday, I had some serious depression and missed my chiropractic appointment because I was too tired to drive or walk there. My depression could have been sparked by my lack of sleep from staying up late in the emergency room and the sugar I ate there with my husband last Saturday. Sugar tends to make me very depressed a short time later. Today, the depression has lifted somewhat, but now there is all of the above to contend with. Besides that, I have gained weight–quite a lot this time.
Today is a good day to remember what I have learned recently about self-compassion. Much as I would like to have everything under control, that is not going to happen all the time. Sometimes there will be chaos and a lack of energy. How can I find peace amidst the chaos?
Last night, I read some of The Power of Positive Self-Talk by Kim Fredrickson. She writes about self-compassion from a Christian perspective. So far, she has encouraged me to really examine the way I have been treating myself when things are not going so well. One of the first things I typically do when things go wrong is to blame myself for the problem. Kim described what happened when she got her fingers hurt in the beaters one day when her young son plugged in the electric mixer.
She later found him off by himself, telling himself it was all his fault. Tenderly, she explained to him that it was not. She had left the mixer turned on. Her son, by unplugging it immediately when his mother asked him to, actually spared her from getting her fingers broken. It took some effort to convince him that he was not at fault, but he eventually realized he was part of the solution, not the problem.
Kim’s point is that our parents do not always steer us away from black-and-white thinking. As children, we are wired to think it is all our fault or it is not at all our fault. Most children feel they are at fault. It is our task as adults to overcome that all-or-nothing thinking.
I felt bad today when the plumber said the leak had been going on for some time. I had heard water dripping, but had not seen it until today. Being new to a cooling system like this, I did not know how to interpret the sounds I heard. I thought they were a normal part of the operation of the air-conditioner. Now we have some damage to deal with. I could say it is all my fault, but that would be black-and-white thinking. The best thing to do is to blame nobody and do what is necessary to restore our condo. Fortunately, my husband can cover the expenses, even though it is not his fault either.
My husband is very gentle with me when I am tired. He does not say, “Go do the dishes.” He says, “Go lie down.” Yesterday, I was exhausted, but I could not sleep during the day. I must have triggered some mixed mania and depression on Saturday when I was in the emergency room. I was too tired to do anything but not able to sleep either. It was miserable. I had the all-too-familiar feeling of feeling suicidal. However, I did what I could to treat myself gently. I did not chide myself for not being able to fall asleep. I let myself off the hook about missing my chiropractic appointment. I stacked the dishes another layer deep.
Peace Amidst Chaos
Later in the evening, I read Kim Fredrickson’s book, and I began to feel peace. I had learned not to feel hard on myself when I felt suicidal. I just had to not do it. Kim gave examples of what we can say to ourselves when things are tough.
I could say, “I work very hard to care for and protect my husband. I do not always have enough energy to keep up with everything that needs to be done, especially when there is chaos all around. It is okay to rest, but there is no need to force myself to go to sleep. I make mistakes some times, and that is okay. I learn from my mistakes, which gives me experience. Today, there is chaos in this condo. I can peacefully write about the experience, share it with my readers, and give them a chance to learn another side of myself. Tomorrow, things will likely be better. I have chosen to live, even though things get chaotic some times. I can get through it; I always have in the past. In fact, I can do anything–maybe not everything at once, but little by little I can work through my problems.”
If you would like to join me on this journey from the beginning, please start with Day One.