On Being Gentle With Myself

“Do not hurry as you walk with grief; it does not help the journey. Walk slowly, pausing often:do not hurry as you walk with grief…Be not disturbed. Be gentle with the one who walks with grief. If it is you, be gentle with yourself. Swiftly forgive: walk slowly, pausing often. Take time; be gentle as you walk with grief” -Andy Raine

“Make us good students of these rhythms that we might not hurry the work of grief, but receive the gift of your presence in our time of need. Amen”- Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals, October 8th

I’ve been “home” with my parents for over a week now, and it feels… strange. Like I’m just visiting on break, then in a few days I’ll drive home to San Diego again. But then I walk out to the garage to feed my dog and oh, look, there’s my entire apartment in boxes. My room felt like high school, so I went and bought a new yellow and gray quilt. Now it feels a little more like me.

During my psych nursing rotation (or, as I liked to call it “How not to be a terrible human being to other human beings who might be a little different than you”), we talked a lot about the concept of “self-care”. Basically, the idea is you can’t effectively care for others unless you are effectively caring for yourself. My professor encouraged us to find something we can do that refreshes us. My best friends and I decided sometimes the kindest thing we could do to care for ourselves was skipping chapel to get burritos and go watch the ocean for a while (or randomly barge into a friends bedroom and demand they make room for us to cuddle with them on their bed). Individually, I found this practice very difficult. My nature is to give and give and give to others. I am a golden retriever, I am loyal and steadfast to my people and nothing brings me more joy than bringing joy to my friends (and patients). I began learning in nursing school that this trait is not always a good thing. I would bleed myself dry for others, then be physically unable to love myself because there was nothing left to give.

I’m having to relearn this practice. I’ve been talking to my therapist I saw during my freshman and senior years of high school (fun fact: I have a tendency to crumble with major life changes. Not my friend), and my goodness, it’s been beautiful and difficult. She’s encouraged me to allow myself to grieve what I’ve lost in the process of moving cross-state. The community I’ve built, the roots I’d put down, the dreams I buried. It’s been difficult. I am excellent at deferring emotional crisis, pushing off the pain until I feel I am in a safe place to deal with it. At my last meeting, my therapist told me that I was in a safe place, that I could let go. So I did. But only briefly. Until I told her I felt ridiculous for feeling this way because I’m coming from such a place of privilege that I have now right to be this upset. That the dreams I held were dumb and useless because why was I crying over someone I never even held hands with?

My therapist stopped me: “Are you listening to yourself? Why are you being so harsh to yourself?”. And I remembered a conversation I had had with one of my dearest friends about the same things. During this conversation, I felt myself begin to tear up, but I immediately brushed off the emotion. “Never mind, it’s dumb.” My friend responded by saying “No, it’s not dumb”. My hamster wheel brain stopped spinning, and I swear my soul let out a deep sigh. You mean… it’s okay for me to feel angry and upset and sad? To take a moment and just let things be about what I’m experiencing in the moment? To do something to be kind to my soul, to walk through grief without hurrying to be done with the pain? Yes, it’s alright.

It’s alright for you, too, my friend. Do not hurry the work of grief; do not be ashamed of your anger and sadness. Take time to breathe through the pain, to welcome the new work of the Spirit in your soul. To learn to love all over again. Because love is always worth it. Amen.

I made a list of Ten Things I can do to Be Gentle to Myself:

1. Participation in daily Liturgy and prayer journaling. This is how I find myself most able to commune with God: ink and paper; tradition and sanctity.

2. Make a cup of tea. On my quilt buying adventure, I picked up some Downton Abbey: English Rose tea. It’s roses and raspberries and old-fashioned grace in a cup.

3. Go on a walk, take your time. The physical manifestation of taking my time through my grief. I do not rush these walks, I meander through the old-growth oaks and bramble patches that mark my homeland.

4. Take a bath. Water has always been my friend, and I’m always amazed by the literal and figurative renewing power water possesses.

5. Light a candle. Frostbeard (find them here on Etsy https://www.etsy.com/shop/Frostbeard?ref=l2-shopheader-name) makes book-scented candles. My current favorite is “Old Books”.

6. Sleep when you’re tired, eat when you’re hungry. Revolutionary, I know, but sometimes I forget to take care of my basic human needs when I’m grieving.

7. Cry if you need to. Don’t choke tears down, let them flow freely.

8. Read a good book. Sometimes I need to be a part of someone else’s story for a while.

9. Take a drive; get a little lost. I always find a little gem of a place when I get lost.

10. Play with the dog. Pet therapy. Nothing better.

Thanks for reading, friends. I am indebted to you all.

Later Days,

Jess

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One thought on “On Being Gentle With Myself

  1. Oh my beautiful adult daughter, how I love you so! I pray for you and for all that you are experiencing during this transition. It is difficult for you I know, but please know that your parents are learning along with you right now. I am trying to learn how to let YOU be the beautful adult and not the teenager. Please forgive me as we learn new roles for us, as mother – daughter once again, but with a slightly different dynamic. I am proud of all that you have done and currently are doing to love yourself – please guide me in how to be mother, yet a friend, in our new walk together. So happy to know that you are making time for you a priority – don’t ever loose sight of this! Make sure you and God number one, the rest will fall into place. You are a strong woman of God and an amazing role model…Eshet chayil!

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