Reading Jon Kabat-Zinn again. I should probably re-read him regularly. Today I read about the concept of the tao, or life as a path. This is an enlightening concept for me. As I try to analyze the source of stresses in my life, the reason behind my constantly-clenched stomach muscles, for example, or my lack of just joyous spontanaety with my kids, I realize that I have always been just so concerned with my destination. I have been so hard on myself for not already having achieved various things, and this self-criticism has done more, ironically, to keep me from making any kind of progress than anything else.
I want to give up the expectation that I reach any destinations in this life. I want to learn to love the path, to accept that I am on it and not expect myself to be anywhere else. I want to quit yearning so much and start accepting more. I think that in addition to making me a more healthy person, this will also benefit me in other ways—I will become a better mother. But not (and this is important) because I am trying to be a better mother (destination). Rather, as a side-effect of being more accepting of myself.
I can see that my children have inherited this demanding, self-criticalness, either from me or just as a result of living in this world. The best way I can help them overcome this is to show them an example of self-acceptance.
And while we’re on the subject of self-acceptance, I promised you a follow-up to my envy post. I’ve toyed with talking about the things I like about myself, or the things I am grateful for (great for November!), etc. But I think what I’ll do is address the specific things I mentioned in my first post about envy. The things I have envied are in italics. My response to them is not.
So here goes.
1. People who are extremely healthy, and people who are very strong. People who can run like antelope instead of plodding along at a half jog like I do. People who can stay up late watching TV with their spouses (and by late, I mean after 10:00).
I can get up early and exercise every day. I am not tempted to lie abed, and I get a great surge of adrenaline with each new day. (I am so aware that there are people who can’t even get out of bed all day. Thus I will never, ever take this aspect of myself for granted.) I have worked hard and can now “jog” 5 miles per hour relatively comfortable for 30 minutes. This has taken much diligence and patience because I progress very, very slowly. I am strong enough to do all I need to do (my shoulders can carry the burdens placed on them), and capable of saying yes to any request or calling. I can’t stay up late but, on the flip side, I rarely ever have insomnia and sleep right through every night.
2. Women with thick hair. Well, I have hair. I am not currently undergoing chemo. I don’t look too bad, in general, and don’t hesitate to meet other people’s eyes because I feel ugly. I am not dependent on makeup and don’t scare anyone when they catch sight of me on a no-makeup day. Women with skinny little girl bodies. My size is acceptable and relatively easy to buy clothes for. My husband thinks I’m beautiful. I feel that the sacrifice in skinniness that it took to be a mother is well worth it. Thus I am in the process of making peace with looking like a mother. (It's just a little harder to make peace with looking like a middle-aged mother.) But I like not being 22 anymore. Women who have the money and lack of guilt to make their faces look 25 when they are actually 55. I have seen some women debilitated with the fear of looking their age. I don’t have this problem (though, of course, I’d prefer to stay young-looking if I could do it naturally).
3. People who are out of debt. We are well on-track to being out of debt and not doing too badly for ourselves. I am not distracted by get-rich-quick ideas. I feel confident that God is pleased with our progress and wants us to be diligent and patient. And R has a good job that is not in jeopardy (thank goodness).
4. Amazingly gifted writers. I am no writing genius, but I have some talent so that I know I can succeed when I want to put forth the effort. Writers with amazing work ethics who are determined to succeed. Well, I don’t worry about this one very much, because I’ve found that I can work very hard on something I’m passionate about. I just haven’t found much that I care enough about yet. I’m trying to follow my heart more and not be frustrated at myself for not feeling passionate about a project. Writers who know how to trust their subconscious. I’m going to work on this one. Writers with great agents. Writers with great book deals. Famous writers. In fact, I envy anyone who can answer with ease the question I get too often, “So, what books have you published?” . I could fix that if I fixed the “passionate” problem, above. I am getting much better at not envying these things as I recognize more how much desire plays in all this. I don’t desire to complete any of these big projects all that much. Also, I’ve seen some people succeed at these things and seen that they (these things) don’t bring satisfaction. Recently I was honored at an awards ceremony for some writing I’m having a hard time caring about and the award wasn’t satisfying at all since I knew the project didn’t have my heart in it.
5. People with really close best friends that they never feel insecure about. But I do have some very close friends—people who are gifted and fascinating and caring. I am very blessed.
6. People with beautiful solo voices. But I can carry a tune decently enough to enjoy singing in choirs and small groups, and I love doing it.
7. People who can knit sweaters while holding conversations, and who know how to pick the pattern and the yarn just right. People who can spin. 8. People with the ability to memorize easily. 9. People with the desire to keep their houses really clean at all times and the enjoyment of such. 10. People with the ability to cook, and the enjoyment of such. 11. People who know how to meditate and do it well. 12. Vegetarians. But not really. However, I do envy people who eat very well because they enjoy it. These are all just a matter of effort. I need to decide to change or let it go. And quit judging others!
13. Women who know how to shop, and women who know how to dress. Women who can wear hats or scarves and look great and confident in them. Women who, even when they’re a little heavy, know well enough how to dress that they look nice all the time. Women who know how to pluck and color eyebrows. This one is harder for me, and that tells me I need to do some soul-work. This one is closer to envy than many of the others, because I sometimes find myself resenting or judging women who look very put-together. Or just better than me in general. I’ve got to find a happy medium between putting more effort into what I care about or just deciding not to care.
14. Women who come alive in the afternoon and evening hours, so that their kids get their very best. This one I can’t change (see #1—I’m a morning person). But I can put more effort into organizing my day so that I can marshal what resources I have during the hard times of day. I have seen great improvement on the days I manage to do this. This one just requires effort and patience.
15. People who got to go on Study Abroad during college. I STILL smart sometimes at the opportunities I missed when I was younger. But I am who I am because of what I did do. And I like who I am. Meanwhile, I’m going about getting into my life the things that I missed—like going to grad school next year.
16. People who love being with other people’s kids and are easygoing with them. Also, parents who constantly have fun with their kids. I’m getting better at this as I get older. Also, as I learn to let go of expectations of myself and others (the path). I look forward to enjoying improvement in this area by the time I’m a grandmother!
17. People with really great laughs. Funny people. I can’t change these but I can work on enjoying these people more instead of seething with envy. I think as I learn to loosen up more, I will learn to laugh more easily and sense more joyous moments. I am blessed to be surrounded by people with great senses of humor.
18. Those women that people refer to in Relief Society when they say, “I have a friend who is always there for me, who never judges, who silently serves.” This is one that I’ve got to just let go. I know that I have a good and well-meaning heart, that I am constantly trying to be a caring friend to those around me. Thank goodness for my strong testimony that God knows my heart and that He will let me be a blessing to others, if I desire it, even if He doesn’t let me know how and when that happens. I’m trusting in that.