Today, feel the presence of Love soothing. Love's presence and power soothes our thoughts, our emotions, our bodies, our energy. Love soothes the atmosphere. Love soothes our fears. Love settles, comforts, assures, and smoothes rough edges. Love's power and assurance gives us confidence and tenderness and wisdom and the ability to recognize the gifts of the moment.
Recently, a new category has been added to the list of the way humans respond to stress. In addition to "flight, fright, or freeze," psychologists have added "tend and befriend." In response to stress, some people find solace in caring for others. In many ways, this is a noble and productive impulse. It can connect us to community and our resources. It can help us escape fearful cycles of thoughts and break rumination. It can be grounding. It can bless others.
At the same time, when we try to care for others before we have cared properly for ourselves, sometimes our caring has a needy quality, which can feel like an imposition. In our effort to help, we might actually be making unintentional demands on others to soothe our agitation or to make us feel useful and valuable. This can be particularly true in times of grief: in our effort to soothe a grieving person, we might actually add to their burden because we haven't taken care of our own sense of loss.
If we want to be of real help to others, we must recognize our own needs - and be responsible and conscious in attending to them in healthy ways. If we "tend and befriend" ourselves, then we can "tend and befriend" others without unintentionally making burdensome demands.
Many of us feel a strong desire to please others. We suffer when people compete for our attention, time, and care - or have opposing opinions about what we should be doing. We feel frozen when our own needs clash with another's desires. We want to be unselfish and caring and generous. We want others to be happy. We want to be wise in caring for ourselves. We are not clear how do to these things.
Here is a way of reframing: Right now, God - Love, Spirit, Consciousness - is acting and moving and being, and we are part of that movement and unfolding. We are co-actors. We are not identities stuck inside bodies and brains trying to serve ourselves - or guess at another's needs. We are serving the Great Unfolding that exists in the space between all of us, and of which we are a part.
Make resting and listening and acting in the Great Unfolding our goal, and be ready to be surprised. Be ready for unexpected answers. Be ready for unexpected blessings. Be ready for uncomfortable and wonderful shifts.
Today, take time to savor your accomplishments. Busy, productive people often have a desire to dart to the next activity, head down, ready to work, without taking time to rest and appreciate an experience. Savoring is a form of worship and gratitude.
The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook suggests that when we feel anxious, we ask, "What's the most supportive thing I could do for myself right now?" But you don't need to feel anxious to ask yourself that question. Ask yourself, "What is the most supportive thing I could do for myself today?" Then do it!
Last night, I had a dream similar to the plot of the movie Groundhog Day.
I had a day in which I had made a decision and behaved in a way I regretted.
To my surprise, I woke up on that day again. The same events started happening; I was already feeling shame, but the events felt inevitable. Suddenly I realized, "You can make a different choice." Even though the bad decision had already begun, I switched midway (leaving some very confused people) and made a different, healthier choice. The next day, I was full of wonder and I wanted to tell everyone, "I re-lived a day!", but I knew they weren't likely to believe me.
Lately, I have been working on changing some long engrained patterns of thinking and feeling, so the message was powerful to me: we do have the power to make a different choice.
Because I never tire of this, from Second Timothy: "Got has not give us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind."
I grew up in a family that had lots of gossipy opinions about other people's personalities and choices. Over the years, I have let go of that early training and learned to embrace others with real acceptance and love. I recognize how many of those opinions were about surface matters, how little we really know about other people's struggles, and how noble and brave most people are.
But I think I am still a mean girl to myself - judging myself harshly on surface appearance, any hint of awkwardness, and not meeting ridiculous, and sometimes meaningless, standards in many areas. Today, I will not be a mean girl to myself. Today, I will treat myself with the same kindness and acceptance I might a third grade girl: who is growing up, trying new things, and making charming, awkward, glorious mistakes. With acceptance and compassion and even joy. Even admiration.
While some people need to know they can work harder and not fear the consequences, some of us need to know we can work less without fearing the consequences.
One of the tools of recovery for Workaholics Anonymous is "pacing": "We work at a comfortable pace and rest before we get tired. To remind ourselves, we check our level of energy before proceeding to the next activity. We do not get 'wound up' in our work, so we don't have to unwind."
Love is present with us, shaking up any misconceptions we have about work and rest and telling us the truth.
fIn some cultures, parents don't praise their children, for fear that praise will attract bad luck.
I can do something similar: unconsciously, I don't hope too much, in fear that my hope will attract its opposite. I don't express too much delight in a positive experience for fear that I am setting myself up for disappointment in the future.
Today, be open to accepting goodness in its fullness. Know that accepting goodness does not make you weak and unable to bear future disappointment or discouragement. It actually strengthens your courage and sense of possibility.
Love gives you the ability to do this.
Today, know that God is not ashamed of you.
We often, subconsciously, spend a lot of our day fighting, absorbing, or stewing in shame, about our appearance, productivity, accomplishments, etc. Sometimes we have unintentionally accepted damaging cultural messages about what our lives should be, or we have absorbed unhealthy beliefs of those who raised us or surround us, or we may have invented unreasonable or misguided standards and berate ourselves for not meeting them.
Today, begin by knowing that God is not ashamed of you. God adores you. God delights in you. God accepts you fully. Anytime tightness or fear arises, return to this knowing.
Ironically, when we can feel how loved we already are, just as we are, we can see more clearly how to make life-affirming choices for ourselves and others.
Tarn Wilson is the author of the memoir The Slow Farm and numerous essays. You may read more of her work at tarnwilson.com.