I’ll be honest, this month has ended up being much busier than I anticipated. I write myself lists of what I want to achieve in the week to come and I self-flagellate when tasks go unticked. I was being particularly hard on myself a couple of weeks ago, and gave myself a right rollocking about why I wasn’t more on top of things. But upon reflection, I had actually done quite a lot, especially given that The Small Child had been ill and off school, which tends to scupper plans when you are at home, trying to write. One of my biggest problems since I gave up my teaching job is that I ‘take on’ so many smaller projects that it feels like I’m still working quite a bit, except for when it comes to being paid. There’s great wisdom in knowing when to say ‘no’ and concentrating on what is truly fulfilling.
A friend lent me Ruby Wax’s latest book, which to be frank, I didn’t expect to like. However, I actually think I agree with the author Neil Gaiman who calls it ‘utterly readable and surprisingly wise.’ I’m actually going to go and order myself a copy so I can highlight the most insightful bits. She writes with great intelligence on why we ought to forgive ourselves more, and how by doing so, this compassion will feel more natural and thus we’ll be more able to help others. Her book is by no means perfect, as you can read in this Guardian Review, but I found her musings to be useful and un-sanctimonious, a style which Anne Lamott manages too. (I spent far too much time in The Christian Union at an all-girls grammar to be able to cope with sanctimonious types).
In Anne Lamott’s fabulous Ted Talk she tells us why we’re much more productive when we exercise a bit of self-kindness, and If I’m feeling crotchety I listen to it and always feel better.
I know that the second I go down the rabbit hole of being cross with myself, I also lose my ability to extend kindness to others, instead becoming sharp-tongued and shrewish. Wax says:
When being compassionate, there are no rules to follow. Anytime you’re moved to do something to help, that’s enough.
Wax suggests that by doing random acts of kindness, such as letting someone go ahead of you in the queue, or buying a coffee for a person on the street, you’re likely to feel a bit better about yourself. (She also includes feeling happy for people who have done really well at something, and thankfully like the rest of us, she finds that one pretty tough.)
I came up with the idea then of writing a little note or journal at the end of the week. That way, when I look back and wonder why I skipped going to the gym and missed any writing deadlines I set myself, I can say look and see exactly what was going on and say, ‘Ahh, that’s why,’ instead of assuming I’d just been lazy or disorganised.
So there we are. ‘Do One Thing’ today and be a bit nicer to yourself, and the world will thank you.