I’m unsure where to start. What to write. What to say. I guess that is common when you hear news that causes your breath to be caught. While sitting in the doctor’s office with a close family member, we received the heart breaking and disorienting news that the chemo is not working. The tumors of this rare and aggressive cancer are growing. It was only three short years ago, I lost my mom to cancer. And here I stand, walking this road again. This time, with my dad. I’ve heard the advice to be kind to myself many times over the past several days and weeks. But in this moment, in this deep ache, I’m unsure what that looks like.
The Pressure of the “Right” Thing
Sitting in a chair in my bedroom, my husband kindly sitting at my feet, I felt the tears slowly begin to stream down my face. As my eyes locked with his, I spoke the words, ‘I don’t know what to do.’ I have been feeling the pull and the pressure of all the “right” things to do….
- pray more
- keep my chin up
- hold on to hope
- keep a positive attitude
- try this
- do that
My flesh wants to scream anything but the “right” thing. A myriad of feelings and emotions are surfacing. Anxiety, anger, fear, sadness, confusion. To journey with my mom through her cancer battle and to now be on what feels like an identical journey with my dad, feels so cruel. And to have this blanket of expectation over me in how I “should” be responding is suffocating. I feel as though I am blowing it. I am a failure as a “Christian” woman. And yet I am being encouraged to be kind to myself. How am I to do that? What does that even look like?
As I wrestle with these questions, I become aware of my heart and its desire to be free of expectations. To have time and space to feel.
Being kind to myself looks like releasing expectations.
It’s learning to let go of the pressures I’m placing on myself that say I need to ‘suck it up’, ‘get it together’, ‘be strong’, ‘toughen up’. Learning to let go of the pressures I’m feeling from those around me who, while well intentioned, are unhelpful with their tips, techniques and stories of how others have it worse. It’s practicing being present to my feelings and being ok with not being ok. It’s walking out into the garage and telling my husband, ‘I don’t need you to do anything. I don’t need you to fix this. I just need you to know that I’m struggling right now.’
Being kind to myself looks like granting myself permission to have time and space to feel.
It’s learning that I don’t need to rush past or rush through my feelings and emotions. It’s learning to release this self-imposed timeline of sadness. This timeline that says I need to accept the reality of the situation and move on. It’s releasing my desire for control of the length of time for the pain, the struggle, the hard. It’s learning to know who to invite in to sit with me in that sacred space and releasing the guilt and the shame for not allowing everyone in.
As I learn and practice what it looks like to be kind to myself, I become aware of the presence of my Father. My heart begins to open up to receiving the kindness He has for me. Kindness that looks like:
“I can receive your anger and your sadness. I can tenderly hold your tears. Above all, I can take the blanket of expectations and replace it with a blanket of love and compassion.”
So I ask you. When you are in the midst of the hard, in the midst of the struggle, what does showing kindness to yourself look like? And when you see someone you love and care for in the midst of their hard and their struggle, how can you support them and help them practice kindness towards themselves?