When It Hits the Fan

Today starts our mini-unit on self-compassion in the mindfulness class I’m teaching. It’s a hard unit, even as a teacher, because so much of our culture says we need to be hard on ourselves–and probably much harder than we already are. It’s almost painful to be self-compassionate, and it’s about as awkward to talk about it to kids.

And on top of that, I’m still feeling sick. I got to bed a few hours earlier than usual last night, and I woke up feeling so much better–but my throat is so dry it’s raw, and I can barely open my mouth to talk without feeling the pain of it. I was talking to myself last night, and I know when I’m feeling sick I have the least amount of willpower, so all my normal challenges look like massive mountains right now.

So it’s the perfect time to talk about self-compassion.

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The Burden of Blame

For the past few days I’ve felt a burning desire to spit fire and blame at my former fiance. I couldn’t explain it, and I was reeling against myself for wanting so badly to push all the blame on him. I shared these feelings with a close friend of mine, and while she could empathize, she assured me these urges were natural and that if I felt I should tell him something, then I should.

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Prologue: One Year Ago

If you scroll to the bottom of this page and look at my archives, you’ll notice I published 16 posts in December, 2012; 13 posts in January, 2013; and nothing in February. In March I posted twice. “Life is a dance and I misstepped,” I wrote in the first. “The good thing about any dance is that, so long as the song keeps playing, it doesn’t matter how many steps you miss, you can still jump back in and pick up where you left off.”

Except I never said what that misstep was.

I’ve made a few allusions here and there, I’ve told a very select few people in person, and a select fewer in my communities online. But I’ve never shared it here. Of all the places on the internet, it has been nearly impossible for me to be most honest in the one place fueled by and founded upon my honesty.

So this week that changes. This week I share everything.

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Transcending Debt

For the last three year’s it’s been tradition to read a chapter of the Pirkei Avot–the Jewish Ethics of the Fathers–every summer. Except last summer I never finished the third book. And this summer I haven’t touched any of them.

Unfinished business delights no one, and I’m fond of tradition, so with these last four weeks of summer, I’m returning to the Pirkei Avot and bringing it to completion.

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The Plight of Paper People

Have you ever seen the future crashing down before you?

Notice I have not said crashing down around you. That would imply an imminent end is becoming, slips of predictions passing into the permanence of the present moment. Instead I am speaking of the future itself, that which we can dream of and look toward but can never touch, can never taste, can never truly understand.

Have you ever seen that come crashing down?

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Soliloquy for the Storm

I wrote Sojourn a week ago, but school kept me from posting it any sooner. Reading it over, proofreading my mind to open it to others, reminded me exactly of all the things I was feeling when I wrote it. (My most meager hope is that something even slightly similar was stirred somewhere inside my readers’ souls.)

Today I’m distracted. Not namely by those feelings, but by ones greater. (In Toy Story, Woody made the comment that Buzz wasn’t flying, he was falling with style. Well let’s face this: I’m not falling. I’m flying.) It’s kept a perpetual fire burning inside me, an eternal light, a hearth to never die down, always tended if oft unseen.

Then came the wind.

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A Pause for Reflection

I began last year by looking at the last decade. This year I’d like to continue the tradition–but with a somewhat narrower scope. Throughout this last semester’s calculus class, my friends and I would frequently ask for a moment to pause for reflection, to look back at what we’d just done to make sure we understood it properly. Just the same, I’d like to take a few moments over the next couple of days to look back over the past year and see what I did well and also where I could improve.

There’s a saying that goes “two steps forward, three steps back” and usually it implies a success followed by a greater failure that sets us back further than we began. A moment ago, as I finished writing that last paragraph, I thought of saying that it’s good to begin something new by taking a look back (which reminded me of the saying aforementioned), and together these two thoughts, so parallel in structure, made me wonder: Is it really worth looking back? Isn’t looking back just the same as taking a step forward, to take two back?

I thought about it a moment longer (the thinking mind is truly a wondrous thing, and often works much faster than we give it credit for), and I decided–like my philosophy of no regret (which I think I tried explaining once but didn’t do it justice)–that even a step back can help us take a step forward. We’re never really back where we began, no matter how many times we find ourselves in the same situation; so long as we learn from where we’ve been, it can only help us get to where we’re going next.

So why not take a look back? If only to remember, it can do us no substantial harm.

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I regret nothing. There was once a time in my life where I regretted most things: Stupid things I had said foolishly, poor choices I had made that led to unfortunate consequences, and missing opportunities only on account of my own personal shortcomings. Then one day, or evening, or at some point… The realisation struck me no matter where or when I was, and although it might be nice to recall the moment it all made sense, I don’t regret having forgotten.

See, I finally realised that regret isn’t victimless; it isn’t action, but nor is it inaction. Regret won’t change the past, it won’t rewrite the memories you wish to change, and the only thing it will ever do–the only thing it can ever do–is hurt you by replaying your worst moments and highlighting all your faults, only on account of what? Nothing.

More importantly, I realised this: Suppose I did go back and change things, what then? Take for example this, the first guy I had a crush on. I liked him, I really liked him, and I wanted very badly to tell him, to share something with him. But it never happened. And I regretted that. I said, “If only I had talked to him…” And my mind went wild with fantasies of talking to him, of romantic dates and time shared so intimately afterwards, simply being with him enough to make my mind swell and my eyes soften in wistful imagination.

But then reality struck. As the scenes progressed, forced further in endless self-torture of all that could have been, I started seeing what might have been instead: The two of us together, forced under the scrutiny of disapproving family and friends–if we even made it that far. Maybe he wouldn’t like me, maybe, even looking past the chances stacked against us, we would break up a painful, gut-wrenching break up. And when all was said and done, I’d only be left regretting what I had first regretted never having done.

Or in simpler words, if I could change the past, I would no longer be who I am today, and if I were no longer me, I’d not regret what I’d done anyways. It’s a paradox, in one regard, but in the larger, it’s a waste of time, energy, and potential. Whenever I find myself full of regret today, I change that thought from grief to a chance to grow: I try better to improve upon myself, try harder to fix my faults and be a better person. Once I stop wasting time wishing away reality, things happen, and more oft than not, it’s a good thing.

I could go on further, give examples upon examples of the lessons that have taught me this, but I feel inside me an urge to write, something in specific I’ve had on my mind for a while, and I know now I will regret not giving myself that chance. So instead of complaining later on of my actions now, a simple sidestep will let me save this despair and leave me to breath fresher air.