I slipped out of bed this morning, careful not to disturb the sleeping bodies so easily woken. I was eager for a few moments alone in the quiet of my house with my morning drink. I walked around the corner to replenish our coffeepot; the streets were empty and the sky was covered in bands of pink clouds. It felt like an illicit pleasure – aloneness, beauty and eventually, a strong and deep cup of coffee.
I’ve been reading tonnes of blogs these past few days about planning and new year’s resolutions. I love a good plan, a strategy to pull all my thoughts and ideas together, something documented that makes it all real and possible (and so it seems does my son, who sat the family down last night for a presentation done in his giant notebook with a plan to become a more relaxed family. Boy genius.)
One blog stood out to me more than others – Penelope Trunk’s Resolution for 2016. In it she discusses how resolutions don’t work unless you can express them in a simple way. For her:
“So for 2016 I’m going to accept who I am: Someone who struggles everyday to accept the realities of parenting in the context of a world that celebrates people who give up everything for work.”
And I love, love, love that instead of something like – get fit! get rich! be better! – it’s an idea. And so for me my overall desire for 2016 is actually a continuation from previous years, but I hope to get better and better at: being ridiculously, abundantly, wonderfully kind – to myself.
Possibly you might think I was going to say it to the world, my local community – hell, maybe even my kids. But myself, why? Because I know that really all of things I want to achieve this year – publish another photo book with the husband, launch an online photo course, be a great mum, a wonderful friend etc – are only possible, really possible, if I feel good about myself.
And one thing I know very well about myself is – if I am not kind to myself I am at risk of mentally beating myself into a bloody pulp everytime I mess something up (and messing up is inevitable seeing as I am a human being). I have found that the first step in that process of feeling good about myself, is to treat myself with absolute kindness.
It’s so intensely easy to be hard on yourself in today’s culture. Always being reminded of what you are not, always falling short of a perception of perfection. But I have decided I don’t care what crimes I am committing against domesticity or slenderness or grown-upness. After all – I am not a serial killer. I am (mostly) quite a nice person. So in 2016 I will:
Appreciate everything about myself, even the crap things, and treat myself with the gentle, loving kindness that I treat my most treasured gifts – my friends and family. I will accept my imperfections as a mother, a wife, a friend, a human, and treat myself with kindness and love all the same.
This idea of kindness to myself has been a theme for a number of years. Ever since at the age of 31 I found myself lost and broken by grief when I lost a baby girl late in pregnancy. I found a pathway back to life, and eventually to joy, when I decided to abandon my previous ways of being so insanely hard on myself and instead embrace myself with kindness.
So when my mind starts on that path of being hard on myself, on my many imperfections, instead of beating myself up I try to offer up the kind of kindness that I would offer a friend or my child when in pain. I try to imagine it not being my problem, but voiced in that wonderful voice of my best girl friend or my beautiful son. Sometimes even to my husband (well not that often. Maybe next year I’ll start a be-kind-to-my-husband-most-of-the-time resolution. But like the airplanes say, put your safety mask on first before you help others.)
By being gentle and kind to myself I have managed to transform my relationship with myself and with the people around me. I am a much better mother (most of the time), I am a better wife (the husband has testified to this and I’ve been with him for sixteen years).
I couldn’t have started a business without it or stopped myself from crumbling with guilt over my various parenting disasters without this attitude of kindness.
And so it’s this idea that I am completely committing to this year, my year of kindness.