15 || CREATING MOMENTS OF COMPASSION
Sorry I disappear so often. I wish I could give you a good excuse, but honestly I’m at the mercy of our brain and our brain is always at odds with itself. I’m learning how to deal with that right now, more than I ever have. It’s going to be really tough when you get here, but I promise you it will be okay. I’ve got a lot to get off my chest, a lot to talk about, a lot I want to teach you. I’m going to do it in pieces over the next month. It’s things I wish I would’ve been aware of before, but I’m glad I’m learning them now.
So, creating moments of compassion. What does that even mean? I’ll preface this by saying you are a compassionate person and don’t let anyone make you think differently. When it really counts you’re always there and I’m proud of you for that because you’ve faced down some really tough shit for a lot of people without ever thinking twice. But when your feelings are hurt, deeply and at your core, compassion becomes harder for you. It becomes harder for most people. We are not a species that takes kindly to putting our own feelings to the side for others when we’re in pain. It's just not in our nature to be like, “Well fuck me, how can I open my bruised and battered heart to help you?”
But that doesn’t mean you can’t practice trying. I hate to break this to you, but your feelings are going to get hurt, a lot, and – big shocker here – it’s going to usually be because of other people. And – even bigger shocker – their feelings are probably going to be hurt too (unless they’re complete assholes). So what if you started to approach it all differently?
Over the last month I started studying and practicing steps to try and help myself do that and I want to pass them on to you. Maybe, if nothing else, it will save you from some of the heartache when you make it here because trust me baby girl, there’s going to be a whole goddamn lot of it. So here’s what I suggest:
1. Treat others how you wish to be treated.
I promise I won’t throw a bunch of clichés at you, but this is one is really way too overlooked in its importance. You are a blunt person. It suits you about as much as it doesn’t. When you’re triggered you have a tendency to let your mouth fly and you and I both know the stuff that comes out of it is… not so lovely. There’s nothing wrong with speaking your mind, but you’ve got rough edges on you and rough edges make for rough conversation.
I know for a fact that you don’t do well when rough conversation refocuses on you, so I raise the question – why would it be okay to do it to someone else? It wouldn’t. There really isn’t a debate to be had because, no matter how you try to spin it, if you’re going to hold others to a certain standard you have to hold yourself to it too. If you want kindness, you have to give kindness. If you want compassion, you have to give compassion.
With that I challenge you, when you’re upset, to catch yourself before you speak and think, “Would I be okay if someone said this to me?”
2. Practice inserting analysis between feeling and reacting.
This is something new I’ve been working on, but it’s amazing how much it helps when I’m able to do it. I think you’ll benefit from it immensely. It’s a practice that ties into Buddhism, but more than anything it just teaches you how to be a better human being. Like I mentioned, we get triggered fairly easily, not by everything (thank fucking god), but by anything that feels like it could lead in one of two directions: inferiority or abandonment. Triggers are obviously dependent on the person, but these are ours. When the behavior of someone we care about feels like it’s going to either lead in the direction of us being placed at an inferior level to them or them abandoning us, we become vicious. It very rarely has a basis in reality.
While I can’t say much in our defense, because there’s really not much to say, I will promise you that finally, after twenty-three years and a truly insane amount of therapy this last month, there’s a diagnosis. I’m going to save it for a different letter because it’s hard to talk about, but I promise you it becomes much easier to face your demon when it has a face.
So when you have a negative feeling, I want you to force yourself to stop whatever you’re doing. Yes, it’s going to be really hard and yes, you’re going to fail a lot before you succeed, but just keep trying. Have your feeling, don’t block it out, but then just think. Even if you can only manage five seconds, just ask yourself, “Why do I feel this way?”
Is your reason for being upset reasonable? Or is it a reaction to one of your triggers? If you can start to recognize the difference, you’ll cause less division between yourself and others. The less division you cause, the more room you’re allowing for positive feelings to blossom.
3. Remember that emotions are cyclical.
We get caught up, not just you and me, but most humans, in the idea that happiness is a goal. Because we make happiness a goal, we tend to be unforgiving toward ourselves when we experience negative emotions. You, ya butt, are incredibly guilty of being angry at yourself for being angry, and that is one hell of a deep dark pit that’s hard to pull yourself out of. The result is that you also don’t care for anger reflected back at you because you don’t like facing what’s wrong with you in others.
But here’s the thing – emotions come and go. Happiness can’t be a goal because you simply will not always be happy. Sometimes you will be, and sometimes you’ll be pissed off, or sad, or frustrated, or depressed, or hysterical, or blah blah blah. You get it. You’re a human. The point is if you set happiness as a goal you’re going to have a hard time allowing compassion for yourself and others when negative emotions bubble forward. I can’t tell you how many times you’ve said, “I’m unhappy,” and then pointed the finger of blame at a boyfriend or a parent or a friend.
Listen to me. Shit. Happens. It just does. It just fucking happens. And when it does you won’t be happy because no human being takes difficulty and goes, “Fuck yeah, just what I wanted.” But where there is unhappiness one day there will be happiness the next. So don’t make grand decisions or accusations in moments of unhappiness. You simply cannot take the absence of happiness as a reason to create chaos. That sort of behavior sabotages the ability to be compassionate.
Happiness can’t always be around, whether in yourself or your relationships or your career, so when it flutters away let it go, be patient to the best of your ability, and when it comes back embrace it. We have a tendency to consider happy our “normal” state of being, so it’s more difficult to remember times of happiness than times of distress. But try to remember that, in fact, all the emotions are “normal” states of being. Don’t let the tougher ones make you indifferent.
4. Remember that every second you live is new from the one before and therefore an opportunity to start fresh.
I’ve added this final step in because of Rosi. Appreciate her when she shows up in your life because she’s going to be your only real tie to Seattle in LA and she’s going to understand you in a way others can’t because of that.
This is an idea that she brought up to me a little while back and if you retain anything from this list, I hope it’s this. I asked her how she was able to practice compassion toward herself and others she cared about when she was frustrated with circumstance (and mind you she has some truly monumentally difficult circumstances that would test anybody’s ability to be compassionate). And she said this, “Every second is a new moment that has never existed before and won’t exist again. Every second is an opportunity to forgive and be kind and start over. I can’t hold people to who they were a minute ago because then I’m assuming they can’t be different now. And who we are now versus a minute ago is never the same.”
I fucking love that, okay. I love it. There is always room for compassion when you move forward in life with that mentality. Every moment that passes by we are a new person. A person who you may be upset with is a new person. What exists right now in this exact moment will never exist again. So let every new moment, every new second, be an opportunity to believe the best of someone or something. Let it be an opportunity to start over and be kind.
I want you to know I still break. It is all a learning process. You will break and you will burst and you will hurt and you will struggle to be sensitive to others and I’m sorry because I know how hard that is. I know all the battles you’re going to fight and how raw they’re going to make you. People want to tell you how to fix yourself and how to feel better and how to let go and move forward and be okay when you’re not. But I hope you take what I said and know that you can change.
Because what they don’t say is just be kind. Just be warmhearted. Just be understanding. Just be open and thoughtful and aware. I hope you use those suggestions to create opportunities for compassion. After all, there’s no hurt in trying.