Summer time…. And the livin’s easy….
Or at least, that’s our normal association with this season of playtime, sunshine, beaches and barbeques. So what happens when our lives don’t slow down, but rather, become overloaded with covering for our colleagues on vacation, having the kids out of school 24/7, unmet expectations of summertime fun, and more time with family equaling more time for conflict? For some, the summer’s promise of ease can turn into greater stress, which in turn can move us into a place of resentment, irritability, and far from showing up as our best self.
One word that comes to mind in these situations: shame.
What do we do when we are ashamed of our actions? When we hurt someone? When we react rather than respond? When we do something or say something that makes us want to crawl into a hole and not come out until the world has somehow forgotten?
Sometimes the tendency is to get angry, defensive, start pointing the other finger… to blame. (For a super short and insightful explanation of blame, check out this clip from Brene Brown).
Sometimes the conditions are perfect for blame, because someone else has wronged us, someone else has also not been their best self. How convenient for us! Our internal struggle is no longer ours, but someone else’s to fix!
Other times we may cave inwards from the hurt and decide that we need to lick our self-inflicted wounds by practicing an exaggerated or out-of-balance form of “self-love”, the kind where we overlook our shadow side, where we lean into the "you did your best" or “you deserve better” feedback from friends, where we pretend (enter social media) that our lives are perfect, where we rationalize away self-doubt or insecurity.
But what is self-love? True self-love… in a deep and sustaining sense?
I would offer that it is seeing and accepting our whole self, including our shadow,
Owning our imperfect or even hurtful actions,
and practicing compassion,
deep loving compassion
To love all of our self means first, that we need to acknowledge our whole self. The part of our self that is not Instagram-able, the part that is embarrassing, or even mean, or the part that sacrifices one highly held value in order to prioritize another, only to see the disastrous aftermath in full effect when it is too late.
Just as the moon has its dark side, so do we… (cue Pink Floyd)
And then second, in the face of this glaring awareness, to develop a softening, a gentleness. In the words of Mary Oliver, to “let the soft animal of your body love what it loves”... go ahead, listen.
To practice non-judgment,
while sitting in awareness.
To let go of the ecstatic summer energy a little, to slow down and feel...to sit along the river bank, in the boat, or atop the SUP board, feet dangling, and to notice the cool water flowing over our skin...moving effortlessly around us,
regardless of who we are,
what we have done,
To witness and receive the water’s cool washing acceptance, and to practice the same with ourselves. To mimic its flow as it encounters the next obstacle in its path, one rock and river bend at a time.
To practice the art of just being.
And with that, take me to the river, drop me in the water..... (good music helps too).