Tuesday's Attention #16
Compassionate Patience With Self
Today, writing authentically looks like me writing a longer piece and so I wanted to preface this newsletter by sharing that it will take longer to read. I encourage you to read at a time where there is space for you to pause. Our society is loud and fast and busy these days. There is so much noise. My hope is that these words do not add to the noise, but give you space to breathe and come into a gentleness with yourself.
I will be taking some time away from social media and sharing these newsletters and there and so if this connects with you in any way or you think it would connect with a loved one, I’d love it if you'd share it with them!
Lastly, thank you for being here. I am so grateful for you and this community. Happy Tuesday my friends and happy reading!
Compassionate Patience With Self
Yesterday, I went on a bike ride. Without context, that means nothing. With context, that means everything.
In high school, I had to lay my cleats to rest my junior year and step away from contact sports due to my 5th concussion. My world as I knew it was upended. I had never known a life without soccer in it nor had I known what life was like without athletically training for something. In the years that followed my last concussion, I struggled. Yes, I pivoted and found new interests and learned so much about myself in the change and ultimately it is how I ended up in Athens. But, I struggled. When I went off to college, I spent one or two days a week in physical therapy, I saw the neurologist monthly, and I received services from the disability center. Many friends knew I got headaches and that I’d often have to miss or leave over-stimulating events early; however, very few friends knew about the appointments, the support I needed for school, and my inner-world of reconfiguring who I was without being an athlete and without being defined as an athlete. My pride was too strong to let people in. I tried playing IM sports, convinced that I could control not going in for a tackle or heading a ball. I was wrong and my roommate who doubled as my best friend kindly told me that playing was unwise. Eventually, I gave up trying to prove to myself and to others that I was still a competitive athlete.
I felt defeated. And afraid.
Years down the road, my headaches slowly decreased. I brought soccer back into my life through becoming an assistant varsity soccer coach. I continued to stay away from playing contact sports and also a lot of physical activity too. I was still scared—scared of causing a headache and scared of getting hurt again. But more than anything, I was scared to see how far away I was from where I used to be.
I came to learn that yes, I often compared myself to my friends who were seen as the athletic ones in college; but, more so, I compared myself to my past self.
I’d go on a jog or a run only to quickly shut down because of how I could no longer do what I used to be able to do. It felt impossible to get back to the shape I was in and to do what I worked so hard for throughout my adolescent life. I didn’t know how to meet myself in my process and simply enjoy whatever physical activity I was doing. Nor did I know how to be patient and kind with my body.
This comparison against myself was debilitating and only increased my fear of trying to get back into physical activities again.
Eventually though, through the encouragement and safety of a few friends, my senior year of college, I trained for a half-marathon and completed it. I finished last of my friends and that was okay. I had never run a half-marathon before and I found that I had nothing to compare the experience to. It was a victory—a reminder of my body’s resiliency and how much it had endured since I had left the soccer field. I felt proud. However, months down the road, that became the new baseline I compared myself against. When my running endurance decreased again, I wouldn’t run with friends out of fear of slowing them down and out of fear of not being where I was months ago.
I find myself in this cycle over and over again. It’s been one of my greatest battles as I have had to learn how to adjust to living with my disease. There is much I cannot do that I once could. With that though, I am reminded that I have choices. I can
Sit in self-pity
Compare myself to my past self and to others and shut down
Choose compassion. Recognize the new variables I am up against and recognize how hard my body is working.
Here, again, I return back to Victor Frankl’s words about how after the stimuli and the pause, there is a space for us to respond. This week, I chose to respond with a little bit of courage.
For months, I have avoided my bike. I was afraid of seeing how I could no longer ride more than 3 miles. And you know what, I can’t. Not yet at least. But, what I can do is get on the bike, not worry about the distance, and take in the breeze on my face and my body gliding along the road—one with the bike and the round beneath my feet. That choice I have. That choice I am choosing.
What’s your bike ride right now? What is the thing that you’ve taken a step towards that others may have no idea how much has gone into that seemingly small decision/step?
Maybe right now you are battling depression and it feels hard to cook yourself a meal, but yesterday you cooked and it felt like the greatest victory and joy. Maybe you are still healing from a heartbreak, but today you didn’t text that person and they left your mind for quite some time and it felt like a beautiful relief and a step. Maybe you are prone to beat yourself up when you don’t PR on a run, but today you allowed yourself to take it easy. You even took some time to walk when you needed to and that felt like such a win for you and your body. Maybe you are busy and distracted and feeling apathetic, but this past week you closed the computer, put the phone away, and laid in the grass and overtime your mind opened up and you heard the birds. It was the hearing of the birds that was the victory and that meant everything. Maybe you have always worked incredibly hard, but to the detriment of your own well-being and yesterday you put in a boundary with your work that led you to say no to a new task. It was the “no” that you’ve been working to say for so long that reminded you that you matter and you do not have to take it all on.
Wherever you are, however you are comparing yourself to what you could once do or to what others can currently do, I hope today you meet yourself with grace.
You are not who you once were and that is okay. The variables are different now and sometimes that is hard. If you are angry about the variables in your life right now, be angry. And then, be patient with your tender self. You do not have to return to who you once were. In fact, there is no returning. Instead, you get to evolve into who you are growing to be. Whether you see it or not, you are growing my friend.
The you that you are today is enough. And beautiful too. Let compassion and patience meet you.
Words that have been sticking with me:
A couple weeks ago two dear friends sent me a book I had been wanting to read for months. It is Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke. It is lovely. There are few things more beautiful to me than reading letters people have written to one another. It’s one of the purest arts we have. Below is a part of one of the letters that I’ve been sitting with and wanted to share. May it encourage you as it has me.
“There is perhaps no use my going into your particular points now; for what I could say about your tendency to doubt or about your inability to bring outer and inner life into unison, or about all the other things that worry you—: it is always what I have already said: always the wish that you may find patience enough in yourself to endure, and simplicity enough to believe; that you may acquire more and more confidence in that which is difficult, and in your solitude among others.” (pg. 55)
May you find patience enough in yourself to endure.
It is good for my soul to hear those words more than once. May it be a blessing over your week and mine.
List of Attention:
The way seeing the work that goes into fresh food ending up on your plate is so humbling
The feeling of finishing a really good book
How much I love using my hands in a garden
I am keeping this list short this week because I’d love for you to add onto the list! Email me back at least 1 thing you’ve been paying attention to recently that is nourishing you. You can reply to the newsletter or directly email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
At the end of every newsletter, I want to leave you all with some questions/prompts to think on. If you ever want a friend to hear your thoughts, feel free to share them back with me through email! I always love to read and to listen.
How have you been proud of yourself lately? No matter how hard it may feel to come up with an answer, name at least one thing. Ask a dear friend this question and share your answer with them too.
Creative Prompts/Celebration Tasks:
Make a small list of ways to be gentle and patient with yourself. Put that list somewhere where you will see it this week. Practice that gentleness and patience in a way that feels nourishing instead of like a goal to accomplish.
Write a letter to someone you know very well who you see taking big steps that may seem small to others. Name those steps you see them taking. Speak into them how you see their beauty and strength and send the letter!
May your week be marked by gentleness, patience, and slow endurance. May you hear the birds and ride your bike and name the victories. May you see that you do not need to find a way to return to who you once were nor do you have to compare yourself to your past self. Instead, may you see where you are now and have compassion. May you see the beauty within you and around you. And may you encourage someone else to see their own value and worth too.
As you carry on into this week, may your days ahead be filled with words that encourage you, laughter that heals you, and moments of beauty that pull your attention in and bring you to slow down.
May you know that you, yourself, are worth paying attention to.
About Tuesday’s Attention:
This Newsletter was born out of a desire to stay attentive to the world around me, to encourage others to create and to pay attention, and to connect more closely with a readership. If you enjoy these newsletters, you can also support my writing through becoming a part of my Patreon community to get access to more of my writing content. The writing that I do is 100% supported by readers and so any and all support— whether that is you reading this newsletter, sharing it with others, and/or being a part of my patreon means the absolute world to me. Thank you for being here. It is a joy to share this space with you all.