Each year I like to look back at my journals, Facebook posts, blog posts, daily calendar, etc., to review the year. Where was I this time last year? What did I do right this year? What would I like to change? What are my goals and dreams for the coming year?
It helps me recognize what I have done (since I often gloss over my accomplishments in favor of beating myself up over what i haven't done) and refocus for the coming year.
The fortunate thing is that my birthday is in December, so it works well with an "end of the year" evaluation. Of course, my birthday was over a week ago now and guess what I have been doing? Telling myself that I "should have done the evaluation" ON my birthday. That I'm late on it. That I SHOULD HAVE done it already. Which brings me nose to nose with my first, ugliest realization: I am too hard on myself.
This, I'm sure, comes as no surprise to many of you. And I'm sure any of you are too hard on yourselves as well. But this year I realized it. Like, viscerally. As in "I get it, Universe, I really do."
I think of this phrase that I wrote down after hearing it somewhere: "Don't should on yourself."
Ooops, I think I stepped in something.
Now, to be fair to myself I have been this way for a very, very long time. As a kid I can remember essentially grounding myself. Once I taught my little sister some bad words on accident while I was babysitting her. When my parents got home she proudly shared her newfound vocabulary and, unfortunately, my attempts to brainwash her that I had actually said "Truck and ship" were for naught.
Let's just say I went straight to my room and didn't come out except for meals and school. For a few days. What's more, I can remember at least one other instance where I did the same thing - an intentional self-grounding. I must have been in high school and who knows what I did, since I didn't have many restrictions. Nonetheless I did something I knew upset - or worse, "disappointed" - my parents and I clearly remember essentially just staying in my room, not talking to them, not asking for anything, for a week.
I am sure that if we really wanted to dig deeply we could come up with some analysis about my parents and their parenting style (or lack thereof) and the roles that children and parents adopt in order to adapt, but I am not interested in airing that particular pile of dirty laundry right now. (I know, a sudden bout of modesty or privacy - what's happened to me?) ;-)
In any event, I am hard on myself. Harder than those around me are (thank goodness!) And I have a very long history of being hard on myself. It is a difficult pattern to break. But, like so many things in life, awareness of the issue is the first step. It was during a day-long meditation I attended this year that I really understood how much pressure and stress I bring to myself, by myself.
You know, I trained for years to be a hurdler. Get over the obstacle in your way and immediately focus on the next one. There is no time in-between obstacles to relish the fact that you got over the hurdle successfully - without banging your knee or tripping over it. You keep your head up, your eyes on the horizon, and keep running as fast as you can. Even at the end of the race you review it - see where you can tweak this or adjust that or do the other better next time.
The thing is this: if you are always looking to the next challenge, always critiquing your performance, you miss the space in between. The sweet space where you get to enjoy the run, the race. You miss the feeling of the sun on your skin, the power of your legs, the strength of your body in motion. You miss the joy of the win.
During the daylong mediation we became open to hearing what it was we needed to do next and I heard the message loud and clear:
Cut yourself some slack.
So, for year 47 and all the rest I am gifted beyond that, goal #1 is this: To quit shoulding on myself and cut myself some slack.