People often talk about having a word of the year as a way to focus their energies and obviously at this time of year that is quite prevalent. I decided a few months ago, in August in fact that I wanted to have a focus in my life, a guide to living it really, so that when I was faced with a decision I could ask if it contributed to my guidelines. This is especailly important with limited energy – I have to know what I am spending my energy on, I can’t just fritter it away like I used to. So after a lot of thought, journaling and reflection I came up with the following 3Cs – compassion, contentment and creative.
This is both for me and other people. I have had depression all of my adult life and then add in a chronic illness and a complete re-writing of my life and it can be a recipe for disaster. I think I have managed for it not to be a disaster and a big part of this is compassion. Another word for this is the Buddhist practice of loving-kindness.
I try to be nice to myself, to allow that actually I am really tired right now, so the best thing to do would be to lie down and listen to an audiobook for a while. Or actually although all I really want to eat right now is a pile of chocolate biscuits and a greasy take away, it would be better to have some healthy food and then some quality dark chocolate. Food is really important in both depression and chronic illness, in order to have the best chance with both of them I have to eat well. Of course, sometimes I slip up and have a takeaway – the compassionate part is not beating myself up about it!
It is about making the right choices for myself to help me in what I do. Stress can bring on immeditate tiredness and acute pain, so being compassionate enough to put myself first and not overloading my diary is a really important decision to make. This means not saying ‘yes’ to everything that comes along, it means scheduling regular holidays and days off. It means going to yoga and meditating, regardless of how much there is to do – those things need to come first, as does flute, gentle walking on soft ground and spending time with those I care about. This is treating myself with compassion.
Compassion is also for other people as well, trying to see their point of view, rather than getting angry with people, trying to understand that they probably have their own ‘stuff’ to be dealing with, even if it is not visible to us. It means holding people in forgiveness and light, rather than judging them all the time. I find this incredibly difficult but I am trying my hardest to be compassionate to everyone I come across.
I am not a contented person, I am never happy with my lot in life and I am always comparing myself to others. This is exhausting and definitley not compassionate. It is important to remember (and I often forget) that people’s lives on Instagram, Facebook etc are the curated highlights. Everyone puts their best foot forward and hides their dirty laundry. I have heard a phrase and I can’t remember the source of ‘don’t compare your insides other others’ outsides’. This is true – we do not know the workings of people’s lives. So, I am trying my best to stop doing this and to try to be content with what I have and how I am.
This isn’t wasting a lot of energy railing at how rubbish it is that I have to use a wheelchair, it is accepting that I do and that is ok. It is accepting that I can’t do everything and that is ok. It is trying to be content with what I have in the here and now and not waiting for xxxx to be yyyy before I zzzzz. It is really easy to do this and that is a waste of a life. We have to accept that things are how they are. We can try to change them and make things better, but not by railing or fighting. It is taking notice of life’s small pleasures.
I struggle with this, there is a lot that I want to fight, but I guess it is finding out how to challenge that in productive ways. I am trying to share my journey through the health maze as a way of helping other people who may be in a simillar situation. So that is my way of fighting.
Contentment is not easy for me! There is a lot of meditation, mindfulness, prayer and a gratitude practice in order for it to happen, but I feel so much better when I am feeling contented.
I want to live a creative life – both in terms of work and play. I want to be a writer – a published writer who works on factual books. So, that is one of the things I am working on, along with a freelancers toolkit and a guide for the newly disabled, which will take a bit longer! I have joined a concert band and although it takes an awful energy to attend rehearsals and practice it is really important to me and so I prioritise it. If I am not sure if I should take a piece of work I ask if it is creative, or helps me on my way to being creative to help make the decision.
I spend my spare time writing, playing music, reading and art journalling. Being creative helps me in my quest to be more compassionate and contented too.
All three feed into each other and can help create a ‘virtuous circle’. If I am feeling particularly bad I ask myself how I am doing against my threes Cs and then try to take action to address at least one of these three!