As a child, I wanted to be like Shirley Temple. She had all that curly hair and dimples and always seemed to be smiling and singing and tap-dancing her way through life. I kind of thought Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind was cool too. So dramatic and explosive. Not like Olivia D’Havilland’s character, Melanie Hamilton. While kind and caring, she was a bit too milquetoast for me!
I also thought I’d like to be more like Judy Garland because my mother was always told she looked like her and I thought my mother was the most beautiful woman in the world.
There was a lot of my mother I wanted to be like. Like the way her hands fluttered and floated about her face when she talked. And the gentle sweet lilt of her voice with its barely discernible French accent. And the way she was always kind. Always. And how, even in challenging situations, she never yelled, never lost her cool, never said unkind things.
Of course, those traits were not my strongest ones, the being calm and quiet, the listening without having to assert my ‘rightness’. I used to believe that having my say meant saying whatever I wanted, until I learned that words have weight. Words are not easily erased, especially the harsh and cold ones. It took time and consciousness to realize that no matter how much truth I think there is in my voice, when it is used with a heavy hand and filled with knife-edged words, truth has a tendency to slice right to the heart leaving bleeding bodies scattered all around.
Even as a little girl I had a deep desire to make the world a better place. To do away with cruelty and injustice. I knew I didn’t want to cause destruction in the world and had to learn to use my words in ways that created harmony and joy. That no matter how deeply I felt about something, I never had the right to be cruel in how I made my feelings known.
That was a hard one to master. The ‘but I’m only saying this for your own good’ or the ‘you made me say that because you…’ tactics that I’d adopted when I was young and trying to figure out how to be in a world that didn’t always make sense to me.
Over the years, I have discovered that becoming me is not a destination. It is the journey of my life.
Always, there are things about me that work well in my life, and some attributes that do not.
I have a choice. To spend my time focussing on the things that don’t work, or, to put more attention on the things that do work so that they can grow stronger in my life.
I choose option b. To put my attention on the things that work.
Which is why, when I caught myself doing something that didn’t quite make sense to me yesterday (and definitely didn’t create the ‘better’ I strive for) I chose to look at myself with eyes of compassion and Love. I chose to say, “Well aren’t you fascinating Louise?” as opposed to the critter’s favourite, “How could you be so stupid?”
In becoming me, I constantly teach myself how to accept all of me with grace. How to allow all my emotions to flow, creating space for joy and self-compassion to overflow the banks of any self-condemnation that may want to fill in the backwaters of my old, worn-out habit of beating myself up in times of distress.
In these stressful days, it’s easy to regress into old patterns, to slip back into worn-out ways of being that do not work in your life.
Resist the critter’s urge to pull you back into old behaviours that may provide momentary relief from pain and discomfort but do not create peace and harmony in your heart and world.
Resist the scorched earth practice of destroying all your relationships by tearing down bridges, standing your ground, no matter how blackened the earth, and pummeling your ‘opponents’ into submission. Relationships do not thrive when we see the ones with whom we’re in relation as our ‘opponent’. Relationships thrive on finding pathways to common ground.
And above all, resist the urge to tear yourself down, to drive a stake into your own heart because you think you could be doing self-isolation better, or getting through your To Do list faster, or navigating these unknown waters more smoothly.
Give Yourself Grace.
Give yourself the gift of celebrating all the things you do well and acknowledge your willingness to do your best, even when the worst of you keeps threatening to rise to the top with its demands for an audience.
Lovingly hear yourself out and then say (before you say anything to anyone else in the heat of the moment), “Well, aren’t I fascinating!
And then, give yourself the gift of a deep breath.
And continue on your journey of becoming yourself, in all kinds of weather, all kinds of circumstances. The you who rises above in all your shining glory, all your beautiful multi-faceted dimensions.
The you you always want to be, Always are throughout your being and becoming when you give yourself grace.
We are all doing our best. But, when we judge ourselves harshly and focus on all we’re doing wrong or not well enough, we lose the opportunity to celebrate all we do, all we are, and all we are constantly becoming in the magnificence of being ourselves.