Welcome to Day 12 of my blog series based on Judith Hansen-Lasater’s “A Year of Living Your Yoga.” While the book has 365 quotes, I picked only 30.
My goal is to stay close to 500 words excluding the quote.
December 13 — Cultivating empathy for myself will change the world. Hold yourself gently today, offer yourself empathy and you will create a space inside for compassion to arise. When compassion arises, act from that space.
I didn’t want to talk about the bullying crap my son and then family endured this spring, but this quote lends itself to that situation (purely from my point of view by the way), plus I have a small update about it. The update is that the husbands met for coffee about a month after it all began and the aggressor’s intention was explained. That’s all well and good: you expressed your intention. That really doesn’t matter because what ended up happening was action, not intention and the whole thing blew up because of one reason or another (maybe it was supposed to) and you can’t un-ring a bell. My kids are pissed.
The meeting went fine, no “pistols at dawn” but I remain fixed in my opinion (as well as the opinion of countless other friends and family elders) that I must always put my kids first, be an example against oppression and harassment (no matter where it comes from) and stay the course, because no matter how you slice this watermelon, I was never heard.
I can do the math. Her subconscious (read: out of touch or denied) fears and motivations were more important than returning the respect I gave to her.
My wishes, for mutual respect between the kids on the bus, and parental oversight of any shenanigans, then after that went pear-shaped, for distance and for peace, were ignored. The other parent HAD to get after me, she couldn’t simply leave me alone for a month. She ignored me, and then, she offered a bullshit, back-handed apology that took a while to sink in (because I was conditioned as a child to take responsibility for shit that wasn’t mine), but which I realized I don’t have the energy to dance around her conditions of what is an isn’t acceptable behavior in a world where double-standards thrive. I’ve spent too much money on couch time to poop all over what I’ve learned just because one person can’t hold her verbal bladder.
What this situation has to do with the quote is quite simple for me: I chose to be gentle to myself and as such, I didn’t blow up in her face on the day she frantically confronted me for a talk and to offer her garbage apology. I walked, I was calm, I listened. I built empathy for myself even though there was NONE coming from the other person (as established by her inability to sit still and learn from all this for 30 consecutive days). And that empathy created compassion, just as Lasater suggests, and I was able to walk away with kindness and very little anger.
So in order for me to treat her with empathy, because I’ve been there: I’ve been the frantic, please-forgive-me-I-didn’t-mean-it-but-you’re-a-screw-up-too person on the other end begging for a remission of the pain, of the guilt and of the regret (because I couldn’t stand it, so the apology was more about me feeling better not the person I hurt), I had to remember what it felt like to be her and then cultivate empathy in myself which became compassion for her.
Here’s a clue: IT’S NOT EASY! It requires fathoms of self-awareness and I’m only 5′ 5″.
I had to say, “Maaaan, she’s totally effed-up inside with something that has nothing to do with me, so I need to let this go so I don’t say anything I regret…” and yet I did say something I sort of regret, but not regrettable: I said it was OK. Because it sort of was OK, but I didn’t mean that it was OK forever. I told her I loved her, which I did and still do. My version of love doesn’t look like how she’d likely prefer it: it’s not all warm and fuzzy. It’s tough love: I love her (me — empathy, friends!) enough to stay the hell away from her and let her sort out her own shit and not involve me in it because I promise you this: I will be a complete nightmare if we got involved again and she pulled crap like this again — which she will until she gets her control issues and self-relevance baggage straightened out.
Now, almost three months later, I can see that it was one of those situations where she was so desperate for my attention (I believe) or some form of resolution, no matter how premature, that she simply didn’t care about whether it jacked up everything. And it did.
(How’d we already get to 650 words?!)
So I’ll wrap it up with this: if you can’t hold yourself gently and offer yourself empathy: to understand or remember the feeling of shoes your person or the world is wearing, you’re not going to be in a place of kindness; you’re going to be reactive, and likely hostile, and the energy is going to be false and stagnant.
Only inertia exists in a vacuum; if you want to move forward, with anyone, you have to allow yourself to feel something close to what they’re feeling. Conversations can’t be all finger-pointing; there is no resolution. Ever.