It’s been a week and a half now that I’ve been trying to be kinder to myself which is my ‘Lenten practice’ this year. I feel it might be good to check in with myself, to see how my daily decisions may have been positively affected, and also to take a look at where I’ve been struggling perhaps.
One thing I have definitely returned to in the last days is the fact that I need art & creativity to be well. Not just to be happy, but for the basics, for being well.
So I went out with friends to draw and share the enjoyment of it. I saw two exhibitions, due to the kindness of friends who invited me: Frank Auerbach at Tate Britain (one of his paintings arrived in one of my posts), and “Painting the Modern Garden: Monet to Matisse”, which was extraordinary. I could say it’s fantastic and incredible and all kinds of other things, but you really need to see it yourself to know what I mean. I’m planning to see it a second time, and that doesn’t happen often. And I want to go to Giverny!
The other thing I ‘rediscovered’ a little is how much praying with others sustains me, including celebrating the Eucharist, but also just praying with others. It does need to be with others I’m comfortable with, people I feel safe around, a place where I can be myself. Often church has not been such a place, and I’m grateful that I’m finding a few places at the moment where I can be myself and live my faith in community. There’s a church I go to now from time to time, and I discovered new people who I share common ground and my faith with. I feel the encouragement of that, and I feel that I’m giving myself a lot by participating in these places. It adds richness and sustenance to my relationship with God, and I give thanks for that.
Since I posted “One or the Other”, I’ve actually reminded myself frequently to let go of trying to be perfect, for the sake of being happier, enjoying things more. It tends to work…
Then there was Valentine’s Day. I chose to approach it consciously this year, instead of either hiding at home with lots of DVDs or going out not enjoying all the romance and/or commercial decoration around me. So I decided I’d have a self-love day – ambition is my middle name… It actually turned out rather nice. I started off by reading a bit of Maya Angelou, the mother of healthy self-image… And what other poem that “Phenomenal Woman” would fall into my hands! What could go wrong after that… The plan was actually to do a ‘charity shop walk’, looking for artsy inspiration and material. I wasn’t really in the mood for it in the end, and just took a long walk through the city, with a stop at a big bookstore, of course, and a nice cafe. And then I went to church where I knew this choir was going to sing. Talk about phenomenal! And the church is phenomenally welcoming too, so a good place to spend some time with others and pray. All in all, a pretty good day for 14 Feb!
All this time, I’ve been writing a lot too, freewrites to generate material for poetry writing, a mix of journalling and speedwriting to break through the ‘inner censor’ and get at a) the truth of what’s going on inside and b) unusual language that will bring poetry alive.
It’s good for me to write all this down – looking at this list, I feel there’s a lot of life coming back into my days, and I’m glad and grateful for it all.
The things I struggle with have been around too, but they are somewhat easier to live with once I take care of myself in all the ways mentioned above. So, what is it that I am struggling with? Work, most of all. I think it would be good for me to leave my job. I’m not happy there, it’s exhausting to me, and I’ve dealt with a lot of things I find difficult at work for quite some time now and I don’t see things change. Including some tense relationships, unhelpful physical work surroundings, and a level of expectations that stands in no relation to the support or resources I am given.
If I leave work, this could well mean leaving the city where I live too, so I can finally get my own place, and create a home for myself. I love some of what this city offers but I need more space and nature around me, a more liveable pace, and more affordable housing. I’m 30 now, and I have no chance to ever have my own place here. And I’m not happy with that. I don’t accept the idea of me still living in a flatshare when I’m 40. So I need to move.
While I search for jobs and places, self-doubt sets in: maybe I am in the right place, and I’m the one who needs to change, not what is around me? maybe it wouldn’t work for me to have my own place, I might feel lonely or isolated – what if I make this big move only to regret it? And just think of my family’s reaction if I indeed leave my job and community here but not to move back to where they are, as they would like me to do, but elsewhere, to a completely new place?
And then I sigh. And take a deep breath. And remember why there’s good reasons for me to leave work, to find my own place, to not move back to the family. It’s not easy, this process. It takes a long time, and a lot of energy, and a great deal of assertiveness (that I don’t have much of) to say and accept, “This is what I need”. But, here goes…
And maybe, if I stop trying to be perfect, I can find ‘good enough’ somewhere… Because I don’t think what I’ve got now is ‘good enough’. I want more for myself, more satisfying work, and a more enjoyable home, and more creative freedom. Kindness to myself includes making choices like these.