2021 has been A LOT already, so rather than a single word-of-the-year, I'm choosing a whole sentence!

by Michelle M. Johnson

Happy new year, y’all!

Wow.

2021 has already been a lot. Waaaaay more than I thought I could take some days (and there’s only been 15 of them so far!).

Our constant chaos drip - the pandemic continuing to rage, daily COVID death counts reaching all new highs, traitors violently trying to tear apart the United States government by swarming into Capitol Hill, vaccines trickling down to communities at a snail’s pace, and oh yeah, there are still folks everywhere aggressively and passive aggressively refusing to wear masks and social distance…STILL - has made focus, much less energy and enthusiasm, for anything really challenging.

And, even though none of this chaos is our fault, many of us are blaming ourselves (I’m including myself in this “many”) for being so distracted, so spaced out, so anxious, so unproductive right now. We apologize for our lack of energy, our shortness of tempers, our inability to focus, our delays in getting things done. And this is just my opinion, but I think we need to stop doing that; we need to stop apologizing for having intense and prolonged reactions to our intense and prolonged stressful circumstances.

Has any of us EVER lived through an epoch like this before? I know I haven’t, and my life’s been pretty eventful. Like Brene Brown says, we are living new FFTs - F*cking First Times - every single day, and it has us all in a tailspin questioning everyone and everything (for her explanation and ruminations on FFTs, her podcast, Unlocking Us, is wonderful place to start, particularly the March 20, 2020 and December 9, 2020 episodes).

But of course, this is the United States, the land of comparative suffering (example: “My belly is full, I have a roof over my head, I have clothes on my body, and I have the ability to pay my bills; others have it much worse than I do right now, so even though I’ve had this INSERT WRETCHED EXPERIENCE HERE happen to me, I shouldn’t be feeling this way.”), which means rather than cutting ourselves and those around us a little slack and taking a deep breath and a realistic look at everything that’s going on right now, we pile more “shoulds” on our shoulders than any single person could possibly be expected to burden, and then subsequently sink into self-destructive guilt spirals.

This cycle serves no one except the media (trust me, they love it when we feel afraid, guilty, ashamed, or “less than” – those feelings keep us clicking, scrolling, and staying tuned in to their apps/channels), so how about we all collectively agree to grant ourselves a bit of grace when we are a tad (read: totally) discombobulated from here on out?

It was a nice idea to hold onto that the closing of 2020 might mean an end to all the new challenges and uncertainties we’ve been facing, but issues this big – a global pandemic, a toxic president, a deep need to finally dismantle our systemically racist and sexist societal infrastructures reaching a breaking point – took much longer than a single year to build up to where we are now. For problems this big to get anywhere near resolutions, we are going to have to be a bit more patient with ourselves and the universe.

But here’s the rub - patience is hard to come by when your nerves are shot because:

·        a good sleep has been hard to come by for the last 10 months

·        leaving one’s house requires a cost/threat/benefit analysis

·        the daily news mostly holds new horrors

·        family ties and friendships are being tested on the daily as “we have a difference of opinion” now means that folks who thought they knew and loved each other unconditionally now effectively disagree about what universe they are living in

·        solid plans for the future haven’t been possible to make for 10 months and counting

·        supplies of toilet paper and disinfectant are still unreliable

And these are just some bullet point stressors that affect EVERYONE. I have no doubt each of us has a list 4 times as long made up of the personal particular stressors we are trying to live through each day without losing our shit. Which is why when we take a deep breath and try to dip into our patience well, we end up finding it dry.

At least that’s where I have been finding myself now that we have entered a new year – at the edge of a very dry patience well. And this is an unusual way for me to begin the year. Typically, the new year is when I seek out new goals to reach for, new ideas to explore, and a word of the year to encapsulate all the hopes and dreams I have for the next 365 days (“Grace” was the word I chose last year, and wow, was that choice tested!). But you know what? A single word is just not enough for me this year, so I have selected a full sentence (You hear that, 2021? I’m coming at you with six whole words and a period!), and after all the anxious texts from friends and family I answered today, after all the stressed out emails I’ve read since January started, I feel like I should share my chosen sentence with a wider audience. So here it is y'all, my sentence-of-the-year: 

"Compassion is the birthplace of patience." 

These aren't my personal words.This powerful phrase was written by Sonya Renee Taylor in her equally powerful book, The Body Is Not An Apologya book that I devoured during the holiday season and have continued to lean heavily upon as we inch closer and closer to inauguration day.  

I wholeheartedly recommend buying, reading,
 and re-reading this entire book about discovering radical self love
 and learning how to use it to heal the wounds we've accumulated
 living under systems of oppression, the 2nd edition of which
 is due to come out in early February. But the epic sentence I chose
 to walk through 2021 with is specifically found on page 89 of the
 1st edition, which I own, as well as on the most recent
  HCWT Free Coloring Page (zoom in to read where I hand wrote
 it in the bottom left of the inner circle of my illustration).

And, it's a doozy of a sentence, isn't it?! Beginning at compassion is how we end up with patience?! Are you sure?! I thought patience was just something one had or didn't have based on how good a day one was having, not a journey one works towards by diving into the toughest of all emotions, compassion! 

But, the more I returned to Sonya Renee Taylor's sentence - "Compassion is the birthplace of patience." - the more I realized the deep truth in her words. Of course patience isn't just a practice on its own, especially in circumstances like we are all living through right now! How can we be patient with our government's challenges, our new masked way of life, the roll out of the vaccine, the daily chaos and injustice of the world, if we can't even show ourselves even a modicum of compassion for our simplest "failures" right now? 

Life is not going to get easier for any of us any time soon; there are a lot of problems that need addressing and a lot of healing that has to take place in these United States before that can happen. What can get significantly better fairly quickly though is our ability to show ourselves some compassion, to admit, perhaps daily, that life is hard right now and that difficulty will take its toll on us no matter who we are, where we live, or how fortunate we have been up to this point. In being more compassionate towards ourselves (some examples of simple self-compassion: refraining from beating ourselves up for having low energy on yet another Zoom meeting, from mentally thrashing ourselves for forgetting to text someone back, from wearily apologizing for work taking longer than usual, from feeling guilty that we have zero interest in anything terribly complicated) we are not only recognizing our own humanity - an important thing not to forget right now - but we also are slowly filling our patience well for things that are out of our control.

I know remembering "Compassion is the birthplace of patience" is going to be incredibly difficult for me for a while (read: I'm gonna be fighting this truth at first 'cuz being kind to myself when I'm stressed is not my superpower), so I needed to come up with a gentle and enjoyable way for me to practice it. If you've been reading my blog for a bit, then you know I love to create wild and meandering drawings that also double as inspirational reminders for myself, which is what I have done with my choice for my sentence-of-the-year. If these reminder illustrations also turn out fun to color, I sometimes share them with the HCWT community as a Free Coloring PageAnd y'all, I really like how this reminder drawing came out! I love the crepiness of these flowers, the wild negative spaces left behind by the wonky swirls (My son, Sam, says this illustration looks like flowers jumping out of a mirror - what do you think?), and the overall simplicity of it all. I think it will be relaxing and fun to color, so I'm sharing it with the universe and hoping it will do some good work out there.

For all the reasons why coloring is therapeutic 
check out this blog post I wrote a while back,
 or if doing that is just a bit too much for
how you're feeling today, click here
 to sign up for the HCWT community
and just get coloring the above Free Coloring Page.

If you've not (re)discovered the relaxing joys of coloring - or "colouring in" as they say in the U.K., which I find to be delightful - then I hope you choose this particular drawing of mine to pull out some markers or colored pencils and give it a go. If there has ever been a time to pick up new, inexpensive hobbies it is now, and a hobby that can help one slow down, breathe and remember to offer oneself a bit of compassion when one's extraordinary daily grind makes one a bit rough around the edges gets bonus points in my nerd book!

Comments

  1. πŸ’œπŸ’œπŸ’œπŸ’œ
    I can't wait to color this. Also, I feel I am a compassionate person but have no patience. I will look into this book.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm so happy you like this illustration, too:) And, most definitely look into The Body Is Not An Apology - soooo much good stuff in there! Honestly, should be require reading for everyone!

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