I’m a fiercely loyal friend, who tends to get scrappy in the defence of the people I love (for the record: that’s mentally scrappy – it’s all on the inside and I generally manage to keep my mouth shut and stay out of fistfights, but the knee-jerk response is still there). So, imagine the schism in my brain when the person I want to come to the rescue of and the person I want to kick the tar out of for harming a member of my “clan” are the same person.
Don’t shit where you eat. A phrase so common it has become colloquial. But it’s a pretty piece of philosophy none the less. For starters, it’s a great foundation for any environmental premise – you’ve got to drink that water, breath that air, eat food from that soil, so don’t dump crap in it. Seems dead simple, but a surprisingly difficult concept to grasp in execution. And remarkably difficult to grasp on a personal level. What are we doing to our own “environment”? What kind of toxins are we dumping into our own psyches? It’s astounding our great capacity to be shitty to ourselves.
For me, one of the weird-assed side benefits of chronic illness is a rather immediate feedback loop on the life management front. If I spend any length of time being shitty to myself, my life gets pretty shitty in a hurry (probably worth noting I spent a decade feeling really shitty before I figured this out). In reading a book called The Fine Art of Recuperation I remember a question: have a look around your living space, could a houseplant thrive here? If not, what makes you think you could?
Cultivation. We are all cultivating our own lives, fostering and nourishing, weeding and creating space to grow and manifest who we really are. We get so busy with what we think life is we forget to live – forget to tend and invest in ourselves.
Through my ventures into twitter, I’ve gotten to discover and listen in on the thoughts of people I’ve never even met, but minds that get me thinking. One of those is Robin Sloan, who posted a blog entry about being really busy and not having time to daydream – dangerous for a writer, he says, but I think dangerous for us all. Plants need space around them, room for fresh air and sunshine; and just time, plain old time, to grow – and so do we.
And for plants to thrive they need to not be whacked about and have toxins dumped on them. I wonder if perhaps the reason my latest posts on looking in the mirror have gotten so much response (behind the scene), and so few comments, is people are afraid to look in the mirror, afraid the person looking back will say: “Hey! I’m awesome, why are you shitting on me?” And we do, it’s all too easy. To put ourselves down, to be our own worst critic, to see only our faults, to make time for everyone else but ourselves. I remember Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, and their simple philosophy to “be excellent to one another.” You could build a whole religion on that premise alone, though apparently we also need the asterisk and auxiliary point of: “be excellent to yourself too!”
And why shouldn’t we? Why don’t we? How can you be excellent to someone else, if you don’t know how to do it for yourself? There are some fundamental human rights we fight to make sure everyone has; do we make sure we give them to ourselves? The right to fresh water and healthy food, to have a home that is not in turmoil, to be free of abuse and neglect. The right to space and opportunities to manifest a meaningful life.
Take a look around your home, take a look at your life: if you were a foster child, and your social worker came for a visit, would they have to “intervene”? If any part of you answers yes to this, start now, start today. Start making those tiny little steps to building a life you can thrive in. Make this Day One in a daily practice of being excellent to yourself. It ain’t all gonna change overnight, but you can start now. Start investing in your environment, making it a place you love, you feel loved in. Start saying: “Hiya gorgeous” when you look in the mirror. Start being as good to yourself as you are to everyone else you love. Start by just exclaiming:
“I am excellent!”
’cause you are. Trust me on this.
(don’t make me kick your ass)
If you want more practice being excellent to yourself, you might want to read: Sit Down to Eat too.