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Wrangling the Octopus

Hello Everyone and Happy Friday!

I like to start my blog posts off as if I'm talking to my friends, which really, I usually am. Thank you friends! As I write my fourth blog post, I am happy to sit down and think of you all again, to think about what I would like to say to you if we could hang out in my living room and catch up, if we could meet up at our local watering hole and get to know each other and grow a friendship. Of course right now there are a lot of layers to think through as we are in our 7th, 8th? week of COVID-19 sheltering in place orders. Here in Vermont, our governor has loosened the order a bit and we are now allowed to go out and meet in groups of 10 or less preferably in outdoor spaces. My family is thrilled by this news and we have already gotten together with another family to run and play and catch up in person. Aside from the joy of actually physically hanging out with friends again, this week seems to be all about compassion for me as I handle and process daily family interactions, read the news, and start an online class called "The Science of Well-Being." Anyone else feeling the need to focus on compassion in order to stay sane right now?

Compassion is a big buzz word these days, right? This is not a word I grew up hearing by any means, and I think as individuals and as a society we are starting to really focus on things like compassion and kindness in order to affect change. That gives me hope. The fact that we are even using words like compassion regularly now shows me that things are moving more towards kindness than hate. By imagining ourselves in other's shoes to work to understand what they might be dealing with, we can respond to others from the heart rather than from a defensive position, which improves our communication and our relationships in general. Personally, I try hard to do this but honestly, it can be pretty tough sometimes when it seems the world has so much racism, hate, and violence in it and I fall short of true compassion regularly. In the face of all the negative, I have to start small and that begins with myself.

Our circles of influence begin with ourselves then extend to our loved ones and others we interact with on a daily basis, then our community, and on and on. So beginning with ourselves, giving ourselves compassion, means that we talk to ourselves as if we are speaking to our best friend. Are you understanding with yourself? Would you be so hard on your best friend? This week I have really struggled in the parenting department with my 5 year old throwing huge screaming fits. It's really hard to be compassionate when you are being screamed at and don't even know why, no matter how small the person is. I mean, just because I am a parent, doesn't mean I'm a robot with no feelings and I definitely do not have the practiced calm of Buddha. So, I handled parenting badly, then went and corrected my actions as best I could, acknowledging my screw up, apologizing, and trying again. Afterwards, I promptly began the tirade in my head, verbally beating myself up for being the worst parent ever. Sound familiar? All of us do this, whether it's about parenting, our appearance, our work or anything else. I reached out to friends and my husband and as usual, they regaled me with tales of their own parenting fails and reminded me that the fact that I care so much is what makes me a good parent and I just need to keep trying to do better. My friends and my husband showed me the compassion I needed so that I could in turn be compassionate towards myself and my daughter. Each of us has an impact on each other. Circle of influence is a powerful thing people.

Just when I think I've got this life thing under control, something else kicks up and throws me off again, especially now in the time of COVID-19. I'm sure I'm not alone in this experience. Reading Annie Lamott's "Bird by Bird" last night, she compared writing a final draft to wrangling an octopus. I immediately stopped reading and compared this to how life often feels. Picture it - just as you get all 8 slippery, suction-y, arms tucked into your own 2, an arm escapes and as you try to grab that arm, another arm escapes and then you have to start all over again. I did not sign up to be an octopus wrangler. This is why I need my people. When I have my people by my side, I can totally wrangle that octopus. I can manage my expectations better, I can more easily find compassion in my heart for others, and I can be a better parent, friend, and partner to my husband.

In Michelle Obama's new documentary "Becoming," she states: “If we can open up a little bit more to each other and share our stories, that’s what breaks down barriers.” So this week I challenge you to work on breaking down barriers, to wrangle that crazy wild octopus, and I challenge you to do so with your people by your side. Remember, during the good times and the hard times to pull your team together, to share your stories, to help each other have compassion and kindness as we all work on this world together.

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