This word has been on my mind lately. Mostly because the world needs more of it. The people need more of it. The animals need more of it. The planet needs more of it.
As a part of my spiritual practice, I recite five principles every day. The one I end with is “Today, I treat myself and others with compassion.” I love the word compassion. It is a deeply moving word for me requiring me to be more than merely kind, but compassionate. So when I actually looked up the definition I was more than a little disappointed; “sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others”.
I don’t know what I expected, but that wasn’t it. “Sympathetic pity”? I KNOW what compassion feels like for me, but I never took the time to define it. But I know ‘sympathetic pity’ wasn’t part of my definition.
How would you describe Compassion?
My definition would go something like this, “deeply felt care and concern for the wellbeing of others, in times of need.”
I debated even putting that last part in there because I think we all need compassion whether we are in the midst of a crisis or not. However, I think when not ‘in need’, kindness suffices. I think when one is in need they do need something more profound than simple kindness.
When I worked a full time 9-5 job, I had paid time off and I took it when I needed it. I took vacations regularly and stayed home when I was sick. But there were other days when I needed to just take a mental health day and I did that too. Now that I work from home, for myself, there is no paid time off. In addition, some of my work requires I be on call 24/7 for my death and dying clients. Add to that I LOVE what I do, it’s hard to really comprehend that I still need time off.
Running your own business- let alone three businesses- takes discipline and I have that in spades. So much so that I had to build in a ‘day off’ each week, but I may have been too late in doing that. Last week when I was feeling some kind of way and struck with severe back/shoulder/neck/arm pain it caught me off guard. I had worked virtually nonstop to get The Foul Mouthed Woman Podcast launched, AND get started on The Death Witch Podcast. Amidst that I was writing feverishly to complete a few Oracle Cards for the deck I’m co-creating. Everything I do is on the computer and this pain rendered me computer impotent. As I took some time to tend to the physical issue, it was clear to me that something emotionally was working it’s way up and out as well.
I decided to stop looking for a work around the pain and just surrender into it. I’ve taken sick days before when I’ve caught a virus or something. I’ve taken days off when I just felt I needed to take a break. This was different. This was compassionate care. I was taking a Compassionate Care day.
It was a sick day for my soul.
I tended to the wounds of my soul that were on the mend, as well as the physical knotting in my back. I watched movies that made me sob. I took walks. I took small excursions out in public as needed. I made nourishing food.
For four days.
The most important thing I did for those days though was to not feel guilt, or shame and not ‘should’ myself. Like I said, I have tons of discipline, and it would’ve been easy for me to tell myself that disregarding my regular schedule was breaking my commitments; But my most important commitment is to myself. I can no longer do what I did before, because ‘before’ wasn’t working. ‘Before’ was breaking me.
For 27 years I pushed passed my breaking points. I was taught certain rules about being a good employee and how business works. For 27 years I felt powerless, complying with directives without voicing dissension for fear of being fired. Until it made me sick. So sick that at 46 years old I felt 75 and could not fathom how I could go on another 30 years. I didn’t even know how I’d make it another 10.
I didn’t realize it was the job/career making me sick until I quit my job, moved to another state and got married. I procrastinated getting my social work license in the new state. The thought of starting all over in a new state in the same old career felt heavy. My husband put no rush on my finding work and so I settled into taking care of myself…really taking care of myself for the first time in a long time.
Simply moving seemed to give me some relief from my suffering, and with each day I felt a little better. I found new treatments, new care providers, new ways of eating, which all helped. But mostly it was finding myself that really started to heal my body. Moving away from what I ‘should’ do, towards what I ‘want’ to do, improved my health ten fold. It will be 7 years this summer and I feel better than I did 15 years ago. I still have a few issues that are left over, due to the extreme pressure I put myself under, but I have faith I’ll find the answers to those also.
What’s important now, I realize. Is to not adapt the same mindset in this new situation. Pushing myself so hard that I bring on physical immobility in order to get my own attention is simply using the same patriarchal business model in my own business. So, I’ve switched to four work days and one self-care day per week. The weekends are sort of a hodge podge of things depending on my husband’s schedule or if I am pressing a deadline. I have always been one to take a sick day, but the truth is I don’t get sick that often. So offering myself Compassionate Care days on a more regular basis, might better suit my bottom line.
Compassionate Care days have to go above and beyond normal Self-Care days. I have self care built into everyday; at least 1/5 hours, sometimes 3. So Compassionate Care days are going to be luxury self-care days. There’s going to be more treasure hunting, spa days, walks in nature and baths in the middle of the day.
I think we are all in need of compassion regardless of our current situations. Compassion doesn’t have to be reserved for ‘justified’ times of pain and suffering! I think treating one another and ourselves with deeply felt care and concern for our/their wellbeing across the board would serve the Greater Good and mend the world’s hearts.
Peace Be With You