On Being Gentle With Ourselves
Sep 23 2016
My neighbor invited my family over for the Pringles Challenge the other night. Her husband was away, so it was Pringles and candy for dinner. Obviously. She bought 6 cans of Pringles, each a different flavor, and it was our job to taste and identify them while blindfolded.
In a surprise to no one, I won. I mean, I KILLED it. I tasted faster. I identified more precisely. I hesitated only once, which is, of course, unacceptable for a potato chip athlete of my stature and is a matter I plan to address with my coaches later. Nevertheless — and I don’t mean to brag here, but this needs to be said — I kicked those kids’ butts HARD, and I nailed every flavor. Every. Single. One. The next closest person came in at 67% correct. I have, in other words, found my calling, which, as I’ve long suspected, is to eat deep fried, salt-laced starch. My training for the 2020 summer Olympic Pringles-eating events commences immediately, and I pledge to bring home the gold.
Here’s a truth, though: I’ve been feeling small lately. Small and silly and sort of stupid, and also largely insufficient and wholly unsettled.
I know why, too.
There are Things going on in the world that trouble me, and there are Things going on in my home that trouble me, too. And in my heart. And in my mind. And in my children. And in my community.
Like, we are facing a world refugee crisis of unprecedented proportions. Sixty-five million refugees in 2015 fleeing violence on an enormous scale. And the U.S. took in 0.001% of those last year, which, when I consider the mamas just like me unable to feed and clothe and seek medical attention and safety for their babies, breaks my heart to pieces.
While this crisis is underway and expected to increase, we U.S. citizens have provided a public, political platform to a presidential candidate who is successfully using it to normalize and promote bigotry, racism, misogyny and xenophobia.
We are somehow splitting ourselves into more bizarre and polarized groups all the time, as though we can’t wholeheartedly support movements like Black Lives Matter, and challenge the systematic, insidious marginalization of entire people groups, and demand timely justice for those who are victimized, and love and support the thousands of good cops out there risking their lives because they so deeply care about creating better communities. #ThingsThatBaffleMe
I have a friend who lost her young son this summer and another friend who has to say good-bye to her marriage.
My kid is receiving incredibly expensive and unbelievably helpful psychiatric care which we, his parents, should have provided sooner. Like… WAYYYYY sooner, man.
There are kids in our communities who need the same care my kid is receiving but cannot get it because they don’t have two highly educated parents who speak English as their first language, have health insurance, and, as a result, are able to navigate an impossibly complicated system and pay for the help they know how to demand.
All these Things and more are happening right now, and I am good at eating Pringles.
^^^THAT’S my area of expertise.^^^ Identifying Every Single Pringles Flavor.
Have I mentioned I’ve been feeling small lately? Small and silly and sort of stupid, and also largely insufficient and wholly unsettled?
I mean, some people promote amazing book lists that expand the mind and make us better humans, more capable of loving one another, and I’m all, “I CAN’T READ ONE MORE MEANINGFUL THING right now. My heart can’t take it. I can’t absorb anyone else’s drama, much less something triumphant about overcoming great odds. Let’s escape into a rad book about a genie, instead, friends! WHO’S WITH ME?” And, while I acknowledge this is truly who I am — absolutely what I’m capable of right now — it doesn’t stop me from wishing I was somehow… better.
I’ve been doing some serious soul-searching following my recent out-of-character behaviour (aka, cleaning house), and I’ve discovered I’m rather desperately trying to make order out of chaos.
I’m trying to control something. Anything, really.
I’m at odds and loose ends, wondering when things will settle in our world — large and small — and so I’m harnessing what I can.
All the Trains are off All the Rails, so I’m over here cleaning my kitchen and making a baking station like it’s the cure for cancer, and I’m beating myself up a little in the process.
Oh, I’m not doing a lot of self-flagellation. Just a little Wishing I Was Better and Bigger and Brighter …and that I had More Answers… and Real Solutions… and a Magic Wand to create More Equity and Less Suffering, you know? For all of us. Less Suffering all around! For you, and you, and you, and YOU. And me. And my kid.
The thing is, I suspect I’m not alone in this space of wishing. Or alone in believing I’m less than I am. This is, I’m starting to learn, simply part of the human condition.
And so I’m going to beckon us closer together as we wander and wonder and wish. And encourage us to be gentle with each other and ourselves in this season of uncertainty.
P.S. I’m not actually eating Pringles right now. This is because I ate Every Single French Fry this summer, and I gained 15 pounds. And, by 15, I mean 25, but 15 seemed like a more reasonable number to report for a 4-month weight-gain. It was SO FUN, but I’ve done the math, and the Eat Every Chip plan is sadly unsustainable. No one is more sad about this than me.
P.P.S. Betty is in the house! She’s not hooked up yet, but SHE’S HERE.
P.P.P.S. I have three retreats coming up in the next several months — two Magic in the Mess writing retreats (January and May 2017) and one spiritual formation Grace and Grime retreat (November! TWO Months away). I would love (LOVE) to hang out with you in person one of my favorite spots on earth, so do check them out if you’d like to come, and email me if you have any questions. Click here for the Magic in the Mess Writing Retreat 101, here for the Magic in the Mess Writing Retreat 202, and here for the Grace and the Grime Spiritual Formation Retreat. These are my favorite! And you can read on those pages what previous participants have to say.