Care of the One for the Benefit of the Many (part 3)
In one of his books, Kurt Vonnegut writes: “Hello babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. At the outside, babies, you’ve got about a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies, ‘darn’ it, you’ve got to be kind.”
Vonnegut reminds us that we are a relational people. We live and breathe inside of relationships, and how we relate to each other matters. Treating each other with kindness matters, and that includes how we treat ourselves.
If we are not kind to ourselves first and foremost, it can be difficult to treat others kindly. At some point we just don’t have the energy or desire. We may find that our tyranny to ourselves is “spilling out” to others.
If I demand perfection of myself, others may feel that demand on them. If I punish myself, others may get the leftovers of that punishment. If I sabotage myself, others never receive the full benefits of my gifts. It is ultimately impossible to be kind and generous to others if I am not being kind and generous to myself.
Imagine instead a scenario of love and generosity to self. Where you looked in the mirror and saw your own unique beauty, where you took a little break when you were exhausted, where you exercised your body and delighted in the feeling of movement and getting stronger, where you clapped for your attempts, and forgave yourself for your failings, and most of all where you delighted in your imperfections.
Self-care is ultimately about an outrageous, unreasonable kindness to ourselves. May we each have the courage to practice this kind of continuous kindness.
Next week Part 4 – Cultivate the Inner Life