I’ve almost finished Aundi Kolber’s Try Softer and, it’s been both unravelling and solidifying.
You see, I’m the epitome of someone who does what she refers to as ‘white-knuckling’.
Gritting my teeth and bearing it. Trying harder. Pleasing more. Sacrificing and laying down. Being ‘good’. Reading Try Softer has made me realise how unkind I’ve been to myself all these years. Like a stern schoolmaster, I’ve frowned at her, quietly tsk tsked and shaken my head. Expected too much. Pushed down and aside the hard stuff and quickly moved on, instead of gently and curiously letting it out, laying it down.
I sit here now feeling tender, with a mouth full of stitches. I had my second (and final) oral surgery of the year, to fix my receding bottom gum. The first was a graft of skin from the roof of my mouth, stitched to the bottom of my gum. It turned healthy and pink, and then came the surgery to lift that healthy gum over the exposed roots of my teeth.
I white-knuckled the first surgery months ago.
Quietly freaking out, but silent, refusing to ask for help. I should have asked for help.
Maybe you’ve been like that too? Smiling on the outside while ignoring, and white-knuckling through the deeper stuff. It’s been a hard year. And my enneagram-four-self wants to talk about it. Ask you if you’re okay. Tell you to be gentle and kind with yourself, too.
Each day I’ve been journaling and realising that my internal dialogue has been getting kinder. And it’s changing the way that I talk to myself daily, and it’s helping me to hear the Holy Spirit’s quiet whispers, which are, as it happens, just as gentle and kind.
And I’ve been drawn here to this blank page to write to myself. And to you.
Dear, n. regarded with deep affection.
similar: beloved, loved, darling, adored, cherished.
Because I think we could all learn to be kinder to ourselves.
So maybe I’ll write us a letter once a week. Maybe it will be once a month (I’m being kind to myself, released from expectations or pressures that no-one but me will judge me for failing at. See? Kinder already) or maybe it will be twice ever. Or maybe it’ll be tiny letters in the form of an Instagram caption. Whichever way it comes, I’m going to be writing to myself, and maybe you can read and breathe and slow for a second and say, Dear you.
I’m proud of the way you’ve faced the hard stuff.
Today you failed to parallel park, and then tried again and nailed it.
For the lovers of God may suffer adversity and stumble seven times, but they will continue to rise over and over again (Proverbs 24:16).
Rising doesn’t seem to get any easier does it? Each knock back, set back, step back, wobble and stumble feels like you’ll be off-balance for ever. The room spins, your hands grasp for something, anything to hold on to, just to feel steadier for a moment, just to recover your breath, just to wonder what the hell just happened?
Some of those moments feel like you’ll never recover from them.
The feeling of loss is palpable this year, across the globe.
From the loss of small freedoms, like sipping a coffee at your favourite cafes, to the loss of the people you loved. You’ve lost friends, lost control, lost your keys, your phone, your hope.
And in that spin, as you try to steady your feet, and find ground that isn’t shifting beneath you, you’ve been stilled by the strength of God. You’ve let Him do the reaching out, the holding on. You have stopped trying to make Him work the way you want, like a magic genie, like a buddah’s belly. You just let Him work in the spinning and still the dizziness.
And then you realise it’s a dance, and if you keep your eyes on Him, the room might still be spinning but there’s wind in your hair and strength holding you above the shifting ground and freedom in letting go instead of holding on, white-knuckled and exhausted.
Dear you. Even when the tears pool in your ears, and the kind dental assistant wipes them way, He’s steading you, and you will rise, over and over again.