Today’s post is devoted to compassion—I’m a little early for the #1000SpeakforCompassion, #1000speak, but figured on the eve of Chinese New Year’s—and in celebration of the Year of the Wood Sheep (or Ram or Goat), why not do it now? Open my mind and heart and devote some thoughts on compassion.
Compassion—I see compassion as opening your heart to yourself and others, to reach out and understand in circumstances that are familiar or unfamiliar. One of my best friends and her husband, on a rare occasion when they had planned a babysitter for their three children for an event that they had mixed up the dates and suddenly found themselves without plans and with childcare lined up—what to do? Instead of a date night of wine and dinner, she signed herself and her husband up to volunteer at a Devoted night—to sign in and assist the homeless with a meal and support (clothes, supplies) and a night of sleep at a local church. They were both hesitant and unsure of themselves, and she later wrote about it in an article published by their local paper about how it changed them, how it made them grateful for the support system out there in the world and how they could be one part of the story to help make it a little better, even if it was for one night. After helping some of the women pick out donated clothes—including much needed clean bras and panties, pants, and sweatshirts, she sat down at the table and ate dinner with them, listening and talking. She with her knitting needles, they with their dinner and trays, talking about what they had done during the day, one lady who shared a story about the time before, when her kids were with her, but now they were grown. Some of the people knew each other, some of them sat quietly and ate, but all were glad to have some quiet and food and shelter. When I read her piece, I thought that she and her husband embodied compassion. They didn’t volunteer out of some self-motive to prove their sainthood, in the see what I did, I’m such a good citizen way. It was because they wanted to help make this world a little bit better in a way that they could, and even while doing it, they were worried that somehow they’d mess it up. Compassion, humility, love, patience.
I took the wrong path with my compassion for my Ex, I thought if I opened my heart large enough, it would heal him. And don’t get me wrong, Compassion, I think, can heal, in so many miraculous ways. It can help you share the pain, help shoulder the burden, for a little while, your heart may be open wide enough to help. To share the road and the rollercoaster. Compassion can lead you to a new destination.
Yesterday, I organized a little birthday celebration for DD2 at her preschool. All along I had spoken to the teachers, hadn’t heard anything coming from the Ex, but as a dutiful decree follower, informed him as plans were made.
Guess who showed up at the school? Who actually behaved himself and was even NICE? The school has a “birthday circle” that includes a candle and a song and describing a few events in each year of your child’s life (not very long, considering this is preschool!) as they walk around the candle and the months of the year. DD2 was so excited to have both of us there. I had also brought three books to donate to the school, with one being her favorite and she was so proud to announce it, she plopped in my lap, and we had storytime with all the children. He even took pictures of me with DD2 in my lap and texted them to me afterwards.
I felt myself leaning towards compassion towards my Ex. While there is nasty legal letter writing happening in the background, I understood that my DD2 was so incredibly happy to have both parents sharing in her special day, and for that hour, I set aside the nastiness and looked at my Ex with compassion. Not the kind of compassion that would lead me down the road of unrealistic expectations, but the kind of compassion that would allow us all to share in a happy moment. The preschool teacher wanted to take a picture of the three of us, so I leaned in with DD2 in between us, because I know that one day, she will want a picture with her mom and her dad in it.
Our life post divorce is filled with strife, conflict, accusations, a lesser version of the abusive household that we lived in. But it is also filled with a love and happiness and hope, and maybe, just maybe, if I can have compassion for his struggle, at least yesterday (take this one moment at a time), it will make it easier and better for my daughters.
The last part of compassion that I’ve been working on is compassion for ourselves. I hope that doesn’t sound selfish, but when I first divorced, I was beating the crap out of myself for not protecting my kids, for not leaving earlier, for not being able to explain to anyone what had happened to us. A commenter at my Blogher site mentioned that I had “copped out” by wanting to hold onto the “stability” of my so-called family, and it’s true, I was. I wanted to believe more than anything in the good parts and minimized that bad. I still beat myself up about that. For not being strong or brave enough. For being consumed with anxiety and fear.
I think the sooner we are able to forgive the parts of us where we fail, the parts where we are weak, the mistakes, the blunders, the stupid things we’ve done—the sooner we can accept those things with compassion, the road to healing can open up. I was blundering around, flailing, causing and/or enabling pain because of my inabilities, and once I began learning to forgive and treat these terrible parts of me with compassion, I was able to find a way out, find a way towards a different life. I hope it’s a better one for the girls and me, and while this sort of compassion may not change the world in a big way, I’m hopeful it will change our little world in a way that matters.