My friend Chrystal is given to thinking aloud. In an unedited manner, she gives voice to anything that flits through her head, especially her fears. She has a policy of spontaneity, rushing in to participate without any details. She never follows directions unless she encounters a problem she can’t solve since she prefers to work all hurdles out in process. This tends to create some amusing chaos.
My style of doing things is to consider the order of operation, just like I’m doing math. I consider possible outcomes to any action. I determine what’s needed and what the procedure is before proceeding, especially when I’m partnering others. Then I act. I tend not to waste any energy resolving snafus if I can avoid them completely with pre-planning. However, the downside to this is that I often worry and that kind of spinning of emotional and mental wheels, makes me chaotic in a whole other way from Chrystal.
One day we decided to put up a tent fresh out of the box. Our styles of proceeding were laughable together. She is so mercurial about things and goes from speaking aloud every fear she’s got about a situation and then jumps, without taking a breath, into self-assurances that “it’s all good” in the space of the heartbeat.
This winds me up. It makes my head spin to have all that emotion pouring out of her while acting incapable before jumping back into “it’s all good” and then proceeding despite all ignorance about the outcome. By the time she gets back to “it’s all good” I’m still trying to get all her fears addressed mentally so we can do the task at hand. All I want is for her to chill out and read the directions without all the fearful commentary. Of course, I told her repeatedly to chill out and read the directions. Finally she tells me to chill out myself, “‘cause I’m just fine.”
I ask her why we can’t just read the directions. “We don’t need the directions, we can just do it…”
I note dryly, “Yet we’re encountering difficulties”, and repeat that we ought to read the directions.
Bickering ensues when she tells me, “You read the directions if you’re so high on being such a tight ass. You ought to just go with the flow girl! That’s what’s wrong with you!”
I should note that when our friend Blue learned we were going to put up some tents together, he went and got a chair so he could sit and watch it all. He apparently found it quite entertaining. I, however, began to silently berate myself for doing such an insane thing as to try to pitch a tent with Chrystal. Blue eventually took pity on us and started helping. We weren’t fighting, but it was comic to see us bickering like 12-year-old siblings. Even in those moments, I had the self-awareness to notice we were picking on each other for having different methods of doing something. We were each impatient with the other. I didn’t know why I was doing it in the moment though. I don’t normally feel so irritable with anyone for being so spontaneous.
Finished with Chrystal’s tents, I got back to my tent and admitted to myself that I was just having control issues. Even as we were bickering, I had no trouble recognizing that this is Chrystal’s natural emotional and behavioral process, but in the moment, I wanted her to be different. This is how she lives authentically and if I love her, I have to accept this is her process without all the impatience and trying to micromanage her. I took a deep breath and shook off my stress about it all. And then I wondered why I needed her to not be just the way she is…? I love her very much, yet I wanted her to change. I wasn’t being at all fair to her.
It was only a moment or two longer before I realized how impatient I am with myself about the many things I dither about. I am impatient with all my control issues. I am irritated with myself most of the time that I have the same fear/reassurance dialogue that Chrystal does. I just don’t say any of it aloud the way Chrystal does. There’s really no difference between us except she’s brave enough to say all that fearful thinking aloud…and of course she’s more willing to be spontaneous than I am. I’m really too fearful to be so spontaneous.
I sat a few minutes and let myself feel the love I have for her. I felt sad I’d been impatient with her. Then I felt a softness blossom in me when I realized just how hard we both are on ourselves. We might approach it differently, but we do the same things about our fears of performing and accomplishing. That started a stream of consciousness on being more self-compassionate.
This new softness about my fears seemed to open me to more observations. Later I noticed how scared I am with new people. I noticed how quiet I am when I am not sure someone approves of me. I noticed that when I’m anxious I cuss and that I fly off the handle about stupid things because I feel I can’t control something. Instead of judging myself as I usually do, I felt warmth suffuse me. I was soft with myself.
As the afternoon progressed I went on to note that I get anxious and fearful when I’m tired, dehydrated or generally feeling weak or helpless; especially when I want to help and please others. I end up feeling terribly. I struggled a bit to stay soft with myself in the face of feeling inadequate, but I did manage to stay with my emotions. I went and rested.
As the day proceeded, I noticed a trend. All these fears revealed aspects of my soft inside wanting desperately to be liked by others and being unsure they do even the tiniest bit. I saw then that more than anything I need to love myself; especially in my fearfulness. What’s more, I needed to trust myself and my basic goodness. What I noticed is that the more I loved myself, the less others bristly fears and foibles bothered me. I fell asleep that night thinking that Chrystal had taught me better self-love. Bless her.