When I was eight years old, I had a chocolate, brown, talking, stuffed, teddy bear named Teddy Ruxpin. Teddy could not read books or talk to me. He only had one tape: The Bee Gees. While I waited and worried about three missed flights in the Detroit Airport, he soothingly told me to stay alive. He reminded me that he believed in me. He said that he would come with warmth to me like a summer breeze, and that I should smile because that would bring me close to him.
I loved that bear, and with each song I began to feel a little more grounded, a little more optimistic, a little more connected to the part of me that produced and gave well-being. Maybe he was just a teddy bear, but still, at times, when I am down on my luck, I think of him. I named my favorite dog after him, and like most things and people we appreciate he was there at a time when I needed someone. He also happened to be singing my song.
Little did I know that so many years later, Teddy would be the ambassador in some ways for Self-Compassion. When we find ourselves suffering, we feel alone, and far, far removed from love, and well being. As most of our adult lives have been about working, we turn to work to solve our problems, and become deeply disappointed when this action plan fails us.
Digging Deep For Self-Compassion
Fortunately for us, our eight-year-old selves are still inside us, even if they are buried deep. If you want the suffering to relent, you must appeal to that eight-year-old self, and inquire about what you really need. You may not be able to carry around a Teddy Ruxpin, but I would guess that if you gave yourself permission to be led back to connection, love, and compassion, you would begin to feel better.
I hesitate to reveal this because perhaps I will need this secret weapon sometime in the future, but life is about giving, so I will tell you anyway. I have a very small mp3 player, perhaps the size of a quarter on which I have stored music that simply sets me at ease and fills me with compassion and love.
When I cannot sleep and am feeling distressed or am having a particularly difficult day, I take out the mp3 player, close my eyes, and listen to the music. Sometimes, I even imagine Teddy Ruxpin singing it. I am not trying to avoid or even distract myself from the suffering. I accept it, and then honor my commitment to living a life of well-being by going to a place designed to help me rest and heal.
Some things to note: I pick songs that simply allow me to feel well-being. They are not related to prior romantic relationships, striving, or old memories that I am trying to recapture. Seeking out the past will always lead you to harm because as soon as you feel you have grasped it, it will be gone. My playlist includes Smokey Robinson, Billie Holiday, Nina Simone, Marvin Gaye, Curtis Mayfield, The Four Tops, The Delfonics, Luther Vandross, The Temptations, and Otis Redding to name a few. As I did Teddy, I give them permission to take care of me while I take a break from working so hard to cure myself.
At the very least, I am reminded of the beauty and soul with which they sing. On very good days, they actually sing me to sleep, and I wake up feeling refreshed and full of optimism, and well-being. If I have learned anything, it is that the heart is the most important thing in life to nurture, heal, and develop. Our capacity to care for ourselves and others is the quality that has long redeemed us as a people, and will long redeem us after we have gone. In whatever way feels genuine and life-giving to you, take care of your heart.
365 Days of Kindness. Self-Compassion. Day 107. In The Books.