Compassion Is My Secret Weapon

The founder of my Life Coaching School and Master Coach, Brooke Castillo, speaks on the regular of the benefits of unconditional love. But her approach is different than most in that her opinion is unconditional love is something we do for ourselves because we are the ones who get to feel the love. And who doesn’t want to feel love, Right? So when handed a silver platter of emotions to pick from, why not choose love? It feels great, and the other person doesn’t even have to know about it, and you can stop your suffering.

Complete transparency? I struggle with this. Especially when it comes to the idea of loving people who have caused me a significant amount of pain or who trigger me HARD. I try to feel unconditional love for them, I really do. And on an intellectual level, I know how much I would benefit from it. But when people don’t act how I feel they should, my brain is like “that’s bullshit, they don’t deserve it.” And the last thing this chick is feeling is unconditional love.

I discussed this topic with my Coach this week. I was sharing my struggles I continue to have as a blended family mom, and she offered me this: “What if instead of unconditional love, you tried to have compassion?” That tiny change in perspective provided a huge shift in how I felt about everything. YES, I can totally have compassion for these humans, even when I don’t agree with how they behave, and even when they cause me pain (Which is never true. No one can make you feel anything without your permission).

Understanding why people behave the way they do, not easy. Being okay with their behavior, also not easy. But having compassion for how they must be feeling to make them behave that way, for me, was far more tangible. And when I could get there, to a place of compassion, these monsters started to look like humans again, no longer evil entities whose only desire was to make my life difficult. Being able to recognize and acknowledge their humanness allowed the divisive idea that it was me versus them to dissolve.

But it’s so easy to push them all the way to the dark side, right? They are evil, and we are good. They are the villains, and we are the victims. That feels so much better. That way, we can remain powerless, and they can still be the focus of our blame, cause of our pain, and we get to dodge responsibility. How could we possibly identify with such monsters? Especially when if we were to identify with these monsters, we run the risk of identifying with the monsters within ourselves.

But, in reality, we are all partly dark and partly light. No one is “good” all of the time, and no one is “bad’ all of the time. There is no invisible line where the light ends, and the darkness begins. By rejecting the darkness in others, we are also rejecting it within ourselves. For if we can only love someone when they are good, the insinuation is they are unworthy of love when they are bad. Then so are we only worthy of love when we are good and, therefore, unworthy of love when we are bad. But this is never true because we are worthy all of the time. Our worthiness is absolute, regardless of our mistakes.

By withholding compassion from others, we are also withholding compassion from ourselves. By withholding love from others, we are also withholding love from ourselves. When I’m loving and compassionate toward others, it makes it easier to be loving and compassionate toward myself. I’m sure you’ve heard the expression, “hurt people hurt people.” Practicing compassion means I can recognize someone else’s suffering without making it my own. It’s like a secret weapon that allows me to see the monsters for what they are, humans in pain, with their own demons to slay. They get to choose how they behave and so do I. Unconditional love for the humans, I’m still working on that. But compassion, I can do.

Gratitude Gives Me Grace

The holidays are coming. Trying to navigate the Holidays as a blended family always seems to ratchet that stress up a notch. We have three kids with three different custody orders. That means coordinating schedules for three kiddos with the input from 6 parents (not to mention extended family members). It is challenging, to say the least. We rarely get all of the time that we want with all three of the kids during the holidays. It used to make me upset and frustrated. I felt like everyone else had a say in what was going on in my life except me. And nothing puts me over the edge like feeling powerless.

I’d bitch and complain to friends and family about how unfair it was and how uncooperative everyone was being. Chris and I would spin and argue over what was the best way to handle everything and how to get what we deserved when it came to time with his kids. Do you know what that got me? Miserable holidays. Do you know what it didn’t get me? Any more time with the kids. If anything, time was wasted by being so wrapped up in my temper tantrum about what we weren’t getting that I wasn’t even present when we did have them.

What if the answer isn’t more time but more appreciation for the time you DO have? Appreciation and gratitude sure feel a hell of a lot better than bitterness and resentment. I noticed that appreciation keeps me grounded in now and stops the desire to chase for more. It also helps me stay focused on what matters most, time with my kids, and making the most of the time we have together as a family. 

What if focusing on what you’re not getting is making you miss out on what you already have? And I’m not saying you can’t make requests for more time with your kiddos during the Holidays; I’m just saying don’t be emotionally attached to the outcome. Don’t let a “yes” or “no” make or break the Joy you get to share with your family. The Holidays are just dates on a calendar. Those dates mean nothing until we assign meaning to them. Holidays are what WE make of them. We have the power to make them joyous and memorable or miserable events we’d rather forget. Maybe this holiday, the best gifts we can give ourselves are more gratitude, more understanding, more patience, and more appreciation. And allowing ourselves these emotional blessings make it that much easier to share them with all the other people we come across this Holiday season too.

The Weight of My Emotional Baggage

I hired a new coach, she’s fantastic. She broke my brain in our very first session. Cracked that bad boy wide open, and I’ve had breakthrough after breakthrough since. This week’s breakthrough was realizing just how much emotional baggage I’ve been carrying around in my relationship with my husband, Chris.

Being in a blended family is freaking hard! With so many moving pieces and involvement of several different personalities, it’s impossible not to have conflict. Oh man, Chris, and I have seen some conflict! And this week, I saw for the first time just how many of the big fights and hurt feelings I’ve been collecting and carrying with me.

Every argument we’ve had over his exes, my ex, the kids. Every time I felt he should have protected me and didn’t. I let it weigh on my heart, my mind, and my world. So whenever we’d get into a big fight, I’d drag out my bag of injustices and throw all that shit at him. It was some Santa level baggage, and I was hanging onto all that stuff for dear life. Even after he’d apologized and owned his part.

Somewhere in my brain, I think I imagined that holding onto all of it was my way of punishing him for hurting me. It felt justified. It felt purposeful. It felt important, and I had a shit-ton of evidence to support it all (which only made me argue for all the reasons I thought I deserved to hang onto it).

But this is what I finally realized. I was so focused on collecting and keeping track of every time I’ve been wronged, I had a hard time seeing all the stuff that was actually going right. Bringing up all that old shit not only discounted the progress we’d already made, it was preventing us from maintaining it, causing the yo-yo of being awesome one week and then fighting the next. 

I thought hanging on to all that stuff was necessary. I thought it would prevent me from getting hurt again. But now I see carrying all that stuff around was only hurting me. I was the cause of my own suffering, and you know what suffering doesn’t lead to? Security, happiness, connection, appreciation, forgiveness, resilience, all things that I view as important in a marriage.

You guys, when I could finally see this, it was like the clouds parted, and a million pounds had been lifted from my chest. I felt lighter, freer, it was insanely liberating. How had I not seen it? Reliving it over and over again was not only optional but completely unnecessary. But now I DO SEE it. So I put that shit down and didn’t turn back. I’ve always considered our marriage to be really, really good and now I see what has been holding me back from helping make it great. 

Why is this important? Because we don’t just do this with husbands, partners, and paramours. We do this with friends, family, co-workers, and when co-parenting. Disagreements will happen. Hurt feelings will arise. People will disappoint you and make you angry. We are humans. We are imperfect. We make mistakes. You can’t control the humans. This is a reminder that avoiding pain is not an option. But choosing suffering is.