Learning to be Gentle.

Do you notice your thoughts while you’re dropping something? A physical object, I mean – a plate of food, a wine glass, a crooked stack of books. There’s a moment when I think I can still recover. I don’t have to drop this.

Often, a louder, uglier thought follows right behind: you deserve to lose what you’re holding.

A few months ago, I watched my freshly prepared dinner, filled with healthy vegetables I spent time chopping and cleaning, splash across the kitchen counter, down the cabinets, and onto the floor, delighting my dog and sending me digging through the freezer for a burrito.

Fitting, I thought. Can’t even take care of myself. Wasted all that time and food – why do I even try?

Each time this happened, it was a small but real opportunity to demonstrate what I thought of myself. What bubbled up was cruelty, when I needed compassion.

My mom came for a visit earlier this month, and we had a lovely time together. We took three loads of old clothes and shoes and dishes to the Goodwill – things that no longer resonated with who I am becoming. We found a set of beautiful, delicate dishes at Williams-Sonoma, eggshell white with a sculpted wave pattern around the edge, and back at my house, we scraped the stickers off each dish, dreaming of dinner party décor.

Each time I rinse one of these new plates, I hear that familiar voice say I’ll probably end up dropping it, but now, a warmer, louder voice speaks second. I love these dishes, and I deserve to feel worthy of them. And though they are precious to me, they are simply ceramic molded into a pretty shape. If I do drop one, it will be an accident, not because I have decided to shame myself with the shards.

I wish I could get rid of all my self-doubt and perfectionism alongside my scuffed-up shoes, but for now I will rest easy in the knowledge that I am learning to love myself. I am learning to be gentle. And my heart, it turns out, is much less brittle than I feared.

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