I learned a lot about self-compassion from a great lady named Lavanya Balasingham, my therapist for a couple of years while I was very unhappy and uncomfortable and contemplating divorce. She had this bright and colorful office and long brown hair and I would always picture her in a Monet painting, because she was soft, and she taught me to be soft with myself.
I’d come in beating myself to hell after a night of polishing off a bottle of red and grams of carbs in the quadruple digits, and she’d say, “Well, Kate, maybe that’s what you needed right now. Trust that you won’t let it get out of control.” At first I thought I had somehow hit the jackpot of doctors: the one who says it’s okay to find self-actualization through wine and mashed potatoes. While that may be possible, Doctor knew better. Instead of sending me to the nearest rehab, my cunning therapist took me out of the cycle of one bad day turning into four bad days because I’d feel guilty about wallowing on the first bad day - simply by reminding me to be compassionate with myself.
Damn, she’s good. And it changed everything.
I began to allow myself to feel those shitty emotions. It was there, in that space of sadness and hurt that I met a new version of myself. I met a person who is capable of feeling sad and maybe I can just sit with those feelings, and learn. I still have bad days that end with me wallowing in my underwear on the couch guzzling a $20 Montepulciano and shoveling mashed taters into my mouth. But that’s okay, because maybe that’s what I needed, and I trust that I won’t let it get out of control. My soft Monet doctor gave me the incredible and unexpected gifts of self-compassion and the ability to give myself space to feel.
You might think I’d say the old, “Life is too short to feel sad.” I feel quite the opposite: Life is too short and profound for steady-state happiness, or guilt about feeling sadness or anger or melancholy. The beauty, I think, is in the vast range of emotions we are capable of feeling. That’s what makes us feel truly alive.