Being Kind – To That Special Someone
You! I mean You!
In my obsession with Kindness this year, I have written about the many kindnesses we should extend to others, and the many kindnesses that others extend to us.
But Kindness starts in the mirror.
Why do you have to be so hard on yourself? Can’t you see how wonderful you are? How much you deserve good things?
When I was a kid, I knew a marvelous, intelligent old woman, Rachel, who had been a widow for a long time. As I grew older, and had to spend more time by myself, I asked her the secret to living alone. She said, “I treat myself like company every day.”
Rachel prepared nice meals. Used the good china. Dressed up even when she didn’t leave the house.
She was kind. She was kind to everyone, and she was especially kind to herself.
So to be nicer to yourself, why not start with Rachel’s habits?
Make nice meals for yourself. Good food, not junk food. Even my mother, who is 93, will broil some salmon, with a side of nice broccoli. She can do that for herself, and you can too.
And use nice dishes. Have a glass of wine in a beautiful glass. I didn’t learn this only from Rachel. My husband believes in enjoying your good china and crystal. And our everyday stoneware is lovely – he found it as we strolled by a shop window, and fell in love. Even a man can enjoy a beautiful table. Enjoy it every day.
And no cheap coffee mugs either – although they certainly don’t have to be too pricey. I am myself a bit hard on cups. But I bought a reasonably priced pretty set of six recently – (to replace the previous broken and chipped cups). They are polka-dotted – each a different color, and I find myself finding pleasure in picking which cup I will use each morning. Blue? Yellow? – how nice to enjoy this little ritual.
Back to the subject of food. If you ARE going to indulge in something not quite so healthy – as you should once in a while – choose the really good stuff. My motto is: If I am going to eat empty calories, I am going to make them the absolute best empty calories in the world. No cheap chocolates for me. No bland cookies. No gritty ice cream. And I find that a small portion of something amazing is much more satisfying that a lot of something crappy.
But you should have an inexpensive indulgence too. An indulgence that is: Not Food. I think you are being kind to yourself if you can find an inexpensive pleasure or hobby to indulge in. I like makeup – I don’t need a new outfit when I want some retail therapy. A new lipstick will do. Maybe for you it’s music. Or a pedicure. Or going to the movies. Or maybe coloring books.
Speaking of coloring books. Be kind to youself by allowing yourself to like what you like. I know I’ve said this before, but it’s worth repeating – probably worth repeating a thousand times: Do not be ashamed of what you like. Criticizing your own taste is so unkind. Don’t hide what gives you pleasure. It’s not a guilty pleasure. It’s a pleasure. Period. So what if you like coloring books or word-search puzzles or kitten memes or “The Bachelor”? (Although you may want to re-think “The Bachelor.”)
Or even – and I realize I am contradicting myself here in both talking about food and talking about cheap food – sometimes low-brow food is exactly what you need. Take comfort when you need it from comfort food. There’s a special delight in tastes from your childhood. I still love peanut butter & jelly sandwiches, and often took one to work even when I was a big-shot corporate vice president.
Here’s something that everyone can do to be kind to oneself. Be clean. No grungy clothes or grungy hair. That’s only permitted if you have the flu, and even then, you will feel a little better if you clean yourself up. Iron your clothes. I love to iron right before I wear something – it’s so fresh and neat and warm. And it smells good. And so should you. Whether if it’s just a nice lavender moisturizing lotion or a luxury perfume, take those few extra seconds to smell nice. It’s a bonus to anyone near you, but do it for you. I’m smelling myself right now, and I’m super nice-smelling and it cheers me right up.
If you need to get stinky, do it with pleasure. Find a sport you like. I like Yoga and Zumba. And I’ve just discovered “Pound” classes, and I am drumming my ass off (literally). But even more than strenuous exercise, by all means: Take A Walk. Walking is so lovely. It really clears your mind. I bring my phone along, for safety’s sake because I walk in the woods and because I see so many beautiful sights I want to save them in photos. But please, don’t check your mail or Facebook or Twitter. Don’t look at the internet. That is not being kind to yourself. Looking at trees is ever so much kinder.
And if you can, bring a dog on your walk. Dogs notice everything, and will help you notice too. The other day Theo found an antler that had been shed by a neighbor-deer. And he finds acorns and frogs – and sometimes carcasses of dead things, but we won’t talk about that. Dogs are so happy when they are out for a walk. They like it so much, you have to spell the word W-A-L-K, if you are not prepared to leave right that minute. Their joy will bring you joy too. But if you can’t find a dog, walk with a friend. Try to do it quietly. It’s so nice to just enjoy each other company (and each other’s smell) – you can leave the chatting for another time. And there’s always the possibility of a walk by yourself. Your own company is very peaceful and kind.
(By the way, lots of shelters would love you to volunteer to walk a lonely dog.)
Be kind to yourself in your environment too. It has always been my strong belief that a clean house is a gift you give yourself. You deserve to live in a neat, orderly fresh home. So just do it. Put on some music (I like cleaning house to Paul Simon’s Graceland) and vacuum and dust and clean the bathroom. Wipe the kitchen counters. Put away your laundry. You will feel calmer. And you will be healthier.
And to be extra, extra kind to yourself – once in a while (or all the time if you can), put a bouquet of fresh flowers on your table. Give yourself that beauty. You deserve it.