The Second Third, Week 23: Be Gentle With Yourself

A few years back, a dear friend and former colleague of mine was going through a number of big changes and difficult transitions in her life. Everything seemed to be hitting all at once, and I could tell she was freezing up a bit. Do you know that feeling? When there seems to be so much you have to do, and so much you want to do, and so much you feel you should do…and very little overlap, so no matter what you accomplish, you feel you should’ve done more, and feel guilty for what you failed to do?

You don’t have that problem? Well, you’re blessed. Show some gratitude.

We got together, for lunch, maybe, or else I was helping her with some project, and I gave her a card that said something like, “The easiest way to move the mountain is one pebble at a time.” She read it, and saw immediately: You can only do what you can do. Baby steps. “Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil.” — Matthew 6:34

It wasn’t long after — a few months probably — and I was telling her how I’d promised to read more and write every night after work, but I was so tired once the kids went to bed and couldn’t stay awake and focused. “I need to get in shape so I’m not dead tired all the time,” I said, “but how can I find time and energy to exercise if I can’t stay awake to read or write?”

I told her I needed a wholesale lifestyle change. She said, “The easiest way to move the mountain is one pebble at a time.” I had forgotten that when we worked together, we took a couple of personality inventories, and were nearly identical in score and profile.

That feeling’s been creeping in again lately. I look at what needs to be done, and what I want to do, and get that knot in my guts as I gradually…grind…to…a…halt. Then I think, “That’s it. I need to change. Everything. Now.”

When I was in college, a coworker in the School of Music had the Desiderata hanging over her desk. It struck me back then as wise; today the only parts I remember are the first four lines and this one, which I refer to often: “Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.”

These Second Third posts, as a body, seem to point to things I’d like to change about me: weaknesses I’d like to overcome, or goals I’d like to achieve. I need to remember to take it easy on myself and remember what’s important. One pebble at a time — I should be well along when I reach my third Third.

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