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06. practicing kindness

I can feel the anxiety as it creeps into my consciousness in the morning. Will I be able to finalize my unemployment benefits enrollment or will I just hear the dreaded busy tone? Will I be able to get my COBRA health insurance coverage activated in time to do my follow up doctor appointments? Is my savings account balance high enough to take on another month’s onslaught of auto-pay deductions for utilities, internet, the gym membership, iTunes data plan, and Spotify?

I am in a car venturing down this longer part of the journey, exiting the life I knew so well – full of restaurants, entertainment, friends, employer sponsored benefits, health insurance coverage – and instead, here I am, entering a longer stretch of road where I won’t know what I will encounter or if I will encounter anything at all (job, paycheck?). Will my gas tank be enough? Is everything I have in my vehicle enough to help me make it through this part of the journey? This is what unemployment feels like.

There isn’t another paycheck to look forward to covering your spending. What I have in my bank account is it. I am eyeing my credit card balance with a weary eye, wondering if I should get the balance down to zero now or if I can wait until when the statement actually closes (next few days) and when the payment will be due (in a month’s time). Knowing there is a huge likelihood that nothing about my current situation will change in a month’s time.

These little things are like distractions in the mind. Things to be concerned about in a modern world – the credit, debt, health insurance coverage, utilities, and whatever else is next. While our way of life has evolved with increasing conveniences, our basic needs for survival have not. We need safety, shelter, and food. That’s it.

In this time I have to constantly remind myself that while I have follow up visits to the doctor, there isn’t anything actively killing me except for time. I am safe. I have my health, my able body, and a sound mind if I am mindful enough. If I can manage my anxieties and respond to my emotions, I will be fine. I am fine.

“I have my apartment and I paid rent for the month, so I’m just going to enjoy my purchase for the next 30 days okay?”

And food, I have plenty of food. I can keep my random cravings in check, like I manage my emotions… maybe it is the emotions that trigger the random cravings. This just takes a bit of mindful attending to.

I was feeling a little guilty this morning. My onslaught of anxiety and impatience in my communication with the receptionist at my doctor’s office when she told me that my insurance coverage has been cut and that I will have to pay out of pocket. The impatience in my words as I wrote an email to my former employer, asking if they can notify my insurance carrier, and that I will need my COBRA coverage activated as soon as possible (yesterday please) so I can see my doctor. I feel my anxiousness seeping out, my fear coated in meanness as I sit helplessly driving my car down a bumpy bumpy stretch of road. Bump, bump, bump, bump.

“This is uncomfortable.
But this isn’t forever.”

I didn’t fully understand what he meant when he told me to be kind to myself. I didn’t understand how important it is to be kind to myself, especially now.

I can keep trying the claims center phone line and use it as a practice. Each busy tone is an opportunity to practice soothing myself when obstacles arise.

These feelings of frustration, disappointment, and anger easily arise whenever something does not happen the way you want it to. They say the the best test of character is when things do not go your way. Character is how you respond in those situations.

How can we practice kindness? I pay more attention to my needs and my wants. Sometimes I want to lay in bed for a few more minutes in the morning, and so I do. Sometimes I am a little hungry but I don’t want to break my fast, so I practice discipline and continue fasting. And sometimes I do break the fast early, because that’s being kind to myself. Kindness is choosing flexibility in perspective and outcome.

Being kind to myself has been the recognition that who I am is made up of many different components. There are many faucets to wellness, and being kind to myself is to juggle between them.

“Kindness is choosing flexibility in
perspective and outcome.”

I recognize I am a person inhabiting this body, and this body requires maintenance. So I exercise, I stretch, I maintain hygiene and temperature regulation with clothing and air flow, and I rest.

Kindness is having kind thoughts, about my situation and especially about myself. It’s easy to feel like my time is unproductive or that my value is based on whether or not I have income coming in. How much is my time worth? And if I am not getting paid, am I worth nothing?

Often throughout the day, I will hear a podcast or see an email or posting on LinkedIn referencing how the recently unemployed can be proactive in their search. Countless people are offering advice on what job seekers should do to network, offer to work pro-bono, hustle by delivering take-out or stocking shelves at a grocery store, update their resume and social presence, try hard to get the interview, negotiate their severance! So. Much. Noise.

And so many people absorbed in the noise, the frantic searching for the next thing. Another job to dive back into the familiar of living paycheck-to-paycheck. So many people not seeing this moment as an opportunity to reset their mind and body. Sometimes I am one of those people during different moments of my day.

Being kind to myself is not judging myself for shooting off one more application for a random job posting. Being kind to myself is being okay with not calling the claims center during this hour. Being kind to myself is being okay with doing things and not doing some other things.

At the end of the day, after being mindful of my thoughts about myself and my day. I called my health insurance again, inquiring about the same problem – will it be possible to have coverage in time for my appointment on Monday? How can we solve this problem together?

Speaking more mindfully, watching my tone, I asked again for help. The lady on the other end asked to put me on hold. And when she came back, she offered me multiple solutions. More than one. I was rigid in my initial morning call (i.e. my previous employer said they would pay for coverage!) and now in the late afternoon, I was more open (i.e. Can the insurance carrier tell my doctor’s office that I will be covered retroactively? Should I pay first for the coverage and get a refund? Should I reschedule my appointment for later in the month?)

Asking for help is hard. Being kind to myself meant asking for help, more than once. It meant accepting that help and expertise from someone else. Being kind involves understanding that all I can do is try my best and do my best, and find a way to be okay with the outcome, whatever it might be.

How can you practice kindness to yourself? How can you practice kindness with others?

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