I have a problem. I’m obsessed with making lists, they run my life and when one thing gets done, something else mushrooms in its place. I jolt up each day with a new list and I can’t tell what’s vital and what’s trivial; it’s all an emergency. I may need to hit a deadline, for instance writing this blog but I’ll get caught on a jag of sitting up all night on Scandinavian websites, hunting for 19th century Swedish napkin rings (which, I don’t even need or like). It’s obsessive, I know, because after the napkin rings, I’ll go on to searching for AirB&Bs in Bali, where to get pet mini-pigs and then look for 4,000 thread, pedigree goose-fed duvet covers.
I’ve recently come to the conclusion this obsessive behavior might not be a skill in efficient shopping but an early warning of on-coming mental illness. The problem is I can’t tell where my tipping point is – and this goes for everything I do. I can’t tell when I’ve moved from a little light cleaning to when I suddenly find myself on my knees licking the floor tiles to get the dirt up. I finally had an, ‘aha’ moment when I realized why I was doing the daily ‘listing.’ It was all a ruse to avoid looking inside myself and notice I was sliding into depression. It was to show the world I was fine, more than fine, having the time of my life. In actuality I was filling my brain with trivia, keeping my eye on the John Lewis website so I didn’t have to face the Holocaust going on in my mind.
After many therapies and every drug known to man, I came about mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for those of us with a wild bucking bronco, out-of-control mind. The good news is you do it on your own, no having to run to a shrink and it’s free. Free always makes me happy, that and ‘upgrade’ are my two favorite things in the world.
One of the hardest parts of mindfulness for me was the idea of self-compassion. I don’t even like discussing the word because it’s the last thing you want to give yourself when you’re ill. You’re furious at yourself for being depressed when you have everything and can just order a Swedish ring at 4am while other people are in war zones. The last thing you think you deserve is kindness. Also, when I think of someone being kind to themselves, I picture those woman in TV ads, with cucumbers over her eyes, slipping into a warm bubbly bath, placing a long chocolate stick into her mouth.
I did a TV show about self-help where I took part in a workshop called “Loving Yourself”. I joined a group of women on a beach in San Diego where we all got married to ourselves. A woman called Dr. Barbara with lipstick nowhere near her mouth and hair that seemed to be on anti-depressants, did the wedding vows while playing on a tape-recorder, “Here Comes the Bride.” Then one by one we had to take the vows to ourselves and when it came to me she asked, “Do you Ruby take you Ruby? I said, “Do you mean me Ruby or you Ruby?” It got incredibly confusing. She wasn’t pleased. (I later divorced myself). But that’s what I associate with being kind to myself. I finally studied mindfulness and asked my professor, Mark Williams about my aversion to self-kindness and he said that when I actually sit down and practice mindfulness, even if it’s just for a minute, that alone is being kind to myself. And if you’re kind to yourself only then can you give it to others. Just giving myself a break from the constant list-making and self-bullying, he said, is compassion.
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