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What Does Fearless Kindness Look Like To You?

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I’ve been thinking about what it means to be fearlessly kind in my life. What does that mean? What does it look like? This phrase, ‘fearlessly kind’, came to me through some hard times that have challenged me to look at the way I’ve treated myself over the years.  My perfectionism, self-criticism, and tendency to drive myself have allowed me to achieve many things, but lately, the cost has become too high. I’ve realized I need to find a different way of being in the world.

A friend recently challenged himself to a two years sabbatical to heal from his unhealthy relationship patterns. He began his journey with a Ta Moko (Maori tattoo) to represent the patterns he wanted to change. The Ta Moko is on his arm so that he is always aware of where he has come from and where he wants to be. It has inspired me to take a sabbatical from the patterns I’ve developed in relationship to myself, and, like my friend, I’m considering a Ta Moko as part of the journey.  I don’t know what ‘fearlessly kind’ will look like for me from moment to moment or week to week, I want to begin with the idea of ‘gentleness.’

For the last eight years, I’ve been a landlocked surfer. Landlocked by three pregnancies, earning a degree, existing on a student income, writing a novel, moving homes and generally stumbling through my days, bowl sized coffee cup in hand, my hair held up by a pen in a sloppy bun, but still a surfer nonetheless. I began surfing when I was eighteen. The ocean and waves taught me things that have carried me through the last twenty years, one of them being that events come in set waves. When I’ve been hit by a big life wave, I’ve learned that there will be several more lined up behind it. After the waves settle into a reflective calm, I surface transformed.  It doesn’t matter how gracefully I handled the waves, there is reward for surviving.

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Recently, I had to pull out of a diploma that would enable me to work as a high school teacher because my body couldn’t keep up with the demands.  My dog, Belicia, was hit by a car and left to bleed to death in front of our house.  I found out my mother’s leukemia was starting to gain momentum and a secondary bone cancer had been diagnosed. I wrote my closest friends and said, “I need to get back to California but I don’t know how.” Within weeks, my friends had organized the funds to fly me from New Zealand to California. This wave of generosity and love left me in a sort of daze. I had to tell myself that the gift was not for me but for my family. I spent almost three weeks with my mother in her art studio, listening to family stories, and rediscovering this woman that had given birth to me, and in the process something was awakened in me.

On my return to New Zealand, all of the emotions of the last year hit me and being half a world away from my family and some of my closest friends hit me. I coped with it by pushing my body too hard.  Two weeks ago I ended up in the ER with fever, disorientation, and the result was a decision to confront my limitations and make friends with them. It was time to stop ignoring the ongoing bouts with glandular fever, lowered immunity, and the wonky nervous system that needs to be subdued by beta blockers or it will react like Chicken Little screaming, “THE SKY IS FALLING!” Over the years, I’ve translated these health issues as proof that I needed to work harder to earn my keep on this planet.

I’m a woman who needs charts, deadlines, commitments, or I get lost in the moment. And in the moment, I’m capable of all kinds of acts of madness, such as deciding to cut down a tree or paint the house in response to another bout of fever and fatigue.  For the next year, I am going to trust myself to exist. I’m going to be fearlessly kind to myself.  I hope you’ll join me on the journey.

To begin, what does fearless kindness look like to you?

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