When 'Only love today' is the last thing you feel
“Two men killed by ‘only love today’ bracelet.
In an ironic turn of events, two men were found severely injured in a town in the west of Scotland yesterday. Police were called to the scene, steps away from a popular chip shop in broad daylight."
Above is the imagined headline and article that could have been found in the local newspaper for the area in which I worked a couple of years back. I had been doing everything I could to prepare myself for a new leadership role within my organisation; a leadership role that I took on knowing full well it was impossible. A leadership role I had effectively been warned against taking. A leadership role, I thought, which – at the very least – would teach me something about myself and my abilities. Little did I realise that on day number 2 in this role, I would find myself face-to-face with the two men who, in effect, run the organisation, staring them down with daggers in my eyes. If looks could kill, these two (and possibly some innocent bystanders) would be dead – vaporised into thin air if I had my way. My look, so intense, caused the ‘high-heid-yin’ to do a double-take. My look, and the feelings that came with it, so intense, that even in that moment, I was scared of myself and what I might be capable of.
And it was all because of lunch. I was hungry. It was 3:30pm and I had not eaten. Since the remodel over the summer, the various food shops formerly available in different places across the campus had shut down. So, when I finally decided at 3:15 to take a break and get something to eat, I found myself wandering aimlessly throughout the campus. The old café was gone; the new place downstairs was shut (apparently it shut at 3pm?!). I asked some colleagues I ran into where on campus I could buy food. ‘The main block’ they said. There’s a new café there they said. So to the main block I went, only there wasn’t any café, just plastic sheets restricting access to what used to be the café. So, muttering to myself about how the changes to the organisation so far did not seem to be conducive to my needs, particularly my basic needs of food and drink, I became more and more upset as I decided the only thing for it was to go to the chip shop up the street.
So, I walked through the campus, passing all the people playing games as part of the ‘fun day’. I walked past carnival games – throwing darts at balloons, throwing sacks through holes, throwing water balloons at various targets – a Frrricken Mechanical Bull – … all the while, my muttering getting a bit louder, my footsteps getting a bit quicker and the hysteria rising from my core. And when I got out to the street, there they were, the two men – in my head – responsible for my inability to get anything to eat. The two of them standing there, wearing hoodies and trackie bottoms (that’s a sweatshirt and sweatpants in my homeland), their heads together, in what (in hindsight) seemed like a bit of a heated conversation. And so I stared them down – and tried to kill them with my glare. And, luckily, I was so mad, so physically angered, I was beyond words. I have never experienced a feeling like that, and I am hopeful that I will never have a similar experience again.
And the icing on the cake was I had spent weeks preparing for this role. Something told me it would be challenging – possibly the way I was treated in establishing whether or not this role was for me, possibly the disrespect I had for the people deciding whether or not this role was for me, possibly the way I was told there wasn’t room in the budget to give me an extra day to fulfil this role (for which, surprise-surprise, they found the money). And it was day number 2 and the challenges had already been immense. Not only had I been bombarded by e.mails from day 1, but all the plans I had made to ensure my first week in post would go relatively well were effectively scuppered. I had made the mistake of taking two weeks off, having planned in meticulous detail how the first week would go. And then, while I was off, all my plans got changed last minute. Rooms cancelled, allocations left unmade – NOTHING went to plan – and I realised this two or 3 hours into day 1.
But I had done everything I could to cushion myself from the challenge. I had started my mindfulness meditation in earnest again. I had gone to a place of worship to pray for the first time in 12 years. I had taken two weeks off to get a break so I could come back refreshed. I had read motivational and inspirational quotes and blogs. I had gone so far as to purchase not one but TWO leather ‘only love today’ bracelets to remind me that all I had to do today was to love (according to the Handsfreemama blog and website - http://www.handsfreemama.com - written by Rachel Macy Stafford). I was to wear one leather bracelet for the consistent reminder and I was going to hang the other one from my computer screen. I had printed ‘inspirational’ quotations and printed these on my favourite pictures and dotted these throughout my office. And, yet, here on day number two, I was ready and willing to murder two grown men – and if looks could kill, I would have succeeded.
So, I’m not so sure I’m very good at this ‘only love today’ thing. I certainly sucked at it in that moment. But I’m starting a journey of compassion, and for once, this isn’t compassion for others. I am trained as a counsellor and a social worker. My aim in all my interactions with others is to provide a safe environment, in which I am genuine, accepting and provide unconditional positive regard. I try to be compassionate at all times with others so they can learn and change in ways that will make their lives better. So, yes, I am compassionate; I am genuine and I am accepting. Towards others. But me, well, I am hard on myself. Somewhere I learned that being good to others is good. I have yet to learn, deeply learn, that being good to myself is even better.
And so, here I am, on a journey towards compassion towards myself. On a journey, hopefully at the end of which, every day, I will regard myself with compassion and acceptance and love. And I suppose that means if I am ready for killing two grown men, I need to say to myself, “Wow, you are really angry at those two! REALLY ANGRY!!!” And in that moment, that’s going to have to be ok. Because that, too, shall pass. And months will go by, and I will slowly realise that the energy to be so angry is not worth it. That it does not enhance my own life. That I am worth putting myself first. But in that moment, on that day, I will accept that I’m just beginning this journey and that I pretty much suck just now at only loving today when I want to take my ‘only love today’ bracelet and use it to strangle two grown men who have NO CLUE about compassion, NO CLUE about acceptance and NO CLUE or desire to know about the impact they – and their decisions – have on someone like me and a large proportion of their workforce. And, in an act of loving-kindness towards myself, I will laugh at myself and love myself today for being so extremely shitty at only loving today. And I will try again tomorrow, for that is really the only thing I can do.