Today I attended an art therapy training with the knowledgeable and wonderful Dr. Patricia Isis.
She told a little parable at the beginning of the training that I’ve been thinking about all day.
A mom is at the grocery store with a rambunctious four-year-old child in her shopping cart. The child is antsy and bouncing, sometimes rising to the level of yelling and causing a ruckus. The grocery store manager notices the mother and her daughter from a distance.
As the mother winds up and down the aisles, she keeps her voice calm and even. “Just a few things we need to get, Monica, we’ll be done soon,” she says.
The child continues to bounce and fidget. As they continue their shopping, up and down the aisles, up and down, the mother again speaks in a calm and gentle voice. “Just five more things to get, Monica, we’re almost done,” she says kindly.
As they approach the checkout, the child is contained, but antsy and wiggling. “We’re at the checkout, Monica,” the mother says, patient and compassionate. “We’ll be on our way home soon.”
As they walk to their car, the grocery store manager follows them. “Excuse me,” he says, “but I just wanted to tell you how much I admire how compassionate and kind and gentle you we’re with young Monica here.”
The young mother laughs. “She’s not Monica,” she explains. “I am!”
Wow. I love this. SO MUCH. What an amazing expression of the need to take care of ourselves FIRST.
I haven’t been able to get it out of my head all day. When I heard Dr. Kristen Neff speak, several years ago, she told a personal version of this story; she talked about being on an airplane with her son, who’s diagnosed with autism, while he screamed and tantrummed, and how she held him and took deep breaths and just SHOWERED herself with compassion and love. Because, when someone we love really needs us – WE NEED COMPASSION AND LOVE. We can’t take care of anyone else without it.