How to be a good friend to yourself. (With footnotes.)

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I know that not everyone needs to know how to not be their own enemy. I’m glad about this.

But for those of you who find it easier to be kind to every single person in the world than to be decent to yourself, or those who just want to hear more about being friendly to yourself, here’s a little list, with footnotes down below.

1. Don’t hate yourself. Sometimes this is harder than it should be, but it’s an important first step. Do you hate the baby birds in that nest over there? Do you hate donkeys? Do you hate sweet-cheeked babies? No? Then don’t hate yourself, silly. *

2. Walk with yourself. Hey there, this is a good pace. We’re doing great today. We love this. †

3. Spend time in your own head, rather than trying to guess the thoughts of others. Lately, when Gertrude the Anxiety Dragon would like to carry me over into the imagined mental processes of people around me, I tell her a firm no. “That’s not my head, Gertrude. I don’t belong in there.” ‡

4. Give yourself permission to exist. Listen, kids. You are not a role. You are not a type. You are not a mirror. You are a human being. A squishy soft miracle with a whole lot of possibility in every one of your cells. You are not a human doing-all-the-right things. You are not a human saying-all-the-right-things. You are a person with permission to exist, in all the complexity of what that means, and you get to see how God’s possibility will unfold in your life. I can’t think of anything better. §

5. Ask yourself questions like, “What would you like to do today?” Maybe you have a lot of things that you need to do, but don’t necessarily want to do. That’s okay. That’s normal. But is there one thing you really want to do? I think it would be fun to figure out what it is, and then find time for it by refraining from scrolling through social media or going on Youtube rabbit trails. Do that thing, and then remind yourself that you are doing it, and that you chose it. “I’m going for a walk in the forest because I really want to.” 

6. Enjoy where you are. Where you are is the best place to be. It’s the only place you can experience. Right? We don’t get two bodies or two souls. We have this one that moves and can be in a certain space and time in the world. That means that at any moment in time, we are not doing lots of things, not being lots of places.

But where you are and what you are doing is the very best thing, because it is the thing that you can feel with your hands, see with your eyes, hear and smell and taste. Even if where you are is trapped under a six-year-old’s sweaty arm really late in a long drawn out bedtime situation that involved many cups of water and an interrupted bedtime story. It’s the best place. ¶

8. Be in your body for a while, instead of your head. Are the sheets soft? Is the coffee hot? Do you like the smells in the air around you? Do you think that red paint looks tasty? Don’t eat it. But imagine what it would taste like if it were actually food. Yum. But no, yuck. Really, don’t eat it.

9. See yourself clearly. It is not self love to believe you are the person you wish you were, to hold tightly to that picture and defend it like a honey badger whenever anyone calls you on something that doesn’t fit the picture. The most friendly thing you can do for your dear self is open the door that you are so vehemently standing in front of. Let the fresh air and light in, let the Spirit of God softly sing over you, over the real you

10. Watch the sky whenever you can. It’s just so big, it’s so much bigger than anything in your everyday life. If you can see stars, you may get an idea of how tiny and beloved you are, that you have been set down gently in your life, to be this person, to learn that you are loved and that because you are loved and made by God, you don’t get to trash talk yourself. And the more you learn this, the more you stop loving others because you think they are better than you and can save you. You learn to love simply and tenderly, to hold others in your heart because of the honor of being created ones together. **

* Self loathing is one of the trickiest things I know. When I don’t know how to feel, or mental health is not in a good place, I revert to good actions and then remind myself that these are not the actions of someone who hates herself.
For example: I took a shower and then put coconut oil on my hair. These are not the actions of someone who hates herself. I went for a walk and listened to my favorite music. These are not the actions of someone who hates herself. I made a stir fry and lit candles at my table, sitting and talking with my kids. These are not the actions of someone who hates herself. Sometimes it’s all I can do. I’m feeling the bad feelings, but I’m acting on something different.

† The next part of this is walking with God. Every store you go into, every hard thing, you are doing it with the Spirit of God near you. Hovering, gently touching, ready to take the hard things on. Jesus beside you, looking at the tags on the second-hand sweaters, or finding a clear, soaring path through the tangly jungles of social interactions. Going for a jog with you. Looking at you with such clear-eyed tenderness, even though he knows every single hard or bitter thing in your heart. 

‡ The advanced pose is to not base what you do or think on the imagined reactions of others. For those of us with anxiety or neurological differences, this is trickier than it might appear. Some of us don’t actually know what we really think. And even trying to figure it out can bring on a whole emotional break down. Why? Because it can be a terrifying thing to realize that you don’t actually know how to be if you aren’t basing it on the reaction you are expecting. This is an intermediate trick, therefore, but it is a very friendly thing you can do for yourself. I call this permission to exist. See the next point.

§ This can be confusing also. Of course, we are interconnected. Of course, we touch each other in every area of life, and kindness goes an incredible distance. Mostly because we have the privilege of reassuring others that they too have permission to exist. But there is something about defining yourself as a role that is dehumanizing and doesn’t honor God in his continuing creation within you. For instance, if you are the role of mother, in the verb sense, you can fail at this. But you can’t fail at being a human, at being a creation of the most beautiful, smart, absorbing and wonderful being in the world.  

¶ This includes doing nice things and not feeling guilty about them or trying not to enjoy them because you’re fairly sure you shouldn’t be okay with being happy. Forget that crap!

** No judgment here. I’m in the self trash talk boat. Valiantly leaping out of it, swimming for shore.

***

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A morning in Wuhan

I am on a quick trip to North America to do some practical stuff that cannot be ignored any longer, as well as get to a friend’s wedding, woot!

I found the cheapest flight ever with China Southern airlines. ($450 round trip- what?) They are often overnight layovers and you have to leave the airport. So I got a hotel and in the morning, I went to explore. I liked Wuhan. Somehow I found myself a hotel room in the historical district, which I’m sure was prettier than the area around the airport would have been.

The back alleys are everything. Light filters through and people gather whatever chairs they can find, sit around and chat. I was surprised by how chilled out things were. Laundry hangs from the power lines that cross the alley.

It is not an automatic smile country, though I did startle a laugh out of one older lady, after she stared at me for five minutes, trying to figure out what I was. I actually loved her verdict. She clearly couldn’t come up with a category or definition, so her conclusion was just to say heh heh heh and walk away.

Her work seemed to be fishing used chopsticks out of the trash. She was very old and had a hard time walking. It looked like the hardest, dirtiest, least rewarding work.

People seem relaxed and not as aware of convention as in Thailand. In Thailand you do a lot to reassure people around you. I see you, I’m for you, I’m glad you’re here. This is communicated all the time. In Wuhan it seemed like people just stared if they wanted to stare, or ignored if they wanted to ignore. But none of it felt like it impinged on the relaxed feeling.

People seemed self contained.

I ate black bean noodles on the side of the road, sitting on a plastic stool with other people doing the same thing. The noodles were okay. Kind of weird, more fermented than a similar food that I’ve had in Korea (it originated in China, but Korea is famous for their black bean noodles now.)

However disappointing the road noodles were, though, I ate hand pulled noodles at the airport and they were a noodle lover’s dream. Handmade noodles! At the airport!

I couldn't communicate with anyone. Anyone. The language is completely opaque to me. I remember when Thai was like that. It seems like a long time ago. I liked how we kept trying. I would something in English and people spoke to me in Mandarin and no one could understand each other, but even though we were pointing and gesturing, we had to talk while we did so.

The frisking at the airport was rather thorough.

There were cameras everywhere. Everywhere. Everything is recorded and they have been using some wild new facial recognition software. It is a wild new world.

I found a park and wandered through it, making my way down to the Yangstze River. The river is the whole reason I bothered to get a hotel in the city center. It was worth it, this wide, old river, though of course I found it in the middle of this city, and no one was punting any sampans along it.

One of my favorite things about travel is to truly enter into the anonymous observer space. Not talking or understanding makes the whole thing feel kind of dreamy.

My taxi driver was using some kind of app where he voiced messaged friends the whole time we were driving. Just voice recording after voice recording in a big group. That was intriguing.

I think it would be hard to do this jaunt with kids, or if you have any special dietary needs. I have been eating by simply pointing at the menu. There are no options for vegetarian things, and I cannot speak!

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By myself, though, it is an unexpected little gem.

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Now you can support my writing on Patreon. Patrons can give as little as $1 a month, and get extra vlogs and posts, as well as my books as soon as they are available. I really really appreciate your support, it helps me to keep going with writing and publishing my work.

A new patron post: Dear Rae : A Letter to Myself, is up on Patreon now!

you look as though you could use some

it is a steady rain.
a blinding shower 
a rush of water, a shriek of mud river 
catching branches, buckets, trees 
we can do nothing but 
wait for it to take our breath 
raging, singing out into the night 


flashlight on water 
concrete people 
the scene of some long intended crime. 


can i offer you some of this water? 
it seems as though we have too much 
and you look as though you could use some 


the heart beats faster 
trembling 
a tiny bird caught in the chest 
a rattle inside the net of fragile jewel-encrusted bone.
how to shield it from that dangerous hope—
it always gets me in the end
the river marches
a glint in its eye—a story without a finish 


i am afraid to be always the ones scattering the seed
and watching the flood carry it away.

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The high school journey continues.

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Kai was home for June and July, but school has started again and he’s back at it, digging into eleventh grade and all that means.

This year our nearly-seventeen-year-old kid has new classes and new teachers. He has a new house and family to live with during the week. His new house is much farther from the school, so he is mastering the transportation system in Chiang Mai, which consists of yellow and red songtaews. Songtaews are trucks with seats in the back.

He will have many more rides to and from Pai on the weekends. Hours of curving roads in a fast-traveling van. This does not deter him.

This tall kid is powerful. When he decides to do something, he does it, disregarding anything in his way. He has grown so much since he started this school journey—actual inches, plus he started playing drums, figured out essays and tests and class schedules, and learned that basketball is not for him. Weights are, though. Kai was our wide eyed baby, our kid who never stopped thinking and learning. Now he is a level-eyed young man, kind and chock full of sense, patient and determined. Also hilarious.

In our wild life, I didn’t imagine that I would have five different kids with five different school journeys (every kid is doing something slightly different this year) but I’m so intrigued and excited by all the learning, mastering, and growing I see in their lives.

Every Friday he comes home to cries of “Kai!” and hugs.

We love him. We miss him. We’re proud of him.

Now you can support my writing on Patreon. Patrons can give as little as $1 a month, and get extra vlogs and posts, as well as my books as soon as they are available. I really really appreciate your support, it helps me to keep going with writing and publishing my work.

Special thanks to new patrons, Shira and Eva, and to Kathleen, who upped her pledge! Yes! Thanks for helping this author. xoxo

Dear Solo, (a letter to my almost eleven-year-old son),

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Dear Solo,

You will be eleven this month.

Let’s not forget you, India baby, walked on the shores of the Arabian sea. Born during the monsoon, when the water streamed down the windows and I held my face in the cardamom jar every morning because I couldn’t bear the mildew stench. You were so loved.

Little baby Solomon, King Solomon we called you.

You cried in the coconut grove and I walked you under the stars, step by step in the humid night air.

You learned to walk in the mountains, toddling at great heights, teeth first, while Nepali friends carried you back and forth and fed you sweets. You ran away from me in the Pokhara markets while I vainly tried to follow, trailing three young children and holding many bags. You tucked yourself away in sari shops or gold stores, hiding behind counters, hiding in boats, hiding under your blankets on your bed. You were always laughing when we found you. You were covered in sand, shining with stars, swimming like a fish.

We moved to Thailand and you leaned on the arms of Thai grandmothers, grinning up at them, you played with soi dogs, charmed monks.

And then you turned inward very suddenly, became quiet, scowled your way around. It was an abrupt shift. You were working something out, deep inside there somewhere. Any way we leaned, you leaned the other way. No, you said. No, no, no.

Just as abruptly, the sunshine came back, and with it, the dancing. You have danced in many countries. Sometimes your dancing makes me feel like I could fly if I tried hard enough. I think it makes you feel that way too.

You cried when we moved out of our house. But you out of anyone need the starry skies. You are mighty, young son. Sometimes you wonder if you look okay.

“You are so beautiful,” you told me the other day. “And Dad is so beautiful. But me?”

I don’t know what it is that blocks you from seeing it, but son, you are stunning.

You protect people that you feel are being shamed or mocked.

You draw for hours and spend your money and time making gifts for people.

You are Wookie’s great friend. The only time you seem to stay still is when you are reading somewhere with Wookie curled up beside you. You always look out for animals and every kind of creature. You are fierce and sometimes anxious, artistic and a boy of great feeling.

There is nothing I wouldn’t do for you.

I love you and love you and love you. Your dad does too. Sometimes we talk about how we feel about you. We can barely stand it.

I’m writing this birthday letter early just because I’m feeling it now. Because I can hear your laugh in my head and it is so sweet to me.

My son.

My wild son, in perpetual motion.

I love you.

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Now you can support my writing on Patreon. Patrons can give as little as $1 a month, and get extra vlogs and posts, as well as my books as soon as they are available. I really really appreciate your support, it helps me to keep going with writing and publishing my work.