One of the most inspirational woman I have ever known is Mercy May, a 58 year old lady who has been working part time for my family for the past 20 years. Mercy has had a limited education, she lost her parents when she was quite young, she adopted her alcoholic sister’s son and brought him up as her own, she forgave and took back her unemployed and cheating husband who died a few years later, she is often supporting random members of the family who stay with her, she lost a grandchild in a shack fire, and she has just agreed to raise a 3 year old family member whose mother died recently. Through all of this she has managed to smile and keep a positive attitude to life and a trust that God will give her strength to get through what she needs to. She is one of the most trustworthy, strong, kind, and open hearted people I have ever met – she has very little but is so generous with the little she has.
The two of us have laughed together, cried together and celebrated together – I think the best way to describe our relationship is that in our very different ways we are mothers to each other. My children love and respect her and she somehow manages to get them to do things that I am unable to.
If we had to measure Mercy on the 20 new ways to measure success that Joshua Becker recommends, I believe she would be doing a lot better than most of us.
Some of the questions that I explore with my clients who are on a path of greater self understanding are:
“If you were an animal which one do you think you would be?”
“Which one do you like and admire?”
This helps in the unpacking of values, strengths and qualities.
Recently, bestselling author Elizabeth Gilbert wrote this post on her Facebook page. Here’s an excerpt:
“Sometimes, when I catch myself feeling unloveable or self-abusing, I try to imagine that I am an animal, adopted from the humane society, who has been placed into my own care. Maybe an animal that some bad things have happened to. Maybe an animal that is anxious and confused. Maybe an animal that has been wounded. Maybe an animal that is lost.
What does that animal need and deserve? Healthy food, a warm place to sleep, a safe place of shelter, tender affections, plenty of walks in the sunshine. Kindness. Tenderness. Patience.
Can you try to see yourself as an animal in need of rescue? And can you offer yourself that rescue? Can you try to see that you, too, are a simple mammal, born innocent, deserving of tenderness, needful of love, fearful of pain? Can you reach out to yourself with gentleness — as if you were that cat or dog who had been caged for far too long?”
I think this is a wonderful way to think differently so that we can be gentle on ourselves and extend the self love that we all need.
What does it mean to hold space for someone else? It means that we are willing to walk alongside another person in whatever journey they’re on without judging them, making them feel inadequate, trying to fix them, or trying to impact the outcome. When we hold space for other people, we open our hearts, offer unconditional support, and let go of judgement and control.
In her article, Heather Plett gives eight tips on how to ‘hold space’ well. Holding Space is something that all of us can do for each other – for our partners, parents, children, friends, neighbours and even strangers. All of us need to know that there are people in our life with whom we can be vulnerable and weak without fear of being judged.