It is relatively easy to become detached from the realities of undue hardship, particularly if you have never had to navigate social services or try to prioritize how to determine which basic needs can be met with limited resources.
As we move into the new year, and continue to face a seemingly unmitigated pandemic, concerns surrounding mental health, inflation, and a rising fear of the very uncertain future, we can all still find ways to exercise compassion, both to ourselves and the people around us.
Even when it is difficult to manage, and it may feel easier not to. This might be why it is called “an exercise”.
The world around us very often fails to line up perfectly with our own conceptions of utopia, and as a result, this incongruence often grates on us.
While it is a privilege to have the freedom of emotional and intellectual bandwidth to think about the collective if you are barely keeping yourself together, it is important to find ways to relieve the load for others if and when we can, and try to find ways to help manage the heavy load for others.
In the final days of 2021, we may be able to take a bit of time and reflect or find clarity on how certain constraints can limit our own progress or the progress of our communities.
These constraints, which are often actually inequalities, are often a function of systemic challenges which limit many people from accessing resources.
The reality of being affected by mental health challenges, financial hardship, isolation, and anxiety are near-universal, in that most of us can relate to the detrimental effects of these unprecedented times.
However, it is unlikely that there is a universal or permanent solution to any of these concerns, but compassion can function to alleviate some of the hardships we continue to face.
Compassion to oneself and compassion to others doesn’t mean not holding people accountable, or abandoning critical engagement, or opting to adopt an expensive product-based self-care ritual.
And while it may be tempting to think of compassion as a selfless act, it can actually be understood as an act of self-preservation.
It can give people the ability to move through situations with a level of understanding which has the power to create meaningful relationships of reciprocity and cultivate a sense of not having to hold up the entire load alone.