I had a realization recently–no, an epiphany – I’m talking a massive download, a persona-defying brainwave. It happened like this:
It started with a simple observation: I finally put my finger on something that has been bothering me for some time–years, really. I was explaining this to a friend, because I needed to put it into words to be able to fully process it. Here’s the thing; it worked. By the end I nearly had myself in tears with the realization (yes, I’m going to use that word a lot in this one) that I was speaking about a wounding I have never validated for myself before, but that I am now honoring with the compassion of simple recognition.
As an important aside, I’ve spent a lot of the last two months in, near or needing the sweet release of tears. If you knew how much, really, it might seem oddly, overtly, vulnerable. And it is. But what I explained to my friend is that I have a very deep appreciation for my own tears. I have a deep appreciation for tears in general, but mine in particular. I have years of tearlessness behind me, days and nights of depressed pressure I would’ve given anything for one tear to give some release of–and nothing. I couldn’t cry–couldn’t let myself cry, irregardless of how much I wanted to. I don’t cry easily. But I’ve shed more tears in the last month than I have in the last decade, easily. And when I do I find that it is often because I’ve touched on something in myself with a compassion I’ve never given myself before.
So when I felt warm tears rising while talking about this wounding, I knew I was dealing with myself differently. And then I had my epiphany: I love myself.
This is a journey I have been on for a year and more, beginning with my introduction to shadow work early last year. Self-love and even self-care used to seem like a vague thing to me, but now I know that it looks like:
Radical self-acceptance–good, ‘bad’ and ugly–and being compassionate enough toward myself to honour even the parts I don’t like with open understanding; having enough of that compassion to allow myself to see the genuine needs behind my ‘bad’ traits and habits–and finding positive ways to validate and satisfy those needs, without giving in to the guilt of having needs met that I’ve literally been fighting against (because of the misdirection of said ‘bad’ traits/habits); opening my mind to the remote possibility that maybe my sexuality is a good thing, and was even as an early teen trying to snuff out one of the deepest parts of me; letting myself feel – happy, sad, angry, mute, alone – a myriad of emotions each carrying value and significance, and not trying to suppress or change them; making selfish decisions without, again, feeling guilty (because selflessness is a false martyrdom: you need to take care of yourself before you can properly care for anyone else.); honouring all of my thoughts and emotions without stifling anything – my inner world is as expansive as the universe, the only thing more exhausting than Being is trying to keep myself from Being; putting myself to bed early, feeding myself breakfast and packing myself lunch, cleaning the house and making my bed so that I have a rest-inducing place to come home to after a hard day; telling myself, “I love you in the face of your faults,” – there is still so much of myself that I have a difficult time with, but the truth is I am beautifully divine and divinely beautiful, and I owe it to myself to care, because few enough others will.
I realized I have a deeper compassion and love for myself today than I ever knew, or even thought I ever would. I knew in one moment I care deeply for myself, with an actual, deeply legitimate, tenderly honest–romantic, even–concern. I could never have imagined feeling this level of care for myself as I do today; I couldn’t be more proud of or happy for myself. And I didn’t see it coming. More tears.
Because I Love Myself is the title for a little 15-page sketchbook I am filling this winter with old and happy memories and meaningful faces, as part of Brooklyn Art Library’s Sketchbook Project Vol. 15. I was already planning the theme of the work going into it when this very apt title presented itself to me while finishing off the opening page. Because I love myself. Why am I doing what I am doing, making the decisions I am making, choosing the people I did to give room to in my very fragile life, being very stringent about requiring anyone who wants anything to do with me to expend some energy for me for once–because I love myself. Because I care for myself, for my well-being, for my safety and security, for my not being used when I am useful and discarded when I am not. I feel a very deep and real sense of comfort and peace. Because I love myself. And I do.