With Valentine’s Day being plastered, commercialized and crammed down our throats all over the United States right now, it’s hard to ignore.
In our home we typically do an intimate dinner of crustacean variety. We make crafts and Valentines with Baby Reinvention, as she insists on celebrating EVERY major and minor event that occurs in life. (Case in point: We have had two dog birthday parties at our house this year alone) So for us, Valentine’s Day is impossible to avoid. Frankly, I would be lying if I said that I didn’t love a justification to celebrate regularly. I appreciate a friendly gathering for any or no excuse.
Knowing that I typically drop new posts on Mondays and Thursday and that the 14th happens to fall on a Thursday, I decided to roll with the theme of love, on Valentine’s Day. Very original, I know.
So much can be said about love. To declare love for something or someone now is an overused reference. Emphasis shown by repetition. “I love coffee!” “No, I really love love coffee.” “But I love, love, love tequila!” Does the word possess less meaning? When we love everything from the television show “This is Us” (A MUST SEE!) to our new Ninja coffeemaker to our child to our Nikes. Does the word express the same value when used rapid fire rate sprinkling every aspect of our world versus reserved? Used only in pivotal moments like those fire extinguishers you have to break the glass to access? Personally, I don’t feel so. I love lots of things about this world. To varying depth and intensity but nevertheless, I find my world to be full of light and color and gorgeous surprising detail and joy. I am in love with life. All of it. The beauty and the tragedy and everything in between. Life in its entirety. I proclaim love to many people, animals, foods and things. I hug and kiss and touch. I soak the environment up. I watch closely and listen sharply. I know in my gut how quickly things can severely change. I know that saying is not a cliche. I have lived through the cliche.
But this post was intended to be about self-love. And now my introduction has taken on a route of its own.
Oh Well! Such is the path of creativity. A meandering one at times. Let’s set aside the whole propagation of overwhelmingly unrealistic expectations set up for Valentine’s Day by every aspect of society. Forget the Hallmark movies, the chocolates, bouquets of roses, jewelry, poetry etc. etc. etc. Or the potential loneliness and isolation and feeling you have no one but your cats on this day.
Take a moment with me and focus on self-love. SELF-LOVE………What does that mean to you? Does it awaken positive or negative inner emotions?
This is the rabbit hole I went down when pondering my post for Valentine’s Day.
I am almost 40 years old and just in the infancy stages of self-love. Let that marinate for a minute. Infancy, as in I am just recognizing and actualizing self-love.
Though, begrudgingly I am grateful to be learning how to love myself, that admission shocks and saddens me.
Why have I not loved myself before? I can’t really say. I don’t know. Is it a quality I was born lacking? Is self-love an instinctual aspect of self preservation? I am sure as a child I loved myself in the ego-centric way that all children think they are amazing and wonderful and terrific. And truthfully I believe that most children are magical until they are impacted by the world. But somehow that got lost from me. My inner voice was not very kind for many many years. I forgot how or why to love myself. Feeling unworthy of such love. Never being good enough for myself. Subsequently my internal messages distorted my reception of others’ love messages to me. Garbled, warped, twisted. That was the type of love I felt I deserved. In law of the universe fashion that was the type of love I accepted.
It’s not that I wasn’t praised or told I was loved by the adults in my life growing up. My parents and other adults in my world told me they loved me and were proud of me. Their actions, however, didn’t always align with their words. There were many confusing and conflicting messages for a young Melissa to try and decipher growing up. Maybe that’s how my self-love became obscured.
Does it matter? If I pinpoint with exactitude will it shift the present? Doubtful. Would it have altered the course of my journey up to now? I don’t know.
Then further buried by years of chaos and moves and then puberty and hormones and my own journey of bad decisions into a fumbling adulthood that landed me into success. Stunning, sweet success with the amazing husband, the home, the dogs, the trips, the stuff, the career, the healthy little spitfire child. On the exterior, I had all the makings of someone who loved theirselves into such achievements. That couldn’t have been further from the truth. I liked myself, some, I guess….. But I did not find myself to be particularly lovable or special in any way. I just didn’t think I was much at all.
So I existed this way. Until I didn’t.
Many months after the deaths of my brother and mother, especially after my mom died I was wracked with guilt, shame and self doubt. Why was I left here and they were not? Did I do my best as a daughter and sister? Was I patient enough? Did I love them hard enough? Was there anything more I could have done to help them? I felt like I failed all of the extraordinary people in my life- living or dead. I especially felt like I was failing my husband and daughter. Failing them because I was lost in grief. I wasn’t myself. I never would return to the old me. I didn’t know when I would feel light and joy and freedom again. I was scared that this was to be my new existence. I felt afraid for myself and for them.
Then a seismic shift. Watershed. Turning point. I catapulted myself into drastic change. Totally unknowingly. I just said “Fuck it!” I am honoring this slight glimmer of the me that was before all the shit came tumbling down. The me that felt creative and capable and unattached to societal constraints. And with that scary leap, the leap made in terrible grief and pain, came awareness and appreciation of- lo and behold- me! And on this new journey came self-acceptance and self-love. Quiet-like, an immigrant integrating into a foreign land. Awkward, hesitant, unsure. Before I became fully aware of my transformation I realized that I was no longer belittling myself. The self shaming and humiliation wasn’t as insistent and incessant. I stopped hammering into myself for being human. I began to embrace the “perfectly imperfect” mindset. Then, slowly, I began to like me. I began to see me more objectively. I wasn’t an awful horrible person. I was a person in pain. A person who was making the commitment and doing the work to change.
Now, we have arrived at present day. Valentine’s Eve. Where I can now say: I love myself. I do not always like myself, or my choices or behaviors. I can accept myself and accept that I am continuing to grow and change. I am human. I can release the expectation of perfection and embrace the present moment and who I am right now.
Fellow lovers, cultivators and artists. Happy Valentine’s Day to you all! May it be filled with self-love!