I’ve had a couple of rough weeks. Free floating anxiety. Restless sleep. Self doubt. It was as if my psyche developed little cracks and all of that seeped in. I didn’t immediately recognize that I was in distress. Then, this morning, I was awake at 4:00am, swimming in worry and anxiety that wasn’t attached to anything real: would I lose my wallet in the airport when I travel next week? Is my book any good? Am I any good? Such moments of suffering are wake up calls. There’s no outside solace to heal one’s heart; I have to begin at the core. What do I need? What do I want? How can I help myself?
From time to time, we all feel like imposters in the world. We stumble and fall into a hole of despair and then wonder how we got there. Visiting the wounds of childhood past doesn’t seem to provide anything but an excuse. Finding ways to psychologically and spiritually hug myself, does. A lifetime of dealing with depression and anxiety has taught me that if I get too angry or too afraid of too many things, I’m bound to fall.
All love must begin with the act of self-love. That’s easy to state and more difficult to do. What does it mean to love your self? I know that I’m not alone in wondering this. Here are some steps toward self-love that I used this morning. May they be helpful to others. Self-love is like going to the gym. The best results come from continued and consistent practice.
Step One: Meditation is a practice that can relax, comfort and soothe the beast of anxiety. It seems surprising that such a practice can be so easily forgotten in the face of emails, texts, social media, deadlines, and the seduction of creating self-importance through our digital life. Liberation lies in deliberate breath, deliberate mindfulness, deliberate letting go and surrendering into the vastness and awe of the miracle that we are.
Step Two: Tears. Holding back the tears of life creates anxiety and strife. Right now, our world seems likes its come off the rails. In witnessing the fallout from gun violence, the suffering of children, the divisions that have turned into an “us and them” mentality, then surely there are tears waiting to be set free. I cried this morning. I cried for our country. I cried for myself. I cried for the people I know who are facing struggles. The act of tears, softened my heart and brought me home to myself a little bit. The list of too angry and too afraid began to dissolve.
Step Three: I’m a sixty-seven year old woman and one might think that all things from childhood have certainly been worked out and healed forever by now. But the wisdom of age has taught me that the wounds of childhood inform throughout one’s life. They are part of our spiritual and psychological work. This morning, I closed my eyes and remembered the child I’d been. In my imagination, I got down on one knee so that I could meet her face to face, and then I wrapped my arms around her and said, “You are so precious to me. I love you so much.” More tears and a sweet feeling of release begins to set me free.
Step Four: Listing the things I’m grateful for. I take a walk every day. My dog and I went up to the park and along the way, I counted the things that I’m grateful for: legs strong enough to carry me a couple of miles, neighbors that wave hello and call out greetings, a belly that’s full, and cooling temperatures that made today’s walk in the middle of Texas very pleasant. Practicing gratitude helps me to shift my mind-set and ease the torments of self-doubt.
Step Five: Give this reclaimed love away. Wave back at the neighbors. Call out my own greetings of good morning. Silently bless the gaggle of teenagers waiting for the school bus — they’re our future. They deserve my goodwill. Plan to cook a special breakfast for my husband.
Step Six: Bow my head and say thank you. Thank you for my life. Thank you for this day. Thank you for jogging my memory and helping me make it to the toolbox, thus bringing relief and a way home. Thank you.
In a perfect world, I would wake up every day and practice all of this. However, I’ve come to see that the imperfection of slipping into the darkness is the invitation and the opportunity to re-engage with my heart. The imperfection and errors that come with being human is the path to humility, appreciation and thankfulness. Today was a reminder to stay the course even though I know that I will stumble and fall again. My heart is all about practice and imperfection. This is the work of living out this idea of love.