In my last blog, I wrote about the need for balance in life. To quote, “Light and dark are two sides of the same coin. You can’t have one without the other.” While it is true that since losing Kristin, I have spent a disproportionate amount of time in the dark. It is equally as true that it has been without exception the most painful experience I have ever endured and that there have been many dark days, but there is light too, so much light!
Light was perhaps Kristin’s greatest gift to me. A light that comes from the joy of complete, unconditional love shared between two human beings. Through years of triumphs and tribulations, my life guided me to Kristin at the most perfect time in both of our lives. We loved without regard, without restraint, and with conviction.
Kristin didn’t just love me though, she taught me about love. She taught me how real love, the purest and most enduring love, radiates from the inside, out. You see, Kristin taught me how to channel all those life lessons and personal growth into a self-love that had always eluded me. They say that love is not a noun, but a verb, it is an action word. So too must self-love; it follows then that the active expression of self-love must be self-care.
What are you doing to love yourself right now? What are you doing to take care of yourself right now? We all know it’s important, we all know that wells run dry if they aren’t replenished, yet, far too often, when we need our own love and care the most, we neglect it.
I want to thank each and every person who reads this blog, because you help me in my self-care. Writing is a perhaps the single greatest element of me taking care of myself and without your readership, I’m not sure that I would always feel motivated to sit down in front of my keyboard. I am a talker by nature, so writing is a way for me to talk through life’s ups and downs and eventually arrive at some kind of good place.
The other component of my self-care is meditation. That is a pretty recent development for me, but stopping, breathing, and just being quiet and listening has proven to be invaluable. Maybe it just comes back to the principle of balance again? I spend so much time talking and writing, maybe in order to feel balanced I require quiet time where I shut up and just listen?
Both the writing and meditation help me to keep my inner life in good health and in balance, but I can easily neglect my physical self. For a stretch of time in my life I turned myself into a runner, then a weekend warrior triathlete, but that took a toll on my back, knees, and every other joint I have. Swimming though? That is the last magical pillar of my trifecta of self-care. The pool is a place where I can exercise my body, my cardiovascular system, and not be riddled with pain afterward.
When I can consistently engage in all three of those activities, life hums along pretty good. It’s not that if I meditate, swim, and write everyday the dark days won’t come. Nope, those are just part of the deal as human beings. But, by actively engaging in self-love I am better prepared to weather them.
What do you do Jen? How do you show yourself love and appreciation for the magically unique individual that you are? I wonder what our readers do?
“If you don’t value yourself, how do you expect others to?” If I have an achilles heal, then I have hundreds. Self love, value of oneself just happens to be one of them.
I remember standing at home plate, my wooden bat raised behind my head, my elbows up in the air. I looked over at the bleachers beneath the large shady tree and recognized faces, judgement, and disapproval. I looked down at the dust covering the white pentagon and my grey sweatpants loose around my ankles and simply waited for the next pitch to come.
I knew that I would most likely get on a base. I knew that it would be a walk or a ground ball that happened it’s way through the shortstop’s legs as they looked over at third base. I knew that I could strike out if I reached too far and swung too hard trying to hit the stars, a place beyond my reach. So inevitably, I listened to myself and bet on getting on first. I patiently waited as pitchers took their time finding their stride warming up on me, the lead off batter. I was young, but I knew getting on base was just enough.
At an early age I learned and believed that I was just enough. I was just enough to make the team, find myself in the advanced classes, and get invited to the sleepovers on the weekend. I knew that I wasn’t the mvp, the valedictorian, or even close to being the most popular but just enough felt okay to me growing up. It kept me in the thick of things without having to reveal too much of who I was or worse draw too much attention to who I should’ve been. Just as I waited for bad pitches to be thrown, I waited for people to value my effort, my work, and my being in order to decide where I fit best. I managed my way through life waiting to see how much of my light I should shine in each and every situation depending on who I was with and where I was. I allowed others to determine my place and what role I would play. I spent my time figuring out what others wanted and needed instead of allowing myself the space to be who I was and wanted most to be.
Kevin, always cutting straight to the chase, asked me above what do I do to self nurture, self love. He of course assumes that I love myself and consciously choose to do things that will show myself love and appreciation. When I read his question I drew in a huge breath and held it, held on while I searched for an answer that would seem uplifting and inspiring to others reading this post. Nothing came at first. I exhaled and took in another breath as I encircled my thoughts and tried to connect to my feelings but I felt empty. The vast wasteland of self doubt, and self loathing left over from my childhood begged to be called on. It reared its ugly head in the most subtle way letting me know I still hadn’t fully let it go.
What do I do to nurture and love myself? Maybe if I ask the question here to you and let my fingers feel the tapping sensation of the words as they strike the keyboard, the answer will seem apparent. I write. I write when I feel crummy, when I feel calm, when I am uncertain, and I write when I am inspired. Writing is my self love. YES! It is something I have done since I can remember. What else? What else do I do to show myself that I am worth it? I read. I pile books on my nightstand and give myself hours upon hours of sitting with myself and providing my mind and heart with endless journeys to places and thoughts not easily found here. I give myself time and space to wonder what if. I give myself the opportunity to wonder what would happen if I did swing hard and far enough to hit the ball out of the park. I allow my mind to create what that might actually look like and then I sit with the image and believe that I’ve already done it.
I don’t run, walk, swim, or bike. Once in a long while you’ll find me on the beach, in the woods, or digging in the dirt but not often enough to say it’s something I do. Maybe Kevin’s right, maybe when you’re not loving yourself the darkness seems more formidable and tenacious and harder to take. Maybe if I were to simply choose to be and do the things that I love, life would be filled with a simple sense of ease and consistency. Maybe if I choose each and every day to do the things, be the person that most resonates with who I am and not with who happens along, I will shine a little brighter and be a little more authentically me.
I am happy and peaceful for the most part. I have found a place in life that feels comfortable and kind but in my heart of hearts I know that I am only getting started. In some way I am still looking for that validation from others to say, “Go” take your mark, get set, and Go! It’s this part of me that continues to wait, the young child in me asking for permission to create my own reality, that holds me back most from being in the brightest light each and every day. Or, maybe just maybe, all of the experiences I’ve had, emotions I’ve felt, darkness I’ve weathered has really just provided me with a knowing of what it is in life I don’t want and provided the knowledge that there is a part of me that is waiting for its day in the sun.
If I have learned anything in this life I call my own it is the knowing that there is always something else up ahead of us. We are never done creating experiences, meeting new people, growing into the next better version of ourselves, or feeling the best possible emotions after enduring the most challenging tragedies. Each morning when our mind first speaks, our bodies stir, and our eyes wait to open we are given an incredible opportunity to choose how we want to start the day. Before we stir, roll over, and place our feet on the floor, we have the ability to choose how we intend to make our way through the day. It’s our choice and that’s incredibly powerful to acknowledge and to fully understand. Most days I will choose to wait for the pitch, the right pitch to ensure I will get on base. But then there will be those mornings that something inside of me stirs and feels just a little bit different. On those days, I will be ready to swing hard and far just to see what might happen.