So much can be said about self-love. Believe me-I’ve heard most of the things.
“No one can really love themselves apart from community.”
“You have to learn to love yourself, before you will ever be able to love someone else.”
“You need to love other people as you love yourself.”
“It’s selfish and arrogant to assume that you can love yourself in a vacuum.”
So before I move into the bulk of this post–let’s talk about not just what self-love is, but how it can manifest itself.
I will be the first to say that love doesn’t exist in a vacuum. We all need love from people. We can seek love from animals, nature. AND most of us haven’t been taught to love ourselves. Most of what we do is project our pain & trauma. We assume that other people exist solely to love us without ever asking if there are ways we are sabotaging the love all around us-and in us.
I suppose we could say that the path of healing and love is narrow and few find it.
I’m also going to make a distinction between care and love, although they share some similarities.
Care may be practical actions I take to simply care for myself. Insert the ever-so-popular terminology of self-care right now.
Love is much more intuitive than that. Love is checking in with myself. It’s asking myself, “What do I need? What do I desire? What do I crave?”
Love isn’t being afraid of my passions. Love is acknowledging my desires and naming them as mine. Love, for me, means being cognizant of my energy, and not taking on others. Love is noticing when things shift: whether emotions, needs, wants. Love is first and foremost acknowledging that I’m human and that my passions, my energies, my needs and wants are not only completely valid, but completely good.
On this vacation of mine, the question that has been surfacing is: “How do I love myself well when I’m alone?”
There’s nothing like a vacation alone for people to start asking questions.
“Will someone else be joining you?”
“What are you here for?”
“Well, you must be meeting up with someone else, right?”
The message was clear even if the people asking me these questions were unaware of it:
It’s not okay to be alone. You must be uncomfortable. You are not enough, just you. You are not worthy.
And these messages aren’t just from these few people. It’s cultural. And they are messages I internalized at a young age.
This week has been one where these messages have been exposed. Where I’ve needed to see how these messages have affected me & what I’ve done with them.
You see, I’ve desired a solo vacation for several years–and I’m just now taking one. There’s many reasons for this, including health & money, and yet what also held me back was the belief that I didn’t deserve what I wanted.
That somehow my vacations had to look busy, with lots of people,…..and I wanted none of that.
I wanted quiet, to connect with nature and myself. I knew parts would be joyous, and parts uncomfortable (like it always is when you practice spending time with yourself!), and yet I wanted all of it!
Intuitively I knew that my soul needed space. I needed space where I didn’t need to be at certain places at certain times. I needed space where I wasn’t coordinating plans with other people. I specifically needed time close to where I lived, to remember, to ground into my history, to be grateful, and to leave the things that no longer serve me.
So this week has been many things.
It’s been walking on the beach, walking to a lighthouse along a pier, swimming in Lake Michigan, and lingering long enough to watch the sunset.
It’s been so much hiking, including walking a trail that I ran over and over again in high school. My body still knew the route by heart. I still knew when the slopes were coming, where the bridges were. I remembered doing line runs (group of 5-6 people run in a line, and the leader switches every 2 minutes, setting the pace for everyone else) training together as a cross country team, and what a practice in mutuality that was.
It’s been walking along the rivers I grew up around. It’s been lamenting the history of erasure of the Chippewa indigenous people, both literally and in the telling of history. I walked into the Nature Center’s visitor center, and the white-washed history was the same one I received as a kid, the same one that is being shared across white families and in schools.
It’s been driving in Bay City & Saginaw, noticing the obvious segregation, and seeing the affects of redlining, still apparent today.
It’s been discovering a new beach, I didn’t know was that close to me growing up. The Saginaw Bay is pretty great!
It’s been reading, writing, farmer’s markets (Michigan blueberries & cherries!), buying flowers, coffee, fancy dinners and so much ice cream.
And my time isn’t even up yet!
I can already tell that deep grounding has happened, is happening, and will continue to happen.
Noticing, paying attention, & naming the environment and forces that shaped me has been vital.
Experiencing my childhood home, without family, partner, or children–is still important. Seeing the helpful and the harmful, and letting them both go.
Even in central Michigan, where I was taught that I needed to exist for someone else, that it was incredibly spiritual to deny myself–I came back, as I grow more and more into my personal power, and aware to the ravaging affects of systemic racism all around my childhood home. There is power to give up as well.
Paradoxes of course–stepping into and giving up power. Michigan-I’ll be back!