Walking in the beauty of love
Make a pledge to yourself right now, to declare that you are worth your time and energy.
A person learns how to love himself through the simple acts of loving and being loved by someone else.
Haruki Murakami, 1Q84
A few years ago now I wrote my first column for iPinionSyndicate.com: Just keep walking (http://ipinionsyndicate.com/just-keep-walking). I was so excited then and I have to tell you, I’m still as excited as I ever was, especially since I’ve been given the honor, trust and precious responsibility of being a copy editor.
Given I am the overthinker that I am (for good or ill), I have continued to cogitate on this topic and today, the epiphany I’ve been headed toward: If you have a difficult, even ravaged background, you cannot count on ever truly and entirely recovering from it. In the last year and a half, some of the most wonderful, most uplifting things I ever dreamed could happen have come true. I get to be a writer! I have made friends with people who inspire me, uplift me, believe in me – and tell me so! It’s allowed me to see even better the love and support I have at home because it’s affirmed my belief that it’s possible.
And yet – and yet…
I am still vulnerable to the voices of cruelty, of bullying, of invalidation – just as always. People I think I can can count on have still hurt me and it has brought up every nasty, ravaging, cruel internal voice I’ve ever had. Am I still worthless? Am I nothing? Defective? Inferior? Should I even stay alive? What sort of awful am I that people still despise me so?
Here’s the thing to remember, though, and listen up, because it’s important. When I was in the middle of it all – back when the only voices were cruel, when all that met me was disdain and dislike – I had nothing else to reach for. There was no raft afloat in the center of this ocean of meanness ahead for which I could reach. There was simply no escape.
That’s no longer true. I have resources I never imagined having. I have tools — some new, some old, some rediscovered. I have the knowledge of my own strength. I know what I have endured and survived. And I finally, finally know and believe that not only do I have intrinsic value, I am treasured by those who matter to me. When the voices of unkindness clamor, I need only remember that the ones whose opinions count are singing the sweet harmonies of love. I need only speak up and say “those inner voices are chewing on me again” or “I ran into another meany today” and I am instantly reminded that instead of staring into the abyss, I am actually afloat on a sea of love – and so are you.
We aren’t children anymore, isolated in a family, without resources or recourse. We have choices and we have a lot more people in our circle who are there because they love and value us. We can walk away from those who give us nothing but hurt – or, even if we cannot decently abandon them entirely – we can take a break and reach out for the joy that is just waiting for us.
The hardest part is simply to remember that it’s there for the asking. To remember that the loving voices are a beautiful roar that diminishes the cruel ones to a whisper easily ignored.
Will I ever entirely get over my entire childhood and youth? Probably not. A lot of it is ongoing and it’s not so easy to let it go if it happens over and over again. It’s going to hurt when it happens because, while we can choose how we deal with it and how it makes us feel in the long run, we’re going to react with gut honesty in the immediate moment. But no longer will I be held captive by this anguish for longer than the moment. I declare my indepence from the tyranny of pain.
The difference is strength. Faith. Belief in my own worth and that these are not the people I choose to define it for me. It’s true for you, too – and if it isn’t, now’s the time for some redefinition – of boundaries, of what you will accept in your life – and whom. One of my favorite questions I pose when asking people what they want for themselves – would you tolerate people treating your child (real or hypothetical) the way they treat you? No? Makes your teeth lengthen and your eyes whirl? If anybody tries it with my children (biological, legal or otherwise) or granddaughter, I want to take them down. Should I expect less for myself? Should you expect less for yourself? I think not.
So when the meanies hurt me, I reach out my hands and take those held out to welcome me and remind me that not only do they love me – I love myself, too. In fact, it’s time for all of us to start our best love affair ever – with ourselves – because that’s the well from which all other love flows.