I led a talk and discussion last year, for the month of February and Valentine’s Day, “Writing a Love Letter to Yourself.”
I was prepared with a well-thought-out outline. I had discussion questions prepared and had thought of examples from my own life to get sharing flowing. I made an attractive pdf with favorite quotes on self-love to send as a follow-up the next day.
I wanted to make the point that self-care and self-love are not the same thing. A woman can buy only organic veggies and might spend thousands on a spa weekend and still not love herself.
Honoring your own feelings and expressing them, not judging yourself, certainly not by someone else’s standards or agenda, and appreciating your own unique contributions and character is at the heart of self-love.
Very often, people seem to misunderstand that loving oneself is not the result of accomplishment. It’s not an issue of “deserving.” Self-acceptance and self-regard have to come before much of anything can be accomplished. Many experts agree on this.
I felt prepared, yet, somewhat off-balance at the prospect of delivering this message.
Richard Bach’s words were in my face all week. “We teach best what we most need to learn.”
I was prepared to stir my group into contemplating their own histories, habits and beliefs that challenged them to be kinder and more compassionate with themselves, but, in my own life, I was acting as if I didn’t know better.
Around the time of the talk, I remember joking about my health trials with a gal pal.
“I feel like such as old lady. My whole day on Thursday revolved around seeing doctors – and, of course, stopping at the drugstore on the way home.”
We both have older friends or relatives who greet doctors’ appointments with equal measures of bemusement and pleasure. They are upset at the thought that their bodies require extra attention and happy with prospects of having an audience to hear their complaints.
I had two problems: an ingrown toenail, or some such thing, on my left foot that made walking in closed shoes (even gym shoes) increasingly uncomfortable and pain around my right knee. I had been soaking my left foot every night for over a week before visiting a non-urgent care walk-in facility.
They advised that I needed to see a podiatrist right away.
The knee pain cropped up out of the blue. After two days of increasing pain, especially when I went up or down stairs, impossible to avoid as I live on the second floor of a three-floor walk-up, I decided to go to a sports medicine clinic because they were able to see me the same day.
After x-rays on my right leg, I was told that my knee was structurally sound but that I had arthritis around my patella, which was not uncommon at “my age.”
As freezing rain came down at dusk, I picked up Voltaren® at Walgreen’s.
I saw a podiatrist within a few weeks and gave him permission to cut off part off my affected toenail.
Oh, I was upset with myself. During a morning stare-down at my bathroom mirror, I observed that my hair was thinning, that gray hairs were appearing in an increasingly shorter amount of time between color rinses, that the lines in my forehead spoke more about age than about mood or character.
I forgot that my action to seek help was a good thing, that the desire to be out of pain was worth risking being told I shouldn’t make a fuss. I forgot that I made reasonable efforts to address my problems myself and listen to my body before deciding what action made sense.
I texted a friend about my dog having to be patient with me as the descent down my building’s front stairs for walks has been slower of late. Then, I added a remark that was more for me than it was for her.
“I have to be patient with me.”
Life itself offers ongoing opportunities for reflection, for owning feelings, for recognizing progress — even if it is small. Checking in with myself around whether I am being kind and compassionate with myself tells me more about my life than what I can see in the mirror.
Recognizing that everything you experience is an opportunity for reflection, for self-understanding and self-love, is no small thing.
Re-printed with permission.
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