A report from the Slow Lane
Sometimes I believe I’m not part of the whole. I know, that’s silly, and it hurts so much. I know better, but every now and then some form of amnesia comes over me and I forget. I guess the experience of connection (despite the fact that it has been lifelong) doesn’t run deep enough yet. I frequently fall into moments when I feel untethered, when I am lost, or so it seems. I can’t seem to consistently hold myself with the reverence needed to maintain appropriate perspective. I am finding that loving myself is not easy. And, I am gradually learning how essential it is to holding on to my connection with the whole.
Loving myself is still fairly new, and is tenuous at best. I didn’t know, until recently that it was necessary to care about myself, and even possible. If I hadn’t had a long time of lonely recovery after my stroke I might not have ever known how important I am to the equation of unfolding.
I look back at that time with wonder. Early on, the life I knew was defined by grief, loss (so much of who I was disappeared), and some strange will to go on. Only later did it become about what remained (and thankfully that was a lot). Somewhere in that long time of day-to-day uncertainty I came across my neglected self. I think it was when I felt alive enough to feel alone. I started longing for a relationship. It was a totally irrational desire. It always has been. But at that particular time, this longing, for a relationship seemed especially off because I was so severely broken physically and psychically.
Being irrational, the situation didn’t matter much. I longed for someone to know and care about me anyway. Well, almost needless to say, there was no one there. This was a good thing. It was another of the painfully disappointing lessons that I was lucky enough to be brought to. The absence of someone else was gravely disappointing to me, but it introduced to me the one person who was there. Me. I didn’t much like or trust myself so I wasn’t thrilled to discover this remnant of a human being. The only reason I didn’t dismiss him is because I couldn’t. This misfortunate circumstance (which I could literally do nothing about) was the beginning of the relationship that frees and connects me now.
I didn’t know it at the time. I was just chagrined. I was stuck with me. I had managed to become the booby-prize in my own life (thankfully). I had a hard time sleeping at night, because sleeping alone meant sleeping with me. I wasn’t ready for that kind of intimacy. Ready or not, I got to know myself. And I discovered something. I’m not proud of what I realized, of what I have been doing all these years, of how I have used the women in my life, of how I have avoided the obvious. But it became clear to me, that I preferred someone else to love me. The way I put it, in my own mind, was that I would rather have some woman do the dirty job of loving me than having to learn to love myself.
Happily for me, though it didn’t seem like a boon to me at the time, no woman was volunteering to sign up for the job. I continued to be left on my own. Disability is the shits, but sometimes it forces one to sit still. I got to know me because there wasn’t anyone else around.
It started with compassion. I realized that although I couldn’t personally love me, I could have compassion for the difficult life that he/me lived. Paying attention that way I began to admire the way he/I courageously persevered. I started to like what I saw. That is when loneliness became solitude. The time alone was better for me than I ever imagined. I was learning something about loving the one I’m always with.
I had a few friends. I could see, during this time of learning, that they tended, as I had done, to avoid them selves. I could see how this was costing them, and I got a lot clearer about how not loving myself was costing me. It was then I realized I had to quit avoiding doing the one thing I had always felt was a bad idea. Too avoid the pain and misery of living in a constant lie, I took on the pain and misery of learning to love the untrustworthy soul I seemed to be.
During the Christmas season only a year ago, I gave myself, accidentally, the best Christmas present I had ever received. I was alone as usual. I was scared about what that might mean. I wasn’t sure I could face more long-ticking hours of silence and aloneness. Instead, I had a wonderful time. I was the good, reflective creative companion I always wanted. I gave myself the seasonal spiritual retreat I always wanted. I discovered I loved myself. I, and the wisemen, arrived to behold another form of the Christmas miracle, the birth of a new relationship. Light has poured out of it ever since.
There are periods, like earlier this week, when I forget that I am always connected, and that I am a living portion of the whole. I forget to hold onto myself, that strange paradoxical being that resides uniquely as me, and somehow miraculously joins me to everything else. I forget to love me. I forget that I am love. Somehow, something of me keeps going, evolving right along with this mysteriously expanding Universe. I know it, live constantly in awe, aware of such fragile and impermanent creativity, and I forget.
I have some memory problems creeping up. Age is having its way with me. But I don’t think this is why I forget. I think I forget because I want to fit in. I go back to the well of community. It seems necessary that I forget so I can discover it again through my confusing connection with others. It turns out, that loving myself is still hard work, because the Universe is so big and diverse, and because loving myself means always going beyond myself to become larger, more complex, I forget who I am, and lose my grip on me, in order so I can re-discover who I am, and learn to love me anew.
Loving myself is learning to love the whole! Wow!