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!
Satbyul Shin says
Hello, I am an AGNG 200 student at the Erickson School of Aging.
I truly agree with your post because it is difficult to know how to love yourself and not many people know the way of loving themselves. They just care about how the other people think about them. I also want someone else to love me, instead of love myself. Loving myself is very important content but it is not easy to learn and understand how to love yourself. I believe if you know and how to love yourself, you could also love somebody else. In modern society, common people started to think and focus on this topic because most of people are used to care and have attention from somebody else. If you learned how to love yourself, you will be strong, positive, active, and confident even if you are elder. There is many ways to learn how to love yourself such as create your own hobbies, learning something you have never done, and writing the strength and weakness about you. Staring a new things are always not easy and complicated but this content which is loving yourself is more important then loving somebody else. Also, it does not matter you are old or young, it is still possible to start learning how to love yourself.
Satbyul Shin says
I am an AGNG 200 student at the Erickson School of Aging.
I truly agree with your post because not many people do not know how to love themselves. They just care about how the other people think about them. And also, I want people to love me, instead of love me first. It’s important to know how to love yourself because if you don’t know how to love yourself, who and how could somebody love you if you also don’t know how. But, if you know how to love yourself, you will become positive, active, and confident person from the fact that you love yourself.
Jackelyn E Gonzales says
I am an Aging 200 class at the Erickson School of Aging.
I found your post eye opening. Throughout life, we are constantly trying to accept ourselves and our placement among others, but as you noted, its bigger than that. Its accepting who you are and living with yourself. Furthermore, the best way, and sometimes the most painful way, of learning this well is being alone. Many people fear being alone, constantly reaching out for the approval and comfort of others, but if you don’t know how to love yourself, how could anyone else truly do so? Its your own responsibility. As a young adult (21 years of age), its even more assuring knowing that as you get older you are still learning the ropes of yourself. Loving yourself. Its so empowering. For many years in my adolescents I personally struggled with understanding this and constantly tried filling that hole with passive relationships that led no where.
Either way, I wish you all the best!
AGNG 200 student at the Ericsson School of Aging says
Hello, I am a AGNG 200 student at the Erickson School of Aging.
I agree with the content of this post because I believe that it is very important that you learn to love yourself. Sometimes we get lost in life, and forget about who and what matters. You. The way you view yourself and the affects of your experiences can negatively affect you physically, emotionally, and mentally. Once you learn to cope with your experiences, then you can learn to adapt to the new changes and come to love yourself.
The reason why I agree to this post is because often the elderly tend to let their life experiences stop them from being happy. Depending on their experiences they may experience disengagement from social situations. But it is very important that individuals are active, because through participating in activities they learn to enjoy life. Also, age is just a number and that means that everyone should learn to love themselves in order to be happy. And its not impossible, if you truly want to be content in life then you must take the necessary steps to become content.
Best wishes! 🙂
Florence KLEIN says
We go through life so anxious to please others–families. friends, associates. We do not take the time to appreciate who we are. Thanks, David
David Nelson says
Great post David. I love how you describe how so many people refuse to look in the mirror to suffer the pain of learning HOW TO Love the whole of humanity. We all live on the River of Denial until forced to swim in our own lies and see how that feels. Thanks for having the courage to write this.