Where will you ever find someone who can love you more than you are willing to love yourself?
– Camilla Warrick, Home is Where I Live
And yet . . . how do we learn to love ourselves? So many things stand in the way! Few parents take the time to model, let alone teach, self-love and self-care as the fundamentals to a strong and healthy life that they are. We are so busy going here and there, striving, worrying about what others will think; trying to make ends meet, put food on the table and shoes on our kids’ feet. Or running from group to lesson to social event bent on creating model children, or at least stuffing their resumes with college-proof lists of involvement and achievement.
All this doing gets in the way of the needed being. Being at home in ourselves, with ourselves. And then we wonder why our ‘love relationships’ with others disintegrate, fall into disrepair as we despair. Too much looking outside our own individual selves!
Inside prison, love is a recurring theme of conversation, motivation, response. It can often seem like the only thing worth having, seeking, leaning on. Often it is the basic instinctual love of a mother for her child – even if misguided or unfulfilled, it is strong and undeniably part of the fabric of daily experience. But there is also a lot of chatter about peer love – how to find and keep it; what went wrong with it; how awful the partner was; what trouble individuals got into as a result.
So this week we turned to writing and talking about what we value inside ourselves. We did this in two parts: one was a more free-form inventory of favored personal features. The second was a more focused ‘advertisement’ describing our uniqueness so that, for instance, we might be found if lost. It will come as no surprise that the range of writing was wide and deep. It may, however, come as a surprise that some (like the one, below) are so strong, confident and clear. Clearly, the lessons of self can be learned in myriad ways. Perhaps it is a matter of being open to receiving them.
I KNOW YOU
Up until I emancipated by fate, you were always that one. Seclusion seemed a destiny to you because you had so been accustomed. You were the strange one. You didn’t talk well. You weren’t one of them, but to them it didn’t matter, because at least they weren’t you.
I know you.
You wonder why things really are the way they are – drowning yourself in your thoughts, stuck inside your head because, miraculously, that is where it is safe. You blame yourself for everything. Why wouldn’t you? When all the other voices you have say the same thing.
I know you.
You let music be your sanctuary, the beats in your head replaced the people who didn’t want you. You found in lyrics, what you felt in your heart. You could trace the lines of thought and find a parallel.
I know you.
You are all grown up. So much has changed. Humor has replaced those dreary days. You know your worth, and if others refuse to see it themselves, it is their loss. There will always be a need to refute this goodness, because it is so new. Working and striving everyday for the best version of reality is no longer necessary.
I know you, and I love you.
I have become you, this person sitting here. There is a greatness in me waiting to be unleashed on the world. I must harness that energy, and channel it into a steady stream of determination. I truly feel I could achieve anything, that the possibilities are endless; and that is due in part to the bleak misfortune of my past.
DO YOU KNOW HER?
If you could measure in weight the amount of humor and place it in your arms, you wouldn’t be able to lift it. The electric current of hope that powers her soul each and every day should be donated to the less fortunate, negative people in the world. Any task deemed insurmountable will be overcome. She would climb across the world, over oceans, obliterate mountains to get to the people she loves. Any ounce of pain she sees that is not her own, she cannot stand it. She has come far from where she once was. She is missed and she is loved. Do you know where she is?