Real Acts of Self-Love

I could say that many things went wrong today. I could more accurately say that things did not go according to plan. Or, even more accurately, that things did not go according to expectation.

And I, like many people, struggle with things, people, and situations not meeting my expectations.

As a recovering perfectionist, I want to do many things and I want to do them well.

Or, more honestly, I want to do more things than I am humanly capable of and I want to do them all perfectly.

The awareness that this is impossible has only barely dimmed the desire.

I still have work to do.

And I, like many people, used to think that self-love and self-care existed exclusively inside the world of bubble baths and good books, massages and ordering in. Cafes and restaurants and new clothes and traveling and treating myself.

I am not here to say those things are not nice or cannot be forms of self-love and self-care.

More that what I keep noticing are the gaps.

The times when I need to show myself love the most and don’t feel like I deserve it.

The times when I feel like I’ve let myself down and don’t want to talk to me right now.

The times I want validation or attention and look for it outside of myself. In the words, embrace or attention of a man I think I can, and should, export my needs to.

Here you go. Please fulfill these forever.

But I know in my heart of hearts that that job is my own.

And it is the only thing I need to prove to myself that I am good at.

I would have liked to run a marathon today. To prove to myself that I can do this hard thing so that I can have the confidence I feel I need to do the next, harder thing.

But I do not need to prove to myself that I can run.

The hard thing I need to prove to myself is that I can sit on the sidelines when my knees are collapsing beneath me and the sunlight through the trees sends signals to my brain that it needs to prepare for a seizure.

The hard thing I need to prove to myself that I can do is to let go of my expectations and accept and love myself through the reality of chronic illness.

That I CAN do really hard physical and mental things and that it’s also OKAY when I can’t.

Because sometimes, I won’t be able to.

I do believe, that, at least for me, there are right and wrong hard things and that pushing myself to the edge of my normal limits while shoulder-deep in the quagmire of aura feelings that makes walking downhill, through a crowd, or hearing loud noises and seeing bright lights hard is not the right hard thing.

It is the impossible thing.

It is the thing that if and when I do it, and I have, does not leave me feeling more capable and proud of myself. It leaves me feeling abandoned.

It leaves me wondering when I’ll abandon myself next.

It leaves me scared.

Lonely.

Concerned.

But I am not here to beat myself up.

I am here to finally come back to myself.

To build myself up.

To practice walking myself home.

With my head held high for once, rather than hanging low, ashamed of the eye contact I try so hard to avoid.

To admit that I care more than anyone when I “fail” and that what my mind is quick to call a failure is the deepest act of love and safety I can imagine.

As one of my best friends said to me today, “It is better to go home on a train than in an ambulance.”

She is right, of course, as she so often is.

But it can be hard for us perfectionists to see the beauty in what we would call giving up.

To see the glory in living to fight another day and being okay with that result.

To trusting that we will, in fact, come back stronger.

Not just physically, but with a greater level of trust in ourselves.

We talk so much about being ghosted in today’s dating world, but as I heard another wise woman say recently, “You’re talking about ghosting, but you ghosted yourself a long time ago.”

Which one is more painful?

We owe it to ourselves to stand by our minds, bodies, souls, and spirits when they need us.

To pour even more love and kindness into our own hearts as we pour into those of others.

So, yes, I sat on the sidelines today. I watched. I climbed just one hill of many I was meant to. And it took everything I had just to come back down.

To walk away from my expectations and love and accept what is.

To live the day that was given to me rather than mourn and rage against the day I felt had been stolen.

Because all we really have are the moments we are in.

And I am done being the thief of my own happiness.

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