The pool looked more glorious than it ever had. The Poolman Choo-Choo had just cleaned it. The blue tile was iridescent like I’d turn into a mermaid if I jumped in.
I decided to float. The clouds drifted left to right above me.
Closing my eyes allowed the external world to go silent as my ears submerged below the surface. The birds were still chirping, but I didn’t hear them. The leaf blower vanished. I focused on listening to the breaths fill my belly. I rocked my head from one ear to the next and felt my hair glide under the water.
I can’t recall doing this since my scuba exam last fall. Why don’t I do this more often? It feels meditative to float. The contrast to feeling the hot cement against my chilled wet skin. I decided to lay there like a shriveling up starfish. The toddler walking by was confused but I had clarity.
I was floating and laying to have quality time with myself.
Who am I to write about self-love? I struggle with it every day.
I wrote last year in my 25 Lessons from 25 Years that:
Love yourself. If you don’t, it’s not setting an example for others to love you.
But that platitude was just the tip of the iceberg. I still had such a long way to go with this.
A bully has been unconsciously living rent-free in my mind most of my life. As a recovering perfectionist and people-pleaser who’s driven by improvement, it’s easy to fall into the trap of never feeling good enough. Why am I actually worthy of love?
Don’t I need to earn it by doing hard work, grinding away? From what I learned about motivation theory, I need to jump at taking the risks to deserve any reward.
I’ve found that this is a life lacking compassion and joy though. Sure it helped me learn self-discipline, but why suspend some of my favorite feelings?
A couple of days ago I was pretty down on myself.
Seven sentence vent sesh
I was zero for six for my serves over the volleyball net. I’ve been playing for eight months now. I’ve NEVER missed a Tuesday. This drunk guy playing against me made all his serves. I was fuming, needless to say. I’ve also been getting my ducks in a row for my expired passport and ran into a negative Nancy at the UPS store who said my JPG photo needed to be a PDF to print(?). On top of that, it was my time of the month. If you’re not familiar, it’s like getting stabbed in the gut the whole bloody damn day.
Then I stumbled upon the letter. I’d written it to myself exactly one month earlier. I read exactly what I needed to hear.
This practice started out as writing my future self letters at the end of the quarter or on my birthday. I started a ritual to write over 52 gratitude letters last year. Then I started writing them for the heck of it for fun to myself. I tend to write them when I am in a cheerful mood. I want to be able to lift myself up.
This lines up with The 5 Love Languages, a popular book by Dr. Gary Chapman on a simple and effective way to strengthen connections. There’s an accompanying assessment for it here.
I don’t believe that we fit into certain boxes at all, though we do have preferences. Again and again, my results come out being words of affirmation and quality time.
The letters affirm in words what I love about myself. As for quality time, I realize I need intentional alone time. I lean more extroverted, though I still need quality time by myself to feel loved. I’ve found ways to show myself love are by doing things I love without permission. It sounds self-explanatory, but it’s easy to forget.
For me, nine examples are:
Hammocking and people watching
Long walks with my camera
Journaling about anything and everything
Dancing in the kitchen
Listening to albums front-to-back: Keep Going by Mike Posner, Heard It In A Past Life by Maggie Rogers, Goodpain by Yoke Lore
Drives around the volcano on my moped singing aloud with my hair flying crazy
Swimming or floating in water
Do more things you love. We don’t need to earn love. We are worthy of it every day.
I encourage you to begin your intentional journey. It’s not too late. I began mine last year.
This was originally posted on Substack here as letter 106.
Yung Pueblo quote on self-love:
self-love begins with the acceptance of where we are now and the history we carry, but it does not stop there. self-love is an energy we use for our own personal evolution; it is a meeting and balance of two critically important ideas: loving who we currently are and simultaneously transforming into the ideal version of ourselves. though these ideas may seem contradictory, they are both required for our ultimate success. without acceptance, our transformation into a happier and freer self would be highly difficult. why? because it is much harder to change and let go of what we hate.
self-love helps us delve deeply into ourselves and release the patterns in our subconscious that impact our behavior and emotion. true self-love is when one understands that the inward journey is the path to freedom, that observing and releasing our inner burdens is what will make us feel lighter and more aware. self-love does not grow the ego; it does the opposite. it is our ego that carries the craving that causes our suffering– the incessant craving that rests at the center of the ego is the ultimate block that stops us from achieving freedom.