The answer to that question now is yes. At that time, however, I had never considered the question of respect as being relevant to one's self. I had always had trouble respecting my elders. I didn't respect my things - my step-father made sure to remind me of that every time I broke something of mine or of his. But still, I had applied my understanding of respect to the point of being aware that, no, I didn't respect my elders andm, no, I didn't respect things. My problem all along, it would turn out, was that I couldn't respect anyone or anything outwardly until I had turned the question of respect squarely onto Brian.
The interesting thing about life coaching is that every answer leads to another question. So quickly she shifted the point of this history of mine into a question about where I am now. Through a questionnaire I had filled out prior to our first meeting, she knew that I was grappling with the question of love in my life. So just as I was feeling proud of the accomplishment of having dealt with self respect in a real enough way to make significant change in my life, she targeted the one thing I had inadvertantly revealed to her was perhaps my biggest saboteur - my murky understanding of love.
What is love? How could I not have an answer for this? I'm the first one to belt out any emotional love song that comes on the radio. In fact, my favorite artists during my childhood were the likes of Air Supply, Barry Manilow, REO Speedwagon and all the other soft rock gods of the late 70s. Still, despite my inclination for all things romantic, I have never had a relationship last more than a year or two - and upon honest reflection, even though I had felt that I was in love with someone no less than six times in my adult life I still feel that true love is now and will ever remain an elusive desire for me.
I revealed to my coach my honest belief that true love lasts forever. And looking back on the men I thought I once loved, I realized that one or two of those loves were really nothing more than lust. A couple of others could have bordered somewhere on love, I thought, but upon reflection I realized I was never, in fact, "in" love with them. And one, with whom I feel I came the closest to realizing true love, has left me to thinking that perhaps even our love was not real either.
Just as I was close to dwelling on this question to the point of nostalgia, my coach redirected me once again, challenging me to analyze love in a different way - not as a reflection of some relationship that may or may not have been based in something I considered to be "true love" but rather as something that exists and can be understood fully by looking within my own heart.
So she gave me homework: write a blog post about what it means to love yourself.
Wow. Now that's a tough one. Funny enough, a post from earlier this week (see Overcoming fear and learning to walk/run in truth) had me citing a quote from one of my all time favorite entertainers, Ru Paul. In fact, each week at the conclusion of the hit Logo Network show, Ru Paul's Drag Race, Ru states it plainly: "If you don't love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else!?!"
Truer words have never been spoken. But where does that leave me? Sure, I have developed self respect, but what is self love? My coach suggested I listen to some of my favorite love songs on the radio and imagine the lyrics directed from me, to me. So on my commute from Albuquerque to Rio Rancho yesterday, I did just that.
I wasn't being intentional about which song I would consider for myself. Instead, the first song that reminded me of my homework is the one that I chose to see how it applied to the way I feel about myself. The song was Aerosmith's "I don't want to miss a thing".
The first stanze really hit me:
I could stay awake just to hear you breathingAt first, it was a funny thought, me lying next to myself in bed, watching myself sleeping. But then the part about dreaming really struck me. I dream a lot, and my dreams are very vivid. I often dream of interacting with other people, usually in disjointed but fulfilling ways. Sometimes the dreams are an extension of what's happening in my daily life. But more often, they reflect the things that I want to be true. And lately, they have been about expressing my love to someone who no longer wants to be the object of my love.
Watch you smile while you are sleeping
While you're far away and dreaming
I could spend my life in this sweet surrender
I could stay lost in this moment forever
Where every moment spent with you is a moment I treasure
After those dreams, I wake up feeling lonely, empty. But if I were there watching me sleep, treasuring that time with myself, then perhaps I wouldn't feel so bad. Maybe I would wake from that bad dream and find myself smiling, knowing what had just gone on inside my head and reaching out to embrace me to take away all of those feelings of inadequacy.
Then, as the song moved on, I was struck by this:
I don't want to miss one smileI felt silly at first for the images that went through my mind. You know how you always want to be close to someone, so close that you can feel their heartbeat, feel their breath on your neck? It makes you feel whole, and okay with whatever junk might be going on outside of that embrace. Well, I actually pictured myself melting into myself, the way I'd always wanted to with another human being.
I don't want to miss one kiss
I just want to be with you
Right here with you, just like this
I just want to hold you close
Feel your heart so close to mine
And just stay here in this moment
For all the rest of time Yeah yeah yeah
But this melting into myself didn't seem as implausable and metaphorical as two humans melting into one. In fact, I realized that it was a union that didn't need to be forced. My heart is here, always with me, always close, always in this moment with me. And it will be this way for the rest of time. Now that's something that can't be said even of the strongest love between two humans.
Even true love can be broken, by time, by distance, by fear, and even by other forces beyond the immediate control of those who are in love. But my heart can never be severed from me, though sometimes I may wish to, especially during times of great sorrow and loss, like when I lost my grandparents to death at old age, or when I lost my "true love" to the rigors of life.
So there it is. I suppose the answer to the question of what it means to love yourself is this: Self love is knowing that you are the one and only being on this planet that will remain with you and be only yours for the rest of time. It is recognizing that your heartbeat is to be treasured and that your mind is to be trusted. True love is being true to you. It is caring for yourself in all the choices you make. In short, it is being lost in every moment - and making every moment a moment to treasure.