I was reflecting on the many snippets of wisdom I heard over the years. The one that I hear most persistently is, “You must love yourself first”. It is one that I have been parroting to those who asked for my advice in recent years, because finally, in the last few years, I saw the truth in the statement.
When I arrived at my adopted parents’ house, I did not love myself. Because nobody showed me how to love myself. I also spent my early years in an environment where there was no love given freely. Kindness and generosity of spirit were alien concepts to me.
Over the years, my mother rewired me completely. She taught me a new language and she did it by loving me unconditionally, and treating me with much kindness even when I did not deserve her generosity of spirit. And most of all, she made me feel good enough and deserving of the highest love.
My mother’s “engineering” project had been largely successful, thanks to her patience and faith in mending this broken child. I have gone on to raise children without the damage I arrived at my parents’ house with.
This is my mother’s 82nd summer, she is getting frail, and more than any other year, I am thankful to her for this very important life’s lesson. For we really have to love ourselves first and foremost, before we can love someone else deeply with all our hearts, and only then, can your loved one love you as you deserve to be loved. I learned in recent years, that there can be no shortcuts: in the past, I have tried loving people who did not love themselves and who are therefore unable to love me. The love was need, opportunistic intentions, unhealthy dependency, convenience and a whole lot of negative emotions masquerading as love.
My partner gets very annoyed when I fuss around him worrying about the small things. “You don’t need another couple’s overgrown son, his dogs, cats, house, business, career, life, Jac. You have done that service for 32 years already. Just chill and be yourself again.”
Yes, I have quite forgotten myself – lost in the bustle of my life of service – and have lost touch a bit with that self-love. I have forgotten to love myself first and foremost in the last few years.
Recently, I took a long period off to be on my own. I ran for miles each day, cycled along new routes, found new places, swam in the ocean, meditated for long periods, stayed in bed until 2pm and made new friends. I went for days without speaking English. I looked for my new home, looking ahead to the next stage of my life, with enthusiasm and excitement. It has been ages since I did something for myself.
“Why?” Friends asked with some concern. “Anything wrong between you and your partner? Are you looking for a way out?”
Actually not. It was he who set me on this path, who gave me this gift and reminded me that love can only start with our own self. I needed that in order to love him and my other loved ones more. After my ‘sabbatical’, I was ever so glad to see him and my family again, and it has been one of the best summers of my life ❤
Here’s a piece of wisdom: someone who does not love or care for himself will not be able to love and care for you.