A nightmare about work woke me this morning, 5 minutes ahead of the alarm. It was a garden variety sort of ‘end of days’ nightmare, wherein small details communicated the end of…something. Something work-related, or perhaps the work itself. I woke feeling aggravated to find that work was now encroaching even on my dreams.
In the process of nudging my consciousness into the context of ‘now’ and letting the dream fade, I chose to check my Facebook feed. It’s been a very positive place lately, in spite of the rampant garbage political posts, and occasionally trollish nonsense that occurs; we’re all primates, each having our own experience. I figured a quick check in with friends, and some fun weekend pictures of goings on elsewhere would be a pleasant distraction from my nightmare. I notice that someone dear to me has commented on something I posted the day before.
My post was a share of a positive post from a page I follow that tends to be exactly that – positive posts, and often mostly affirmations of one sort or another, done rather well. The comment startled me right out of any sense of lingering nightmare, no doubt. The comment was angry [or sounded so to me] and was followed with another similarly angry comment [same commenter] that was rounded off with what very much appeared to be [possibly] a bit of actual accusatory name calling, and an angry demand that I change my behavior to reflect their [the commenter’s] worldview of [apparent] self-loathing. It was unexpected and peculiar. I walked away from it to make coffee.
I patiently and mindfully prepared my coffee, turning over the comment in my head. It was clear and specific on only one detail; the commenter disagreed with the proposition that there is value in loving oneself. He stated that love exists solely to be given away and asks how could we love ourselves (or be upset with anyone else) when people just suck so much? We all suck equally – so love the other person in spite of that, but don’t lie to yourself by loving yourself – because you suck, and we all suck, and no one deserves love but give it to them anyway. A harsh message delivered with an apparent demand for compliance.
I sip my coffee and continue to contemplate the words of an old friend, a while longer. First I am angry with his words – I don’t feel well understood to have it inferred that I am lying to myself to take the approach that I am worthy of my own time and affection – am I not? I certainly seem to be benefiting from taking better care of myself, investing in my own needs and desires, living beautifully, and showing myself real affection. My own experience suggests that these things are necessary, and that I am more easily able to love others because I value and appreciate myself as a human being, and take care of both this fragile vessel and the being within it. Why would I replace my experience with his words? His anger, so raw and recent, finds me self-conscious about simply saying I love this woman I am becoming – but I do, and it doesn’t harm anyone that I feel this way. Quite the contrary, my relationships with others are also improved.
I get over being angry and feel concerned for him, to be so angry about a positive message about self love that it inspired him to comment, when I ‘almost never’ hear from him at all, seems quite peculiar to me. It seems to be suggesting that he seeks to overcome self-loathing by forcing himself to go through the motions of loving others. It’s a perception as likely to be incorrect as any. I reconsider his words without the perceived anger – I don’t know that he felt anger when he wrote his comment, it’s an inference of my own – and I recognize that he, too, values love and is having his own experience. He expresses, however appropriately or inappropriately, concern and affection for me as a human being, and the path I choose. By itself, that’s a positive thing, although I find the demanding tone taken, and the insistence that I choose another way, both uncomfortable and unwelcome. It isn’t for him to make demands on me.
I think of a woman – this woman, the one in the mirror – from the perspective on life, self, and love that I had a decade ago, at 42. Could I have taken this path then? Would I have welcomed the suggestion that ‘being love’ and that choosing to love myself in order to love others wasn’t selfish at all, but necessary? Would I have accepted that suggestion and been able to make use of it at all – or would I have rejected the notion of taking care of me, because I didn’t value or love the woman in the mirror, and because ‘people suck’? It’s hard to know… It’s been a journey, and as with so many journey’s ‘skipping ahead’ isn’t really something we do so easily. I doubt I was ready then, for ‘positive’ messaging about my self. I have taken my journey in steps, in incremental changes over time, in moments of wonder, and the practicing of practicing that were chosen with great care for their successful outcomes – and I am the sole decider of success in the realm of my experience. My commenter friend is similarly choosing his own choices, walking his own path, and finding his own way. At least for now, it doesn’t sound like a very comfortable journey, and I wonder about his choices and who he has become… or is becoming.
His words aren’t worth lingering anger. His words don’t change my choices, or alter my path; they belong to him. Listening deeply matters, even in text – our written words communicate so much more than the handful of nouns and verbs suggest they might. We communicate emotion. We communicate shared experience – and we communicate our differences. We communicate warnings when we feel alarmed or frightened, whether that thing that alarmed or frightened us was real or not – as with a nightmare, perhaps. We are very human, my friend is correct on that point. He’s right, too, that what matters most is love. He is right that love is a verb, to be acted upon, and given – our only disagreement seems to be that I would further suggest that I am also worthy of my love, of my time and attention, of my care and consideration, because I too am human, and worthy, and that there is enough love for me to share some with myself.
I sip my coffee, smiling. I feel good today – I feel loved. I start the morning treating the woman in the mirror well, and I can expect that I will likely continue to do so throughout the day; it has become a practice. I’m human – that won’t be changing – so mistakes along the way are likely. I am worthy of the same consideration in the face of error that I would give anyone else – and I didn’t learn to give others that consideration until I had learned how to treat myself well. It’s a puzzle. It’s a puzzle with some verbs and a whole lot of practice. One practice I don’t need? Taking what other people say personally – they are also having their own experience.
Today is a good day for perspective and consideration. Today is a good day to walk my own path without concern about what path – or perspective – someone else may choose. Today is a good day to listen deeply, and follow my own counsel. Today is a good day to build the world I most want to live in. There are verbs involved.