A day on my facebook feed:
“If you can’t put yourself first, how can you expect anyone else to?”
“Prioritize your own happiness in order to be the reason for someone else’s.”
“It is not selfish to refill your own cup so that you can pour into others.”
“Love yourself first and everything falls into line.”
I agree. I agree it is so hard to put yourself above the rest of the things on your to-do list.
I have been living this for the better part of twenty years and in that time, I put up with a lot. I put up with jobs that would squeeze every last bit of productivity out of me without much to show for it in the paycheck department. I put up with boyfriends who enjoyed my company on their terms and I relied on their own judgement as to when it came time to painfully end the relationship. I put up with family member’s judgements about my decisions and then the guilt that came when I thought I was the reason my loved-one was unhappy.
I did this all while leading what looked like to others an incredibly empowered and peacefully loving life.
Fortunately, every experience came with lessons and more often than not, rewards. I met best friends for life at those jobs. My amazing husband found me after I was able to set boundaries on what it meant to be in a relationship – a partnership. I learned that my loved-one’s judgements are really hurtful opinions they had about their own behavior or thinking – and I’ve been able to not be defensive and to forgive them for not loving themselves.
Then this last year happened. Maybe it’s because it so fresh and that I’m still slogging through it, but I can say with relative certainty, that it has been the hardest year of my life. I’ve ‘lost’ a lot. A close family member was taken from us by a cruel, scary, relentless cancer. My children had to cope with that loss while my husband has to grieve it on his own and we are all still reeling. I had to make unpopular decisions that cost me my popularity in our small town and has me doing our grocery shopping outside of town so I won’t have to see people who will either loudly tsk as I walk by or make eye contact with me just so they can make sure I see them turn the other way. I had to accept that the people who supported these unpopular decisions would only back me in private. I had to let go of a hobby and part-time paying job I love because of the time commitment it involved. We are living off our dwindling savings as we get a venture off the ground and the horizon of no savings left is well within view.
And what I’ve ‘gained?’ 50 pounds. In a year. I have taken all the sorrow, the grief, the frustration and the fear and fed it into my mouth. And then, I cannot move my body in the ways I would most like to (yoga and dance) because of my weight.
I feel shame and disgust and hatred for myself because of it – because of those pounds. I haven’t seen friends, who would still be my loving friends because of it. I put off sex with my wonderful, supportive husband because of it. My kind, goofy kids don’t get to invite their friends over because of it. I’m a selfish, hateful, whiney person because I’m so shallow as to not do those things over my weight – and it goes on and on and on. And on.
Did you read all those horrible things I do? I don’t deserve to take care of myself. I don’t deserve to indulge myself with time out of being a wife and mother to exercise. I don’t deserve the time it takes to indulge in a hobby that would make me feel accomplished and connected. I don’t deserve most anything good.
Late at night though when I’m wide awake worrying about what kind of example I am setting for my children (and believe me – I know – and it’s just another reason to hate myself for not changing this selfish spiral) I can quiet the self-ridicule and see that all those years, when I was learning how to be charitable to all those experiences that taught me I am strong and capable and loving and forgiving, I’m finally at the point in life where I make a deal with the universe that I will be that charitable to me.
Would I EVER say to another person that they don’t deserve happiness? Really – if you’re able to be self-aware and live peacefully among your fellow man – I think you totally deserve it. You’re awesome and your uniqueness is what makes you so amazing and you should share that with the everyone because you’re a child of Love. That’s what I tell my children because I believe it with all my heart. What makes me so special that I wouldn’t think that about well, me? Truth is, I’m not that special. So why don’t I just be that generous with me?
It’s a very easy solution to say and I’ve found it’s harder to live. And I’ve found it’s not so much about me putting me first. It’s me understanding that I deserve to put me first. Simply because I’m a child of the universe – just like all the other people I love.
I don’t know if this is going to result in me losing the weight. I seriously hope my work on forgiving and loving myself results in me not caring what I look like. Only what I feel like. And I hope it results in me putting me first because the rest of the world deserves me putting myself first – I’ve got a lot of love to share.