“I have come to believe that caring for myself is not self indulgent. Caring for myself is an act of survival.” – Audre Lorde
Mind, Body, Spirit & Self-love
Self-loathing is no picnic and often not easily recognized by the loather. Hiding my sexuality for the first chapter of my life, marrying a woman, being a way too chunky teenager, having a psychologically abusive mother, being bullied by my peers, and failing at every sport I tried; all added up to a boat load of self-hate. Cornered in a world where a perfect appearance and one’s socioeconomic status was everything, I clawed my way into acceptance (with chewed off nails).
Looking back, questioning how I would make it out of my situation alive, hadn’t occurred to me. It was all about survival and a convincing facade. If I could convince people around me that I was someone they wanted me to be, I could fake my way into their approval.
It wasn’t until I failed miserably at marriage, that I learned I couldn’t keep it up forever. It was coming out of the closet, meeting mentors who genuinely cared about me, and having my best years ahead of me, that led me to believe happiness was possible; is possible.
I need to be clear that I do not believe that my life is any better or worse than anyone else’s. I’m fully aware that we all have troubles and worries, that is the essence of life. It’s all about how you navigate the bumps in the road. Sorry, I’ll be using a lot of metaphors.
The Mind — First you have to convince yourself that you can think on your own. You have to believe that thoughtful decisions lead to positive outcomes. You have to stop lying to yourself. You need to occasionally use your brain. Therapy and meditation helped me here.
Your Body — No self-help book will or can teach you how to love your body. The best thing you can do is accept the body you were born into and work like hell to improve it. I workout six days a week and I enjoy it immensely. I love it because I see upbeat and positive people first thing in the morning and because I know how good it is for my well being. I change up my routine so I don’t become bored. If there is no gym wherever I might be travelling, I walk. I do my best thinking while engaged in a rigorous physical activity. I try to stay off of my phone (texting and emails) I and I listen to interesting podcasts and motivating music.
When I believe there may be something wrong internally, I have it checked out by a doctor. Being fearful of a serious illness will not make it go away; if anything, it will only get worse and lead to something even more serious.
Spiritual Growth — I am not a religious person; however, I do consider myself spiritual; spiritual in the I belief that we are all connected in some way or another. When I say all, I mean all. Humans, other animals, fish, insects, trees, the stars, black holes, cosmic matter . . . all. The collective energy called the universe is an energy that is recycled and reintroduced in order to create energy for future use. Yes, negative energy exists — that is the yin & yang of this vast cycle we are a part of. Nature is the great equalizer here on earth. I know that some days are going to be harder; days where more energy is expended than taken in. Accepting this makes everything just a wee bit easier. Tomorrow may be more difficult or it may be harder, however, I rely on the balance of nature to equalize the flow of energy. I am fairly certain that when I have an opportunity to reflect on my life, I will remember continuous highs and lows that all add up to a life lived. I have the choice to create lasting memories which will hopefully make the not-so-great memories fade into the background — life lessons if you will.
The power of energy has is not fully understood. Working against that power (force) mostly gets you in trouble. More and more, I am teaching myself to move in the same direction, rather than swim against the current. We can learn so much from the flow of the universe. For me, being a spiritual being means listening to nature and those who understand nature. I am enough because I have play a role in keeping the cycle moving (as do you). If I work against that purpose, I am disrupting the natural flow of things. I am choosing a freestyle stroke in a powerful, turbulent river. I’m also fully aware that Kim Kardashian’s existence is not more important or powerful than my own — this goes for everyone else as well.
Loving Yourself — Well then, it stands to reason that if you spend time nurturing your mind, body and spirit, you will learn to love and appreciate yourself. The rewards that come from nurture are plentiful. Pause often in order to practice gratitude. There is good in most things; that which may be challenging, often leads to something good or better. You are right to think that it all sounds hokey and I am nothing more than a snake charmer; however, it is the simplest things in life that seem to provide the most illuminating answers. Life is complex, but if you proceed one step at a time, with thoughtful intentions, you’re less likely to fuck it up.
Lately, I find myself choosing a quieter lifestyle. It’s not that I did all of my partying as a young man; I was always an introvert. I have stopped fighting the urge to go to bed early. I love drifting off on my sofa while a good film is playing. I love a good night’s sleep. I love getting out of bed while it’s still dark. I love the quiet of the early morning. . . coffee by my side. I love getting a headstart on the day. I love walking Paco at 5:00 a.m. without a leash. I love getting a lot of heat about this from nearly everyone I know.
What do I mean by “A Plan.” If you have dreams, you can’t just sit around waiting for them to come to fruition. I think grabbing life by the cojones is the way to go. If you fail, you fail. Get back up and try again. Perseverance, grit, desire, and a little bit of luck, will get you across the finish line. The greatest example of this in my life, is my Ph.D. Trust me, it’s not just smarts that gets you that piece of paper. You have to want it so badly that you know in your heart and soul that you cannot and will not settle for less. Most accomplishments take this kind of commitment; anyone who tells you otherwise, is lying.
Don’t look to others to bolster your pride and self-worth; allow it to come from within and celebrate who you are, every chance you get.
Life changes, the world changes, we change. You cannot say to yourself, well I made a big change 10 years ago, so I guess I’m good. Cher is my inspiration, she reinvents herself quite often; it’s the reason she’s still relevant at 76. Jane Fonda and Dr. Fauci are a close second. Role models work for me on many different levels. I hope to re-evaluate my life right up until the day that I die — a death that I do not fear. What I fear is inertia.
I struggle so much with spontaneity. I know from past experience, that if I change things up spur-of-the-moment, I often have a better time than if I stick with the same ol’. Routine is great most days, but sometimes we need a reboot; spontaneity can do that for us. I’m going to practice what I preach today.
Parceling life up and looking back at decades, makes reflection easier. You have to be older in order to do this, explaining why youth seldom reflect on the past. When you’ve lived more years than you have looking forward, it’s easier to reflect.
What you see when you look back is up to you. Your collective memories are all a part of one huge pool. Bad memories are powerful and work hard being dominant, but you can push back just as hard. Allow the good memories to come to the surface by acknowledging them and celebrating them. My late night dancing days were extremely pleasant. These memories play a prominent role in my past because for me, they symbolize freedom, growth, and experimentation. In some ways, I believe that my identity was shaped on the dance floor. These memories serve to reinforce the good that can come from giving yourself permission to take risks, live in the moment, and feel — not as easy as it sounds. I work hard to peel off the protective armor I started wearing the moment my mother gave birth to me. It serves a purpose yes, however, it can also prevent us from the self-exposure necessary to feel. The deeper the cut, the harder the loss, the greater the healing, the greater the growth. The key is allowing it to happen. Denial, pushing it down, projecting, glossing it over; it eithers prolongs the pain or stops the healing. My scars are a reminder that I have healed. I wear my scars as badges and I take pride in the healing I allowed; knowing that it isn’t always easy to leave the scab alone.
Blog inspired by Lori Owens Kostiuk (click her name for website). Lori is doing some very significant work on the power of art and healing. Take a look.
Between now and March 2023, I have very little planned. My sister and brother-in-law will be visiting from North Carolina in early November and I’m surprising them with an overnight trip to see the incredible Algarve rock formations (my sister has never read and will never read my blog, so she won’t see this; I love her nonetheless). A food & wine trip to Lyon, France with friends in mid-November and a weekend at the Spanish border in December. That’s it until March when I will be traveling to Florida for a week of curated memories; sharing a house with two of my favorite people in the world. Note: no trips added since my last blog and that’s on purpose.