Learning to Love Myself

Reposted from July 28, 2011:  In retrospect I  clearly see a much different past view of myself than the one visible to me today.  Now when glancing in my mental “rear-view mirror” my old behavior is much easier to explain and understand.  Those were the days when my feelings were often thoughts of not measuring up.  No matter what I accomplished it was rarely good enough.  Achievement most often felt flawed.  I frequently nitpicked what was good in my life until there were defects with them of my own creation.

In the past I spent so much time wanting to be loved and hoping love would find me.   My yearning was so engulfing I did not see the special love I sought even when it was before me.  I searched for something I felt empty and lost without.  The reason that the love I so desperately sought eluded me was due to looking in the wrong places.  From the vantage point of now I can see I wanted someone to fill me up with love, which is not how life works.  What I needed had to happen from the “inside out”.

Those were the days when being alone for more than a few days made me crazy.  I was like some battery that needed badly to be recharged, but could not charge itself.  Love was something I could only see happening to me through some external source.  Simply, I did not love myself.  The energy, the feeling, and the charge I wanted so much-needed to come from within myself.  But then I did not know how.

Today I know that loving my self is mainly about self-respect.  It seems to be the only dependable way I have control over creating love for myself.  In the past when expecting love from an external source, and someone or something did not fulfill my void and fantasies I felt worse than before.  I have learned that no one could love me until I loved myself.  I am able to receive no more love than the amount of love I have for me.

Attending church in my youth was just something I was made to do.  I got little from it then, or at least that is what I thought.  Turns out, there was quite a bit retained.  It just took many years for me to connect the dots and find anything meaningful about what I learned in Sunday school.  Once thing I do remember comes from the Bible and is found in Corinthians:

Love is patient,
Love is kind.
It does not envy,
It does not boast,
It is not proud.
It is not rude,
It is not self-seeking,
It is not easily angered,
It keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil
But rejoices with the truth.
It always protects,
Always trusts,
Always hopes,
Always perseveres.
Love does not fail.

In secular expression, similar thinking is found in the poem “I Must Love Myself” by J. Earl Evans:

Before I can begin
to love anyone else,
I have to find a way
to first love myself.
Loving myself should be
an easy thing to do.
If I can pat you
on the back,  I can do
the same for me too.
I have to learn to love myself
this is true.
Because no one can love me
as much as I do.
I must find a way
to give myself a break,
and be able  to love myself
no matter what it takes.
I’m not alone
feeling the way I do.
I hope to one day love myself,
just as much as I love you.

I imagine if I sat here and thought for a good while I could create a fairly long list of the ingredients I used to fall in love with myself.  The items listed would range from the little things to what made the most difference for me.  Within the items with the highest meaning, one has clearly been the most important:  forgiving my self!  Only by letting go of wrongs done, failings and mistakes did the blemishes I placed on myself begin to fade. It took saying “I’m sorry” to a lot of people.  I also had to learn in some cases there is no good to come of trying to express regret to those wronged.  Attempting to do so in some situations only makes things worse (that was a difficult lesson).

As I think of what I am grateful for this morning, what is on the top of my mind is how I feel about myself today.  It has been a rough and painful path I have walked to get here, but am grateful to have found the route.  I feel the best about myself I ever have and without doubt do truly love myself.  There is a good measure of peace inside me now I never knew before.  My life has been blessed in many ways, but none more so that learning how to love myself.  Many helped me get here.  To all those who have loved me and do love me… thank you for your love and support that kept me on this path until I could learn to love myself.

The most terrifying thing
is to accept oneself completely.
Carl Gustav Jung

Posted in Life, Love, Self Awareness | Tagged , ,

Random Musings on Love

lonely-man-walkingMy heart is open. That is why it can be easily hurt. This does not mean I am weak. Rather, it means I have the courage, in spite of fear, to love with all my heart.

Why do we fall in love knowing that it almost never works out? Simply because we have hope it will or at least that it might.

If there is love, there is always love. We may never see a person again, but true love inscribes itself on the heart like initials carved on a tree. Time weathers it; darkens it and even diminishes it, but the inscription of love always remains. Maybe that is why we yearn for true love past in spite of the passing of time.

No matter how long you are gone, you’ll know that I love you and I’ll know that you love me. Love is never past. It is only unpracticed.

Yes, I can fall in love again, but know that love will be intermingled with all the love I have felt before. And in that way the love I can feel for you will be bigger because like a magnet it will attract and bond with my broken pieces of love.

You are pretty. You are fun. You are exciting. And you are dangerous. Why do I love the latter so much?

Love amplifies and magnifies… everything. Good becomes better. Bad becomes worse. And if you’re lucky, you’ll find the pivot point between where love is balanced and can live long.

A good man can change a bad girl to be the woman she could be. A bad girl can change a good man into what he should never have been. Who changes who depends on who loves the most.

Only by making mistakes and hurting people can a person eventually discover the pain of being hurt. Through every wound inflicted an injury is caused to the self.

Love is beautiful and worth the burden of it. Love is the divine work of life. Nothing is more important.

Physical pleasure evaporates in moments almost as if it never happened. Love changes that and makes pleasure into joy that lasts.

Yes, I can love you. Can you love me? Can you see that my past is what made me the person I am? The one who loves you. If you love me, truly love me… those I knew and what I did before are necessary because through those experiences I became who I am. Isn’t that who you want to love? The person I am now?

Magic. Tragic. Amazingly beautiful. And horrifyingly ugly; four corners of love. Knowing that, can you still love me without reservation or hesitation knowing I will bring all that to you?

The mystery of love
is greater than
the mystery of death.
Oscar Wilde

Posted in Love, Open Heart, Romantic relationships | Tagged , ,

Not Everyone is Meant to Stay

Sometimes you have to give up on people.
Everyone that is in your journey is meant to be in your journey,
but not everyone is meant to stay there.
Anonymous

Originally Posted on January 8, 2012

Deep down inside me is a strong wish to have grasped the meaning of that statement long before understanding came.  Previously my long-term theory of living was simply if I love someone, somehow, someway it was going to work out.  Otherwise, why would love have found me if not for an intention of becoming something lasting?

Such a view was one of a child carried into adult hood; a child not loved enough hidden inside an adult who grabbed at any scrap of affection that came his way.  The need to be adored was irresistible.  It did not matter that what I perceived was not genuine or what another expressed to me was feigned, disposable or temporary.  So eager for love, my heart openly accepted what it identified as affection from whatever source it came.  So hungry to be noticed and appreciated, I became involved with almost any woman who showed interest in me.

With time I came to know that frequently people love what is not good for them.  An alcoholic loves a drink.  A drug addict loves a fix.  A gambler loves risking every dime.  An adrenaline junky loves the rush of risking life.  And so on it goes when there is emptiness on the inside that one tries to fill from outside the self.  With women I either loved ones too much who were not good for me or else did not love enough those who were.

In more youthful years I claimed to date ‘crazy bitches’ because they were more fascinating and exciting.  In more mature years now, the realization is clear that ‘like attracts like’.  It was only because I was ‘just as crazy’ that my attraction was so strong to such women.  More thrills and spills than a roller coaster ride , but like any amusement, such extreme relationships eventually got old.  They exhausted me.

There is this notion within those similar to me who have spent much of their lives feeling “less than” that if we can save another person they will in turn save us. Rarely does it work because such a scenario is an attempt to get esteem from outside one’s self instead of nurturing it internally.  A person then becomes a sort of emotional vampire, always on the hurt to ‘feed” on another’s feelings but sated each time only for a while.  One can only save them self from the inside out and no one else can do the work.  No amount of basking in another’s emotions made me better.  No amount of trying to be a ‘savior of women’ actually saved anyone.  In reality the attempts usually caused me (and those I was involved with) to be worse off emotionally than before we knew each other.

Once upon a time nothing pleased me for long.  Whatever I achieved seemed hollow quickly.  Whoever I was involved with in time felt too imperfect.  Never was there contentment for long with what was in front of me.  I always either wanted more or continually asked myself if there was more.  More money, more sleep, more success, more sex, more time, more attention, more love.  Enough was never enough.

My insecurities caused me to attempt to collect love by alway trying to hold on in some way to every woman I was ever involved with.  Whether maintaining some occasional contact, keeping mementos and photos stashed away in a box or keeping thoughts of them alive, I held on.  There was no questioning if this was healthy.  Constantly my ego yelled “you’re not good enough” through a screaming bullhorn in my brain.  The only way to quiet the noise even temporarily was to allow myself to be filled with the thrills of someone new.

To actually see my own life clearly and become grateful for all that led me to this here and now took aligning myself with some measure of peace and truth. To learn to look at my present circumstances through gentle, kind and loving eyes required years to learn.  Even longer was needed to realize I was living a wonderful destiny that was uniquely mine.

Peace is loving what is…what exists now in this moment here.  In her book “Loving What Is” Byron Katie wrote the only time we suffer is when we believe a thought that argues with what is. When the mind is perfectly clear, what is, is what we want. If you want reality to be different than it is, you might as well try to teach a cat to bark. You can try and try, and in the end the cat will look up at you and say, “Meow.” Wanting reality to be different than it is, is hopeless. 

So here I am in late middle age with all my flaws, scars, and blemishes but wiser and happier than I have ever been. Getting here took establishing good boundaries for myself and others.  I had to let go of a lot of things and people:  my Mother, two ex-wives, several friends, a handful of ex-lovers and girlfriends, a comfy long-term job, the big house, over half my savings and more.  Only through the letting go was there space in my life for what I truly needed.  My gratefulness to be in this here and now is beyond my command of written language to express fully.  So I will just say “thank you” with sincere gratefulness.

No one can give you freedom but you.
Byron Katie

Posted in Beyond the obvious, Letting Go | Tagged ,

A Mother’s Love: UPDATE

Update:  This morning I was blessed to spend a half hour with the sister of the woman I wrote about below two years ago. Dawn’s sister, the little girl she gave birth to (Kellie) and I had a meaningful FaceTime conversation about two hours ago. The sister had somehow found this blog and made contact to set up the call, here the day after Thanksgiving (how very appropriate). Through some misty eyes reliving old times, I got to tell Kellie about her Mother in ways no one ever had. My life is enriched because of this experience beyond my ability to accurately describe it. I won’t ever forget Dawn or the talk with her “baby” today. My, my how Kellie looks like her Mom!

This was originally posted on August 16, 2011: Her name was Dawn. Right out of college she began her first full-time job as a fledgling account rep where I worked.  Although she was “green” as grass, two of the senior account executives took her under their wing and brought her along.  She had talent, was well liked and was succeeding at her work when I took another job two thousand miles away.  While we were friendly, we were never really close so it was no surprise we did not keep in touch after I moved away.

Fast forward ten years.  Working one’s way up in my profession required a lot of moving around to advance.  After three positions in three different states covering a decade I had advanced to a V.P./G.M. position I’d taken back in the same city where I had met Dawn originally.  During the ten years I was away from Ohio she had married and moved away.  Out of the blue one day I got a call from her telling me she was moving back to town, was looking for a job and wanted to know if we had anything open.  We did and were glad to have her join our staff.  My second association with Dawn lasted for around three years.

Never will I forget how joyful Dawn was when she learned she was going to have a child.  She and her husband had encountered problems conceiving so Dawn, now in her mid 30’s, was elated to finally be expecting.  No happier Mom-to-be have I ever encountered.  About half way through the pregnancy she began having some health problems and testing began to find the source.

Clear in my memory is the optimism she maintained that somehow everything would be OK as she explained to me privately she had cancer.  She told me her doctors said if she began chemotherapy very soon she had a good chance of recovery but would lose her baby.  If she chose to go full term with the baby, treatment after birth might save her, but it was very risky and the odds were against her.  I remember vividly her rubbing her several-month pregnant belly as she told me she was going to have her baby, no matter what.

Dawn gave birth to a healthy baby and worked up until a few weeks before delivery.  She began chemotherapy treatment soon after.  Although she came by the office to show off her baby a few times, she never returned to work.  Each time we saw her she looked more ill than the time before.  Well before the baby’s first birthday Dawn was gone.

Writing here now about something that happened 20 years ago still chokes me up.  Plain and simple, she knew what she was doing and knew her chances were slim.  She chose life for her child instead of life for herself.  No greater sacrifice do I know of a Mother making.  Clearly I recall hearing what a good father Dawn’s husband was to the child and then heard some years later he remarried.  That’s all I know of the story except Dawn’s baby would be around 20 years old now.  No child was ever more wanted or loved by a Mother.

Some of the greatest stories of courage and sacrifice are lived out quietly by ordinary, every day people.  Books are not written about them nor movies made, but I am very thankful to know firsthand this account of Dawn Perry Gustin, one of the bravest people I have ever known.

SACRIFICE
©1996 Allison Chambers Coxsey

The sacrifice of love we give,
Takes less and yet gives more;
An everlasting hand of love,
The heart an open door.

The willingness to give of self,
To lay down your own life;
To touch another person’s heart,
In loving sacrifice.

A chance that God has given you,
To reach another soul;
Forever changed by kindness,
A life your love made whole.

For life is but a circle,
Each life part of the chain;
Each link is joined by sacrifice,
That causes man to change.

To turn and reach a hand of love,
To touch another’s life;
Will cause the circle to be whole,
In loving sacrifice.

 It is not now much we do, but how much love we put into the doing.  It is not how much we give, but how much love we put into the giving.  Mother Teresa

much we give, but how much love we put into the giving. Mother Teresa

Posted in Life

No One…

no one

Posted in Alone, Coping, Good Advice | Tagged , ,

UPDATED: We Are All Meant to Shine

wisteria-img_0987 copyPost Addition: Near the end of this old post from April 2012, I reference a decades old wisteria vine above my back patio that I spoke to this morning. Silly to some but meaningful to me. We just got our first freeze a couple of nights ago and today the leaves are withered and falling (see inset photo above). Each spring and summer the wisteria vine is beautiful and it flowers radiantly (see large photo). I am proud of ‘her’ and show off ‘her’ beauty eagerly to visitors. This morning I said while looking at the vine, “rest well old girl. You bring me such joy and I am grateful to you for it”. I smiled and felt really good and grateful then. Still do.

Original Post: For the first time since my twenties not long ago I went through a period as a renter instead of a home owner. This was a part of the chaos created by a very difficult divorce which took a long time to work through mentally, emotionally and financially. After over 4 years things settled to where I was able to purchase a house and I happily moved in where I live now just about this time last year.

The period of change, heartache and growth turned out to be the greatest bringer of gratitude so far in my life. If one is paying attention, lack has a tendency to bring appreciation when times of plenty arrive again. And so it is with my new home. There is much determination within not to ever lose this ‘attitude of gratitude’ within me now!

There is a saying by an unknown author that states enjoy the little things in life, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things. Being blessed to own my home in the past for over 25 years I had begun to take the ability to be the owner of one for granted. In the lack, the not being able to have one, I learned a whole new way of appreciating. A few weeks short of a year ago, soon after I moved into my new place, I began this blog: goodmorninggratitude.com. In 21 days I will have written here EVERY day for one full year.

What I have discovered is gratitude can be cultivated. With a bit of focus and a little practice results can be brought about that are mind-blowing. Studies have shown growing a sense of gratitude helps one maintain a more positive mood in daily life and contribute to greater emotional well-being. Over and over research has shown cultivating gratitude is one of the simpler routes to a greater sense of emotional well-being, higher overall life satisfaction, and a greater sense of happiness in life. I know for an absolute fact this is true.

Spiritual activist Marianne Williamson said Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we’re liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

That quote by Ms. Williamson causes me to read it two or three times on every occasion I come across it. Her words are so deeply meaningful on a personal level. At one point I printed them out and hung the page on my fridge where it stayed for two years. There were many “down” days as I worked through the painful divorce, emotional recovery and becoming financially stable again. For a long while so much was moving away from me it took a long time to reverse the direction so what I needed was moving in my direction. My discovery most of all is my state of mind had all to do with what I was attracting and in what quantity.

Henry Ward Beecher described the way of being I had to arrive at before my life began to move forward. He wrote the unthankful heart… discovers no mercies; but let the thankful heart sweep through the day and, as the magnet finds the iron, so it will find, in every hour, some heavenly blessings!

So here I am five years later after being served divorce papers in the airport as I arrived then finding I had been locked out (OK, thrown out) of the home I owned and lived in. Read about that day here link. I hope never to feel the panic, loss of direction and pain I experienced that day and those that followed. In spite of it all, I will be always grateful for what the agony and strife taught me.

The photo at the top is of a huge wisteria vine that is on a large arbor over my back patio. I learned from a neighbor the plant is almost 40 years old. The main two trunks from the ground are almost five inches around! For many years emotionally and mentally I was inside like the wisteria vine in winter: alive with little to show for it. Today I am more like the photo at the top taken a week ago of the wisteria vine in the full glory of spring-flowering. To look at it is to get a sense of what is blooming inside me. To have come from where I was to be where I am is nothing short of a miracle. I am deeply thankful.

The world has enough beautiful mountains and meadows,
spectacular skies and serene lakes.
It has enough lush forests, flowered fields and sandy beaches.
It has plenty of stars
and the promise of a new sunrise and sunset every day.
What the world needs more of is people to appreciate and enjoy it.
Michael Josephson

Posted in Life

What You See

what you send

Posted in Lessons learned the hard way, Life as it really is, Seeing 'what is' | Tagged , ,

If…

important

Posted in Beyond the obvious, Hopes and Dreams, Not Giving Up | Tagged , ,

Growth

Growth2 copy

And the day came when the risk
to remain tight in a bud
was more painful
than the risk it took to blossom.
Anaïs Nin

Posted in Choices, Growing Up, Insight | Tagged , ,

Eighteen Rules for Living

dalai-lamaAt the turn of this century, the Dalai Lama issued the following eighteen rules for living.

Rule 1. Take into account that great love and great achievements involve great risk.

Rule 2. When you lose, don’t lose the lesson

Rule 3. Follow the three Rs: 1. Respect for self 2. Respect for others 3. Responsibility for all your actions.

Rule 4. Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck.

Rule 5. Learn the rules so you know how to break them properly.

Rule 6. Don’t let a little dispute injure a great friendship.

Rule 7. When you realize you’ve made a mistake, take immediate steps to correct it.

Rule 8. Spend some time alone every day.

Rule 9. Open your arms to change, but don’t let go of your values.

Rule 10. Remember that silence is sometimes the best answer.

Rule 11. Live a good, honorable life. Then when you get older and think back, you’ll be able to enjoy it a second time.

Rule 12. A loving atmosphere in your home is the foundation for your life.

Rule 13. In disagreements with loved ones, deal only with the current situation. Don’t bring up the past.

Rule 14. Share your knowledge. It’s a way to achieve immortality.

Rule 15. Be gentle with the earth.

Rule 16. Once a year, go someplace you’ve never been before.

Rule 17. Remember that the best relationship is one in which your love for each other exceeds your need for each other.

Rule 18. Judge your success by what you had to give up in order to get it.

Learn as if you were going to live forever.
Live as if you were going to die tomorrow.
Gandhi

Posted in Inspiration, Living life well, Wisdom | Tagged , ,