I’m drying the Mother’s Day blooms my husband gave me last weekend; a ritual I’ve done with every single flower I’ve been gifted in the last 6+ years. Not just because it preserves their delicate petals and scent, but because a gift of love holds onto that loving energy. I then use the petals in offerings to my gods, and I add them to love charms and spells.
But on this particular morning as I’m enjoying the rosy view in my kitchen, I’m having a moment of gratitude for my husband’s love. It gets me thinking about how good I am about returning that love, to him and to all of my people. But it also sparks another reflection that doesn’t feel as nice to think about; why do I have such a hard time returning that love to myself? Why am I consumed with feelings of guilt and selfishness the moment I allow myself any praise? Even admitting I’m good at loving other people instantly gave me an ugly twinge of, conceited much?
Let’s talk about a couple of 2020 buzzwords: self-love and self-care. We hear them so frequently in all kinds of circles. Are you a mom? Someone’s talked to you about self-care. Are you a witch? You’ve been recommended rose quartz for self-love. Are you a citizen of the world affected by this covid pandemic? You’ve read at least one uplifting quote on the internet about taking care of yourself. Suffice to say we’re talking about it a lot, the conversation has definitely started. And yet I’m so confident in betting I’m not the only one who battles the very self they’re trying to take care of.
Why is this? Why do we have such a hard time seeing ourselves as our loved ones see us? Why is it easier to care for others and to neglect our own needs? I don’t have an answer. I’m just like you, reader, navigating this life without a handbook. But I do have some additional questions that I’m at the very least asking myself, and you, if you’d care to answer:
Is it our past experiences with arrogance and selfishness that shields our self-love?
Are we afraid we don’t have enough love to give? Like we won’t be able to properly love others if we allow any to ourselves?
Does the challenge lie in where to draw the line between self-nurturing and self-serving?
Is the answer within our shadows? That space in our subconscious where our innate darkness lies that most of us refuse to acknowledge?
If I’m to be honest, I have to reply, “I don’t know.” Because truly I don’t. I don’t know why we struggle so much with this concept and, moreover, implementing it. But I, like many of you, understand that there’s a reason for self-care. We know there is potential and good to come from it, and we know that can ripple out and benefit others. Yet here we are, justifying and explaining away the various reasons we avoid. I’m here, too. In no way am I claiming to have solved the formula. But I guess I’m hoping that by writing it down, by asking the questions, by hopefully starting a discussion (even just within myself), the answers can be discovered and steps forward will be taken.
I’m an empath.
I know, I know. I’ve heard it all, you won’t surprise me if you roll your eyes at my statement. And while I agree the term has been overclaimed by those who don’t even begin to try to understand it, the fact is I am. And a super sensitive one at that. When I was born the sun, Mercury, Venus, and Pluto were in Scorpio, the moon in Pisces, the asteroid Chiron in Cancer. I am water, water, water. Emotions and Feeling make my world a walking lucid dream if I let them. The ones inside me of course, but also those that I experience and come into contact with. It makes practicality something of a challenge for me.
So for me when it comes to self-care and nurturing, it’s nearly impossible for me to turn off my empathy. This isn’t because of being an empath. Something in me triggers, and I become obsessed with making sure absolutely everyone is completely taken care of, so that I may find peace in taking care of myself. Of course, this poor judgment in time management leaves me with little to no time for myself at all. And then I wake up and start all over again the next day. I let my empathic abilities sabotage myself while using them to help others. It doesn’t take much time to pass (though I seem to always allow it to continue far too long) before it noticeably takes its toll on me.
I’m now in the process of unlearning past behaviors and making small, daily efforts to retrain how I process emotion–my own, as well as those I encounter. These seemingly trivial steps are so far offering pretty sturdy support. Simple grounding exercises where I observe tiny, tangible details in my environment that keep me rooted to Earth. I’m making to-do lists that are actually accomplishable and allowing myself to feel accomplished. I never realized until very recently how much I deprive myself of the feeling. I have clients and customers and loved ones that I tell on a regular basis to be kind to themselves and to celebrate their victories. (Not taking ones own advice, Scorpio? Shocking.) In these new days I am giving myself permission to not only listen to, but to hear myself; not only to look at, but to see myself.
I can’t speak for anyone else, but for me, the act of giving myself permission is pretty damn noteworthy. For years I’ve functioned off of the approval of others; my parents, my friends, teachers, partners, crushes, peers. Giving myself the authority to grant that permission is a huge power of mine I’m finally taking back.
I allow myself peace. I accept and embrace my victories and my failures.
My hope for you, my reader, is you are able to do the same. As many days as you can, I hope you grant yourself serenity. Release what is no longer serving you, accept what contributes to your growth. Nourish your body and your mind, nurture your spirit.