“Self-love is often unrequited”
This Monday morning was the usual domestic version of “The Amazing Race” with my husband and I working as a team to get our sons out the door by 7:30 to get to their next pitstop – school. As I said my hasty goodbyes to them as they rushed out the front door, I was blindsided by an unexpected blast of intense love for them. The kind of poignant heart cramp that squeezes your insides like a gas pain and makes you stop and clutch yourself. Anybody who has ever truly loved another, knows that wrenching, sickening sensation. The intensity of that kind of love scares the shit out of you because contrary to what the self-help gurus and wise yogis will tell you about practicing detachment and finding serenity within, I am resigned to the fact that my heart and soul has transferred out of my body and is split into two defenseless little boys who are out in the big bad world clad in tiny sneakers. My destruction lies in their sticky little hands and that’s a terrifying feeling.
But then it occurred to me that maybe we love till it hurts because we forget to leave enough love for ourselves. I am particularly guilty of this and so are the legions of other busy moms (and other busy, non-breeding grownups). As I mentally reviewed my to-do list, I realized that I would probably skip lunch yet again today and just snack on the run because I had too much to do. And then it hit me like a ton of bricks that I would never neglect a loved one the way I routinely neglect myself. Starve myself or skimp on meals to save time. I would be horrified if I caught myself criticizing, berating and mentally beating up a friend or family member for perceived failings (imaginary or otherwise) as often as I do to myself. I love my family unconditionally and maybe it is time I start doing the same for myself.
Novelist Anthony Powell once wrote, “Self-love is often unrequited” and as we all know, unrequited love just sucks. It is so painful not to have our awesomeness recognized by our beloved, but how tragic is it when that person is yourself?
When an airplane is going down, the safety video always shows the importance of the grownup putting the oxygen mask on themselves first before they put it on their child. So today, I am strapping on that oxygen mask and taking some deep breaths. And I may even have lunch today. Baby steps.