It seems that everyone is looking for love in one form or another. Whether you are old, young, curvy, skinny, rich, poor, Latino, Black, or White it doesn’t matter. We all want to be loved.
And when we can’t find the love we seek, we look for it in others and some times in harmful ways…Alcohol, food, drugs, sex, clothes, purses, shoes (OK Sylvia, don’t mess with my shoes now), cars, electronics, and other expensive items. Just to name a few (well maybe more than a few).
Some of the things we use to fill the void may not even be necessarily harmful. It could be the “high” we get from going to the gym every day; being extremely active in various clubs and causes (like the local PTA or “Save the Whales”); our places of worship, or working at the office twelve hours a day.
But no matter how much of these items we take, purchase, or participate in, it does not fulfill us. And when the “high” of buying the shoes or the sexual experience is over we are left with an empty feeling. The same empty feeling we had before the “high” and sometimes even worse. And then we start our journey again…looking for love in all the wrong places, people and things.
If we are lucky we find and receive the love we have been looking for all our life. Someone who makes us feel loved, wanted, and needed. Someone who dotes on us day and night. He or she is everything we wanted…well at least we thought. But if we are truthful with ourselves no matter how happy that person has made us there is still something missing.
And even though they have the love that they want (or so it seems) they too go out looking for that missing piece through alcohol, food, etc. Why is that empty feeling still there? Because no other human being; no sports car and no social club can give you what you need deep down. And that is self-love.
When my husband, who was the love of my life, recently passed away I truly thought my life had ended. I felt very satisfied to crawl up in a ball of self-pity and stay there forever. And I did for a month or two. But then I realized that there were people around me who needed me to be alright. Who needed me to get myself together…specifically my sons, my stepchildren, my granddaughter, and my wonderful friends, all who have made it their life mission of keeping me just over this side of being sane. I have to admit for a moment or two I didn’t care. I was in such a fog. In such disbelief. The pain was (and still is at times) so overwhelming I didn’t think I would recover. And although I still have a long road ahead of me, I know that one day even though the pain may not be gone it will not be the devastating, overpowering, and crushing pain it is today.
My first week back to work I saw a grief counsellor. Overall, he was helpful but I remember him saying to me, you have to do something for yourself. You have to pamper yourself. Then he asked me “what would make Sylvia happy?” I looked at him like he was crazy and then I said “what would make me happy? To have my husband back!” I was like “duh…what do you think?”
And then he looked at me sympathetically but sternly and said “that’s not going to happen.”
I seriously wanted to smack him. I mean how was I ever going to be happy again without my husband? Going for a manicure/pedicure wasn’t going to do it. A session with a masseuse wouldn’t do it either.
It wasn’t until a couple of months later, while sitting with a big bowl of ice cream in my lap still feeling alone and unloved, that I realized what the counsellor was trying to say. I couldn’t depend on one person or one thing to find love. I needed to find a way to love myself because without it I would fill the void with ice cream, pretty shoes, and a Maserati. (OK, maybe not the Maserati but definitely ice cream and shoes.)
Love myself? What is that supposed to mean? Of course I love myself. Right? I mean I’m middle aged (no numbers please); as a young divorcee I raised two boys virtually on my own (my mom and others were there too); both boys are hardworking, intelligent and responsible young men; I have a good job at one of the top investment firms (my CEO would say THE top) and I am a responsible woman who tries to be nice to everyone (ok, except for that guy who drives 55 in the fast lane).
All those things are well and good but none of it means I love myself. Dealing with the loss of my husband has made me take a harder look at myself. (Not the grays…I’m going to take care of those as soon as my hairdresser comes in from out of town.)
One definition I read for self-love was: Regard for one’s own well-being and happiness. (Oxford dictionary – Bing translation.)
I’ve realized that growing up I looked for love from other people, things, and especially food. But that didn’t do me or anyone else any good. First of all, nine times out of ten people will let you down. Besides it’s not fair to the other person to make them responsible for your happiness whether they volunteer their services or not. And like I referenced earlier the “high” of shopping for my Michael Kors bag is short lived (maybe a Fendi purchase would last longer…never mind.) And finding comfort in food only causes you to gain weight; feel guilty after eating the whole bag of chips and cause health issues.
So now I am taking other avenues to find ways to love myself. I’m going to be more consistent with going to the gym (once every blue moon doesn’t seem to be working); I am trying to eat healthy (egg whites…seriously?); I am doing a lot more writing (which I truly love) and I’ve decided to see a grief counsellor for more than one or two visits.
As time goes on, I will find other healthy and productive ways to love Sylvia. So come with me as I start my search for self-love (and maybe you can find yours too). I understand that the road may be long and sometimes ugly. But I am determined to be the person I was meant to be and that includes loving myself the way I deserve to be loved.