Monday, February 27, 2012

Sifting Through Love

Here we are, approaching the end of February, the month of love. For quite some time I have been meandering through the garden of self-love and recently began reading When You Think You’re Not Enough by Daphne Rose Kingma. Self-love, or rather the lack thereof, has been weighing heavily in my heart and on my mind.

I grew up in a single-parent home with my mother and younger half sister. I often wished that I had a father, a dad, but I did not. My mother tried marriage twice, but neither worked. My first stepfather abandoned us. I don’t even remember him. My second stepfather molested me. Sadly, I was not given the opportunity to see how “real-life” relationships worked. My ideas, perceptions and knowledge about relationships came from television. What that really means is…


I spent my teen years dreaming about Prince Charming. I dreamt of flowers, long stemmed red roses, and jewelry—real diamonds, real gold—and heart shaped boxes filled with luscious chocolates on Valentine’s Day. I dreamt of being swept off my feet with the kind of romantic love that I witnessed in novels, movies and television.

I never did have a Valentine. Valentine’s Day was a miserable and lonely time. I hated it, dreaded it, but believed it would change once I was married.

My first husband thought that Valentine’s Day was just another day. He deemed it a waste of time and money. Yeah, he was a jerk…and abusive, but I was young and in love. Fortunately that didn’t last long.

In my late 20’s I met my, now, second husband. When we were dating he’d often shower me with little trinket gifts, buy me cards just because and bring me something to eat when I was blessed with the night shift. We spent our first Valentine’s Day apart while I was in Houston, Texas attending company training. He shipped a surprise package to me with a balloon and other goodies. He was…. dare I say it? Romantic.

Fast forward to years later after we had our daughter and married (yes, we had our daughter before we exchanged vows). Life took over and romance seemed to fall by the wayside. I was exhausted. He was exhausted. With eight kids between us (yep! EIGHT!) date nights, notes, cards and trinket gifts became virtually non-existent. Until, of course, the calendar declared that it was Valentine’s Day. Feeling neglected and lonely I decided that I didn’t want to be swept off my feet. I didn’t want anything at all for Valentine’s Day. I insisted, “If you can’t give me a card and flowers in July I don’t want them on Valentine’s Day. I don’t want them just because the calendar tells you that you have to.” I didn’t want to be courted one day a year.

As our daughter grew up, Valentine’s Day became a family day. She loves Valentine’s Day. She loves celebrating Valentine’s Day and I have always given her gifts and cards on Valentine’s Day. I rationalized that it was actually a good thing that we didn’t place a lot of value on romantic razzmatazz on Valentine’s Day. Our daughter was learning that Valentine’s Day was about spending time with those we love, friendship and a damn good reason to eat lots of chocolate! :)

However, placing little value on the romantic fantasies that often accompany Valentine’s Day does not necessarily mean that I am teaching my daughter to love herself. I’m not convinced that our daily hugs and “I love you” are enough.

“Expressing your feelings gives value to who you are. Suppressing them makes you feel unworthy. When you speak out your feelings, they become the instruments by which you carve out a new and better opinion of yourself.” --Daphne Rose Kingma; When You Think You’re Not Enough

On Valentine’s Day 2012 I retreated to the atelier and made a valentine for a friend and myself. “Because I love myself enough I am full of possibility. I am worthy. I am open. I am magic.”

I am on a path towards self-love.

As I meander through the garden of self-love, I find myself asking questions. How can I teach my daughter to love herself when I do not love myself? How can I give and receive love, wholly, when I do not love myself? How can I manifest my dreams when I do not love myself? How can I lose weight, or learn to nourish and appreciate my body, when I do not love myself? How can I embrace my talents and skills when I do not love myself? How can I make new friends when I do not love myself? How can I create genuine happiness and joy for others when I do not love myself enough to create it for myself?

It’s painfully difficult to say, “I. do. Not. Love. myself.” It’s easier to wrap myself up in a blanket of pity and declare, “Nobody loves me.”

But, I must ask myself, “Is that really true? Is it them? Or, is it me?”

I know how I arrived in this place of self-love-less-ness; abandonment and abuse and misguided childhood lessons that placed love’s emphasis on anything and everything external.

How’s that workin’ for you?” asks Dr. Phil.

It’s not. It’s not working for me.

I do not have all the answers to life’s questions; but I am asking some questions of myself. I am challenging some childhood beliefs. I am choosing to kick that blanket of pity off of me and accept that much of what I think I lack in life is tied to a lack of self-love. How can I teach my daughter to love herself when I do not love myself? By learning. By taking those baby steps; one little hop, skip and jump at a time and allowing her to witness the process as I learn to blossom and bloom and LOVE.

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