My relationship with self love feels similar to being in the waves in the sea. Sometimes I feel held and it feels so easy and effortless and other times much like learning to surf in waves that are far too big for a beginner.
For years I did not really think too much specifically about the act or meaning of self love. Loving behaviour has always been central to the way I live. Acts of service, generousity and sharing love with others is fulfilling. Its circular and fills my heart. To this end I made every effort to make sure that everyone in my life was heard, loved and cared for. This was the way I thought. I was forgetting something.
I reckoned that having a daily bathing ritual, a monthly massage, a full social calendar and some therapeutic thrift shopping was my version of self love and care. It was working, no? Life went something like this: work hard, travel for work often, play hard in moments of downtime, take a week of solo time at a tropical beach and the end of each year to try to recoup add being present for family going through years of traumatic events, be okay, and then start at the beginning again. It was intense but it was normal. Quiet time was limited. I didn't even see what was happening because I was so in it. I was fine. Or so I thought.
As the waves of time churned, I rather suddenly turned into a flood of tears that would not stop for a long time. And I mean a very long time. They were messengers; the kind that really showed me that I was sinking. My mental and physical health made this very clear. I admitted that I was not okay. I had to put my hand up for the first time in my life if I was going to live. It was one of the hardest things I have ever done and it has also been one of the most important shifts in my consciousness. I have come to know that slowing down to listen is an act of self love, that focusing on your own breath is an act of self love, that making art to express yourself is self love, that acknowledging suffering and pain is self love and that asking for help is a radical act of self love. This list could go on but these things became highlighted.
It was inevitable that I slow down enough to really listen. I gave the little human inside of me a chance to say something and more importantly FEEL something, actually a whole lot of things. I had not let this part of me exist for a lot of time because I was really busy doing other things and taking care of others. No blame or judgement. Just gratitude for the realization that going in is now an ongoing practice.
Loving myself feels like an act of remembering. Remembering that I have a voice and I can share it, and that I can set boundaries. It is also a practice of unlearning. Unlearning the parts of the world and my own mind that subdued my personal truth and ways of knowing my feelings. It seems wild to me that this is something that I have reframed and learned in my late thirties and now at forty one. Its like my life had gotten away from me... or actually that I had gotten away from myself. I often wonder how different the world would be if we were all taught an added set of skills as little humans - to listen to your intuition, to love and take care of yourself and others by setting boundaries. These are healthy behaviours and when combined have helped me renovate my life and the way that I can take care of myself and others.
Learning the different ways that deeply nurture my remembering has been hugely healing. Nature soothes me constantly. It is always present and cycles much like me, like all humans. Walking even in the city, I can be quiet and I am so excited to be present and let my eyes absorb colours, growth, texture, and the interconnectedness of the skyscape, trees, birds and my surroundings. When hope or connection feels distant a visit to the lakeshore quickly brings me back to my inner knowing, my intuition, and my heart. When I breathe in and out consciously I land in the moment and tune into being here now. This feels like a radical act of self love and softening. When I pause and listen to the sparrows sing and play I am loving myself. When I smile at strangers and dogs and cats and squirrels I am loving myself and it has a ripple effect; I feel connection with the universe. By uncovering how to practice loving kindness towards myself I have been learning to be true, honest and live with integrity.
Love is bright. It is open. It is flowing. It is windy. It is honest. It is vulnerable. It is radical. It is challenging. It is resilient. It is tangible. It is energy. It is action. It is multicolored. It is so many things. Maybe everything?
We are all here together on this earth so why not show up for ourselves and take care of each other? This takes so many forms and can be as minute as a gentle gaze saying " I see you". This is love. Learning about the “self” part of love has been a deep and meaningful healing that continues. I am certain that the remembering will go on as long as I exist in a human body. I am grateful and humbled for all those that held me along the way. My mantra is and continues to be “ what would love do now?”.
(You can learn more about Alanna, her natural and one of a kind dye and silk screen work, her handcrafted art pieces and cards and the entire beauty that is OF LOVE studio by following her on instagram @alanna_of_love)