That’s right. I preach self-care, self-love, self-discovery everyday of my life. I live in full, vibrant colors 99% of the time. I am easily excitable and naturally very optimistic. Rarely do I feel depressed… anymore. I wasn’t always this way, of course. Three decades of emotional turmoil provoked a fair share of shame spirals, overwhelming anxiety, and slumps of depression. If it hurts the heart, I’ve probably endured it–parents divorce, domestic abuse, my own divorce, surviving my husband’s suicide, raising grieving children, etc. Unfortunately for the Powers That Be, I was born with an unquestionably profound ability to remain positive. Despite all things tragically disappointing, I am exceptionally good at uncovering the often lost treasure of hope. If you’re looking for someone to sulk in misery with you, I am NOT your girl! I’ve resolved it’s just in my bones, I cannot avoid it–even when a global pandemic threatens not only the lives of everyone we know and love, but the entirety of our quality of life. There is a speck of hope amidst all the waves of panic and worry these days, and I’ve found it. Here’s the scoop:
It is Day 25 of quarantine in my house with my two children (in addition to being a Life Coach, I’m also a germaphobe, so I got started early on the shelter at home). Even though I have always worked from home and I am rather used to life alone with my kids, I am still a human–albeit the Super-Positive Edition. Try as I might to keep busy over the last three and a half weeks and avoid eating my boredom (in the form of cookie dough mounds the size of a football… times two), I can’t help but feel the urge to NOT be here, inside these same walls, with these same people, in this same skin. I know I am not the only one feeling this way.
Unfortunately for the small, but very thirsty version of myself (I blame the cookie dough), I have already programmed my conscious mind to intentionally pause when I feel like reaching for the metaphorical (or, in this case, literal) margarita (or other substance, device, or useful numbing tool). Before I indulge in a good five hour Netflix binge or mindless scroll sesh on social media or another pour of whatever liquor matches my current mood, I require myself to answer this question with as much radical honesty as possible: Is there anything asking you to escape this moment and numb yourself?
My rule of thumb is this–as long as I am not using substances, people, or things to escape what is true for me–like a feeling or a need–I am free to take part. Sometimes the answer is simple: I’m tired and I want to unwind and I’ve already practiced my replenishing self-care rituals (journaling, yoga, breath work, etc.), so I feel centered. But other times, like TODAY, the answer is a bit trickier: I don’t know what to do with myself right now. I feel overwhelmed and antsy. I don’t like my body (side effect of that damn cookie dough on top of the abrupt halt of all my usual daily activities). I don’t feel seen or known (too much isolation). I am lacking something else but I can’t figure out what. I’m tired of feeling like I’m floating about aimlessly. I just don’t want to be here or doing this anymore.
Ah, yes. When reasons like these present themselves, my mental playbook on Maintaining a Healthy Relationship with Self says the next step is to “Lean into the pain and get curious. Ask questions of self, practice grounding rituals, and reconnect with one’s body.” (Eye roll) Today I do not feel as life-coachy as I normally do (and definitely not as much as I did when I mentally programmed this blatantly unavoidable step in the “playbook”). This internal wiring is not helping my growing distaste of self at all. I was annoying myself even more!
So, naturally, I decided to just go through the motions and check whatever box I had to check so I could pour myself a vodka kombucha with a clear conscience. Yeah, that’s right. This is a confession of a Life Coach, remember?
Motion #1: Meditate. I turned on some earthy sounding music and sat on my meditation pillow and began to slow my breathing down. My mind was still ticking and splattering irritated thoughts like graffiti on highway walls, but I refocused on how the air was moving through my nose–in and out, in and out. 4 entire minutes went by. Done.
Motion #2: Stretch and move my body how it leads me (trust me, I already know how woo-woo I am). Usually, I like to stretch and practice yoga without a shirt on so I can get used to admiring my body just as it is (belly flab from having a 10lb baby and all), but today I did it because it was hot in my house and I was annoyed with how sticky I already was after a calming meditation. Ugh, am I done yet?
But then, as my body moved I looked in the mirror. I immediately locked in on my least favorite part of my body and prepared to scoff and roll my eyes about all that damn cookie dough I’d been eating when a thought came to me,
“Love her… Just as she is, love her.”
Well, ok. That’s a nice idea. Hmmm. What if I just loved her? This magical mess of a being staring back at me. What would that do?”
I continued to move for a few more minutes whispering, “Love her. Just as she is, love her.” Then one stretch laid my face right in front of the mirror and I locked eyes with myself (woo-woo out the wahzoo). And then I saw her. Me, only the younger version. I suddenly remembered for the first time in probably a decade the first time I decided I liked myself. I was about ten years old and I had just begun to care about mirrors and knowing what other people saw when I talked or laughed or felt mad. I remembered my biological father often making comments like, “Geez, Mary, you’re obsessed with staring at yourself.” And he was right. It was the beginning of me discovering self. Even though it’s frowned upon to stare at yourself in the mirror for obscene amounts of time, I kept on with it. It was shortly after that I concluded, “I like the way I look. I like the color of my eyes and I like the chicken pox scar under the right one. I like how tan my skin is when I’ve been in the sun and I like how my lips look so soft.”
As I reacquainted myself with my old pastime today–shamelessly taking in all the new lines and freckles and scars from blemishes over the years–I decided that I still like the way I look. I like how each line running from my eyes could be named with a lesson I have learned along the way just as the creases around my mouth are remnants of the jokes or friends or love I just couldn’t get enough of. I like how my eyes hold many stories inside the deeper story of me. I like how the fresh scars remind me of all the new ways I’ve learned to care for my skin. I still like the color of my eyes. And I still like how my lips look soft (I’m now aware that’s because of my obsession with chapstick). I like the way I look. Even when I am not centered and can’t seem to get my shit together, I like me.
Self-acceptance. That’s another remnant of being a Life Coach. It’s one of the hardest, most life-changing practices we can give ourselves. Today I was thankful for all the woo-woo programming I’ve downloaded and implemented in my life over the last few years. The thing about loving yourself is that you have to learn how. Then you have to practice loving yourself when times are good and bad. Then you have to make it a habit. Because whether it’s a global pandemic or a nasty divorce or the loss of a dream or a question of identity, there will come a day when you feel like you are living outside yourself and you don’t know how to get back home. Things will hurt so bad or feel so overwhelming or paralyze you in fear that you won’t even remember how to catch your breath. It’s in these moments that we remember why we practice loving ourselves everyday. Sure, it pays off daily to love yourself so damn much that other people’s words and behaviors don’t cause you to spiral out into a shame hole anymore, but it’s the doom-days that really end up showing you how much your relationship with you matters.
The world is weird right now. We are being bombarded with news, fear, hysteria, projections, information, and so many unknowns. Where is our power? What can we control? How can we cope with all of it? The answer will always begin and end with you.
Let’s get woo-woo! Whenever anxiety is pushing you under or fear is crippling you or boredom is eating at you (or maybe you’re eating IT), practice showing up for yourself first before you turn to the substance or the social media or the pantry. Love yourself right where you are in the moment, even if you feel 100% disconnected with yourself, you can start here:
Right now, wherever you are, wrap your arms around yourself in a snug hug or place one hand on your belly and rest one over your heart and inhale as deeply as you comfortably can, letting your breath out slowly. Feel your body expand and compress with your breath. Breathe in again and out. How powerful you are just as you take in breath and release it. Continue breathing with awareness and read the following aloud (using “him/he” or “her/she” for however you identify):
Just as she is, love her.
I am Me.
I am in this moment.
This is my body.
This body houses my soul.
This body carries my heart.
Just as she is, love her.
I am Me.
I bring wealth.
I bring love.
I bring peace.
I bring well-being.
I bring health.
Just as she is, love her.
I am Me.
I have good days.
I have difficult moments.
I am emotional.
I am stable.
I am all of Me.
I love Me.
Just as I am, I love me.
One breath. One step. One hour at a time. We will carry on, in whatever manner we can. Not because we are in control or because we know things, but because we choose to show up and love every piece of ourselves. Steady on, my friends. We are in this together.