A Pole, a Jew, and Mormon walked into a bar. It’s not a joke. It was girl’s night out.
I spent last evening with 2 very dear friends, whom I met as Shakespeare moms when our kids participated in Logan Youth Shakespeare. We have bonded over parenting woes, marital issues, self-esteem challenges, and the changes that come with a journey through mortality.
Last night, as we visited and commiserated, one theme emerged from the detritus of our conversation.
In order to be the best mom, the best wife, the best person, we need to be our best self.
And how do we accomplish that?
We spent over three hours hashing out the concept of loving oneself, throwing around ideas like setting intentions, expressing gratitude, and listing, daily, three things to like about oneself. That last one is every bit as hard as it seems.
Why? Why is it so hard to see the good in ourselves? Why do we struggle to like who we see in the mirror? Where did this internal, infernal, negative self-dialogue originate?
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly, but a likely culprit is the societal expectation that to avoid conceit, we must practice humility. I just think we’ve Inigo Montoya’d humility….. it doesn’t mean what we think it means.
The hard truth is that if I had a friend who talked to me the way I sometimes talk to myself, I would detach from that friend. Sayanara, frenemy.
And if I treated my children the way I occasionally treat myself, the authorities would be notified. With good reason.
And here’s another hard truth: every relationship we have, every single one, will eventually end. Every person who loves us will eventually leave us. Sometimes it is through choice, as friendships naturally fade and affection dies. Or geography intervenes. Or offense occurs and separation becomes necessary.
Sometimes it is through death, as these mortal bodies do tend to wear out and quit on us. Through no fault of our own, in the end, it all ends. We all die, every last one of us. Which is the ultimate separation. No matter what you believe about life after death, the death of a loved one will mean at least a temporary separation, and it hurts. But it is inevitable. We all die.
There is, however, one relationship that endures to the end. One exception to the rule that all relationships must end. One person who will be with us ‘til the bitter end. One person who will stay beside us through thick and thin, rain or shine, in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer.
I am, of course, speaking of the self.
I grew up with the notion that to be self-centered was wicked and sinful. I was taught, by my religious community, that to truly become divine, I must deny the self, and focus my efforts on others.
I do see beauty in this concept of self-denial and unselfish service, but I also believe that the concept of being self-centered has been given a bad rap. An undeserved one.
How can we be anything but self-centered? Who are we if not our ‘self’? If we have no center, we have no soul, and no well from which to draw when serving others.
To be self-centered is to be grounded. It allows us to serve from a place of love, stability, security. If our goal is to serve and love others, wouldn’t it be prudent to begin with ourselves? To be ‘self’ centered?
Years ago, when I first started to practice yoga, I took my mat into my quiet front room where I could be undisturbed. As I finished and settled into prayer pose, I looked up at the wall in front of me and took in the picture of Jesus hanging there, and the plaque next to it. “Be still and know that I AM”. The words struck me as never before.
Be still, and know that I am.
I exist, I am real, I am here.
I am, and that is all that I know. All that I have in this life that is a sure thing, all that I can know, is that I AM.
All my preconceived notions about the meaning of life faded away, and I knew, in that moment, that what really mattered, what really matters, is that I AM.
Religion tells us that the purpose of life is to focus on others. Pop culture tells us that to be fulfilled we should focus on ourselves.
I think we need to land somewhere in the middle, and begin by nurturing the most important relationship any of us will ever have. Maybe by strengthening our ‘self’, we will be able to offer love, comfort, and safety to others, and live a fulfilling life, with purpose and intention.
How to best strengthen that ‘self’? That’s a discussion for another day.
In the meantime, go look in the mirror and tell your self that she’s (or he’s) amazing!
(I know, it feels weird, hippy-dippy and new-agey, strange on every level! Do it anyway! Your self will thank you!)