I wrote this blog post and the next as one long blogpost, but I am trying very hard not to wear you out with my tendency to write long. I wanted to address some of the comments I got in response to Part 6 of […]
I spend a lot of time practicing self-care, whether through yoga, meditation, or the way I eat. My boyfriend, however, doesn’t prioritize self-care, and judges the measures I go to to protect my body and my mind, potentially seeing it as selfish. How can I continue to love myself fully without alienating my boyfriend? How can I invite my boyfriend into my practices of self-care if he has no interest?
In Love with Myself
Dear In Love with Myself,
It is great that you have found the level and type of self care that makes you feel good. Self care is a critical component to overall happiness and if I am to judge by your moniker, it seems you have figured out the activity part of this lofty goal. A couple of questions though come to mind when I read your letter. You eat well, meditate, and have a regular yoga practice, but you are dating someone who judges you for the things that make you feel good, and ascribes a selfish motive to your engaging in these activities. Repeat: you are dating someone who judges you as selfish for doing the things that make you feel good. Think about that for a while in your quiet moments. You clearly are not at peace with this, because you wrote to me about it, and you clearly don’t know what to do about it because you wrote to me about it.
If I were to venture a guess, I would say that what rankles is that your desire for, belief in, and pursuit of self care and self love runs in direct opposition to the mate you share your life with, who judges you for these priorities. Explore that with brutal honesty. As I’ve mentioned before in this blog, being brutally honest with ourselves is a form of self care, as well.
There are questions you can ask yourself as you think about this. Do you eat in a way that makes it impossible for him to ever share a meal with you (no food after 6pm and he returns from work at 7pm, for example)? Do you harp on his diet, thereby judging him? How many hours a day are you spending on yoga and meditation? Does your yoga/meditation schedule leave him having to pick up slack in the domestic duties, etc.? Does it eat into the only available time he has to spend together with you? Does he resent all the activities that you engage in without him, or does he save his harsh judgements for those related to health? Are there elements to his disdain or his frustration that you haven’t examined which might perhaps offer explanatory insight? Think about this through that lens of being brutally honest.
In any case, you can absolutely continue to love yourself, but I cannot guarantee you can do so in the manner you have chosen without alienating your boyfriend. These two might be mutually exclusive. So you have to make a decision: will you continue to do the things that make you feel good, eating well, meditating and doing yoga, or will you succumb to the judgement of your partner and cut back on or cut out these things. After the critical look you give to this whole issue, are there places and ways in which you could tweak your actions so as to compromise more with what lies at the root of his commentary while still maintaining a satisfactory level of self care?
Regarding your last sentence though, you can invite him to join you in any or all of your self-care rituals, but if he has no interest understand that to continue to ask might be perceived as judgement and badgering. When you make a smoothie, as I do every morning: “Want some green smoothie?” When the answer is, “No,” you have to move on without judgement. You’re only asking because it’s polite to offer. Period. When he says no, it’s no. More smoothie for you. Yoga and meditation the same: “I’m going to yoga class, wanna come?” “No.” “Okay cool, I’ll see you in about 2 hours.” He doesn’t get to sulk that you’re going without him; you don’t get to judge because he’s sitting in front of the game with a beer while you go to Bikram. When you come home, you don’t get to ask, “Are you still sitting there? You haven’t even moved.” And he doesn’t get to say, “Finally. You’ve been gone forever.”
He told you he has no interest. Believe him. Likewise, you told him this is important to you. He’s got to believe you too.
Compromise only as far as it feels honest and still fulfills your need for self care.
I am reminded as I write this story of just how fragile we are, how fragile every love, every relationship with every person, how fragile every tender heart. We are all walking around, looking so robust, looking so full of vitality, but even the most […]
I stopped off last time with the story of how I met Brett, how on our first date I received indisputable messages from God that this was the man I was supposed to marry, how that emboldened me to demand he understand the gravity of what he was embarking on when he leaned in to kiss me.
I’ve only been to the World Trade Center once, in 1992, when I lied to my parents and went to New York to visit my brand new boyfriend for Valentine’s Day. I took a box of pink cupcakes frosted in vanilla with little gel hearts on each one. I dressed in red head to toe. Red suede skirt which I still own. Red sweater, which I held onto until it finally sprouted holes. Red slingback shoes, which I kept until they no longer fit my post-pregnancy feet. I love Valentine’s Day, more than anyone in the world probably. When people say it’s a commercial holiday invented by Hallmark I always think, “So?” I love the idea of a day dedicated to grand gestures and formal declarations and pretty presents. I bought Brett a little nest in which I had put two tiny birds and three robin’s eggs. I had been dating him for two months. Poor Brett. He had clearly never given Valentine’s Day a moment’s notice and off the plane bounds this girl. Clad in red, holding cupcakes in a box and with a present wrapped with curly ribbon inside which was a whole avian tableau of metaphorical domestic bliss.
We got back to his apartment and he hit the button on his voicemail and it was full. One message after another like this: “Yo…Brett…I heard you’re in love. Call me.” His friends were shocked. Much later on his father would tell me that he never imagined Brett would ever fall in love. Brett himself told me he assumed he would go to medical school, get a great job making lots of money and then he would just marry one of the girls who came around. He didn’t have a lot of patience for women, or for love or for all the things it seemed one had to do when one was in love. Like get Valentine’s gifts. He has never loved anyone but me. I, being the kind of person who will dress all in red for Valentine’s Day and bake a dozen pink cupcakes and give a man a nest of eggs have been in love 10,000 times, but that didn’t mean anything. This was nothing like that. Because for the first time in my whole life, I was in love with someone who was worth my love and attention. I had never made such a choice before. That is part of the story, really. That I had never made a worthy decision in love until this one. And I need you to understand one more thing: I literally prayed to find Brett in October, and I found him in November. When I met him I had no idea this was the answer to those prayers, and even when my ears popped at the frozen fountain, I didn’t remember that I had prayed for him. My friend Sindu reminded me of that later on, and then I remembered. My aunt also prayed for him, and she realized fairly early that he was the answer to her prayers as well. Why were were all praying for Brett? Because I was a lost thing until I found him. When I say to you that Brett is the savior of my life, I am not exaggerating. He saved my life. So if much later on, he struggled and hurt and was lost himself and confused and even if he got mean in that struggle, understand that he is the savior of my life, and to me, Brett is in some measure, proof of God. Sometimes a person can forget that they were given grace. Anger can make you forget. I am very grateful that I didn’t blow things up when things got rough, because grace is a blessing.
Anyway, on that trip to New York, he cooked me a terrible dinner of some sort of pasta and broccoli which was difficult to eat, and then we went to Windows on the World for drinks atop the World Trade Center. Unless I am mistaken, this picture was taken in the World Trade Center. He was 24 and I was 23 and this is what it looks like when you are put on the earth to find a person and you do. When the Twin Towers blew up, Brett was in Boston. When I finally talked to him I said, “This was the place we were falling in love.”
I promise you I am not being coy in doling out the story in this way. I promise you I am telling the story this minutely so you will understand just how it happens that one might, 20 years later, be unable to even cry from the grief and shame of it all.
Today is my 49th birthday and I am going to meticulously document my 50th journey around the sun. I want to arrive at October 13, 2018 happier, stronger, smarter, wiser, healthier, and braver than I am today. I’m not saying I am not happy, strong, smart, wise, healthy or brave, but I could be more so all these things. I am striving for brutal honesty and to tell all the stories. By telling the truth about the journey, I’m hoping to break the vise grip of my shame. I walk around burdened with irrational shame of such weight and magnitude that I can’t possibly thrive. A person cannot thrive wearing chains, even if those chains are imagined and of her own making. My whole metaphorical, highly dramatic, self induced, irrational, debilitating shamefest is ending over the next 365 days and if when October 13, 2018 arrives I am not completely and utterly free of all that crap, I will at least be more free than I am right now.
To put it most simply, I want to arrive at my 50th birthday giving zero fucks for real. I always say I give zero fucks, but the truth is that I still give one or two fucks and those one or two are doozies. It’s time to be done with all of those. The fucks keep you from doing what you want to do. The always looking over your shoulder, wondering what isn’t allowed, shutting down avenues, being afraid of the scrutiny, has served exactly no one. As the yogis say, let go of that which doesn’t serve you.
This journey isn’t one of self discovery, as we hear sometimes. I know exactly who I am and I have always known exactly who I am. I am too much.
So, this is a journey into courage. I am going to spend 365 days teaching myself to be exactly what I am, unapologetically. I am too much and I have always been too much and pretty much every problem I’ve ever suffered came from failing so hard at being good when faced with the ever reemerging truth that I am not at all good in the way I was supposed to be. I am too much. The battle between exactly right and too much is probably what turned my hair curly.
When my son was a little boy and he was scared he would say, “I need courage school.” That’s what this year is about. This year is my courage school and I am going to learn to be too much until too much is exactly right.
And I’ll tell you some stories comprised in this picture another day, but that’s me, my beloved grandfather, and my newborn baby brother.