Some hard-earned wisdom (or why your soul needs Nutella)

My therapist (yep) once told me that in the Jewish tradition, when a man and woman marry, they begin their vows by saying, “I am my own beloved…”, before taking vows to love the other. Then he looked at me expectantly.

I paused mid-sob. I didn’t understand why he was wasting part of my $100 session to spout Oprah-isms I can find on Pinterest. I go to yoga, I get massages, I eat well. I am definitely my own beloved. I’M IN THERAPY, aren’t I?

What does being your own beloved even mean? And how does one attain this level of enlightenment, of self-yay? Those six words were like doors closed in my face, impenetrable. But things were getting harder and harder in my relationship, and I knew that some of that was my responsibility, so I was determined to figure it out.

(image by Eugenia Lolli)

What it means is this (more on how to do it, later) : if we come to each other loving our selves above all, then those selves, like insecure children, can love others — because they’ve got enough love of their own. Being your own beloved is like feeding your soul enough Nutella that it doesn’t feel the need to suck Cheez Whiz from a can.

It means you do not need that other person (emotionally), you choose him/her, and you can survive it if they do not choose you back (you have fed your soul Nutella, remember). It means you do not hold onto people, you let them come to you, or not — you still suffer, but not to the core, because that core is safe. Being your own beloved ensures you do not become the Kathy Bates (circa Misery) of love.

I began to understand what it means to be my own beloved. So I peacefully ended a long-term relationship that was full of love but not very loving. Wonderful as he was, I walked away feeling like I had proposed to myself (actually, I adopted a massive dog).

So this is what I know so far about how you become your own beloved, courtesy of many expensive therapy sessions, and months of wondering why my back hurt so much:

Know your weaknesses: Look at them closely, name them, face them. Get to know them the way a forensic detective gets to know a crime scene, the way you get to know a beloved’s body. Maybe you freak like a mad banshee when you feel vulnerable, maybe you hide your own feelings to please others until you want to smother them with a pillow, maybe you lust after other people’s people, whatever. Welcome your weaknesses like senile relatives who say deeply inappropriate things in public and offend everyone, always. Accept that they exist, the way your scars, or your hairy back, or your cellulite exists. Guilt-free.

Notice when they show up: Now that you know them so well, you can see them coming. Maybe next time you’ll be able to turn the lights off in the house and pretend you’re not home before they even ring the doorbell, maybe not. But notice when you feel you are about to choose, behave or think in these ways. For now, noticing is enough. And again, f*ck guilt. It is the Trump of the soul — destructive and ignorant.

Say no, regularly. I had no idea that the word “no” can be code for “I love moi!!!”. It is. If something makes you uncomfortable, deeply so, do not do it, say it, snort it, kiss it or wear it. And if the only reason you might do it anyway is to please someone you care about, definitely say no. Their disappointment will pale in comparison to the I love moi’s that will eventually feed your tired heart.

I have ignored so many No’s, ignored so many instincts — and by putting myself in situations that hurt me, I in turn lashed out at the person I did it for in the first place. It sucketh, and would be nice to avoideth.

That’s it for today. In the words of Charles Bukowski: “you’re going to have to save yourself.”