Written July, 2013, while in Charleston, SC, doing research for my thesis.
Yesterday it was pouring rain and I felt embarrassed because I only had old sneakers to wear to the office, no boots. I thought to myself: Great, I’m going to look ridiculous at work. I hope no one sees me like this. I hope no one notices my shoes…
On my way into work, I stopped for some tea to help myself feel better (we’ll get to that later). A young woman passing by looked me up and down and said, “Cute shoes!”
I stood for a moment, stunned. Her comment smacked me out of my materialistic mind as I realized I had spent the whole morning obsessing about my shoes… My shoes! I laughed and said, “Thank you!” She heard my gratitude for her compliment, I felt my gratitude for the clarity she gave me.
The next morning I woke with my alarm at 7:00am, then fell back asleep until 8:30am, the time I was supposed to be leaving for work. I was annoyed with myself for sleeping late, but also because I didn’t have time to shower or put on makeup. It was still raining but at least I felt a little better about the old sneakers…
On my way into work, I bargained with myself again and decided to stop for tea, you know, to help myself feel better. Like yesterday, I thought: I look terrible. I hope no one sees me like this. I’ll just spend the morning working alone and handle meetings in the afternoon…
Of course, while on line at the coffee shop, I ran into someone I haven’t seen in years. She asked about my ex and what I was doing in Charleston. After a few minutes she said, “Well you look great! Like you’re ready to conquer the world!” I thanked her and we said goodbye as I realized I had once again spent the morning wrapped up in negative self talk and materialistic ego nonsense.
I talk about coming from a place of love, loving others and loving yourself all the time, yet I spent the past two mornings beating myself up for not wearing the right shoes or not wearing enough makeup… Wanting to be alone or not seen.
I also talk about cultivating happiness within, yet both mornings I stopped at the coffee shop, thinking tea is what I needed, thinking tea would make me feel better.
After work that day, I went down to the beach to sit and think. What happened? How did I get so far away from practicing what I preach? When did my thoughts become so negative?
I thought about my two-year relationship which ended earlier that spring. I thought about someone I love dearly who died unexpectedly barely 30 days ago. I thought about the struggles of moving twice in the past two months after my beloved roommate moved to Ethiopia. It had been a rough year.
Somehow getting through all that, on top of graduate school, I lost myself. I lost the love. I thought I had found ‘the one’ and now I was alone. My friend who died had choked to death and there were days simply breathing felt so hard, so unfair.
How am I supposed to love when I feel so deeply sad and angry?
I sat on the beach for a while longer, letting myself ask those questions with no answers. Could we have tried harder to make things work? Why did he have to die? Will I ever be settled somewhere?
Loving myself, in that moment, meant giving myself the space to feel emotions I was honestly scared to feel.
The sun went down but I stayed on the beach until I reached a kind of exhausted peace. When I got up and walked home, I still felt angry, sad, and overwhelmed, but I wasn’t directing those emotions towards myself anymore.
There was no romance, no grandiose gestures, no warm fuzzy feelings. Love was sitting alone on the beach. Love was being angry about my relationship. Love was crying, missing my friend.
Love was there, I had just been drinking too much hypocrisy tea to feel it.