|Posted on 13 February, 2019 at 13:10|
Love After Love by Derek Walcott
The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,
and say sit here, Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was yourself.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.
The subject of self love comes up often in therapy, and many clients respond to it with resistance, sometimes even hostility. Perhaps because it isn’t an idea that gets much attention elsewhere. Our relationship with ourselves isn’t something we talk about, ordinarily. Many people are aware of the idea that we must love ourselves before we can love others, but there is a lack of clarity over what that actually means, and it feels like just another piece of received wisdom – a little hollow.
But self love is important. It is an answer to loneliness; in the writer and poet Brendan Behan’s words: “At the innermost core of all loneliness is a deep and powerful yearning for union with one’s lost self”.
Oriah Mountain Dreamer, in The Invitation, asks, “Do you like the company you keep in the empty moments?” Many people struggle with only themselves for company. The idea that we should find someone else to spend our life with is everywhere, constantly reinforcing the idea that we are not enough on our own. That we need someone else to validate us.
Derek Walcott’s poem speaks to the unacknowledged, unappreciated presence in our lives – us. Sure, at times we all need the presence and support of others, practically, emotionally..., and relationships are important, but so is our relationship with ourselves. The only person who can, always has, and always will be there for us, is us. We owe it to ourselves to like and love who we are. In the words of the illustrious Dr Phil, “Your life is created from the inside out, so you must get right with you on the inside.” There is no-one else like you.
And if we are ok, really, authentically OK on our own, then being with another becomes a choice, not a need.
With a strong sense of self love as our foundation, we come to relationships whole. We don’t require the other person to complete us. They are free to be the unique individual that they are, without having to make up for anything we are missing. Maybe that is when true relationship becomes possible.