How Do I Love Me Let Me Count the Ways
Sounds a little narcissistic, right? That’s certainly not what Elizabeth Barrett Browning had in mind when she wrote her famous sonnet “How Do I Love Thee“.
And the “Love Yourself” mantra seems saturated in the world of self-help. But please hear me out.
How Do I Love Me Let Me Count the Ways
As the big V-day approaches, we’re bombarded with red and pink hearts and roses, and all things romantic. I hardly ever watch commercials anymore (thank you DVR), so I’m somewhat blissfully unaware that what has become one of the biggest Hallmark holidays is upon us.
I admit that I used to love Valentine’s Day as a child, addressing the little cards (now vintage) to my friends and putting them in “the box”.
I was painfully shy, so the fact that I even showed up to school on that day is pretty amazing. At some point in elementary school, a cute boy that I liked put a Valentine in the box for me. I can still remember the thrill of seeing my name in his handwriting on the little envelope.
“He loves me!”, I thought, heart pounding and cheeks blushing.
I have not been in many romantic relationships in my life. In fact, I can count them on one hand. Make that half a hand.
Rather than feeling insecure or inept at love, I actually cherish that I’ve loved just a few men deeply and sincerely, rather than racking up a list like you see in some romantic comedies.
When my partner died almost five years ago, I decided it was finally time I turned the focus of my love inward for a while.
I’d met my former husband when I was 15. We married at 20, and divorced at 50. I’d fully intended to turn inward at that fragile time in my life.
But as fate would have it, Ralph showed up and frankly, wouldn’t leave me alone. Thankfully. I learned a lot being in a relationship with him. I was rusty at dating and very wary about getting too close, but he was a romantic, and fun, and soon captured my heart.
I remember thinking when the dust settled after his death, and the grief slowly became bearable, that now was the time. I was going to be in a relationship with myself.
In truth, having married so young, I’d never really been alone. I’d never gone away to school or traveled out of the country. I’d never traveled at all. I didn’t yearn to be by myself at that age. I wanted to be married.
Yet in spite of never having lived alone, I’d always been comfortable being alone. And needed more alone time than I ever allowed myself. I don’t know too many other artists who don’t feel this way.
So, while I still miss Ralph dearly – his smile, his warmth, his protection, his cooking, his love of movies, and his unwavering support for everything I did – I’m okay being alone. I’m better than okay.
What have I learned these past years spent alone?
How do I love me? Let me count the ways
- I love that I can be alone without feeling alone, or lonely
- I love the person that I’ve discovered I am. All on my own. No pretense
- I love that I’ve learned the lesson of caring for myself before others. It’s not selfish. It’s critical
- I love that I can go anywhere, do anything, by myself without feeling odd
- I love that being alone has brought me back to re-discovering things I loved as a child
- I love that I love to dance now
- I love the silence and stillness that being alone gives to me
- I love that I have a better understanding of myself, finally, in my 6th decade of life
- I love that I have finally owned and fully embraced what I do in the world as a writer, an artist, a healer
- I love that I know I can feel Joy, with or without a partner. And if another partner ever does come along, I will be me. Nothing more, nothing less
While I recognize that a list like this is more likely coming from an introvert (we need alone time to recharge), even extroverts can benefit from getting to know themselves on a deeper level.
Happy Valentine’s Day to each and everyone one of you, whether you’re in a long-term relationship with a spouse or partner, an exciting budding new one, or alone in a relationship with yourself.
And remember that learning to love yourself isn’t just for the single people. For what relationship would be better than one in which both partners know and love themselves deeply?
Love is the most sublime energy in the Universe and it’s ours for the giving and receiving. Drink it in, tomorrow and every day.
All my love,