This may sound hopelessly cynical, but the concept of “self-love” has always seemed a little eyeroll-worthy to me. Maybe it just sounds too mushy. Maybe it conveys a sense of intimacy that doesn’t seem appropriate. I’m not sure.
Either way, that doesn’t mean it’s not a valid concept. I’m just uneasy about the semantics is all. The concept itself could swing either way; it could be healthy, or it could become overinflated, too big for its britches.
I’m not exactly ready to embrace “self-love”; it almost overwhelms my Aspergian emotional saturation point.
But the practice of self-warm-fuzzy isn’t necessarily an all-or-nothing deal. Life is not, after all, black and white. I’m learning to see beauty in the gray. Go me. 😉
I can break it down into baby steps, each one standing on its own and yet, building on the last.
I’ve mentioned self-acceptance before. There’s a prerequisite to that, though: the cessation of self-abuse and self-blame. I had to break the chains that tethered me to self-judgment before I could learn to get up and fly. I’m not even sure if I’m flying yet. I think I’m still discovering my wings.
In this stage, I had to Get Real with myself, to acknowledge the quirks I had forever cursed, damned, and buried. I had to stare them in the eyes (eeek! Even making proverbial eye contact with concepts can be daunting and uneasy) and I had to admit that these quirks were parts of me. Then I had to tell them they were OK, invite them to stay, pull up a chair, have a cup of tea, whatever.
And I had to tell myself to resist the urge to keep trying to boot them out, shove them in closets, push them toward the backs of high shelves, forget about the cobwebs.
The next step was to zero out the balance sheet of shame and self-consciousness. I’m not sure it’s exactly zero just yet; there might be a fraction in there somewhere. Or, on certain days, a decimal point. But the important part is, the numbers are getting smaller. They elbow me in the ribs a whole lot less often. They’re almost learning manners.
Socialization of my balance sheet. Who knew.
Once I had the self-acknowledgment well underway, the self-acceptance was next. I swung from one to the next, not entirely sure if I had let the previous monkey bar go, but I grabbed onto the next regardless. It might have been premature. Who knows. Who cares, at this point. Because that’s well underway, too.
Maybe after that, my next monkey bar will be labeled “Make Friends With Self”. If I squint hard enough, I can begin to make it out in the mist, and I think that’s what its label says. I’ll have to get closer to be sure, but that’s what it’s looking like it’s shaping up to be. Or, if that label is too long, then maybe a simple “Self-Friendship” might suffice. I’ll know what it means when I see it. And that’s what matters.
It’s the thought that counts?
Once I’m friends with myself, who knows where that will take me? From there, the stage of “Self-Like” may actually become a co-incident concept. After all, being friends with someone generally assumes a certain level of liking them. I don’t make friends with people I don’t like.
Maybe the Self-Like comes before the Self-Friendship. Because maybe I have to like myself enough first, to want to establish a friendship.
What kind of friend would I be to myself? Ah hell, that remains to be seen, doesn’t it? I already know that I’ll be a Chatty Cathy, if the last 40 years (yep, all the way up to the present day) is any indication. Maybe, though, I’ll start checking in with myself periodically, like what friends do for each other in times of crisis or emotional hardship. If there was a proactive step to be taken by the one going through the tough time, then the supportive friend might act like a spotter in a gym by saying, every so often, something along the lines of, “OK, girl–accountability check–what steps have you taken lately? Where are you at?” Kind of like a pre-Facebook-style request for a status update.
Maybe I’ll sit down and have heart-to-hearts with myself. Those conversations when one party shows another tough love, pearls of wisdom, words of advice, and terms of endearment, all rolled into one.
Wait–this insinuates that there are two parties. Except that I’m one person. Should I be worried? (Be afraid; be very afraid)?
Meh, that’s probably harmless. It’s not like I’m dissociating within myself. That’s the Thing (I’ve heard) about Asperger’s/autism; some people are tempted to believe that the autism spectrum is a mental illness, or that we have “co-morbidities”, evidenced by our talking to ourselves. They like to use that as an excuse to keep it residually linked to schizophrenia like it had been so many years ago. A refusal to break the tie, to dissociate the two extremely different conditions. (Or would it be saving face or ego? Who am I to say? I’m not the one making or preserving those pesky associations.)
History of autism and self-conversations aside, I’m not dissociative or schizophrenic. Just because I entertain myself with monologues or process an event vocally under my breath, that doesn’t mean I hallucinate or that I’ve lost touch with reality. You can be autistic, talk to yourself, and still be in complete touch with reality. I should know, and I’m not unique in that regard.
So…where were we? I didn’t stray too far; conversation occurs between friends, after all, and maybe, just maybe I might become friends with myself.
That leads to the next head-scratcher: how in the hell do I be my own friend? What do friends do? In friendships, I’ve often ridden on the social coattails of the other person, taking my cues from them, altering my part of the interaction just enough such that I didn’t come to resemble a parrot.
But when you’re friends with yourself, who do you take your cues from? Can I generate enough camaraderie on my own? Can I keep the momentum? Can I be reliable?
What does one say? Maybe someday, I’ll give myself words of encouragement. Helpful suggestions. Constructive advice. I might even help myself out of a jam. I might soothe myself after stepping into an inevitable periodic land mine, and nurse the post-explosion wounds. I might even change my own virtual dressings and stave off proverbial infection.
I might even make a good friend. God(dess) knows I’ll be up at most hours of the night, given my past-seven-year track record; when everyone else is asleep, I’ll still be there, awake and available. I know that goes without saying, that you’re only there for yourself when you’re awake. That’s a “duh” concept–but what might not be is the devil in the details: the fact that I’m awake when no one else is. During the day, I can tap on the shoulders of any (small) number of people and say, “hey, got a minute? I need to talk/rant/process/whatever”.
But late at night, it’s not exactly kosher to start texting your friends, unless you know for a fact that they’re night owls in general, and that this particular night is no exception. Sometimes, during times like these, your own friendship is all you have.
Wait–this was going to be about me. Let me rephrase that: sometimes, during times like these, my own friendship is all I have.
Because you see, it’s easy for me to say “you” and “we” and “they” – all the other linguistic tenses, maybe because subconsciously, the other linguistic tenses deflect the responsibility and accountability off of myself. All this time, I’ve been talking about myself, or life as I know it, life as I sense it, or even the Asperger’s/autism community based on my own experiences, based on my own observations…as interpreted through my own filters. It’s not as objective or authoritative as it sounds. And god(dess) knows I can sound “authoritative” (read: “bossy”).
In truth, I may have researched a lot. But
perhaps (certainly) I still know little.
So now, I’m coming back to me. Returning toward what lies Within, at my Center, at my Core. Eastern philosophical figures of prominence have long advised the world that the answer does not lie out there; it lies in here, inside each person. It lies Within.
So, it’s time for me to reconnect with my Within. I’ve met it before. We were even on friendly terms. But in recent years, a series of events and situations and challenges had allowed me to become distracted, and forget about my Within. It’s time to reconnect. It’s simply Time.
Will my Within be exactly as I left it? Had I even left it entirely, or did I keep watch over it out of the corner of my eye, like a rearview mirror when you’re driving down a desolate highway? The mirror becomes secondary, or even tertiary; there’s no one else on the road, and you’re driving in the forward direction, so there’s hardly any need to look back; you’ve seen it all before.
Ahem–I’ve seen it all before.
Back on task once again…
Will my Within be well-preserved? Will it be like riding a bike, where I just get back on after years of not riding, and ride flawlessly into the sunset as if I had never dismounted? Or will I be wobbly for the first few minutes? (Or hours? Or even days?) Will I feel like I’m about to fall over as I struggle to gain my balance, my equilibrium, my confidence?
Stabilizing my Within. That sounds pretty refreshing. It also has this interesting ring to it: the Echo of Necessity. It simply needs to happen. I need it to happen. I need to make it happen.
See what I did there? 😉
Maybe my Within will even like me back. Maybe, just maybe, it might begin whispering to me. It has been faithful, continuing to whisper hints on the wind, in the form of what the world at large calls “gut intuition”. I’ve got a great gut, at least in terms of intuition (the literal gut, well, that’s another story). Maybe the whispering will morph into muttering, or something else. I’m pretty sure it won’t scream at me, though, unless I do something egregiously ridiculous. Which, is never completely out of the question.
But I have the feeling that my Within will be gentle. It will give me leeway.
I just might make a pretty good self-friend after all… 😉