"If You Don't Love Yourself, How the Hell Are You Gonna Love Somebody Else?"
I’ve never been someone who is good at not knowing things. As a kid I can remember always flipping to the end of the book looking for the resolution to the problem, too anxious to wait and see how something unfolded. Letting go and letting things unfold naturally has never been my strong suit.
But here’s the real issue with this personality trait, life is packed full of the unknown. Over the last three years, all major pieces of my life collapsed. My parent divorced, we sold our family home in Chicago and I broke up with longtime boyfriend. Everything around me crumbled into a massive pile of the unknown, and what had been stable for so long was now a puddle on the floor. My life had dissolved into memories, and anything that I had taken for solid was now gone.
From the rubble of our lives, my mom and I decided to move together to Paris and we began the long journey towards rebuilding a sense of normal life in a foreign country. Now, everything around me was unknown. I didn't know how to grocery shop (French people had RULES for shopping.) I didn't have any friends or know where to find any friends. I didn't know if I had made a terrible mistake leaving my boyfriend or if I was going to live with my mom forever, Grey Gardens style and we would slowly dissolve into madness together.
Learning how to deal with the feeling of being in the unknown was absolute torture, because all I craved and yearned for was stability, but everywhere I looked I felt like I was just jumping from lilly pad to lilly pad, barely keeping myself going. So what did I do with all this unknown? I obsessed about people and relationships. I obsessed especially about my new on and off again relationship with a man who put me through the ringer emotionally by breaking up with me, and changing his mind about said breakup, every time the doorbell rang.
I obsessed about the future and I obsessed about choices I had made. I obsessed and obsessed to the point of exhaustion, and then I would obsess a little more.
I see this so often, this pervasive and powerful feeling motivating most of our modern lives, where we’re constantly in a fearful state of self doubt and doubtful of a loving Universe. A lot of time I felt left behind by God. As if I was somehow abandoned and alone in this state of the unknown was a real feeling of emptiness.
So what did I do with this feeling of hating the unknown? I wish I could say that I developed a healthy meditation practice and learned to manage my obsessions with mindfulness. The real story with that I decided to move to Former Yugoslavia and tried to make it work with my profoundly (comically really) unstable relationship.
Do you know that saying that if you keep ignoring the signs from God they just get bigger and louder? I finally woke up the day I fell off a flight of loft stairs in my Croatian apartment and almost died. I literally tumbled out of the loft to the concrete floor below.
That day was the day I realized, “HOLY SHIT WHAT AM I DOING?” and began yet another journey towards really waking myself up.
Something in me shifted that day, because after returning to my little apartment after a crazy adventure to the Croatian hospital (definitely a story for another time) I realized how profoundly I had let my fears and obsessions make my choices, and how far away from truly taking care of myself I had wandered.
I cried. I cried and cried. I was emotionally and physically broken. I realized that the thing that I had been trying to avoid was how scared I was. And how obsessing and over thinking was just a shitty way of trying to avoid feeling how completely unloved and rejected I felt.
But through the tears and moments of real pain, I heard that night something emerge from my depths of my own soul that sounded something like “GIRL, you need to sit your ass down and learn to love yourself. You came to Croatia to be in a relationship with someone who’s unstable, and instead you need to get good with yourself first. Love your own damn self. Stop ignoring you. Stop pushing yourself so hard. Get grounded.”
Seriously. No joke. A strong independent woman voice finally emerged from my crash and I couldn't ignore the powerful truth of what she was saying. From that night forward, something in me shifted. Falling off the stairs was the best thing that ever happened to me, because it stopped me in my tracks and actually forced me to get in touch with my feelings. Instead of feeling sorry for myself though, I truly felt compassion for this young woman who was trying so hard to feel loved that she was willing to Zagreb alone in the middle of the winter. I mean, that shit took courage. Even if it was totally insane.
I left Zagreb and began to actually heal that impulsive behavior by learning to be more patient and calm with my own emotions. I listened to my fears and anxieties, and honored them with a “Girl, I understand,” sort of approach instead of letting all those feeling make so many of my choices. I might have moved to Croatia to fall in love with someone else, but the real gift it gave me was the lesson of falling in love with myself.
Learning to let go of needing to know the outcome was the best gift I have ever given myself. There were beautiful gifts on the horizon for me (I know that now looking back) that I would meet new incredible people and find powerful and stable love in my life. But the most important shift that happened was I learned to hold the tension of the unknown and not freak out. If I get caught up in obsessive thinking, instead of trying to control it (that shit is like trying to heard cats, it doesn't work,) I place my hand on my own heart and whisper a little prayer to God that goes something like, “I feel scared right now. Thank you for comforting me in this moment of the unknown. I am so grateful.”