Learning to Be in My Own Company

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I am in a beautiful guesthouse next to a mansion with a beach-style pool, goats, cows, chickens. It’s quiet and jungle-like. I’m here because I taught a workshop this morning and have another tomorrow. And I’m alone. I’m pretty sure for the first time in 34 years, I’m alone.

I’ve done a lot of firsts this year: first time flying alone; first time to Europe; first time flying with four little children alone; first time taking a lead on a project; first time leaving my children for more than a few days; first time designing; leading a workshop…you get the idea. My life is expanding in beautiful ways. But I’ve never been sitting in a space all by myself.

How can this be?

I started this life with another person – my twin sister. And, well, I wasn’t alone in the womb; I had someone to always play with; go through all those awkward firsts with (going to kindergarten; learning to drive; graduating). We even attended the same college. Then I married and surrounded myself with beautiful, yet noisy and needy children. I’m NEVER alone. Not even in the shower (2-year-olds DO NOT believe in privacy).

Then one day I realized, I wanted to be alone; to sit in a room without any demands. Because if no one demanded my attention, my service, my time then maybe I had a say in my needs.

How do I feel right now?

It’s quiet. Like after 10 minutes I craved the pounding of lyrics in my ears. Yet, I didn’t turn on the radio. Thankfully, there is not t.v. here. I held my phone and texted my best friend, but then I also put that down. I checked my email then closed my computer.

And that’s when I had my ‘Mindy Lahiri moment.’

Note: Mindy Lahiri is a fictional character on the t.v. series The Mindy Project. She’s a doctor experiencing life and relationships in NYC. Her views on life are comedic and with definitely make you laugh.

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Image Courtesy of FOX. From The Mindy Project.

I laid on the floor and stared at the ceiling. For a long time. Perhaps I thought there was some kind of answer there. Maybe I thought God was going to whisper some guidance in my ear, and I’d actually hear it because it was painfully silent in that room. Nothing extraordinary happened. I just thought, “Why is this moment so hard?”

Why can’t I just be alone?

Answer: I’m scared. I’m not sure I know how to be alone.

Now what?

Well, I can do the whole “You’re not really alone,” speech. But that doesn’t seem right in this moment. I feel alone. No one else is here. That doesn’t make me lonely. I’m not sad. I’m not worried. I just feel…you guessed it…uncomfortable. And I’m aware of it.

If I have learned anything in the last year, it’s that feeling uncomfortable usually follows a great space for growth.

Geneen Roth said it well: “…learning to keep yourself company. And then learn to be more compassionate company, as if you were somebody you are fond of and wish to encourage.”

So that is my next move; my next lesson. I’m going to be compassionate with myself in the silence. I love this step forward because it’s an extension to the self-love I talked about a few weeks ago. I’m going to spend more time alone. It may be only a few times here and there, but in this space I will no doubt discover depth about myself that are not available in the chaos of noise.

And what is there to be afraid of? It’s just me.

I challenge you to be alone. Really alone and see what happens. Is it easy for you? How do you feel? What do you observe about yourself?

 

Learning Self-Love

“Self-love is the biggest service you can provide humanity.”

I recently discovered that my 6-year-old daughter, who I thought was really helpful at cleaning her room, just shoves toys, dirty laundry, shoes, and books under her little sister’s bed. I lifted up the mattress and found all kinds of goodies begging to be put where they rightfully belonged.

Now you’re going to ask me what does a child’s dirty room have to do with self-love? Well, how many of us shove our issues into some compartment where we can’t see them? Where they are easier to avoid? Where they lay forgotten? Where they collect dust and become unrecognizable? I bet we all do.

In recent months, I have chosen to clean under my bed, uncover all my issues. When I pulled out all the bad memories, hurt feelings and negative emotions, I wanted to turn around and kick it all back under the bed. But why? They’d still be there waiting to be found another day. I couldn’t. I had reached a point in my life where I was ready – or at least I wanted to be – I wanted to heal; I wanted to face my fears; I wanted to experience joy that resonated with God’s love – not a new job, a significant other, or pretty new shoes. I craved purpose, joy and meaning that came from me.

It’s a challenging journey. And I’m getting there. It took a lot of courage to sit in a pile of problems. Sometimes I wanted to curl up and sob. The room was too messy. The hurt too much. But why? I learned that I hadn’t thought myself worthy, deserving, good enough or lovable. Those are hard things to process. In that moment I discovered the part I played in my unhappy moments, my dysfunctional relationships, my failures.

And I’ll tell you, it’s so much easier to love someone else than it is to love myself. We are our worst critic; our toughest competitor; our worst enemy. But I’m working on it. SomeĀ  days it feels selfish. Because choosing to say, “No,” for no other reason than “I don’t feel like that works for me” is really hard for me. I like to make people feel good; I like to heal people; I like to be there for others. And I can still do that. But I realized that I cannot continue to sustain a healthy being if I do this at the cost of my own schedule, my own dreams, and my own love. Loving ourselves isn’t selfish; it’s actually a love that brings us closer to God because it aligns us with our higher purpose, which is to be a witness to God’s love. If we love ourselves, we love others more easily without judgement, without expectations, without playing games. And that is the healing magic of self-love.

What does self-love looks like?

It’s different person to person. For me, self love is:

  • Climbing a tree because I want to. And not being afraid as I rise higher into the canopy. This is living in the present moment and such a healthy practice.
  • Surfing by myself. I have four daughters. I rarely do anything alone, so choosing to do something alone feels very selfish to me. But surfing is so healing, and something I need.
  • Sitting alone in the early morning, drinking coffee, and meditating. Silence is a rare and precious gift in my house. I take it when I can.
  • Dancing. I love to dance. My kitchen is usually my ballroom; it’s where I listen to sexy Latin dance music. It’s where I can get silly with my girls and transform my tile floor into a ballet stage.
  • A bubble bath. This is a place where I create stories and poetry.

So, today I challenge you to take a moment to create space for a little self-love and self-care. You deserve it! And if you have the courage, clean from under your bed. Things will be messy, but eventually everything gets put right where it belongs.

“Live for yourself and be happy on your own. It isn’t any less beautiful. I promise.”