In February of this year, I made a decision to leave a relationship that, to put it bluntly, was completely toxic to me emotionally, physically, and spiritually. I packed my belongings in my 1999 Honda CR-V, cramming things into whatever nook or cranny I could find (In fact, a few weeks ago a discovered some watercolors and paintbrushes in the glove box still). I loaded everything in my car over two days, and then set off. I was hoping that my sometimes functioning CD player would make the 8-hour trip back home to Knoxville.
When I first arrived in Knoxville, I visited my spiritual mentor who told me during our session that I must “mother myself now.” I am a giver. I give my love indiscriminately to everyone, except myself. By the time I had several failed dates and romantic interests after returning to Knoxville, I decided to take this advice and embark on a radical experiment in self-love and nurturing my own spirit.
I’m 23. “In my prime” as many would say. However, I rarely go out to bars with the intent of going home with someone these days. I’m single by choice for now, and this suits me perfectly. Why? Because for once in my life, I am not completely focusing all my energy on someone else and giving myself time to heal and reacquaint myself with sense of self after a losing that entirely in an unhealthy relationship.
Here’s why and how my ongoing “rebound” with myself after a string of rocky relationships has been the best thing I’ve ever done:
- I provide for myself now. In the relationship I left in January, money became leverage in the relationship. Since my move, I’ve learned that I may not have much, but it is my own and that’s beautiful. I pay the rent and utilities for a little house with no roommates. I’m gradually making this house a home through decorating it. I’m trying out new recipes and meal-planning (total old-lady move, but practical). I trim my hedges and sort my recyclables. I have pride that this space is my space – centered towards healing and loving myself.
- Getting to know me- Sometimes we can let relationships get the better of our sense of self, particularly those with toxic habits. I’m now well into my rebound with myself and I can safely say that, frankly, I’m my cup tea. I love language. I’m artistic and intelligent. I can be a homebody sometimes. Baking is therapy for me. I will dance to just about anything. I see beauty in the subtle details of life. I am actively reacquainting myself with all aspects of my personality (good and bad. See number 5) and learning to love, accept, and tweak them all.
- Freedom to be myself- Who cares if I listen Roger and Hammerstein, switch over to some heavy progressive rock, then finish the playlist off with Gregorian chant? Or if I’d rather stay at home rereading Tolkien one night and dance like a fool to some live music the next? There’s a peaceful feeling in knowing that I can be my wild, wonderful self however I please.
- Love, in other forms- Oftentimes, I feel our culture romanticizes romantic love forgetting the importance of other equally beautiful forms of love. I love my friends more than ever. I have a beautiful set of sisters and brothers in spirit who make me laugh, inspire me, encourage me to live life to the fullest, and accept me just the way I am. The same goes for my closest family members. Just as trees absorb nutrients from the soil through their roots, my family has encouraged me in this new period of independence and self-reliance. Then there is what I like to think of the truest form of “free love,” if you will, loving strangers. Engage in beautiful conversations with strangers. Volunteer wherever you feel called to act. Love everyone. There’s something about being open and loving to everyone that encourages chance encounters that might just teach you to love and honor yourself a tad more.
- Space to reflect- Over the past few months, I’ve had time reflect on my own flaws and why I keep making the same mistakes in my romantic relationships. While I thought that relationships would fix things like trust-issues and jealousy, I found that they only made things worse.What I came to realize is that, by not letting myself have time to reflect, heal, and love myself between relationships, I was doing myself more harm than good. I wasn’t learning from my mistakes, only repeating them. I now know that to heal yourself and love yourself prepares you to love others in a more complete, beautiful way.
- So much time for creative endeavors- I write. I draw. I play music. I dance. I sing. Creativity requires some degree of solitude, and I now have an abundance. As cliché as it my sound, my art is the only lover I choose to keep for the time being.
I’m not sure how long my “rebound” with myself will last, but I’m content to let it last as long as it needs to so that I can fully heal some old wounds. If you garner anything from this post, I hope it’s this – the old adage of you must love yourself before you can truly love others is completely and utterly true. Learning to love yourself, more importantly to see yourself as you truly are – full of foibles and flaws, but of merit and beauty as well, could quite be the most life changing love story you’ll ever have in your life.