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Sweet Introspection (?)

Can I see myself softly? A troubling question has surfaced: Is my entire experiment based on a Catch 22? The process of introspection seems to require a gentleness, otherwise it’s just more criticism.

Some who know me and have been reading this blog have suggested I may be too hard on myself…

My message to you is to throw away all this harsh self-criticism as soon as you can! (Maybe winter is a hard time to do that.) ….. Do you think it is possible that at this watershed in your life (end of relationship, midlife, etc.) you are putting on a severe and highly critical pair of glasses through which to look back over your life? —Anonymous

Others (as previous blog posts have suggested) find I do not see my own self-worth.

Others yet have pointed out that my inner Judge is a tad too judgy.

My friend Caitlin, during a transatlantic phone conversation the other day, brought up my thwarted love episode and his comments to me, which had set me spinning in a vortex of confusion.

© kristine weilert via unsplash

She pointed out that one takeaway from the #MeToo movement has been women learning to step away from seeing things/ourselves through the lens of patriarchy-masculinity-men. Clearly it is the most common way of seeing.

How much of our own self-judgement is biased, and infused with the man’s take on things? It feels important to start to learn to shift our perceptions to something that’s more our own, a view that’s infused with the wisdom, generosity, empathy and softness that femininity and matriarchy have to offer.

Can we learn to refocus the lens and perceive the world in a new light, as unadulterated as possible by the angle/take/bias/needs of the dominant male? Caitlin made a great point and it’s helpful, if daunting, to start considering these ideas.

© raul najera via unsplash

When I started this challenge on Valentine’s Day, I was making a commitment to a new level of introspection. Introspection with the goal of growing, and leaving behind toxic patterns. And all of this so that I could finally figure out how to return the love I give, and the love I crave, to my self.

It occurs to me now that to succeed at this challenge, to succeed at constructive introspection, I must be able to see myself clearly, in a natural light, no harshness or criticism. There is a certain requisite gentleness.

But if I already knew how to be loving and gentle with myself and see myself softly, then I’d already be doing it and this blog would have no need to exist.

© guido fua via unsplash

This whole project may actually be based on a sort of Catch 22.

Not giving enough love to myself — So I’d better look inside and see what’s going on — But if I want this thing to be fruitful, I’d better look inside with kindness, not judgement — But wait, I forget how to do that — Where can I learn that? — I must look inside, you say? — Well can you pass me a different flashlight? This light is too harsh … and on and on …

Or perhaps it’s not as bad as I think. Perhaps there is a leap of faith that must occur to get the ball rolling. Perhaps I must make an initial deal with myself:

If I free up a bit of gentleness, and lay off on seeing things/myself in that customary harsh light, I may quickly reap the benefits of a clearer, truer perception and weighing of me.

If that mind tweak is successful, and the images that begin to appear in the developer are indeed truer, clearer, brighter, lighter, then I suppose the next question is, what do I do with this new vision? How will I take it and run with it?

© isabel harris cooney 2008


I’m flattered, but listen…

One fine day (not so long ago!!) I also realized that in addition to all of the above (which leaves destruction in its wake, believe me), I was also avoiding myself. Expecting the “lover” to compensate for the love I craved but wasn’t able to produce for myself. Asking the impossible.

Dear Friend,

How shall I say this?

I understand that you are having some feelings for me. I don’t deny there is a really nice energy between us, a familiarity that settled in right from the start. A wave-length harmony.

We haven’t known each other for that long and plus you don’t speak English so you haven’t been reading up on this young blog about how right now I’m all about figuring out how to love myself and how to stop falling in and out of love with other people all the time.

red rose, romance, valentine's, love, couples, love me like crazy, self-love, love addiction
© jamie street via unsplash

So let me try to summarize my scene.

I have spent my entire life —starting in pre-school— chasing after boys, claiming them as my own whenever possible, then dropping them sooner, or later.

I’ll spare you the details of primary school and pubescent romance (though I could name each boy for you if you asked me to).

If we fast forward to adulthood, starting at the age of 21, I never didn’t have a boyfriend (or husband). The longest gap between relationships (in the 25 year period since then) was 5 and 1/2 months, and that was actually because I had very seriously challenged myself to not be in a relationship for a year.

Even during my marriage I was tempted by, or started falling in love with, other men.

The bridge out of my marriage was a new relationship. Quite often I’ll leave one guy for another. It has been rather never-ending.

It took me a very long time to see that this pattern of being drawn like a moth to the porch light to the nectar of new love, this unquenchable thirst for connection and the feeling of being cherished and desired, is my own worst addiction. No drinky, no (more) smokey, but smoochy smoochy and fluttery heart and love notes and holding hands and … you get the drift.

What’s the problem here, you may ask? So, you’re into love! Love is the greatest! So it didn’t work out sometimes. And sometimes it did. What could be more holy than love, and the union between two people?

And you’d have a point. Except for when you sense that a tendency has become so heavy/troublesome/repetitive that it’s caused see-saw to tip and stay stuck that way, you realize (if you’re ready to be honest with yourself) that there’s a problem. That you keep doing the same stupid shit. That you are turning in circles.

And one fine day (not so long ago!!) I also realized that in addition to blindly repeating my mistakes (which leaves destruction in its wake, believe me), I was also avoiding myself. Expecting the “lover” to compensate for the love I craved but wasn’t able to produce for myself. Asking the impossible. Feeling little and unworthy but wanting “him” to make me feel big and loveable and alive.

And ever since my last relationship flopped (with the squashed cherry on top of the maybe-but-no love affair with my beloved high-school friend), I have taken my vows again.

One year… but this time it won’t be 5 1/2 months. One year is the strictest minimum. Not because I want to torture myself. Not because I enjoy random challenges. Not because I like going against what’s natural for me.

Simply because, to speak in addiction terms, I need to recover.

I need to figure out what has been hiding behind this mad love scramble. What I find may not be pretty. This process of recovery may not be easy. But more than anything, I want to feel truly happy in this life, I want to grow and evolve enough so that I feel I’m coming back to myself. To the happy kid I once was. To the happy woman I know I can be.

So if you want to be in my life, which it would appear you do, I invite you to be my friend. Nothing more, nothing less. I hope you understand.

© annie spratt via unsplash

16 Days In: What Do I Have to Show for It?

At the start of this experiment I was sort of hoping to find the perfect “self-love recipe” to apply to myself and swiftly achieve that blissful state of fully accepting my Self, and maybe even graduate to loving me.

Methinks there is a grave need for a check-in.

I’ll just say right off the bat that I’ve practicing NOT beating myself up for only having published 4 posts in 16 days. And for letting 9 days go by without writing.

Those first few days I was so high on the feeling of writing and publishing—not to mention the thrill of praise. And then life happened.

But part of my new mojo (or at least the one I’m aiming for) is accepting that things do not go as planned. And that doing less than your ideal is still OK.

So even though my stats (not that I care…not that I’m looking…or counting…) have been gradually getting less and less exciting, I’m still not succumbing to self-flagellation. Progress? stats, views, visitors,
Oh, those first days were glorious!

But really, what do I care about stats? What is that about? I am not doing this experiment for praise, or recognition, or to please people (ugh). The choice of a blog format was mostly about putting a fire under my arse and keeping the pressure on to write frequently and regularly. But it is clearly easy to get a little too addicted to the “likes,” “follows,” “visits” and “views” not to mention the comments.

I am recalling a sentence from an email I received from a cousin I admire and look up to, after sharing a story with her… “I also think what is so appealing about your piece is your ability to be honest. Writers who write from aloft might as well be blogging (although some blogs are quite moving)” I remember that when I read it I felt momentarily ashamed at my blogging pursuits (so many short-lived blogs over the years, so little cohesiveness).

blogging, blogger, self-love, self-acceptance, self-respect, self-loathing, valentine
thanks to Léonore Cooney Gogibu
(you wouldn’t know it but she tried to coiffe this uncoiffable head just before taking the photo) ;—)

But I trust I will figure out the right balance between writing for me and writing for others. This has *always* been a question in my mind, ever since my first diaries. I noticed early on that I was writing not just for me but in the case that someone else might read them. Note to self. This may merit its own post!

So… in these 9 quiet days, I’ve continued to ponder the big questions, occasionally feeling sparks of inspiration light up my mind, and sometimes I even remember to write things down so I can build on them later.

OK, so the check-in.

Here’s what I’ve remarked upon in the subtle plate tectonics of isabel cooney since this blog was embarrassingly born on Valentine’s day:

  • I’m less and less embarrassed by the whole self-love idea. I think that just the fact of realizing, and sharing, the embarrassment around it all has begun to unblock something. You gotta love the human mind.
  • Having written about the thwarted love affair this summer seems to have dredged up signs of deep sadness around all of the hopes I’d attached to that person, that chemistry, that relationship, that couple-to-be-that-wasn’t. I don’t know many other ways than writing to purge the salty geyser I sense is there, so I guess I know what must be done. If I were to write one sentence here now, what would it be? ……….

    For 25 years I dreamt about you…For what?
  • This may seem obvious to you, but I think at the start of this experiment I was sort of hoping to find the perfect “self-love recipe” to apply to myself and swiftly achieve that blissful state of fully accepting my Self, and maybe even graduate to loving me. But I’ve already realized that no, each one of us has different needs in this mysterious realm. So the “recipe” is necessarily different for each one of us. Holy crap—that’s 7+ billion different recipes!
  • Don’t know quite why but for 2 days straight I have woken up with a smile already on my face. Before I have time to think, or remember who I am. I’m not doing it on purpose but God! it is addictive and I’m hoping this mysterious trend continues!
  • I did something that felt amazing this past week. I was going to say it was “something crazy” but the opposite is true. What’s crazy is how long it took for me to get there. Since I started working for Allies in Recovery 5 years ago, my status has been that of an independent contractor. Thus, taking vacation means no pay. Thus, I just didn’t take any. I always had strong arguments to lean on when one of my daughters gently complained about this (because I kept traveling of course, I just brought my computer/job everywhere we went). Léonore had yet another 2-week school holiday (don’t get me started) and I had proposed that she, Stella and I get away for 4 or 5 days. Until the day before we left, the plan was, she’d provide 2.5 hours of babysitting each day for me to work. But when Léonore asked me if I had to work, everything in me was shouting, “NO!” … so, I did the unthinkable: I took 3 days off. And now I can say with certainty that there is truly something to be said for vacation.

    As my friend Damien commented to me today: “I am very happy for the 3 of you, yes it’s imperative to be able to clear one’s head, even for just a few days, from time to time. For me, it’s actually vital. It allows me to relax, to let go, to step back, to bond with family … all the essential stuff! And when you come back you’re full of energy, ideas, plans. And even for us independent workers, for whom vacation is more expensive, it’s still clearly worth it.”

    I think I’ve found one of my ingredients!! Actual vacations? Free time that’s for something other than working? Yes, please.
  • Speaking of vacations, the main focus of our 5 delightful days in Rennes was “food tourism.” Lord knows I love to eat, and sniff out the best food places. But listening to —and respecting—my own body’s needs, refusals, desires has become a complicated scene.

    Though I don’t yet really understand yet how to go about this, I am fully aware now that something profound needs to shift in my relationship to eating (how/when/what/why…). Figuring this out, or moving closer to doing so, will also be a giant ingredient in my own recipe for Self Love. To be continued… with love!