“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence,
it is self-preservation,
and that is an act of political warfare.”
– Audre Lorde
Self-realisation is a necessary but lonely path. Sooner or later, it should happen to you, unless your nature is that of a particularly tenacious ostrich. It is not an overnight train to Bruges. It is a long and prickly road. Sometimes you could swear you have circled the same spot a few times. Chances are, you have. In your endeavour to go within, you will ultimately go without something or the other. Friends. Love and lovers. Lunch company. Movie dates. Something, someone, somewhere. There is bound to be detritus. It is the price of finding who you really are. You must first undergo a trial of everything you are not. And now, can no longer be.
When you reach out to touch yourself you find thorns and rose petals together. You find bird shit on your head from the time you stood still when you should have walked away. You look at people you knew and see yourself in them and wonder what you’re doing there. Then you remember that time you gave yourself away too soon. Or the time you shared parts of you that were not meant for any other eyes. You look at others and you see all these tiny colonies that were once parts of you, when you were more whole. When you were less brittle, and when you didn’t come apart so easily like old bread.
It begins with listening. Quietening the outside and then muting the infernal cacophony of your own mind you arrive at a void that compels you to listen to your body tell you what it needs. Give your gut the stage and let it spill. Give your skin a moment to speak. Does it sweat? Do your pores breathe or do they heat with fevers unexpressed? Do your bowels hold themselves to ransom or do they not let you rest? Your body is telling you things. Listen. Your instinct is speaking, sit down and pay attention. Your mind has reached a point of anxiety that shuts the doors on sleep.
You will wake up some mornings and find sadness curled up like a limp wafer in your trouser pocket. You will feel it folded inside your bra, or tucked deep inside the smelly lint of your belly button. Sadness in little packets waiting to be torn open and inhaled like sweet cocaine. Sadness lying around like awkward denominations of spare change.
Don’t toss it out. It’ll just find its way back. You’re home to it, you see. Wait. Invite it inside. Offer it a seat and ask Sadness what it needs and how you can help it on its way. I have let so many lovers under my skin I have forgotten the weight of my own body. For once, the only one beneath your skin should be you. For once, you need to be on your own side. You need to start saying words like, “No”, and “enough”, and “It’s not right for me,” – because they are true. You will become more rigid with yourself, deny yourself more, indulge your weaknesses less – because this too is a kind of love. The kind you have not had enough of and the kind you need right now.
Love that is gentle, quiet, yet firm. Love that is supportive, unquestioning in its loyalty to you, and impossible to disappoint. Love that sits by your side the nights you cannot sleep and lays cold, wet washcloths over your burning forehead when you’re filled with rage at being alone once more. Love that refuses you that one-night-stand, that impossibly beautiful but malignant lover, that irresistibly terrible affair. Love that stays your hand when you want to text back in anger. Love that waits patiently when you’re learning the unfamiliar language of integrity and self-respect.
“I cannot go back to what hurt me.”
“I forgive myself.”
“I love you no matter what.”
Love that forgives. And forgives again. And again. A love that is unseen by your eyes, known by your blood, and still so often denied. Love that you deserve and can finally, finally feel worthy of.