Friday, February 22, 2013

Woman, love thyself!

Love After Love
The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other's welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life. 
I was fortunate enough to introduce the above poem by the Nobel Prize-winning Caribbean poet Derek Walcott to my junior and senior high school students a few weeks ago, and I was struck by the tenderness of the poem.

He is not suggesting the kind of self-absorption that becomes destructive or all-encompassing; he merely exhorts people to stop rushing around for a moment and take the time to notice and appreciate how far they have come, how they have changed, and who they are becoming.

This particularly needs to be heard, in my opinion, by women. As mothers, wives, sisters and daughters, we are often tempted to ignore personal needs or wants in favor of a family member, a spouse, a child, or even a friend or co-worker. We sometimes lose ourselves in the various roles we play in our daily lives. I have seen too many times the woman who, once her children are grown and her husband has passed on, realizes she has completely lost her own sense of self-identity.

This is precisely the type of thing Walcott is pressing for us to prevent. It may not be original, but nevertheless it is true: it is impossible to truly love others before you love yourself.  Go back and find who you are, what you want out of your life, what you want to become. Define your own inner beauty. Then figure out how you can get it. Become the woman you want to be, and your happiness will spill over to all of the people around you--husband, wife, children, parents, co-workers, friends... Your self-confidence will be contagious and those around you will wonder what you have done.

It's so simple, really. Why is it so relatively rare for women to take time for themselves? Perhaps we feel guilty spending time on something we see as purely "selfish." But if we never take time for ourselves, we really diminish our capacity to give to others. We shrink and become a little more bitter with each request made of our limited resources. It may not become evident right away, but eventually the day comes where we feel hollowed out, with nothing more to give. We need to replenish the well by filling ourselves with love. Find your joy and do what gives you a sense of accomplishment and fun regularly. Our children will see us treating ourselves with love and respect and will model their own self-treatment on our behavior. It could be writing, exercise, visual art, music, or even something as simple as a few minutes of daily meditation or a bubble bath. Just take the time for YOU. Make an appointment with yourself. Write it in pen on your calendar and refuse to reschedule. You deserve it. You are beautiful.

This post was written in conjunction with the marvelous author August McLaughlin's Beauty of a Woman BlogFest. To read more posts from the Fest, click here


Anonymous said...

It's so important to take time and relax like you're talking about. Thanks for the reminder. I too often get caught up in the need to help others and forget to take care of myself too.

Minerva said...

I completely understand! I think it takes a lot of intention and practice to get the balance of me-time to others-time right. I'm definitely still working on this myself!
Thanks for the comment!

Bill said...

Wow, I really like that poem. And yes, yes to everything. Take your advice. :-)

Minerva said...

thanks sweetie :) I'll try!!

Kathryn Treat said...

Lovely. That poem was wonderful. Thank you for sharing it with all of us.

Sabrina Garie said...

Perfect poem and great question--why is it so hard for women to take time for ourselves. It just seems between work, parenthood, and other obligations, that we have to steal time to get some for ourselves. When I do, it means I don't always have the cleanest house on the block or best meals but those are not always the most important things.

Minerva said...

Kathryn, I'm glad you enjoyed the poem. It's one of my recent favorites. Thanks for stopping by!

Sabrina, I completely agree--sometimes it seems like we have to steal time for ourselves while sacrificing perfection in other areas...although at least for me, even without taking time for myself nothing is perfect!! :) There is truth to the saying "If mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy." I have to remind myself of this on a regular basis. Thanks for your comment!

Coleen Patrick said...

"Find your joy"--I so agree. Lovely post, Kristine!

Debra Eve | Later Bloomer said...

This is so beautiful and so true: "Our children will see us treating ourselves with love and respect and will model their own self-treatment on our behavior." This is my first introduction to your blog through August's fest, Kristine. I love your sentiments and that background!

Anonymous said...

As a girl who loves indulging in her fair share of guilty pleasures, I love this post! Indulge away my dear! It is good for you!

Ellen M. Gregg said...

Beautiful! I love the poem - it's new to me. I love, even more, your urging to treat ourselves with care. To recognize that taking care of self is the most important thing we can do for ourselves as women. The effects of that self-care will ripple over the rest of life and benefit everyone in it. Win-win.

Minerva said...

Coleen--Thanks, and thank you for stopping by!

Debra--thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed it :)

Jess--I know, but it's one of those things I have to constantly remind myself is "OK." :)

Ellen--so true, it IS a win-win! As long as we can manage to truly enjoy whatever we are doing for ourselves without feeling guilty!