I asked Jeff to get me a new gold chain for the pendant I always wear for Valentine’s Day. You know, because jewelry is one of those things you’re supposed to ask for on Valentine’s Day. I had lost the original gold chain long ago and had been wearing it with one that made my neck itch. I didn’t realize until I looked at my necklace in the mirror what a perfect Valentine’s gift it really was.
Valentine’s Day has never really been about romantic love for me. From an early age it was about getting chocolate and stuffed animals from my mom and sharing candy at school (side note: candy is one of my love languages). It’s about family and friendship and the many definitions of love.
So let’s break it down.
This necklace is engraved with my name in Arabic, the language of my ancestors on my mother’s side. I think about how much love my great-grandpa must have had and how hard he worked to bring his family to this country. I don’t know him but I am pretty sure he thought about his future family to come when he made such a big decision.
My parents got this necklace for me while they were living in Saudi Arabia before I was born. My mom didn’t have any ultrasounds with me. I could’ve come out any kind of way but somehow she knew I was Lauren. My parents have always loved me and known me better than I know myself. That’s love. And that’s where I learned to love.
Now, the new chain comes from my husband. My new family. The person who loves me because he chooses to, not just because we’re related. That’s a pretty amazing kind of love. Not only does he take great care of me, he takes care of our friends and our dog who are also an important part of our new family.
Now I’m not sure how “Lauren” translates to Arabic but one way or another these symbols represent me. The last few years I’ve struggled a lot with self-love. I took every mistake, failure, and every person I disappointed very hard. Those things are hard to avoid in life no matter how hard you try, so I was sad often. I started to feel worse and worse about myself.
At one point before getting married I had a breakdown. Making a forever decision felt really daunting and scary but the decision to marry Jeff seemed like a good one, so I was confused. I heard a voice in my head that said, “It’s not that you don’t love him, it’s that you don’t love yourself.”
That kind of sucked to hear. I really love people, I love a lot of things, so why can’t I love myself, the person I spend the most time with? I know how much my parents love me, I know how much my husband loves me, I know that I have friends who love me, but there are days I can’t believe anyone can, does, or ever would love me.
And it’s because I don’t (always) love myself.
Now here is where I wish I had some cure-all magical tips for loving yourself, but I don’t.
But I can tell you, you’re not alone if that helps at all. Whether you’ve got Depression with a capital D or are just suffering from some winter or Valentine’s Day blues. Know that you’re not alone. In fact, we’re making pretzels tonight if you want to come over and literally not be alone. We bought a home with more rooms than we need so we’re always ready for desks. Even if the two spare rooms are occupied we’ve got a fold-out bed and a blow-up mattress. Our door is always open–not literally, but we can give you the code.
If you feel unlovable know that I feel it too. And know that those thoughts are coming from darkness and not from your true self. Because deep down somewhere, and maybe it’s been buried very deep and covered with hurt, you know how amazing you are. You know there are things you can do that no one else can do in quite the same way. Try and take care of yourself. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Don’t believe people who are too hard on you. There are a lot of unforgiving people out there and you can’t let them get you down.
We each have our own ways to snap out of things, some people, and I don’t understand them, actually love to exercise. They need it. Some of us exercise because we know it’ll feel good eventually. Sometimes chocolate helps, sometimes soup does. Recently I was told biting into a lemon can help change your mood–if nothing else it shocks you out of a funk. Some days you need to take off and some days you need to work harder. Take some time and get to know what helps you and then make it a priority to do those things.
Some days you have to take a long shower and just try and forget about the fishes or roommates who need it. A huge part of my problem is I feel guilty for everything. Anything nice I do for myself could go to someone else who needs it more, but you have to take time and focus on you. It’s the airplane analogy where you can’t help others until you first help yourself.
I am always plugging this book, The Body Keeps the Score, and I’ll never stop. In one section it takes about things that can help ground us such as yoga and acting. Sometimes hobbies feel like more work or like a silly indulgence but they can also really help your mental health and help you love yourself.
There’s a reason I wrote my last blog post about gifts you can buy someone else or yourself. Seriously, buy yourself some comfy underwear/leggings it’ll make a difference. Or a cozy robe or blanket or whatever makes you happy or some of that fancy chocolate when it goes on sale.
Today (and hopefully every day) is a day to remember all the people in your life who you love and who love you back and most importantly to love yourself because you’re not getting away from yourself whether you’re in a relationship or not.