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Love, Me

Sweet sweet girl. Strong one, earnest one, hurting one. Your tears are nectar to me, your tenderness a precious gift, your anxiety and fear welcome guests in my house. Come! Drink some tea of buckeye pollen, magnolia petal, the tooth edged leaf of blue vervain and my wide open willingness, no insistence, on loving you.

You are broken open. You are looking in the mirror bravely, blinking, seeing your woundedness, your beauty. Keep looking. Those dark bags under your eyes, the red scaly skin, the stunning marks of the depth to which you feel the world and your own life, the precious frailty of a human body holding so much.

And all the while tracking that which you hold, which is a skill you know, a spell that you cast on yourself and others too, and use as navigation in astounding ways. It is a skill developed through years of demanding self-improvement, which is an honorable thing, but will never win you love, which you do not earn because loveability is a gift given freely by life. In fact, it is life.

I love you in your disbelief of this -- how you know it is true but don't yet live it, feel it deep. That's a most human thing and holy. You are kneeling at the altar of your deepest vulnerabilties, your most secret fears. You are walking through the temple of your shame, your hardness, carrying an empty begging bowl that thirsts for the taste of your tears.

Welcome to the sacred place that is your life. You were invited. I've been expecting you -- not who you could be or will be, you, right now. Right now.

I copied that love letter from last year's journal. That is right about when I began devoting myself to the practice and crucially, since I was also beginning to uncover and turn toward childhood trauma. It continues to surprise me how powerful it feels to celebrate my life, what I'm up to, who I am.

We're taught that praise must come from other people. I've long lived an inner taboo against self-adoration, as if praising myself makes me conceited or vain or cocky. Of course it is wonderful to receive recognition from others, and there is a particular beauty to that interpersonal gift. But other people aren't always around or capable of recognizing us. Usually, they can't love us in the ways we've always longed for, or never got.

That was the first hurdle. It took a long time to realize that my self-hating deep spirals of inadequacy were coming from a little one in me hurting for never being seen, celebrated, or loved. Developmental trauma can make us feel like we don't deserve that care.

If we are lucky enough to come to the truth that we were let down as children, and those children are still suffering in some corner of our psyche, we still have a lover to recruit. We want it from the outside so bad, because we should have got it there, from our parents. That is a beautiful and tender longing. But if we put our loveability and worth into someone else's lap to manage, we risk too much. As much as you wish your parents would have cared for you better, as much as you deserve that care now, at some point we each have to take responsibility for our own selves as adults, admit that we are not children anymore, and meet our own needs.

This is actually extremely empowering, beautiful, and even fun. You realize you are able to love yourself, hold yourself, no matter what. Whoever meets your or doesn't meet you in the end doesn't really matter, because you've got you.

Not every love letter is as poetic as the one above. Most are simple. When I'm hurting and I wish someone would hold me and remind me of my strengths and my beauty, I write a letter and remind me. When I felt heartbroken and abandoned from unrequited love, I wrote a letter "from" my crush to myself, sharing what I most hope he'd see in me, his respect and regrets, how in awe of me he was. The letter I wished he'd write me, which became a love letter from my inner beloved and a gift of praise and recognition for the little one in me so needing to be seen and celebrated.

An easy way to start this practice is to thank yourself at the end of each day. Begin building the muscle and the neuropathway of self-love. Simple gratitudes, like for cooking yourself a meal, for standing up for what you needed at work, for taking yourself on a walk. Begin to recognize yourself, honor yourself, forgive yourself.

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