You know, it’s funny. The more research I do into love, the more I discover that all the evidence for love being a completely intentional thing is well known. It shows up in several different scientific disciplines. Every religion has it in some way, shape, or form. Every culture has believed it to some extent until very recently. So why do we, in an age of extreme enlightenment, feel so intensely that we have no control over our emotions and no ability to choose who to love or how to love or when to love?
Is it the media? Maybe the poets are to blame? Perhaps we should never have abandoned the institution of arranged marriage? These are all ideas I’ve toyed with for some time, but I think the truth is much more painful than that.
If it is true that we can love, truly deeply intimately love, anyone anywhere anytime…
Then why can’t I love myself?
If love is this magical pixie dust that falls from particularly fluffy clouds on bright April mornings, then it completely makes sense why it’s so hard to find the perfect partner. If love requires a particular alignment of the stars or a particular dining environment or the right words while passing the right person in the right lighting, then it’s totally understandable why love is so hard to find.
And it would explain why I just can’t seem to love myself.
But what if we are wrong? Because we are wrong. The evidence is overwhelming. You can love anyone you choose to love. You can love them regardless of your past. You can love them regardless of their past. It doesn’t matter who you are or they are, you can love anyone anywhere anytime.
You can even love yourself.
I think, for most of us, we really do have 4 central facets to our identity: Emotional, Rational, Physical, and Spiritual. Jane McGonigal talks about 4 resiliencies that can make you grow your whole life. She calls them physical, mental, emotional, and social. But the purpose of the social resilience is about community and connection which is functionally identical to what I’m calling your spiritual identity. I bring this up only to point out that even though I’m making up all of this nonsense, other people have made up very similar things.
I think you also have a present identity that is fairly well defined, but past and future identities that are largely abstract. Which means that really your past and future identities are just additional facets of your present identity.
Falling in love with someone means two things - you weave some of your facets with some of their facets to make a lovely little facets quilt or maybe just a facets scarf, and you rewrite bits of some of your facets in response to some of their facets.
Ok, I know, this is all heady stuff. The need for a tl;dr was about 5 posts ago. Here’s the gist. You, the exact “you” you are today, have a particular way of looking at your physical self, your emotional self, your rational self, your spiritual self, your past self and your future self. Maybe you can’t express in words how you actually look at any of these selves. Maybe you don’t even think it’s worth separating them into separate bits. But try to associate a general feeling with each one. If you’re like most people…
You don’t like any of them.
I’m sad to share this with you, but you can’t blame the poets or the media or the institution of marriage for your self-unlove. Well, I suppose you could, but that’s silly. You can, however, learn to love yourself.
Falling in love means that you find connections between your mutual selves with the understanding that your selves are going to change in the process. Falling in love with yourself means the exact same thing. Rationally understanding your feelings. Emotionally understanding your spirituality. And welcoming change to your identity in the process.
Marie Kondo wrote a book on tidying that is quite entertaining. I recommend it highly. Not because I value tidying much in and of itself. But because tidying, particularly the way Ms. Kondo has presented it, is an intensely intimate discussion with all 6 of your facets. In other words, tidying is a simple way for every person to fall in love with themselves.
Her method is surprisingly simple. She lists several categories of material possessions. For each category in order, collect everything you own of that category and put it in one big pile. Pick out the things that spark joy; throw out or donate the rest. After you’ve gone through all your stuff, find a new permanent home for each of those joy sparkers.
It’s obviously a physical activity - lots of touching and seeing. It’s a very rational process; there’s always a clear next task and each task is structured with clear outcomes. “Spark joy” is about as emotional a constraint as you can get. And the end result is to achieve an ideal home environment, free from clutter, care, and unnecessary decisions. You are crafting the perfect environment for the spiritual you.
When you go through all your stuff, you’ll find that you have a three-way battle for the emotional connection to an object. Is this something you can’t let go of because it was important part of your past? Is this something you’re holding on to in the hopes it will one day be useful? Or does it really resonate in a positive, passionate way with your present identity?
Past objects can resonate with your present self. I have my grandfather’s saber on my wall. It makes me smile every time I see it. I also had old letters from ex-girlfriends. They made me feel like an ass every time I read them. The saber is still on the wall; the letters are gone.
You’ll find a dozen of these little conversations with yourself. Things that you swore were important, like two large shoe boxes of correspondence, suddenly seem like historical archives of someone else’s life. Things that have spent years stuffed into a cardboard box may find themselves the center of attention.
It’s curious when everything around you feels like it matters - the stuff that doesn’t matter sticks out like a sore thumb. I suspect this is the underlying reason behind Marie’s claim that if you follow her process you won’t relapse. In most decluttering schemes, your only incentive for not messing your place up is because you worked so hard to get it clean. If you only have what you love and it already has a permanent home that makes you smile every time you see it there, then putting things where they belong is an act of joy.
Yes, cleaning up after yourself can be joyful. Haha, there are a few people from my past who, if they read that last bit, might need medical attention. I recommend always reading my blogs with a buddy, for safety’s sake.
For the first time in my life, I feel like I own my home. It belongs to me. Everything is where I want it and to the best of my present ability, kept in a way that makes me smile every time I see it. My home is now my vacation resort.
In all fairness, I loved my home before I went through the decluttering exercise. And I have always loved my life, there’s simply not another one like it. But that isn’t the same as loving me…
I can honestly say I’ve never spent much time learning to love myself. I haven’t really ever even taken the time to get to know myself. I know my ideas. I know my schedule. I know all my stories. But I have no idea what I want, very little idea what I prefer. I can’t count the number of times that I’ve been asked, in what was clearly a vulnerable moment of trust and intimacy for the asker, what I wanted; and I can’t count the number of times that I’ve been completely unaware and incapable of deciding what I want. Those numbers would be very nearly equal.
Did tidying up give me some newfound ability to know what I want in every situation? No, of course not. But it did offer me a long overdue conversation with myself about who I am and who I enjoy being. I really like being me.
Ms. Kondo, should you ever run across this post in your virtual travels, please accept my deepest and most sincere gratitude for your book. It is a delight to find someone who makes one feel as though they’ve discovered a kindred spirit. I could never have imagined someone could encourage me to discover a kindred spirit in myself. For this most of all, but also for a home free from the chains that bound me to my past shame and my future fears, thank you.
Posted with : Bare with Me