Last Valentine’s Day, I wrote a step by step guide on how to be your own damn Valentine. This year I’d rather highlight the flaws in our collective consciousness as they pertain to love and self-actualization, meanwhile owning up to my own foibles. Because times they are a changin’, mama, and I am chock full of foibles. Also feminist rage. … Also coffee.
First, I take issue with the idea of self-love as a checkpoint en route to “real” love, involving two people. Or three people — I’m not here to judge. The belief that one cannot fully love another human until one loves herself, while likely true and wise and well-meaning, still identifies romantic love as the end goal. And though I’m not anti-relationship (at least not currently), I think slapping the onus of completing you on someone who, while lovely, is not you demonstrates blatant disregard for all of the work you’ve already put into becoming your best self.
Further gumming up the works, there’s the “kiss enough frogs” mentality that grotesquely suggests every partner we mount, each supposedly less amphibious than the one before, teaches us a subtle lesson about what we really need in a relationship. But what about kissing frogs for its own sake because making out is the best? What about kissing frogs as a means to personal achievement; connecting with others as a means to further solidifying your own autonomy?… Not so you can more effectively love your soulmate when said soulmate finally floats by on his/her resplendent lily pad, but so you become unsinkable on the murky pilgrimage to your own place of peace.
The thing is, relationships come and go, but the focus will always come back to you and your opportunities for growth. Or, because this is my blog, ME and MY opportunities for growth. One such opportunity: I am a deeply self-conscious soul. I always have been. I was not a rascally, bed-headed tomboy running amok through the neighborhood. I was an abnormally precocious indoor kid: easily embarrassed, with early onset OCD and the obsessive need to prove that I was smarter and more talented than the boogery masses surrounding me. I think most creative people suffer from a similar paranoia that simultaneously keeps them from being present and gives them an impetus to make. I write to remind myself that there are valuable thoughts scurrying around in my cerebellum, along with some truly insipid thoughts, i.e. I am adding nothing to this conversation, my arms feel chubby today… my nail beds suck. Whatever. Self-consciousness is a little shadow succubus I have trained to serve me. It’s just one example of a hangup, and relationships are really great at shedding light on hangups.
Relationships can be really great in other ways, too: friendship and sex and closeness are all terribly important life components. And for the record, I am very much pro-love. But personal growth shouldn’t stop when you find someone you adore. Romantic relationships should be another channel to your aforementioned place of peace, another mechanism for working through your hangups. Because you’re enough, all by yourself. And every day, you’re better.
Just two cents from a wizened cat lady, one day too late. Happy February 15th, everyone!