Love Yourself First

I was hiking in the winter woods

Among my top 5 favorite things along with

2) walking in a city, finding my way,

3) riding ocean waves or river on belly, board, or boat,

4) preparing food in a quiet kitchen fully content chopping, stirring, spicing and tasting, then sharing that food with people I love, and

5) making a love out of a stranger

The above is an excerpt from a poem I wrote in Baltimore, fully aware of my privilege. You can read it here.

When I was hiking in the winter woods on Friday last, it was a forced action upon remembering this stanza of this poem. After driving around all day, and feeling a little overwhelmed by my plan for 2018, I realized my desire for connection had less to do with wanting affection and more to do with finding stillness in nature.

“I go among the trees and sit still” – Wendell Berry

I reread this line

Slower each time

The only place I am guaranteed to find sober freedom

I jotted these lines in my journal last night, another reminder of the peace I find in the woods.

In the Woods

On Friday, I had about 30 minutes. I drove to the nearby state park to be alone among the pines. There was, just at my turn around point, a tree heavy laden with powdery snow beginning to melt. The moisture bearing down on it so it arched above the path, above my dog.

"Heaven laden," I heard myself say. I felt that way. And in the same moment I jabbed at my emotions for being all wrong and told them they should be gratitude instead.

Truth is, I have everything I need.

I am aware that I can get by and and quite on very little income. People are my currency, and there are so many with whom I share an equal love exchange.

But I battle this feeling of not-enoughness almost daily. Feeling heavy laden with some sort of out of sync agitation that tempts me to seek what I need from the people rather than nature.

Here's the thing. People are fantastic. I love people. Maybe you don't, that's fine, but I do. I frickin' LOVE people.

My problem is, that I will inevitably choose people over silence, outward connection over stillness, conversation over sitting among the trees, any day, given the choice, if I'm not grounded, or jolted awake by saying something that reminds me of a poem I wrote to which I must pay attention.

I moved to the mountains to find love

Yea, I'll admit it

I was seeking romance

Romance with the mountains

To be absorbed by them

Stand in their midst

Like a sponge filling completely with their wildness

Nature never fails to provide exactly what I need

Her beauty, unmatched

Her silence

the most secure friendship

I haven't enough of her lately

In the mystery of human attraction

I've neglected the mysticism of nature

Nature never disappointments

Sure there are storms

Sometimes she's so cold

all I can bear to do is cozy up on the couch

I see this as her way of hugging me tightly

But it's not stormy today

And so time to climb her side

Look out over valley

And wait

I chose to be alone in the woods on Friday. Alone to be reminded that this is why I am here. That this is enough.

It rarely takes long for forested solitude to humble me.

And I always feel enveloped in love in the woods, alone.

I turned down the path toward my car, and noticed I'd received a text from a new friend. I felt warm and glad -- glad that I'd remembered my love before another needed remind me--glad I chose alone, to love myself first.

Love Yourself First

So often, I tell my students (and myself) that prioritizing self-loving self-care before meeting the needs of others is, in fact, the most selfless way of being. We show up ready, grounded, needs met, able to love and give more fully.

What I realized on my solo decent was this:

It is not only to essential to love myself first, before giving the dregs of me away. I must also love myself before expecting anyone else to love me.

Perhaps you already got this. It doesn't seem totally new to me now as I type it here. But I haven't practiced it deeply. I'm getting the self-love piece, and the need to prioritize my own needs, but I slip into excuses of hope (a word May Erlewine says is just another word for lust) that another will come to my rescue, let me off the hook for self-love. Love me enough for us both.

The woods are my most reliable solution. The place I can go for truth and connection.

“I go among the trees and sit still” – Wendell Berry

Where do you go to find connection? Where do you go to love yourself first?

Share about your self-love journey on the Grounded Here Community forum.

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