In this green-smoothie wellness haze we dived into to avoid everything else, people coo, “Oh, I HAVE to do Yoga for my peace of mind” “Meditation soooo mellows me out!” I had not experienced these sensations. No awakenings flew to me during Svasana. I meditate and practice yoga out of physical needs. My body craves the stillness, the reflection, a frozen segment to expand upon infinitely. But in the three years I’ve practiced, I remain as chill as the front burner on my stove– a flick away from the boiling point.
Last Friday was different. Two months built intensely on introspection chugged up to this. Maybe it could have happened anywhere, but it didn’t. This realization struck me on my mat inside a dark, candle lit room. Some people in my life who you’d assume love me unconditionally do not. They do not love me “no matter what”. And then, in this sweltering cave of a room, I thought, “Marisa, you don’t love you no matter what”.
I love me. You know I love me. It is aspirational. That affection roots in who I could be, in a future self who isn’t here or me. I love myself retrospectively, internally embracing the wounded child cradled between my lungs. Where is the space for my current self? Where is the present tense compassion? Because it isn’t emotionally sustainable to only comfort myself in retrospect. So, I’m here on my sweaty mat that’s pretty much a slip-n-slide at this point with this question bearing down on me more than the intentional heat, “Can I love myself no matter what?”
Let me be perfectly clear on what I am asking myself to do: Can I provide unwavering support for myself? Can I refuse disappointment when my life takes an unconventional path? Can I love myself fat or thin? Rich or poor? High functioning or struggling with my mental health? Whether I build a life with a man or a woman or independently– can I still be my biggest fan? Childless or a mother? Because up until this point, I did not view it as a necessity to be ride-or-die for myself.
I convinced myself that the only way I could be worthy is if I were perfect and other people deemed me worthy. The cravings to be wanted and perfectionism are knotted together. I believed that I HAD to be exemplary to be wanted, that my mortal self was not enticing enough. I understand now that what I needed was to be beheld as myself in rawest form. I cannot do that while performing, beneath the daunting weight of a mask. And so, I found myself in coercive and abusive scenarios that I did not leave because I felt wanted. I sacrificed my well-being for that. And now, I forgive myself for confusing abuse for affection. I didn’t know the difference—only how desperately I craved to feel special and great and wanted. Love, I now know, is the opposite. It reminds us that it’s not leaving regardless of how flawed we are.
I associate my difference and ambiguity with flaw. I am perpetually anxious because I fit into no boxes. Besides my rampant girliness, every other aspect of my personhood straddles worlds. I tote a politician’s brain and a poet’s heart. I command fierce discipline and complete unruliness. I wish desperately that I were simple. You have no idea how much I wish I could measure my ambition with a single rule, contain my connection behind a white picket fence, be a symmetrical grid of a woman. I am not. I think this is why I relish being a sister and a daughter so much: because you either are these things or you aren’t. I am both, and it’s simple. Most of my life is not simple.
I fear that my life will not align with socially prescriptive narratives that I stew in utter paralysis, hoping for a sign, a person, a permission slip that expired long before this moment. The most inane part is that I don’t know that I want the socially prescribed things. I just want to know that I could have them– like reaching for the brass ring or checking a box. I want to say that I did it so I don’t wind through regret in order to get what I need when I’m free. Here’s why that’s nuts: I am never free for as long as I expect someone else to be the expert on me. This applies to everything: my body, my career choices, my romantic choices. I have sought approval my whole life. When all the weight is placed outside of yourself, how could you possibly feel grounded and whole?
Largely, my becoming has not been cued by sanctimonious fireworks. I always knew I could write. I believe I am a writer. It was a coasting toward pursuing that more, fleshing out how I can do this– it is ongoing. Queerness is another space where most of my friends expressed that they kissed someone of the same sex and BAM EPIPHANY!! That never happened for me. It was a brewing, a curiosity, a question I toyed with. Professionally, spiritually, I prowl like a feral cat. Recently, I realized it wasn’t about the answer. Stability isn’t inside seemingly stable things (a living space, a belief system, a brand of toothpaste). The most stabilizing thing I can do is act, react, think and live as myself as opposed to inconstant worry of how others will perceive me. Love without trust is pointless. I am re-learning how to trust myself, my voice, the timing of my life.
Throughout the weekend, I kept pressing on this. “You’re trying to build in the breaking. That’s why it’s not working” I think. What if I’m not being broken but being made? And this becoming is messy. It can be so gruelingly confusing. But maybe it’s taking a while because it’s gonna be gooooooood. Good the way cold brew is or a ribs or some other scrumptious thing that requires an outrageous amount of time when I want it now. This is going to be so good if I can stay with me. The sooner I learn that most aspects of personhood are transient, intangible, subjective, and in flux, the easier it will be to live inside my own head. The more present I will be in my life as opposed to constantly awaiting some dropping anvil. We cannot predict everything that occurs in life. That does not exempt us from the planning. It frees us from the expectation when those plans go awry. It frees us from flogging ourselves because we’re no longer held to the impossible standard of perfection.
I thought the pedestal was the correct elevation for affection. Love— the real stuff, the good stuff—is at the ground level. It’s not on a screen or in currency. It’s the safe universe people build together. You don’t start building sky high. There’s nothing tethering it when things get shaky. We should build together, but if it isn’t rooted in the ground, the infrastructure has no permanence. The right stuff will make roots where the wrong stuff grows legs.
Self-actualization isn’t green smoothies or even finding accurate labels for ourselves. It arrives when guards soften enough that the truth can waft through. Whether that’s in a Wendy’s parking lot, your bedroom, or a yoga studio, the truth know its birthday even when we don’t. I didn’t know I didn’t love myself no matter what until I did. Until I was laying on a heated floor, blanketed in my own sweat, eyes closed. And when the truth arrived, I let it in. I held it close—tears stinging my clasped eyelids because for the first time, I realized I can love myself no matter what. Part of me wanted to gawk at myself in this moment. Another white lady crying in a yoga class because she’s sooooo moved. How original! Who the hell am I? And then I realized, “a brave new girl”.