Being My Valentine – The foundation of self-love

It’s 10pm, thunder is rumbling and the lightning flickers through the gap in the curtain that I leave tucked open so Thando can look out at night. I take a moment to give him head rubs and smoosh him (cue cute aggression here) because he is the definition of love and super chonky and snuggly. 

I just finished reading Eat Pray Love, surprisingly only the second time with the first being way back in 2006 when it was first published. Just like then, this book touched me deeply. 

I closed the book with one hand on either side, pushing together the pages from cover to cover to hold in the beauty of this story and savour just for another moment the presence of greatness that is Elizabeth Gilbert. I brought my face to the paper’s edge and inhaled drawing in pencil shavings, and hope, and nostalgia – and tears filled my eyes from deep down inside me. 

I’m reminded of a yoga class back in 2021 where the magnificent and ethereal Charlie shared her magic with us. I don’t remember the specific theme or type of yoga (cause this woman is skilled in Chinese yoga, Hawaiian yoga, all the somatic body stuff) but I do remember that we were working on a specific part of the body that stored our emotions, our traumas. I want to say it was the kidneys and the gall bladder but I also don’t want to google right now and go down a whole different path with this story.

Throughout the session, I felt emotional. Waves of deep-rooted pain surged forward. I experienced moments of sheer elation. At the end, listening to the beautiful rendition of Somewhere Over The Rainbow by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole, in Shavasana (lying on my back, eyes closed, allowing my body to surrender) – I cried. I connected with my soul. I told Charlie about it right after the class and she was so happy for me because that’s the reaction she intended. And I got it.

There have been other moments, fleeting and I long to be able to tap into them at will, that seem to ask of me to allow this inner person out and stop hiding her or pushing her away. 

Like when I allowed myself to embark on this writing journey. Or when I type a meaningful post or record a video that I know will be relatable and probably help someone out there. 

But I chicken out, leave it in draft or delete the video, and then I feel shame for thinking I have anything to say that anyone would want to hear. Most of the time I can tell you with confidence that I’m scared of absolutely nothing. I mean, have you met me? I’m a force to be reckoned with! And that’s when we’re getting along! It’s safe to say you do not want to be on the receiving end of my wrath… 

Yet here I am scared of baring my soul, my deepest desires and dreams, of being vulnerable with the real stuff. Coming from a childhood of severe violence and abuse, most of my adult life revolves around feeling worthy, enough, lovable, and allowed to take up space. As a child, I was not “allowed” to be me, despite my ferocious spirit, and still, I consciously need to give myself permission. 

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not shy, or introverted. I’m loud and can be brash and shocking too. If you receive me in that confident, unconventional, “out-there” kind of way, I’ve controlled the narrative. I don’t have to let you see the me inside who is scared to death of being abandoned, of being told lies, of being let down, of not being loved, and especially of being humiliated.

Over the past couple of months, writing has become so difficult for me, and where I initially thought it was due to some emotional issues I needed to resolve, I’m realising it’s because that inner me is fighting back. She wants out. She wants to be seen. She wants to take up all the space she deserves. She wants to tell her story. 

And I’m scared to death of how that will come out in my writing. She’s already showing up in my day job, fighting for her space to be recognised as knowledgeable and not undermined. (Luckily I work with some amazing people that, while they do encourage a more calm reaction, they also appreciate my passion and give me the autonomy to fix my mistakes.) I’m scared too of how it will change the ME that everyone has gotten to know. I’m not scared of change, I don’t think. It’s more the rawness that comes with being exposed. The risk of showing myself to the world and not being what people expect, think I should be or worse of all – not being what they want. Childhood trauma often leads to the need for validation as an adult.

But then I think of the book I just read. It is raw and vulnerable and yet realistic. Liz sees the ugly things and talks about them without shame. But she also highlights the absolute beauty in the simple things in life. Something that particularly resonates for me because of where I am in my journey, is when she refers to a Zen Buddhist belief “that an oak tree is brought into creation by two forces at the same time. Obviously, there is the acorn from which it all begins, the seed which holds all the promise and potential, which grows into the tree. Everybody can see that. But only a few can recognise that there is another force operating here as well – the future tree itself, which wants so badly to exist that it pulls the acorn into being, drawing the seedling forth with longing out of the void, guiding the evolution from nothingness to maturity. In this respect, say the Zens, it is the oak tree that creates the very acorn from which it was born.” She goes on to say that she believes the woman she was at the time of writing the book, pulled her younger self forward through all the transformation she underwent to make sure she could become her. She was always going to be her saying “Yes – grow! Change! Evolve! Come and meet me here, where I already exist in wholeness and maturity! I need you to grow into me!” 

I love her articulation of the process I’m living right now. I am being called by my future self to become the woman I am meant to be. If only it was as easy as reaching out a hand and grabbing on for dear life. Alas, my journey is never linear, with so many roads intersecting right now making it impossible for me to move forward without some major changes. Some major acceptances. I’m midway through a course on being more visible, what that visibility means to me, and how I want to be seen. 

The course instructor, Lauren Currie, is phenomenal, not only in what she’s achieved professionally but also in how she shares her story to influence so many of us who struggle working in the open. She asks us to write our own visibility manifesto, and shares her statements – here is one that hits home with me:

I will be writing my own manifesto, but that’s a pretty fantastic place to start. If I only reach one person who can relate to my story or experience, then I’ve achieved my objective. If someone is pushed forward on their journey, then I’m meant to be doing this. 

Of course this poses the question – how do I do that? Well for starters, I’m going to publish this. It doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be done. Then I have to keep pressing publish, posting and doing my work in the open. When I started I envisioned sharing my journey for the exact reason of finding a community where we share our stories to help each other along. Yet here I am, using the excuse of perfection when it will always be a work in progress – an ever-evolving discovery of self. It won’t always be pretty, it won’t always be easy to write or to read, but it’ll be real. And that’s the most important thing – to be authentically ME. Unfiltered, unedited.

So who am I doing it for? Firstly, for my inner child who always hoped that someone would show up for her. Here I am. It’s me. I am the only person who is going to show up for her every single time she needs me. Secondly, it’s for my future self that needs me to do this work so I can meet her, and sit in that moment knowing I was her all along. Thirdly, for my sisters, daughters and granddaughter who have traveled this journey with me – through some shared experiences and some consequences of my childhood trauma. We are healing generational traumas. And lastly, for the many women who grew up as I did and had to fight for every breath they took. Look at us now, we’re still here. We’ve fought this far. I want us to get to a place where we don’t have to fight anymore. Where we can just be the best versions of ourselves knowing that we’ve got this. 

So in honour of Valentine’s Day, I am being my own Valentine, showing up for me, my inner child and my future self. I’ve got us. Always. 

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