“What do you want?”
What a simple… loaded… treacherous question. It is a question that many of us find hardest to respond with any modicum of honesty. Most of initially blurt out the most obvious surface answers. What do we want? We want what anyone wants: to be comfortable financially, lighter in weight and responsibility, to be beautiful, to be loved, to belong, to know that we matter.
Write that down. Write that down, and any other surface answer that comes to mind. Then ask the question again.
“What do you want?”
With the first layer peeled away, perhaps a new list makes its way into your consciousness. Perhaps your inner Dalai Lama surfaces and extends beyond personal wants and needs: We want less of the bad and more of the good. We want people to act like they have some sense (especially the people in our lives), we want everyone to be happy, we want everyone to be free, we want world peace.
Write it down, along with whatever else comes to mind. Ask the question again.
“What do you want?”
This exercise in peeling back the layers of self can go on as long as the layers need removing. It will take as long as it takes. There is no time limit to how long it takes or how deep we choose to go. The act of writing things down gives shape and clarity to our feelings and desires. Every feeling, no matter how frivolous, serves a purpose… even if that purpose is to help us get closer to what we really want, and who we really are. When we are done… when we’ve asked the question, and the singular answer reveals itself, we have the purpose for our choice to grow. We have the mantra that leads to the nature of self love in our singular life.
For as long as I can remember, I have been driven by the weight of responsibility. To myself, I had the responsibility to be strong, to repair all that was broken before me, to be right (to be RIGHT), to know, to be 10 steps ahead of everyone around me that I might help the world be a better place.
But there is is, the ugly reality of what I thought I was and what I knew was expected of me… from myself. On the surface, this noble quest made me work harder, learn as much as I could absorb, and push myself to new heights. Working as a journalist (1995+) gave me the much needed fuel to keep this endeavor going for decades. I excelled at my career, even at one point becoming the youngest executive producer in a mid-market network O&O. I was fixing things… people… making things better. I wish I could tell you that some great journey to some exotic place helped me see to the heart of my being. There was no such romantic notion. Instead, in 2012, while diving deeper into the lessons of energetic expression, our instructor casually asked:
“Would you like to be Right, or would you like to be Free?”
I never looked up. I wrote in all caps: I WANT TO BE FREE.
There it was, the simple reality that I had buried under years of physical and mental effort. I wanted to be free from emotional parasites (the lot of whom I’d gathered over a lifetime and continued to ‘feed’ my energy as they needed), free from the illusory ‘nobility’ of fixing broken things, free of my own unrealistic expectations of what I should be… versus what I actually was. I came in contact with my truest self in a flash of immense emotional pain, in a public space with humans who were kind enough not to react and let me be. There were lots of tears after that… for a period of time that I no longer remember. Lots of moments when I shut down and didn’t deal with anyone for fear of unleashing decades of resentment that I’d built up against my illusory ‘purpose.’ I walked away from a lot of things (and a lot of people) that might have made me more successful on the surface by association, but that threatened to poison my truest self. It was in this period, that I discovered what it was truly like to care to myself.
For me, self care is not about lighting a candle or burning sage. It is not about vacations and walks through nature and puppies and babies. All of these things are wonderful, and I indulge the physical pleasures of such early and often. For me, self care is about time. “The trouble is you think you have time” is the saying. Time is the most precious thing to me. And my time to myself is non-negotiable. I can find that time whenever I need it. It is not in the 10 minutes at the top of my day or the hour at the end. The meditation comes naturally after years of consciousness, and does not impede my ability to hold space for those around me. With guidance by many mentors whose infinite patience and love has allowed me grow, I’ve learned to hold space for my authentic self. I’ve learned to nurture my spirit with quality of breath and intention. That practice makes it so much easier for me to hold space for others (including broken things) without taxing my own spirit. In this, I’ve found balance. In this, I’ve found freedom.