A few years ago, I used to make lists of friends. Sometimes I would make circles too, signifying layers of friendships. I was teaching myself boundaries. I was teaching myself who to trust. I was learning that even though I want to pop my mouth and spill my deepest darkest secrets to everyone I met that this wasn’t a good idea.
I still spill much of my life to everyone I meet. But I no longer expect something in return from every person I meet.
Sometimes I want to take the time to make a friendship list again. But I no longer need to. Heck, I don’t even want to write the story down of how I got to a place where I had to make lists of who I loved and who loved me back. Or who loved me with all of their faculties running smoothly enough so that they didn’t take me out with one fell swoop of their tongue.
Oh, I am a delicate flower and I want the world to love me back fiercely. I fiercely love the world. Its oranges and light reds and spring greens. The two white birds I saw above my paddle board that flew together and apart, together and apart. I was in such a state of bliss that I wondered if the birds were even real. I want to show these birds to everyone I meet the way that I want to show my soul to them too.
Psychologists might tell me this is a bad idea. Not that love is bad, but my attachment to people’s responses makes interactions tricky. But maybe it’s as simple as this. I visited one of my oldest friends last week and she noted that I often put myself down. To be specific, I put my looks down. In a very vulnerable way, I told her that recently I realized that when I look in the mirror I often am surprised at who I see in that mirror. Yes, it’s the same 45-year-old face that I know very well, but part of me still yearns for sculpted cheekbones and thick, thick hair. I don’t look like a model.
She pointed out that she loves my face because it is mine. And later, when I made fun of my hair, she noted that these rips make other people uncomfortable and for someone who preaches that people should love themselves, well, I’m not loving myself.
Her words hurt, and maybe I wanted her words to be softer and accompanied by chocolate. But this is exactly why I have trouble with relationships. I want other people to adore me because although often I love myself and like myself, sometimes I completely fail on this task and I hate myself. Out loud, in front of other people. I want people to soothe me and make it all better.
But that’s not their job. I’m an adult (groan), so it’s my job to love myself. I get to love myself fiercely, the way I love my girls. They are perfect. I am perfect. My red face, my broad face, my brown age spots and vivid blue eyes, my happy stomach and aching sciatica. My loud voice and out-of-tune singing. I could go on and on, but I’m sure you get it. I need to make friends with myself. I need to love all the parts of me the way my good friends and my husband and my kids do. And I don’t need to make a list of friends and make circles to show me the ones who are best at this job. I don’t need to hire outside of myself. This is an inside job. The only person on this list is me.
Next time I look in the mirror and wish I looked like someone else, what should I say? This is me. Hello. Welcome. I’ll say what I learned in a class with my eldest daughter: Hello fabulous body. Thanks for working for me today, for being strong and awesome. Then when I go out in the world I won’t be asking people to love me every time I open my mouth. Thank god. I think I’ll want to leave my house more often now.