Thursday, October 11, 2012

Stripping Away What No Longer Serves Us

when the time comes
to love yourself well
it takes a good solid month
to stop crying
about everything
you have to let go

~Andrea Gibson

There is a scene in the 2008 Canadian movie One Week when a man in his late 50's or 60's decides to sell his motorcycle; he explains to the buyer that his eyesight isn't what it used to be and that, in a flash, one seems to go  "from diapers to Depends."  It seems that all of us know the popular adage "You can't take anything with you when you go," yet most of us spend our lives collecting "things." Old newspapers, books, photos, clothing. It goes on and on.  Perhaps they aren't material things. Sometimes we hold onto friendships and relationships too tightly even though we know even they will eventually fade. We seem to hate the idea of leaving this life undignified and kicking and screaming as we entered it, but that can often be how it all transpires.  We've all seen people who seem to want to cheat death. 75-year-olds go under the knife for a facelift. Old men cavort with women 30 years their junior. But we all end up in the ground. There is a verse in the Bible that has Jesus saying, "‘Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Matthew 6: 19-21) I particularly like the last part of that passage. You can tell a lot about a person - I can tell a lot about myself - by looking at what we treasure in this life. Do I really need the latest Android phone? Do I need the $300 coat when the $75 coat would do just as well? 

Let's stop talking about death in particular for a moment. I am touched by Andrea Gibson's words that there is so much we have to let go of. I don't think that she is suggesting that we are all hoarders or that owning certain things is a bad thing. She says that there comes a time when we realize that we need to love ourselves well. 

I am learning - slowly - that "loving myself well" means remaining silent when I'd rather cry out for attention. It means spending time with only myself (and maybe a good book) rather than filling my schedule. It means saying "no, thank you" to certain requests for my time or talents.  None of this is easy, of course, because we've grown accustomed to saying yes to almost every request, to almost everything. And to "let go" of so much in our lives is a kind of stripping away, like ripping a band-aid off, but often more painful.

It takes awhile for us to realize that we are good enough just as we are and that we do not need anything - anything to make us more lovable than we already are. We clutter our lives up for years and complicate things so much. It can be different for everyone. The 16-year-old can come to the understanding that she would do well to "tread lightly upon the earth," whereas the 85-year-old may fight this truth to the grave.

Finally, this is a very personal and often lonely process, this stripping away of things as we learn to love ourselves. If we cry out to too many people we can feel bitter when they don't fulfill our many needs. If we share with no one we can be consumed by our pain and loneliness. A solid confidant or two is always beneficial.

May you take even one step closer to loving yourself well today.

Mark Andrew Alward