A small series of seemingly insignificant moments led me to a bleak and unsettling realization last night: I've never truly loved myself.
I've loved almost everything but myself. I've poured my heart and soul into friendships, relationships, writing, other people's dreams, and relatively unextraordinary activities, but at the end of the day, it feels like cooking a bunch of food and giving it all away without saving a single morsel for myself. I feel perpetually lost and empty and perpetually confused as to why I can't cultivate this elusive self-love everyone speaks of. I've had brief moments of what appeared to be self-love, but it's never real. Love is powerful, lasting, and all-encompassing. It never truly goes away, whether it burns as bright as a flame or as dull as a lantern in the dark. Loving something on a part-time or occasional basis isn't love. Therefore, I can't say I've experienced truly radical self-love. The kind that helps me move on from what doesn't serve me and inspires me to live a stimulating and authentic life that doesn't involve working, sleeping, Interneting, and simply trying to get by.
I always seek to love things that can love me back. When I receive love, attention or validation from another source, I feel an incredibly warm sense of content. But it's fleeting because those sources can only give me so much. Nothing and no one realistically has the capacity to complete me or live a fulfilling life for me. I can't be at the top of anyone's priority list except my own, and I don't know how to get there.
When I fell in love for the first time, it felt like the most beautiful thing in the world. He filled all my empty spaces and bandaged all my wounds, but it was all temporary. He couldn't fix me. He couldn't wrap my problems in a pretty bow. So when it ended, I was right back where I started - wounds and all. And I blamed him. He hurt me. He couldn't accept the love I was willing to give. He abandoned me.
Being loved by him made it easier for me to avoid the work of loving myself. It took me months and months to realize this from a place of awareness and gratitude. It took me months to realize that it couldn't have ended any other way. You have to lose what you love over and over and over again before you realize that the missing piece of the puzzle is you and what you're depriving yourself of.
And yet, I continue giving all my love and all of myself to other people. To other people's lives. To art, music, long drives, to-do lists, my dog...All in hopes that somewhere along the way, I'll find what I need. But I'm afraid I won't find it like this.