And so the breaking came because I was avoiding all the suffering — confronting friends who were taking advantage of me, managing my moods, not being an inconsiderate asshole, building an independent life from scratch, choosing a career that came easy over one that was more difficult, even earning my own money. At the throes of my own avoidance the breaking came for me, and made it all worse. Depression cleaves you away from the love and light than can potentially save you. And the path to love and light is always difficult, always painful, always paved with suffering. Especially when you keep running away from it. And it comes to a point when the weight inside you is so heavy, even your body reacts viscerally to the pain. Thus, the panic attacks in the noodle shop, or in the office bathroom, or even in the safety of my own home.
I’m not saying that to love is to suffer. But I think that love is what makes suffering bearable.
And so the loving thing to do, where self-love truly began, was when I trudged to the first therapist I consulted, and allowed myself, and my whole life, to unravel. To truly feel all the pain that was lurking, left unfelt, all the abandonment, insecurity. To give myself space to rebuild, and to allow that light and love back in. Because that is what love is. It’s walking through the darkness and uncertainty, kindling hope.
Love is only as good as what’s done out of that love, for that love. Self-love is not the sexy stuff. It’s more like, “Don’t fuck up your job.” “Take care of your clients.” “Hug your mom, and tell her that you love her, and that you are thankful for her.” “Keep to your budget.” “Do not flake on your friends.” “Take a bath and brush your teeth every day.”
It’s also thanking others for overcoming suffering to raise you. It’s recognizing how others have overcome greater suffering than you. It’s appreciating that everyone is just going through life, making the best out of whatever cards they’ve been dealt. “This is water,” David Foster Wallace once said.
My professor was not happy in his revelation to us dumb college students because we were stupid. He was happy because in learning to let go of the lies we’ve been taught about love, we’ve started to learn to make way for the real thing.