On living, loving and learning

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On Curious Cat, it comes up often for people to ask me either about loving myself or about my productivity. I understand that I am asked a lot about my productivity because I share a lot on social media about my work and its progress. It’s interesting that the perception is that I am so methodical and diligent. You know, every now and then, I actually wanna tweet: “Oh my god, where can I buy some focus because it’s lit!” but I don’t because my social network includes people with whom I have some kind of deadline at any given time. So, there are some things that I don’t share with as much ease as the next person, that’s all.

Another thing is that I do share about my disappointments, although minimally. I allude to being up all night and crying over drafts and things not going my way but I’m never going to sit there and be self-deprecating on social media. I don’t like to give light and energy and oxygen to those parts because I would rather use as much as I can on the good. When my work isn’t going as well as I would like: I leave it alone. I rest, I go to my favourite restaurants, I pick up a book to read or my colouring book, I build a puzzle or I watch television. I stop and process that I need to get battle-ready for this next thing and maybe I’m not in the mood today or the next two days but eventually, I will get back to it and give it my all. So, that is the ebb and flow of my self-love. I am always giving myself room to feel and do what feels necessary in that moment. If today isn’t the day to get it right then perhaps tomorrow will be.

I also think it’s interesting that self-love and productivity are the things I get asked about often because for me, they are the same thing. It’s important for me to always put my humanity to its best use and my work in Anthropology and with children is exactly that. My work is a testament to loving myself. Doing my work, all the work, is how I love myself. Me being productive, me being creative – it’s all the source giving back to the source. I suppose I am fortunate that my work happens to be exactly what I came to do on this planet. Some people have also asked me: “when or how did you learn to love yourself?” and my answer is usually the same about how all I have in this world is myself and so it follows that I should treat myself with an abundance of goodness. But the question kept tugging at me. I kept thinking: “Is my answer incomplete? Is there something that even I’m missing?” Eventually, I got up and went to my bookshelf, thinking.

I stood there thinking and then it came to me. When I was in Grade 8, an incredible human being and also my English teacher, Byron Sherman would play us these VHS tapes of lectures by Dr Leo Buscaglia. He was in the field of education for special needs children and eventually began lecturing and teaching more widely about how to give love and be love in the classroom as a teacher and obviously as a human being. I used to watch those tapes and cry because I was always so moved by this man with his immense love for people and his determination to give the best of himself to the world. That really resonated with me because I think I wanted that for myself as well. The next year, Mr Sherman gave me Living, Loving & Learning (1982), a book of his lectures. I read that book and then the next year, Mr Sherman gave me Personhood (1978) by him as well but that’s always been the more difficult one so I actually need to return to it soon. Due to the off chance of being on Curious Cat and receiving all sorts of wild and wonderful questions, I’m now reading the first one again. So, thank you. Here is a passage that resonated with me today because I realise that I have carried this teaching with me since I was 14 years old – this is how I see myself and the world.

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Back then, this planted the seed because I was always in search, in pursuit of how to love myself better. I knew that it was important but I was not able to discern what exactly the best and healthiest way of doing that was for me. I was a teenager so that makes sense. I suppose that’s one of the things that pushed me to write because with writing, you’re externalising. So, what you’re looking for but can’t quite find may end up on the page right in front of you. Through this entire creative journey of constantly putting myself on paper and reading myself back to myself as well as listening and reading all of the creative people that I love, I’ve been able to be in constant critical conversation with myself about who I am and who I want to be. I’ve grown to realise that I am all at once that person, developing and growing along my spectrum of possibility. Over the years, I have developed a kind of repertoire for loving myself and it is simply doing the work: eating well, writing the thing, responding to the email, jogging and most importantly, putting myself out of the reach of certain people – even people that I actually want very much to be within reach of. Discipline, right? It’s always been front of mind for most of my life but in terms of feeling like I am actually getting it right, it feels quite recent.

This is as recent as my book coming out. I’ve realised that its important for me to be critically reflective about what I put into the world so that I feel good about it being representative of who I am. This extends to all aspects of my life and especially to how I treat myself. The only thing I have control over is myself, how I react, how I move and what I create. So, I am vehemently committed to trying my damnedest every day. That is a loving act. I will wake up every morning and I will try. In that day, I will get distracted and lose sight of the mission and that’s fine because the next day, I will wake up again and I will try. That is the rhythm in my head.

I believe wholeheartedly that I am always starting again and so I don’t believe in failure. There are goals that I want to accomplish but not having attained those things is not failure – that is me resting, or getting distracted but the very next day, I wake up and I try again. This is why I am finding so much joy in life and why I am always willing to celebrate everything I do – because I know how much of me it takes to do it and I am proud of it all the same. I am affirming of myself and so, so generous because I know the exact kind of softness that I need. I never count myself out, even when life is painful. I feel and rest through the difficult parts until I am ready. This breath, these lungs, this brain – as long as I am here, so is my ability to try and be glad in it, no matter how long it takes. I am not any kind of self-love expert but I am an expert on loving myself, in this body, in this life. That’s all I have. I am determined to be damn good at it and even when I become distracted, I will wake up the next day and start again. So, I am sharing with you, these books by a brilliant teacher from the brilliant teacher who shared them with me. Through writing this, I realise how blessed I was to be placed in that English class all those years ago. Thank you. I hope these books help.

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Thank you, Mr Sherman for being generous with your time and heart in helping me to truly become visible to myself.