How to Love Yourself

Here’s the thing. You have to forgive yourself.

Forgive yourself for the time you were 6 and your grandma asked you to come sit with her and you said no. Forgive yourself for the sadness in her eyes. Forgive yourself that you can’t take it back and she’s no longer here.

Forgive yourself for the days when just one iced mocha isn’t enough. Forgive yourself when you consume too much sugar and your skin is a mess and you don’t go to the gym because you’d rather lay in bed and watch Sex & the City reruns.

Forgive yourself for feeling happy and sad when you receive a friend’s wedding invitation. Forgive yourself for secretly doubting that anyone will ever love you like that. Forgive yourself for all the other things that haven’t happened yet.

Forgive yourself for dating a man who didn’t love or respect you. Forgive yourself for letting him talk you into ordering whiskey when you asked for water. Forgive yourself for taking far too long to get over him.

Forgive yourself for feeling jealous of other girls. Forgive yourself for not being brave enough to dress like them. Forgive yourself for feeling too self-conscious to wear bright makeup and cut your hair short.

Forgive yourself for letting others down. Forgive yourself for mean things you said and every selfish thought and the times you didn’t show up. Forgive yourself for breaking promises — to others, to yourself.

Forgive yourself for not always choosing the right path. Forgive yourself for getting lost along the way. Forgive yourself that somewhere, in a parallel universe, another version of you is doing life better.

Forgive. And know that there is still time for you.

Heartbeats

You will fall in love.

You will see the best of that person. You will see the worst of that person.

And you will decide you want both.

You will let that love burn you and melt away the walls you’ve built up around your heart.

You will find your heartbeat again.

Love is a beautiful and terrifying thing.

Because it’s hard to know if you’re losing yourself, or if you’re becoming more of yourself…

The version that fits perfectly with someone else.

In Spaces Between

Sometimes you collapse on the floor, put your head in your hands, and cry and cry and cry.

Eventually, you stop. You lift your eight hundred pound head from your palms and somehow manage to stand. You walk into the bathroom, splash water on your face and remove what’s left of your mascara.

You return to your room and there is nothing. There is only you. You ask for permission to give up and the darkness answers.

The short answer is no. The long answer is no. You cannot give up.

You crawl under the covers and beg the darkness to swallow you if it refuses to let you quit. It concedes and you feel your body grow heavy with sleep.

Tomorrow will be good. Tomorrow you will start over. This is just one of the spaces between.

Things I Know About God

- He will find me if I get lost.
– He uses the dry seasons to prepare my heart for rain.
– He has shown me grace.
– He is showing me grace.
– He will continue to show me grace.
– He will not love me less and cannot love me more.
– He doesn’t need me to be pretty for him.
– With him, everyone is welcome.

Unfolding

Life is full of go-to-the-gym-out-of-guilt, barista-messes-up-your-coffee-order, praying-no-one-leaves-you-a-voicemail kind of days. And I’m glad. Despite what we think we want sometimes, life cannot be an ongoing dramatic scene. We need the mundane days. They help us rejuvenate and recognize when important moments slip in.

I don’t know how to define the good moments but I know they’re cloud-like and free and drenched in sunlight. Like the feeling of totally, unapologetically being yourself with someone and knowing they find you charming. The feeling of a whole day with nothing but whatever you want on the agenda. The feeling of someone holding you close, kissing your forehead and promising, “I will love you.”

I guess what I’m saying is that your life is beautiful and continuously unfolding. You will worry about how your career will turn out and what’s fair and how you measure up against peers. You will forget that you don’t have a career. You have a life. And all the mundane days and the beautiful moments will add up to something greater than you can imagine. Keep the faith. Be truthful. Say thank you.

Breathe

I’m twenty-six years old and learning how to breathe. How to really take deep breaths.

Some days I worry. I tell myself stories about what everyone else is doing. That they’re getting married and having babies and buying houses. They’re on track to do all the things you’re supposed to do in life.

And I’m twenty-six. Learning how to breathe.

Sometimes I tell myself stories about what I’m doing. That I’m falling behind and making mistakes and wrecking my future. I’m still struggling to figure out the basics.

But, it’s not worry that stops me.

Paralysis does.

So I’m learning how to breathe. Because breathing helps me move forward.

When I breathe, I tell myself stories about God. That if he wanted me to be perfect, he would have made me perfect. If my life was a binding contract, he would have made me sign it before he gave my first breath.

And I’m okay. Twenty-six and breathing.

The Elevator

I saw you in an elevator.

You wore feather earrings and worn leather boots. You had an apron in hand, so I can only assume you were going to or from work. I wore a blue hoodie and carried a notepad in my messenger bag.

The moment I saw you I smiled because there was something beyond pretty about you. You looked warm and smart and trustworthy. We made brief eye contact. You saw me smiling at you and your face sort of lit up. Then you looked back at your phone and finished your text message.

I intended to get off on the 12th floor but decided to stay on until you left. We rode that elevator all the way up and all the way down. You stayed. I stayed too. We both pretended not to notice that neither of us had moved.

I knew I had to say something to you by the time the elevator stopped again. Maybe I’d ask what you’re doing here, or compliment your earrings. Maybe I’d invite you to join me for a cup of coffee at the café across the street.

The door opened. I said nothing.

I fell in love with you that day, as much as you can fall in love with someone you’ve never spoken to. I decided you wore that apron every day to afford a master’s degree. You smiled warmly at everyone who got on the elevator so I knew you were the kind of girl I could introduce to my friends. I wondered how you like your eggs cooked and if we’d spend Christmas with my family or yours.

For weeks we rode that elevator and never spoke. We watched as various people got on and off throughout the day, sometimes exchanging glances when a particularly unusual guest joined us. When the woman wearing copious amounts of perfume forgot her surroundings and sang aloud with her iPod, you and I shared a non-verbal agreement: she’s crazy. I felt connected to you in that moment.

You pulled out a book to read every day but, even after nine weeks, you never got past the first chapter. I wish you’d drop it so I could see the cover and ask you about it. I promised myself I’d talk to you if you gave me a sign. I set deadlines. By noon today, I’ll ask you a question. By tomorrow morning, I’ll know your name and ask you out.

Another day passed. I remained silent.

Sometime during week twelve I started to resent you. I hated the way you glared at me when I crunched on an apple too loudly. I hated the way you looked at some other guy in the elevator that morning, practically throwing yourself at him right in front of me. I hated the way you made it impossible for me to leave; how you held me back from finishing my novel or meeting someone new.

Just when I had started to forgive you at the end of week fourteen, you surprised me. You put your book back in your purse and swiftly, defiantly pushed a button. The elevator opened and you took a step toward the door. You paused and looked back, willing me to stop you from leaving.

I want to tell you how much our almost-conversations mean but instead I watch you go. The door closes and I spend the next minute mourning the Christmases we’ll never have together.

I ride the elevator back up and get off on the 12th floor.

* Note: This fictional piece was written for a creative writing class and does not follow the usual format of my blog.