As I’m sure comes to a surprise to absolutely no one, I’ve been thinking (again, always) about self-partnership — the way that we show up for and stand by ourselves each day. Even when it’s hard. Even when we have a ton on our to-do lists. Even when our hearts are broken. Even when everyone else is shouting for our attention. Even when we are too depressed to get out of bed.
In particular, I’ve been thinking about how to even conceive of what is possible in that partnership when you don’t have any real-life role models for it what it looks like to unconditionally love, support, and nourish ourselves.
I know how it feels to abandon myself — to extract my energy without a care to my own replenishment, to muscle through, to ignore my body until it begs for my attention, to say yes when I want to say no, to overpromise and overdeliver. If feels like nothing. It feels like a void. A brain in space, highly focused on what is expected, desired, or demanded of me. It feels like no concept of where my body ends or the rest of the world around me begins.
There is no moisturizer in self-abandonment. Or daily vitamins. Moving my body is an unnecessary time-suck here, and is continually pushed to next week’s agenda. In self-abandonment needs are problems that I don’t have time for, and, thus, must be avoided.
I know that if I am not attentive to the warning signs, I slip into this mode of operating like a second skin.
In some ways it is easy here. I know the lay of the land. Ignoring my body enables me to be so much more productive. The more productive I am, the more external validation I receive. In other ways, it is excruciating to be a brain without a body, a mind on a mission with no time to tend to myself.
I know how easily it happens. The late nights. The promises. The heightened sense of responsibility. The delicious afterglow of a moment of praise that quickly fades and kicks me in to hyperdrive, hungry for another.
My body of work, both personally and professionally, is to bridge the gap from self-abandonment to self-partnership.
You may not identify with self-abandonment, even as you are routinely dehydrated, holding out getting up to pee as a reward for scratching just one more thing off of your to-do list, or saving your expensive body oil for a “special occasion”, only to have it inevitably go rancid in your bathroom cabinet.
You may not identify with self-abandonment, because you do not have role models for what it looks like to prioritize the actions that nourish and support you on a daily basis. This wasn’t a conversation that was happening around the kitchen table when you were a kid.
Self-abandonment cycles through generations, supported by familial lore and belief systems around what it means to work hard and be seen as a good, valuable, and worthy human being. These belief systems are powerful guiding forces, which is why learning how to partner with yourself requires more than bath bombs and buying a bouquet of flowers. Because of the collective lack of conversation around having and tending to our needs, you too often interpret the presence of your yearning as further evidence of your unworthiness.
But, the presence of your needs is a fact and not a flaw. This isn’t a conversation to have with yourself all alone while you cry in the bathroom between meetings or after everyone in your house is asleep. This is work that begs for the kind of conversation and witnessing that is best done in a community of like-minded humans.
This is what we do here, in these emails and in my classes and workshops.
Anything other than a full embrace of your inherent neediness is self-abandonment. Bypassing or ignoring your needs is an abdication of your role of tender steward and sovereign leader of your own life. When your needs are lovingly attended to, something profound inside of you shifts. With time, this tending heals the part of you that has been held at arm’s length or avoided altogether.
In “When it Don’t Come Easy,” Patty Griffin sang:
But if you break down
I’ll drive out and find you
If you forget my love
I’ll try to remind you
And stay by you when it don’t come easy
This week, these lyrics are my role model for unconditional self-partnership.
If you break down, I will drive out and find you. If you forget my love, I will try to remind you. I will stay by you, even when it doesn’t come easily.
I will whisper those words to myself, a vow to embrace my wholeness.
I wanted to share them with you, in case you could use a guiding light right now, too.