desert-tortoise-987972_1920I am emerging. Emerging and rejoining the world.

I spent a lot of time in the past five years shrinking my world. Shedding things and ideas that no longer served me. I shrunk my huge circle of acquaintances around the world and focused on spending time with people who brought joy to my life. My inner circle.

Mostly I’ve spent time by myself. At first, I became friends with myself and my intuition after years of not liking who I was or what I did or how I was spending my time on this planet. And once I became friends with myself and started believing in myself, I then realised I needed to go further — I actually needed to love myself.

That was hard. I realised I had never been taught how to love. I don’t think many people are taught how to love. We just assume it’s an instinctual thing. But I’m not sure it is.

As I examined the various relationships in my life, especially those with people I thought I did love or had loved, I came to see that something was missing. And when I thought about the people who said they loved me, I wondered how they could, considering I didn’t love me.

The love I had modelled to me as a child was one of doing. My mom DID stuff. She was always doing stuff for me, my brother, my dad. Doing stuff for others came to equal love in my eyes.

Except when I married a guy I thought I loved and who I thought loved me, I did stuff but it never seemed enough. As the years went by, I did more and more stuff for him, for the kids — but little for me. All of the doing ended up breaking me.

I finally couldn’t do anymore and needed to figure out what I needed.

The psychologist Erich Fromm says love is really about six things: care, commitment, respect, responsibility, trust and knowledge. I like this definition. (And I like that it doesn’t mention anything about DOing.) Too often in my life, care has been equated with love. Care is care. It’s important but it’s only one part of the love equation.

Walking away from my marriage was the best thing I could do to take care of myself at the time. And every step I’ve taken in the past five years has been to build care, commitment, respect, responsibility, trust and knowledge for myself, about myself. Knowing that I couldn’t possibly truly love another person if I didn’t know how to love myself first.

I could probably write a blog post (or several) on each of these love factors and the lessons I’ve learned as I integrated them into my life but for right now, this post will have to do.

As I learned how to love myself, I’ve also looked at my relationships with others, especially my daughters. I realised that for years, I had modelled the ‘care’ part of love well, but not many of the other factors.

When I asked them how they knew I love them, they said, “because you look after us well.” I realised that I needed to start talking about and SHOWING them the rest of what love looks like too, not just the DOING/caring if they are going to be equipped with the tools to have loving relationships with others throughout their lives.

So I took that on. The more I learned to love myself, I learned to teach them about love in a way that was never taught to me.

Since coming back from Peru last year, respecting myself and trusting myself led me to further shrink my world. I’ve listened to the whisper of my soul, now that it feels safe and loved and protected by me. I’ve loved this time of getting to know me; the instinctual wild woman archetype that lives inside me. One who needs quiet and solitude and nature and art and creativity to flourish.

I’ve come to see that part of loving myself has been to discover what brings me joy. Creativity – my art, my craft, writing, dancing – all add to my joy quotient.

As I do each morning this year, I picked up Coming Home to Myself: Reflections for Nurturing a Woman’s Body & Soul by Marion Woodman and Jill Mellick. Each morning I look forward to randomly opening to a passage from this book and every morning I get exactly the reading I need for that day. This morning was no exception.

“When doing is all we know, being is another word for ceasing to exist. When being flows through dance and paint and song, joy is no longer luxury but absolute need.”

And now that I understand my need for joy and love in my life, I’m ready to come out of the quiet and trust my wild instincts. My instincts allow life to unfold naturally. To let what comes, come. To let what goes, go. To remain unattached to outcomes. To be true to myself.

I’ve been busy creating artworks and will have a stall at my local markets this weekend. It feels like the right time to put some of my works that have been created in joy, out into the world. If they sell, they are meant to go and the money I earn is meant to come in.

I’m also exploring options to host further empowerment retreats and am hopeful my next one will come together before the end of the year on the south coast of Australia. I’ve been offered a beautiful venue and I’ve created and developed a program to nurture body, spirit and mind. If it comes together, it’s meant to come together and will attract the right participants.

This past week I’ve been contacted about doing some consulting work back in the healthcare arena, which feels good. The organisations I’m entering conversations with fit well with my values and I’m interested in seeing where these initial conversations might lead.

I’m loving not only myself, but all of those around me in a different way than I ever have before. And that love is being reflected back to me.

So it feels like the right time to emerge back into the wider world. I feel ready, wiser and more wild than ever.

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