Last month I drove from Mammoth Lakes to Sherman Oaks, California (a part of LA) to attend a women’s writing workshop with author, Amy Ferris. I recently wrote a review of one of her books, Marrying George Clooney, Confession from a Midlife Crisis. The workshop was two full days and because Mammoth is a seven hour drive from LA, I rented an Airbnb for four days so I wouldn’t have to drive at night (I’m a crap driver when it gets dark).
Before I left home I put a sticky note by everyone’s beds telling them how much I loved them. The girls took theirs down and played with them and the slips of paper eventually got lost in the detritus that tends to collect on the floors of children’s rooms. Eric’s is still stuck directly above where he sleeps. I love that he hasn’t taken it down.
A few days ago my youngest daughter, L, knocked softly and came into my room while I was getting dressed for the day. I was quickly pulling on thermals (it is still COLD in Mammoth Lakes) when she pointed at the pink note and asked, “What does that say, mama?”
L is four years old and is very curious about the written word. She makes up her own spelling for all kinds of words and now has started to identify some words on her own. Pre-reading is a magical time. Instead of reading it word for word, I summarized, “it’s a love note from me to daddy. It tells daddy that I love him very much.”
She nodded and puffed her lips out, thinking. I’d gotten my other leg in my thermals and was now putting on wool socks when she said, “okay, but did you write yourself a note?”
I just stopped. L has large blue eyes. She looks very much like me. I stopped and looked at the little human in my life, the tiny four year old who had just dropped a truth bomb on me, and all before I’d even finished my first cup of coffee for the day.
“Did I write myself a note to say I loved me?”
“Uh huh,” she nodded, her eyes locked inquisitively to mine.
“I, well, no...” I was at a loss for words. Instead I squatted down and opened my arms up to her. “I didn’t write myself a note, but I will next time, okay?”
“Okay!” And she flitted into my arms like a tiny fairy, then pulled away, bowed deeply, and pirouetted, because right now everything in her life is a make believe ballerina game.
Her words chewed at me all day the way only your own offspring’s words can do. Do I love myself? How do I know if I do? How do I write a note to say I love myself?
At the writer’s workshop I attended a few weeks previously one of the prompts had been how to fall in love with myself and I had been completely stumped. All around me women’s fingers flew on their keyboards, tapping what I later listened to as excellent suggestions, but I couldn’t do it when it came to me. Instead, I set a wish for myself that I’d live long enough to see my girls into adulthood, and possibly meet their children. That wish was intrinsically linked with the hope it would specifically not be suicide that ended my life before I got to see all those things.
That was the only prompt in two days when I was stuck. The rest of the time I let my words flow and I met the challenge of each prompt eagerly. I’d been experiencing writer’s block for months and there was something about the personalization of the prompts and the ability to share with other writers (especially other women) that finally unlocked the floodgates of my writing.
Do I love myself?
Here’s what I know how to do when it comes to myself: I respect myself and my boundaries and my limitations. I also push and challenge myself constantly. I give myself time to rest and to reset. I remove toxic people from my life and my family’s life. I take care of my body. I try to meet my creative and emotional needs and I set goals for myself. I very much love others.
But, does all of that equate to loving oneself? And if doesn’t, what DOES? How would you define loving yourself?
I find it very hard to write out these words: I. love. myself.
It makes me feel uncomfortable to say that, but why? I don’t know. I’m trying to figure it out. My daughter thinks I’m deserving of self love, so maybe I should listen to her truth bomb again, “did you write yourself a note?”
I’ve been to writing workshops before. They’re very important. Octavia Butler once said,
A workshop is a way of renting an audience, and making sure you’re communicating what you think you’re communicating. It’s so easy as a young writer to think you’re been very clear when in fact you haven’t.
I’ve received feedback (sometimes solicited, sometimes not) on my writing many times, but at Amy’s workshop there was also emotional feedback, and at this point in my writing (and my life), that was everything for me. It was helpful, nourishing, and rejuvenating.
I’m not sure I have this whole ‘loving myself’ thing down yet, but I will keep writing; I have a feeling that it’s writing that will get me there. When I do, I’ll write myself that note and post it somewhere that L can see too.
I am hosting Amy Ferris for a women’s writers’ workshop this July 8-9 in Mammoth Lakes, California. Please join us and please share this event with any women writers in your life. Details are here.