As soon as we turn the calendar page to February, we'll be entering the land of love.
Some people look forward to this annual recognition and others do not. Levels of enthusiam tend to hinge on one's relationship status. I have spent many-a February dreading the 14th. Like, can we get it over with already? You know... the barage of Instagram posts with beautiful couples out on beautiful dates. The baecations. The roses. The jewelry. None of which I was receiving, at least not regularly.
From my mid-twenties and well into my early thirties, love = an intimate relationship = happiness. The problem was, the end result for me was often misery. Something was NOT adding up!
Typing this thought alone unearths some flashbacks and PTSD. For years, I felt flawed and like a walking embarrasment when I was single. Without an intimate partner, how could I be whole? Without being on a man's pedastal, how could I measure my value?
It has taken a lot of counseling, stumbling, crying and healing to move through this trauma which I discovered was tantamount to emotional self-harm.
I still love love and I still value companionship, but I am so glad I reached a point where I don't feel like I have to have an external manifestation of love in order to be deemed valuable. I just am.
Delving into my journey feels a bit futile to me because there is no prescription for healing. Everyone's path is different. However, if you are reading this and you are in that phase of longing for external validation (which we often term "love"), my one remark will be that you have nothing to lose yet everything to gain by challenging this deep-seated notion. Freedom and acceptance are on the other side of that mountain. True love is still there, too.
For the sake of transparency, I will share that two practices in particular helped me through the healing process.
One was the acceptance of seasons. Ecclesiastes 3 in the Bible best captures the laundry list of life's ups and downs that we must all face and move through over time. "For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven...," it begins. At various points in my life, this did not resonate with me. I wanted what I wanted when I wanted it and that was the end of that. I was intensely frustrated when I didn't get what I thought I deserved, and love was at the top of the list. But thank God for maturity. It eventually just clicked.
Things and people come and go. I cannot control what enters and exits. All I can do is sustain my joy to the best of my ability and do good. The rest will fall into place.
The other practice was self-care. When I accepted that doing good is one of the few things that I can largely control, I resolved that this effort must include my physical and emotional well-being as well.
My eyes began to open to all of the ways that I was negelcting myself to the core.
Self-care, especially with regard to my mental health, has been the ultimate exercise in patience and forgiveness. Learning to communicate about my emotions, my dreams, my traumas and my hopes has helped me become more nurturing and compassionate overall. Becoming more cognizant of how my words affect my own self-esteem has opened my eyes to how my words affect others. These are great revelations that are applied to all types of relationships.
Don't get me wrong. I still fall short of MY measure of progress. I still trip up an speak to myself and others in a tone that is less than pleasant. But I keep trying.
So in the whirlwind of Valentine's Day 2021, which stretches out for weeks in real life, commit to self-care and self-love regardless of your relationship status. The benefits are innumerable.
At Mahogany Manifesto, we're all about frameworks. They are great starting points for reflection.
Our primary self-care framework is the Nine Dimensions of Wellness, but another good one is the Five Love Languages, as shown below. Love languages are most often discussed in terms of how you relate to an intimate partner, but they have applications in you self-care practice, too.
Putting words to our joys and happy spaces can helps us allocate our time in ways that serve us best.
This month, observe how you choose to rest and reinvigorate.
Whatever you end up doing, carve out time for more of it.
Make February 2021 a month of pure indulgence.
All for you.