And the second is like to it: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. There is no other commandment greater than these. Mark 12:31
Dearly beloved, let us love one another, for charity is of God. And every one that loveth, is born of God, and knoweth God. 1John 4:7
I don’t know where I ran into these two bible verses but they were just sitting in front of my face somewhere. I couldn’t ignore them. The thing that jumps out at me here is the fact that God didn’t tell us to ‘Like’ everybody (or everything, for that matter). He told us to Love them. Because love is born from God and basically has some sort of magical transformative power. The other thing that jumps out is that the entire thing presupposes that we love ourselves. Ugh. What a *&^%ing pain in the ass.
I spent most of last summer following a nice little formula for sanity, security and liking myself. It went something like: see my horse x number of times per week, exercise x number of minutes per week, go to mass at least once during the week blah blah blah. There were regular life things, too, like work with the kids on their reading, don’t be such a loud bitch to everybody, do my flylady (flylady.net) routine and THEN and ONLY then would I be allowed to enjoy my summer.
I really felt like I had the bull by the cojones but not quite as psychotically perfectionistic (ha ha) as in summers past. I had some sense of serenity that was the result of my loose (yet moderately fastidious and quantifiable) adherence to a formula. I really liked myself last summer. It was nice. And when I say nice I mean insipidly and conditionally nice. Like how Doofenschmirtz says ‘Nuh-ice…’ The funny thing I realized is that you can like yourself at the same time you loathe and despise great big chunks of yourself.
Then mid-September came and my sister in law Patti was diagnosed with Breast Cancer.
And there it all started to swirl down into the toilet I remember mentioning in my first blogpost. It was a slow draining process that took from September to May 1st to completely finish me off. My construct unraveled. Somewhere along the way, I realized that liking myself is a lame substitute for loving myself and for appreciating my life. Because when the crap hits the fan, as it did in Patti’s life, liking yourself just doesn’t really cut it. In fact, I am now convinced that loving and liking have nothing whatsoever to do with each other. I KNEW, for the first time, staring me in the damn denial-filled face, that my artfully constructed little conditional Method For Serenity and Protection from Bad JuJu was not going to inoculate me from bad shit going down. I mean Patti, who has never done a bad thing in her LIFE, no smoking, barely consumed any alcohol, never cusses, great Mom, great wife, biggest sweetheart EVER, eats like 90% organic and always has, couldn’t protect herself. Shit happens. And it wasn’t her fault, either. And it’s not fair. Just like Jeff’s accident. It wasn’t his fault. And it wasn’t fair that somebody died. Shit just happens.
Patti took to her chemo like a charging bull. She motored through the hair loss, ran through the nausea, prayed through the sleepless nights. Amazing, I thought. She’s got something I want. She was an advocate for her own life. She was strong and resilient. She was weak and afraid. Most notably, she was triumphant.
I don’t think Patti ‘liked’ the way she looked without her hair (although the wig she got was just adorable). But I am guessing that she LOVES herself, her life and everything that she gets to smell, touch, taste and feel pretty much every day now.
I would venture to guess that she loves her scars as proof of her continued existence here on this earthly plane.
But she probably doesn’t like them much at all. And I’d also venture to guess that she doesn’t give much of a crap about not liking them.
Last night at my father’s 77th birthday celebration, Patti took her wig off for everybody to reveal her new hair growth. My Dad rightfully proclaimed, “You look like a chic New York City Gallery owner. Ditch the wig!!!” She looks radiant. Beautiful.
And that, my friends, was not born out of like, I can tell you that much.