Thursday, April 28, 2016

Why your soulmate has got to be yourself - Throwback Thursday

When I got divorced at the ripe old age of 25 and moved into my first-ever apartment of my own, I put up a poem on the back of my bedroom door. That door eventually morphed into a sort of inspiration board. I taped torn out quotes and pictures and images that were meant to inspire me. What they did at the time, actually, was help me get through a really rough, disorienting stage of my life. Sixteen years and 3 different homes later, my messy back-of-a-door pseudo board is now a real bulletin board with completely different clippings and quotes and even purpose. Luckily, my board now just makes me happy and reminds me of moments and thoughts and a little bit of who I am. The only thing that remains is still that poem.

The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other's welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

~Derek Walcott

Now, it's more of a reminder of the stranger I was to myself, and the "elation" and gratitude I feel still today at being able to "feast on" on my own life. But back then, here's the story behind the poem:

Why Your Soulmate Has Got To Be Yourself
*Originally posted here on April 12, 2013

I tore that poem out of the back of an Oprah magazine so many years ago, that I can barely remember. I laminated it and taped it up to my bedroom door, right next to my full length mirror. I didn't particularly reread it often; it just kinda stuck there. Every once in a while, I would read the lines: "The time will come when, with elation you will greet yourself arriving at your own door...". 

When I moved out of that little apartment, the only place I ever lived in by myself, during the most difficult time in my life, I carefully peeled back the tape's edges, packed it up along with some race numbers and quotes that had joined it on what had become my Inspiration Door (if you will), and took it with me.

The poem, once again, was carefully taped back up in my new home: the starter home I was now sharing with The Love of My Life. I was happy. I was fulfilled. Yet, the poem went back up. I didn't read those lines so often anymore, but I couldn't part with them. They needed to be there.

After a few years, one child, more joy, I untaped the laminated page once again, and packed it up to my Corner Lot Home in Suburbia (how the hell did that happen?!?) with my  Still Love of My Life, and up the poem went.

Those words, with me, for so long.

I barely remember the girl who needed the reminder...the girl who I used to be.

So very long ago, I would not have greeted myself at the door. I certainly would not have invited myself to sit and eat and drink.  I'm not really sure why. I just know that I couldn't own up to who I was. I couldn't really be proud of myself because I was too busy worrying about who other people thought I should be.

At some point, when the shit started hitting the fan inside my head, when I could stand the self-imposed repression no longer, I started to break out, little by little. Eventually, my little acts of rebellion turned into full-fledged metaphorical kicking and screaming and clawing. I needed out of that cage. I needed to fly.

I'd love to say that when that moment came, I simply went. But I didn't. I was hesitant and unsure and unsteady. In general, I was a fucking mess. The few people who I was blessed enough to have at my side suffered right along with me. They stood by me. They listened. They advised. They nodded their heads. And, when necessary, they'd shove me out of the cage I would occasionally fly back into to cower.

As rough and tenuous and unstable as that time was, I remember I could see the light at the end of the tunnel. Those were the days when I'd read those lines: "The time will come when, with elation you will greet yourself arriving at your own door" and I actually believed it. I  knew the time would come. I just wasn't there yet. So I'd hang onto that when I felt frustrated or low or dark or worthless.

What happens in our lives that we start to feel that way about ourselves? What combination of events have to happen that some of us get to the point where we do not smile at our reflection in the mirror...that we would rather sit and have wine and bread with anyone else but ourselves...that we look to someone else--a spouse, a boyfriend, a child--to fulfill us, to make us feel whole and worthwhile? We depend on someone else's acceptance because we can't find it for ourselves.

The poem is still there, but I almost never even notice it anymore. It's just one more slip of paper on my closet wall. And certainly, there are days that I don't like myself so much. That I question whether I did the right thing or said the right thing or looked the right way. I second-guess myself. For a moment, I wish I could be more like (fill-in-the-blank-here) or a little less like myself. But on most days, I am able to invite myself in, open a bottle of wine, and feast on my own life. 

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