I would like to be 10 pounds lighter. I would like to have my youthful brown hair naturally, rather than with a chemical dye. I would like my first serve in tennis to be more consistent and accurate. I’d like my bank account to allow me to do things I cannot do at the moment. And I’d like to learn to love myself in my present, unfinished and unvarnished state, right now. As I am. Love. Myself.
Why Is Self-care So Hard?
What I don’t like about myself at this very moment:
- I am a bit heavier than I’d like to be (it just feels better to be lighter)
- My recent corporate job has not panned out to be as awesome as first thought
- My ex-wife keeps the Attorney General’s Office on my ass, even when I am current on child support
- I am trying, but without much success, to love my gray hair rather than going for another dye job
Okay, so those things aren’t so bad, right? And still, I struggle with loving myself. Why?
What I Want To Have When I Grow Up
I have some milestones that I’d like to have achieved by this point in my life. I’d like to be married and have my kids still living and loving me in my own home. I’d like my employment to have evened out, and be making my consulting wage for 15 – 20 hours a week, and having plenty of money from those endeavors. I’d rather not be living in an apartment for the first time since college. I’d like to have ripped abs.
And still, I am happy. I might struggle with self-love when I’m heavier than I’d like to be, but I’m pretty ding-dang-doodle happy. I do have a relationship that is probably the most emotionally intelligent partnership I’ve had in my life. I do have this writing platform and plans for expansion and eventually, financial liberation, via my writing, coaching, and speaking. (see: johnmcelhenney.com) And I am able to play tennis 2 -3 times a week, even in this Texas scorching summer.
So, in fact, I’m pretty well off, at the moment. And I am still clinging to a bit of fear and resentment.
I am afraid of loving as deeply as I am loving. Ghosts of how I was devastated in my divorce still pop up from time to time and I ask my inner compass, “Are you crazy? Are you really leaning-in this hard? Are you willing to risk everything for the love of a lifetime?” And recently, the fear has been breaking through my contentment. But it’s not all in a bad way. Some of my fear is coming up for healing. Hurts of my past are rising again in the joy of my current love and asking me to compare and contrast. And in the contrast of the past and present, I am finding my confidence and commitment to love again. I am loving again, deeply, fully, and without limits. This is just how I want to live.
I can’t talk about my divorce these days without tearing up a bit. I’ve written enough recently about how much I’ve lost in the 70/30 schedule that is handed to most dads in our country, that I won’t rehash it here, except to say, that I’m resentful of my ex-wife. I’m still hurt that she keeps the state’s collections agency leaning on my credit score and taking 50% of my weekly paycheck. And I’m resentful that she was so selfish in the divorce process, and couldn’t see how 50/50 shared custody would’ve been the best thing for our kids. My kids needed me in their lives more. They needed the optimist. The needed my hopeful and enthusiastic parenting every single day of their lives. But that was not meant to be. And it was the decision of one person that changed it all for all of us. AND, I know, resentments of any kind will hold us back from experiencing our present joy.
I am willing to give up my resentment. I’m not sure I’m willing to forgive my ex-wife for what she took from me. And at the same time, I can learn to be even more grateful that I’m not still married to her. More grateful that I’m finding a loving relationship that is not based on conditions of satisfaction and financial enrichment. I can be more grateful starting at this very moment. My life is fine. I am happy.
As I learn to love myself in all my forms (happy, sad, angry, depressed, hopeless, ecstatic) I can love more fully in all the areas of my life. As I embrace my heavier, but not that heavy, self, I can hold and nurture my own beauty and richness. I’m not there yet, but I’m making real progress. And of course, a loving relationship goes a long way towards meeting my touch and closeness needs.
In this day I release my ex-wife. I release my two lovely children from any frustration I have at not being able to book time on their busy teenager calendars. I release myself from my expectations of where I would be at this point in my adult life. And I can release the image of myself, my younger, fitter, self.
I can release all these parts of my past and deepen my joy and present moment happiness.
And I can start again tomorrow when I wake up with more doubts and more fear and more resentments. We start all over each day. Today, I am starting over with myself first. Loving and giving support to myself and my journey as a single father.
And I will end with a mindfulness meditation:
May I be safe.
May I be happy.
May I be healthy.
And live with ease.
image: my two kids on the last birthday party before the divorce
More articles from The Whole Parent:
- Fool In The Rain: A Brief Retelling of My Divorce and Rebirth
- Loss, Sadness, and Indifference: Struggles of a Single Dad
- Missplaning Divorce: How Women Benefit In an Imbalanced Divorce
- My Single Parent Slogan: Every Day At a Time
- How Did I Miss So Much In My Marriage? Divorced, I Now Understand.