I dedicated today to writing my book and I spent precisely 3% of the time I set aside actually doing any writing (but I make a mean “the,” I will say).
Around five o’clock, I left to meet a friend for dinner. The food was pizza smothered in honey (silence your judgment until you’ve consumed a slice and even if you say it’s gross you are lying and should feel ashamed of yourself for lying did we not just discuss that in the last entry good glorious rainbows) and the conversations we had were fascinating, and then it was eleven o’clock.
The thing that resonated deepest with me was what we talked about in terms of love. We talked about couples we knew, long-lasting ones who seem to have a solid foundation and an even stronger bond built on top of it, and the ones that seem brittle and on the verge of breaking, held together only by grim determination.
In my last post, I wrote that I believe in soulmates, and that’s still a true thing.
What I believe in even more, though, is that sometimes that soulmate is yourself.
I imagine right about now some are thinking, “And how many cats do you plan on sprinkling around the house in which you plan to hide from the world?” but hear me out. (Also, two because cats are awesome.)
We’re taught from a young age that we’re to grow up, get married, and produce new humans. In some cultures, we’re encouraged from birth to be proud of ourselves and who we are and to express it (almost) any way we can. The thing is, that message of self-confidence is often drowned out by the overwhelming deluge of:
“The size of your body is gross (buy this yoghurt/pill/exercise machine/kickboxing lessons)”
“Your skin is too dry (buy this organic cream/pill/oil)”
“You’re not…right (buy these therapy sessions/self-help books/self-help DVDs/alcohols)”
It’s no wonder we all have some (or several) deep-seated insecurities; the world economy runs on them.
Now, many of the markets of the world are dedicated to excellent, essential-for-existing causes like eating and sleeping. But some markets are designed to fuck you up so that other markets can unfuck you. Hungry? Have a bucket of KFC! Overweight? Have some diet pills! Nauseous? Here’s some medicine! Addicted? Here’s some therapy!
If you rely on the markets, you’ll never be entirely fixed, and that’s good, because feeling satisfied with yourself physically and mentally and emotionally means you shut off the tap that’s fueling a huge chunk of the world economy (and you’ll probably reach enlightenment and hang out with some pretty cool enlightenminted dead people). …However, my point isn’t that capitalism is evil, and I’m leading up to the soulmate-is-yourself thing, just stick with me. It’s two AM and I should be asleep but I’m gonna do this blog thing every day gosh darn it, even when I mistakenly choose complex topics to struggle through.
I’ll say things about capitalism another day; I think love’s a good enough challenge to tackle for now.
We’re force-fed negativity about ourselves from an early age alongside confusing positive messages like, “You can do anything! (Unless…a lot of things),” and then we’re urged on top of that to find love.
“But aren’t I awful?” some people ask, bewildered.
“Yes,” the beauty industry says. “But if you use this lip gloss, you’ll get this guy.” Then, because all industries are only as good as why you use them, the beauty industry will turn to someone else and say, “Try some of this green glitter eyeshadow to blind your enemies at high noon.”
The trick, I think (and once again, bear in mind: 2am and only twenty-six years old), is to focus less on improving yourself so you can find love and improving yourself to love YOURSELF.
And not as a means to finding someone, either, because that’s the same as improving yourself so you can find love.
You know who’s perfect for you? You. You have your sense of humor, your quirks, your faults, your weird sleeping habits, your body. I’ve come to believe that loving yourself really is the endgame, because even if you love the person you’re with, there will always be moments you’re apart, and if you love yourself, those are moments you can spend content.
That’s not to say you have to live alone with cats (although honestly considering the comedy gold cats will give you, that’s in no way a bad life choice). Loving yourself doesn’t prevent you from loving other people, and I think this is another message that’s often delivered to us in a backhanded way. People who say, “He’s in love with himself,” often mean it in excess. They mean the guy in question is arrogant and narcissistic and prioritizes himself over everyone around him. But so what?
To borrow a line from Parks & Recreation: “Treat yo’self.” (Granted that’s only supposed to be one day a year but they said it in other episodes so fuck it, it’s a life motto now.)
Like most rules of thumb, as long as you don’t hurt other people, there’s no reason not to fall in love with yourself. Think of what an easy date you’d be! You already know where you want to go, what you want to do, and when you want to go home. Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.
So, when I say I believe that some people are their own soulmates, maybe I should actually say that we ALL are our own soulmate. I’ve seen the quotation, “The only one you’re racing with is yourself,” but I think there’s a better message to be taken from, “The only companion you have for life is yourself.” And that doesn’t have to be a lonely thing. If someone else can love you, you can love yourself, too.
And even though it shouldn’t be the goal, loving yourself does help you find long-lasting love and happiness with another person.
See, love hasn’t changed much since the dawn of time, but our idea of marriage is a whole new bag of tricks these days. In the dark ancient past, marriage was a social contract wherein one partner said, “I’ll make the money,” and the other said, “I’ll make the family,” and things carried on with or without love as a key factor. Farmers needed tiny farmhands, kings needed kinglets, and armies needed soldierlings. That might be (assumption ho!) why, in some cultures, same-sex relationships were a non-issue when people were young but weren’t considered a good idea for the long term because people were expected to add more small people to the community.
Now, depending on which side of the pulpit you’re facing, the purpose of marriage is changed. Only recently has the world altered enough that we now have the luxury to demand a LOT more from marriages. Love, mutual respect, common interests, table manners, thoughtful gestures, engagement rings, movie nights, clean bathrooms, washed dishes, regular sex, etc.
The definition of a successful marriage varies. For some couples, it’s when they’ve raised their children into excellent people. For others, it’s just having a companion to make life more fun. Whatever the objective behind getting married, I believe it’s helped a lot by having a solid foundation.
Because, see, I think that if you go into a relationship hoping to be fixed or supported, you’re thinking of relationships as a consumer item. “If I find the right person, I’ll be happy.” For a while, definitely. But if you don’t feel confident in yourself, it might be very difficult for you to express what you want, and for your partner to rely on you when things are difficult.
I think the thing in that article that resonated deepest with me was this:
Don’t Fight To Win: A huge number of couples talked about how they didn’t fight against each other. I mean, if you’re in love, you should be playing for the same team. Your goal should be to resolve the issue, not to emerge victorious over the love of your life… and let’s be honest, you just feel guilty when you win anyway.
When my friend read that paragraph, I felt a bolt of shock go through me, because I’d never thought of that before. The more I did, though, the more memories of fighting with someone I loved surfaced. In nearly every one, I was fighting to win. To make my point more valid than theirs and feeling impatient to get to the end of the argument because what was the point when I was Right and they were Wrong? And then, I remembered a spare few arguments in which I had been fighting to understand, and the ending of every single memory there felt like a victory, even when I hadn’t made my point or had been, in fact, Wrong myself.
…I think those are all the things I want to say for now.
Because it is now 2:51 and I am going to be VERY unhappy with myself tomorrow morning.
Good night, citizens of the world. I wish you love in whatever shape and form gives you the most happiness.
Good night! …I said that.