I bought myself a small bouquet of lilies yesterday, an apologetic token for not being there for myself lately. Throughout life, but particularly during the last few years, I’ve learned that at the end of the day, the only person truly invested in my well-being is me. So why did I neglect myself lately? Because it’s the first time in a long time since I’ve tried to be in an intimate relationship with someone else. I’m not used to balancing my time with someone else in mind because I’ve been single for the last two years. I needed that time to focus on healing my body and my spirit from the effects of a difficult run with cancer. I also didn’t feel ready to jump back into something; I need to get into the habit of loving myself more before I could even think of being in another relationship.
In my previous relationships, meeting my needs usually took a back seat to the needs of the other. This is a pattern I noticed in myself, but I thought that since I had cultivated a considerable amount of self-love in these past years, I would not fall back into it. Well, unfortunately, in the short time that I have been with someone else, my pattern of giving in to what the other person wants, even when I know I shouldn’t, has shown up.
Over the years, I have gotten better at taking the space and time I need for myself, however, If there is any persistence from the other person after I have already said “no”, my boundaries become pliable. I know I give in too easily when the other want’s more than I can give at the moment. Where do I find the balance between giving to someone else and giving to myself?
My own self-care is essential – I know I can’t really love another unless I first love and care for myself. If I don’t care enough for myself, I begin to see the other person as a threat to my well-being. When I hit this point, it’s difficult for me to stay in my heart; survival mode kicks in, and I don’t relate so kindly to the “threat.” I’m trying not to let things ever get to this point; it becomes destructive for myself and the other person involved.
Compromising is a part of any relationship, but it shouldn’t be to the point where I feel that what I give to others is taking so much from me that I am “threatened.” My experience is that relationships are nourishing when done right. When I take care of myself, my energy is abundant, and I want to share my time and energy with someone else. When I relate from this space, the interaction is nourishing for both the other person and me. It doesn’t feel like a give and take system; It feels more like a continuous loop of mutual love and care.
It would be ideal if I was always in a place where I could give and feel that nothing is taken from me. However, due to the demands of life, I often find myself overwhelmed and physically drained. During this time, if I don’t stop and take the time to nourish myself and replenish my reserves, I become exhausted, and I get sick or end up with a careless injury. My body, in one way or another, lets me know when I have overdone things; I am forced to stop because taking care of myself becomes an urgent need.
Before I get to the point where I must stop, my body always sends warning signals, but I don’t always listen. The other day I started to feel a bit off and knew it would be wise to take a day or two just to catch up on sleep and tend to the areas of my life I was neglecting. The next day I crashed mid-day, it took a four-hour nap to get me back to functional. I crashed because the last two weeks have been quite busy; aside from creating a significantly more demanding task list for myself, I also developed this new relationship. The beginning of a love affair can be consuming because everything is so new and exciting. The two of us had spent a lot of time together. I was enjoying it but knew I could not keep up with the pace for very long.
After my crash and nap, I did tell him that I would not be able to see him that evening, but he persisted, and I gave in. I was exhausted and the time we spent together wasn’t enjoyable for either of us. Some conflicts had arisen earlier in the week and trying to work those out while in my exhausted state created more hurt and confusion than necessary. I also developed a sore throat and was worried about how it would interfere with the progress of my healing.
When he asked the next morning if I was still mad at him, I told him I was angry at myself, and that was the truth. People will always want more from me than I can give, and it is my duty to stay firm in what I need. If I feel I need to nurture myself before spending time with someone else again, I have to own it, stand my ground, and not cave in, no matter how much they want to see me or I want to see them.
Things always go more smoothly when I take the time fulfill my needs first. Giving myself when I don’t have anything to give is just careless and creates an unnecessary disaster. It has to be my priority to always be as kind and caring for myself as I can be. I need this more now than ever, as I continue with my healing.
I failed to love and care for myself enough this week. I gave away the little I had left and as a result felt myself begin to shut out the other person. This isn’t how I wish to act in a relationship. Connecting with others is essential to my well-being; I don’t want to shut anyone out. Only when I am feeling nourished, can I be with someone in a healthy way.
Photo: Alex Cameron