Practicing Love

One of the things I continue to work on and to struggle working on is practicing love – not to others, but to myself. Somehow, I have a huge capacity to love and forgive those around me while being cruel and unforgiving to myself; at the same time, I’ve found that I am better at practicing self-love when I am loving those around me.

While I have mixed feelings about Valentine’s Day – I wrote about this last year – I want to spend the day practicing love. What better way to do so than to write a series of letters, to those around me and to myself? In no particular order, here are mine – and I hope that perhaps, you might practice love in a similar way on this day and many days in the future as well.

Dear friend,

I know you’ve been struggling a lot this past year with your mental health. I haven’t seen you in a very long time, but please know that you are always on my mind. I miss seeing you and spending time with you, and sometimes I feel like conversation runs stale through text messages even though I believe that it is not your intention. I hope you are trying to get better and I hope you are still a fierce advocate for me when I cannot advocate for myself. Please know that you are worthy and deserving of love. I don’t know what else I can do than check-in with you and love you from afar, but I hope you will get better soon.

I love you.

Dear friend,

I don’t know how we managed to stay friends this long. I’ve lost everyone else I met and befriended during the same time – high school, ugh – but somehow you’ve stuck by me. There are no words to describe how much I appreciate you. We’re not very good at keeping in touch with each other, but when we call we have so much to talk about still. I promise to try and be better about staying in contact – monthly calls, right? – and thank you for sticking by me. I appreciate the card you send me so much – otterly so. I hope you and Daisy are doing amazing.

I love you.

Dear friend,

When I moved to New York, I was so glad I already had friends in this city because I was 100% sure I would not be able to make friends as a very introverted adult. While our friendship came during an unfortunate time, I am so glad to have you now in my life. Your cat brings me so much joy, and so do you! Heh. Your fierce love and advocacy for me is incredible, and I don’t know what I did to deserve it. I’m so glad that you pushed me towards opening my Etsy shop and telling me to follow my dreams, and I’m so pleased that you are now a part of my life.

I love you.

Dear friends,

You have no idea how much I miss your faces. The two of you were my rocks in college, giving me a safe space to crash in when I could not make it home after long nights in studio. No questions, no comments, just open arms and a couch to sleep on. I would not have survived college without you, and it hurts that you now both live across the country from me. Nearly every time I begin to feel anxious about the endurance of our friendship, one of you messages me something ridiculous and mundane – as if we were still living in the same city, a few blocks away from each other, just a few minutes away.

Thank you for being there for me when I needed you most, and continuing to be presences in my life even when you are far away. Thank you for telling me I’m being silly when I finally confessed I was feeling anxious about our friendship, and reaffirming that we are in fact okay.

I love you both.

Dear friend,

Why did you move, of all places, to Ohio? What is there to do there?!

You were my studio buddy, the one I could count on to be there with me those long nights gluing tiny pieces of paper and chipboard together. We worked together, figured out where the cheapest food was, and knitted together – what better friendship can there be? When I needed someone to be there for me after a boy used me and then broke my heart, you dropped everything and flew to me. We spent a weekend together and you helped keep my mind off of everything.

Without you, I would have healed much slower.

I love you.

Dear friend,

When I was contemplating buying a printer, you cheered me on and gave me so many resources to help me overcome my anxiety even though we barely talk and don’t keep in touch as much as I probably would like. It was incredibly kind and supportive of you even when we didn’t have to.

I felt so happy, also, when you told me what your dream is. I believe that you can achieve it, and definitely let me know if there’s anything I can do to help you out.

I love you.

Dear friend,

You were my first customer on my Etsy shop for actual physical products! Seeing that email notification in my inbox literally made my heart leap. Also, you’re super cute. I can’t wait to have time to sit down and work on that project we talked about together.

I love you. And I hope you and your boyfriend like your freebie!

Dear cutie roomie,

I’ve lived with a lot of people throughout my life, in college and in boarding school, and I am so grateful that you are the person I come home to (nearly) every night. Your kindness and thoughtfulness push me to be kinder and more thoughtful, and you push me to be a better intersectional feminist every day.

I appreciate so much that you take time to ask after me even when you are not feeling your very best. I love spending nights with you talking about anything and everything under the sun (moon?), and I love our movie nights. I love that we love Steven Universe and Harry Potter together, and have thoughtful conversations about both all the time. I love that we blog and eat cake together.

I love making fun of you for your wizard rock past and I love that I recognize the songs too. I still think it’s hilarious that we out-dorked our friends. I love that you know every word to every High School Musical song, and you unabashedly sing along and mime the movements to Troy Bolton/Zac Efron’s musical masterpiece Bet On It.

Oh, also, I love that you don’t leave poop in the toilet. I never thought that would be a roommate highlight, but given past experiences, I guess it is.

I love you.

Dear baby sister,

You’re too young to read this still, or at least too young for me to want to share this with you quite yet. But a few weeks ago you cried because I was 8 minutes late to our newly-weekly videochat, which only began because you complained over Christmas that I never call you. I admit it, I dropped the ball. But 8 minutes? Baby, did you think I forgot you? Every person in my life knows that I love you so immensely without me even saying it. I could never forget you.

But to see a small 9 year old child cry because I was 8 minutes late to a videochat really struck me. How incredible it is to be so loved by a tiny human that a mere 8 minutes could make you cry so much. I am always sad to see you cry, but this time, I was so grateful.

I love you more than anything.

My love,

I read somewhere once that we accept the love we think we deserve, which might explain why I let a boy treat me the way he did in my last relationship.

I never thought I could be treated and loved the way you treat me and love me, and sometimes I get so scared that you’ll wake up and realize I’m not actually as amazing as you think I am and discard me. But really, that’s just my anxiety talking. You’re fully aware of my imperfections and yet you still love me so fiercely, and I have no idea what I did to deserve it.

I had a meltdown a few days ago, completely hung up on quite a lot of self-induced stress, and as I sat on your bed crying and sewing yarn ends into the baby blanket I’ve been racing to make, you began to cry for me and with me. No one has ever done that for me before. You tried your best to talk me through my upset and my anxiety, and I revealed things to you that I don’t think I really knew I had buried inside my heart. When you were trying to tell me that my projects weren’t worth my physical and mental health, I told you that they were because “I don’t matter.”

If we were in an animated movie, I probably would have heard your heart break for me.

Of course I matter, you told me. You said you could call anyone in my friend list to reaffirm that for me at that moment, and I petulantly responded that everyone was asleep. You stayed up with me as I finished the piece of the blanket I was working on, and as I laid out some artwork for another project, and you made me try to eat some food even though I didn’t want to.

Sometimes I don’t know how to accept the love you give me because I don’t know if I think I deserve it. But I thank everything in the world – the gods I don’t believe in, the forces that draw people together, the sheer luck we had in meeting each other, that stupidly hilarious glass bottle caption – every day because they brought me to you and you accepted me and loved me despite my being cracked and bruised and sometimes a little broken.

I matter. You matter. And I love you most.

Dear self,

Loving you is hard when I can see every single imperfection – real and fake – in you, which is so sadly ironic because I see the imperfections in my friends and love them so much harder for it. I’m still working on it, and probably will be working on it for a while.

Self, it’s okay to indulge in the things you like to do. Put aside the crochet hook you’re using to make projects for others, and pick up the tools you need to make something for yourself. You know, you still haven’t made me socks? Or a sweater? You’ve made so many socks already – including for a person that ended up hurting you so much – and yet, none for me.

I know you’re trying. You’re trying so hard. Your resolution to work on projects one at a time was an attempt at that – and it didn’t succeed totally, since I’m still totally overwhelmed with this blanket I’m working on, but it was a good effort. Now you’re making another change – strict stop times and bedtimes and being more honest with the people around you (who love you!) when you’re hurting.

It’s easier, sometimes, to love you. When you try a new recipe, indulge in a slice of cake that you wouldn’t normally buy, share a lovely meal with your loved one. When you see the eyes of the person across from you light up in joy, it’s easier to love you. When I look at the picture you drew of me in my underwear. When I look at the art I’m surrounded by every day, of the painting I made of Totoro with you and with Hera, of the silly Disney tsum-tsums, of the Star Wars corgi fan art you bought me when you went to Comic Con last year. When I’m reminded of the times you took the plunge and tried something new, even though they don’t always turn out to be the best experiences, I can love you a little better.

Self, let’s try a little harder together. You can love me, and I can love you. We’ll get through this together and be stronger on the other side… and then, I can say with 100% certainty that I really do love you.

Practicing Love