Right now, I'm sitting on a couch- a very nice couch from a store I love, and honestly, can't really afford. I saved for this couch. I special ordered it and was giddy with glee when it arrived 8 weeks later. 5 years old now, my couch is not the same as it was the day it arrived. It's mushroom-colored velour (which, fortunately, shows very few stains) is softer than it used to be. Most noticeably, the back pillows are misshapen, because I have a dog who thinks he's a cat and insists on sitting on TOP of them, rather than next to them.
And then, there's the rest of my house. My (small) living room is strewn with giant plastic dinosaurs, Christmas gifts, fire trucks, and probably a stray raisin or two. In my (alarmingly small) kitchen, dinner dishes sit undone after cooking a from-scratch dinner for my family. A desk is set up in the corner, partially for me (yeah, right), but mostly, because I know it's important to Shaun to have a workspace anywhere he spends a majority of his time. If it were up to me, I would prefer properly shaped pillows. I would like a pristine (large) living room, where toys didn't have to roam because they had a home of their own in some far-away play room. If it were up to me, realistically, my (awesomely large) kitchen would likely be stacked with Whole Foods take out boxes, because, rather than cooking a meal for my family, I would be happily indulging in daily grocery runs to my favorite store to pick up a grilled chicken breast and roasted asparagus at their deli. In my perfect world, everything and everyone would have their own place for their own things and their own passions.
But no world is perfect. And if given the option of solitary control, or inclusive chaos, well, I'd pick the chaos every time. I love people. I love people, honestly, more than I can explain. And sometimes.... honestly, more often than I'd like to admit... I love people more than I remember to love myself.
Shaun and I have a baseline of deep conversations, so it's no surprise that last week sometime, the subject of love came up. Specifically, whether love is more noun or more verb. He voted for uncontrollable, all-consuming "noun"- a thing that finds you and holds you, and that you couldn't shake even if you wanted to. I fiercely believe love is a verb. Love is what you do, and how you choose to act towards and for the person you "love". Love is a choice. Sometimes, when it is that all-consuming, honeymoon love, the choice is super duper easy. Who can't love when everything is shiny, new, exciting and romantic? E-A-S-Y. But, what about when someone's being a real idiot, and you disagree with their decisions, and it's hard to get even in the same book, let alone on the same page? To me, that's when love (verb) kicks on. It doesn't mean being a door mat, and conceding to someone's bad behavior. But to me, it often means acceptance, respect, forgiveness, and support. Love is making a dinner when you'd rather have take out, or letting your furbaby crush your precious sofa, or tripping over Hot Wheels in the middle of your living room floor- because it makes someone else happy. Because it means something to someone, even if it's not your ideal.
I believe in compromise (and really wish other people did, too). I probably believe in it to the point of my own detriment. After Christmas, I was forced to look in the mirror- like, really look- and ask myself what I wanted, and how that compares to what I have, or what I'm allowing myself to have. And the truth is: I am spending way too much time watering someone else's garden.
I don't resent or regret the sacrifices I make for the people and things I love in my life. I truly don't. What I do regret, sitting at the end of 2014, are the sacrifices- time, energy, care, money, etc- I haven't made for MYSELF. For a while now, I've been on autopilot, and have ignored checking in with myself to see how I actually FEEL about what I'm doing- or, in many cases, NOT doing. I've been coasting along, doing what comes naturally (loving people A LOT... maybe even TOO much), and I've forgotten the things I need to do to love myself.
There are some really hard truths I think so many of us face as we go through life. Among them:
So today, I went to Costco to do some chores, and I bought myself flowers. And that's when the title of this blog hit me. I need to water my own garden. Not because it's not watered enough by other people, but because it ISN'T watered enough by me. I'm starting to relearn how to make myself happy. I have been happy, but I haven't been fulfilled, and I know it's because I forgot why, and more importantly, WHO, I was living for. No one can be happy WITH me if I'm not happy with myself, and subsequently, good to myself. So today, I bought flowers. And I worked out. And I stretched while watching my son in the shower. Today, I woke up before anyone else in my house and read and meditated and prayed (something I'd forgotten the importance of, despite not being religious). Today, I put a whole lemon in each bottle of water I poured, because I love lemon, even if it means I have to go buy more midweek. Today, I put on flowery perfume I love, and lit vanilla candles. Today, I also let there be firetrucks on my floor, and paid Beckham a penny to pick up his (many) toys in the living room. I made a beautiful, healthy dinner and- shockingly- asked for help cleaning up. Today, when someone promised to do something for me, and didn't, rather than excusing them from the task they'd promised with a "it's ok...I can just do it later", I let them correct it and make it right, because they had said they would. Today, I loved myself and it didn't compromise the love I have for everyone else in my life...in fact, it probably enhanced it.
Last year, I thought I found this unprecedented strength when I decided to change my life and be who I wanted to be. Now, I realize, it wasn't strength I found, but love. Self-awareness. Dedication to my own happiness. I'm after that, again, and it took one day of conscious effort to get me back on a track I was waiting for months for some magical force of nature to guide me back to. Turns out...I am the magical force of nature. I was just spending too much time watering everyone else's garden. I'm excited to see what's underneath the surface of my soul, and what just might grow with a little more self TLC.