My friend John came over a couple weeks ago to videotape me so the kids would have it for the future. I spoke for about an hour about my childhood, my family, my courtship with their father, and my memories of them as infants and young children. Surprisingly I was able to maintain my composure throughout the taping. I suppose it was revisiting such happy memories that made it an achievable and even enjoyable experience.
As the time was winding down on the last DVD, I felt like I needed to say something important, like I needed to impart some essential nugget of wisdom to leave with them as my parting words. And what I told them was this (paraphrased, of course):
I think the key to life is learning to love yourself. Once you accomplish that everything flows from there. I remember going through a period in my early twenties when I was far too concerned with what I should be, what others thought I should be. Then my house burnt down and I lost everything and, lo and behold, I emotionally survived this devastating experience. I realized then that I was a survivor and I understood the myth of the phoenix rising from the ashes. Somehow in the months following the fire, I finally learned to love and accept myself. Once I did that my heart was much more open to others. And I found that new friendships bloomed and old friendships flourished as my attitude toward myself changed.
An old boyfriend had once wrote me a heartfelt love letter, "That 'I am a Rock' attitude only works for Simon and Garfunkel songs. You will find that once you let people see a flaw or two, they will warm to you. Nobody likes a perfect person." I have thought of his words so many times and 15 years later they still fell me with their wisdom. Trying to be someone other than who you are requires a great deal of energy and people pick up on that disingenuousness. You can be a second best someone else or the best you: it's an easy decision. Nobody wants to be with someone who does not like themselves. So if I have to leave you with only one bit of wisdom, it is this: love yourself.
Of course, this raises some issues about the truly horrible people in the world. Should they love and accept themselves as they are? I'm going to hypothesize that at least part of their behavior is born of self-hatred and hope that loving one's self actually cuts down on the number of horrible people in the world.