When was the last time I took a minute to watch a cloud move? I ask myself as I watch a white shadow scoot across its wide ocean of sky. A few years ago, even a few months ago, this thought would have spiraled into some fierce self-condemnation, into frustration and anger at myself for not noticing the clouds every day, as I added one more thing to a vast list of everything I’m supposed to remember and accomplish that filled my head. I realize now how much has changed as I watch this cloud, just glad I took 20 seconds to notice it as I moved through my day.
For most of my adult life, I have found it easier to notice and fixate on what I am not, rather than what I am. Keeping track of what I don’t do, rather than what I do. It’s truly exhausting- mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. And it has worn me ragged like an old dishcloth, left me crying on the bed in the middle of the afternoon, spent and empty. But in the last months, I have found myself slowly revolting against this inclination of mine, tired of being my own worst critic. Little by little, I have forced myself to see me as my loved ones see me, as God sees me. I have forced myself to accept that I am loved, not because of anything I have done, but because of who I am, as I am. It’s a hard lesson to learn.
And self-love can be hard for one who is not very used to it. I take it easy, noticing little victories. Like being on a diet, I make great progress only to relapse and gorge myself on self-loathing. But I rebound more quickly now, stronger than before, more accepting and less harsh than I would have been before. For years, it felt like my inner peace was dried up like a lake, barren and empty, full of creatures of my own making. But lately, the water has started to flow again, for real this time, like a baptism, cleansing and pure, washing away my guilt and self-criticism, making things grow so that I can in turn water the soil of those around me. Things are changing. Water will do that- the holiest of the elements. I am no more perfect than I was two years ago but I love myself more. I see God in clouds and I feel him in that lake of inner peace. Finally, finally, I relax into who I am, not worried anymore about who I’m supposed to be.