A few months ago, I went to Cuba with my parents and a few of their friends. One afternoon, everyone decided to go on a day trip, while I chose to stay behind. I needed some alone time.
After a long and satisfying workout, I went for a walk along the beach. Within five minutes, I had passed the laughing voices and lounge chairs. After a half hour or so, I came across a rocky, two-story-high boulder covered in sand and various tropical shrubs.
With a little effort and a few scrapes on my hands, I climbed to the top. From there, I could see miles of beach in both directions. I could smell the ocean salt and feel the breeze on my cheeks.
Just then, I got a strong urge to do Tree Pose on top of that rock. Stock photos make it look so easy. It wasn’t.
First of all, it was hard to find a flat space for my foot. And second, my brain thought it would be considerate to show me what I’d look after tumbling down the jagged rock, breaking every bone on the way down.
But still, I did it. I stood there. I teetered off balance. I laughed. I tried again. I breathed. I switched legs. I looked in the other direction. I smiled at the sun.
In that moment, a powerful feeling of love wrapped its arms around me. I thought, “What a romantic moment.”
Later on, when my parents’ friend asked me how my evening was, I said I had a very romantic time. He asked, “Romantic? With who?!”
“With myself,” I answered.
He laughed, “By yourself? Now, that’s something I’ve never heard before.”
I can see why it sounded strange. Romance is something we do with other people, right? But at the end of the day, “romance” is just a word we use to describe experiences of love, mystery, and excitement. And the more I’ve walked the path of self-discovery, the more I’ve had those experiences alone.
This might not sound terribly exciting to a person who craves romance from a partner. Wouldn’t these lonely moments be feeble and inadequate compared to “real love”?
Strangely enough, my solitary romantic experiences have been more fulfilling and mind-blowing than the ones I’ve had with my partners.
Maybe it’s because I get to experience being the giver and the receiver of a romantic gesture. Maybe it’s because I’ve been through so much horror with myself that each loving moment feels like an accomplishment. Or maybe it’s just because I know myself better than anyone else does; so when I give myself what I think I deserve, it feels more real.
Since that top-of-the-boulder evening in Cuba, I’ve been remembering other solo romantic moments in my life. I remember:
- The first time I ever held myself while I cried. I rocked myself. I said, “It’ll be okay. I love you. I’m here.”
- When I realized that I rushed through the meals I made for myself as opposed to how careful I was when cooking for others, I started cooking for myself slowly. With care. I remember the first day I slowed down. I still remember the smile on my face when I was eating that sandwich.
- The moments I’ve looked into my eyes in the mirror and reminded myself that I’m beautiful and strong.
- The moments I’ve looked into my tear-soaked, red eyes in the mirror and said, “It’s okay if he doesn’t understand. I understand. I’m here. I still love you.”
- The first time I wrote a loving letter to myself. I can’t express how safe I felt in my own skin at that moment. I decided to share that letter in the second-last chapter of The Art of Talking to Yourself. Every time I read it, I still tear up. (It was hard to record this part for the audiobook, that’s for sure!)
- All the nights I’ve taken myself out and danced the night away, feeling not only happy about being alone but also happy for all the people around me who were together.
- Taking myself out to art gallery receptions and having silent discussions with myself.
- The time I went for a long walk on the beach in Costa Rica and caught a mesmerizing purple sunset. Having no camera to capture the moment made it so much more magical.
- The day I finished writing The Art of Talking to Yourself, rushed to a yoga class, and spent the last half hour crying from the bottom of my soul, thanking myself for putting four years into creating and birthing the words I needed to say.
There have been so many of these moments. While it seems like most of them have happened in the last 5 years, I wonder if there were good days before that—even when I was knee-deep in self-loathing. Maybe I just don’t remember them.
I can so easily remember my most romantic moments with Jamie. I can remember such moments with my exes. Not only because I’ve historically believed that those moments were more important, but also because I’ve bothered to keep track of them. In each of my relationships, there have been scrapbooks, photo albums, memory boxes.
Yet I’ve been in a relationship with myself for almost three decades, and this post is the first time I’ve made a list of my romantic moments with myself.
I’m sure I could blame all this on our society. Or my upbringing. Or Disney movies. But instead, I’m choosing to focus on the beauty of this new way to celebrate my journey. From now on, I’ll be commemorating my little moments of self-romance, so I can remember them later. So I can thank myself. So I can feel appreciated.
It’s what I would do for any other person I care about.
And now, there’s nothing I’d love more than for you to share the most romantic moments you’ve had with yourself in the comments below.