Sometimes, I don’t realize how far I’ve come until I look back. I had one of those moments this week. A few days ago, I began to feel irritated while I was writing, so I got dressed and went on a walk. Just to air my head out, to think. No music, no podcasts. Just… my thoughts.
Maybe that doesn’t sound like a big accomplishment to you, but in my life, that’s been a mind-blowing shift. I grew up in a family would push, push, push me. I learned to push, push, push myself. I thought this was a super power. Of course, I ignored all the things I couldn’t do because I couldn’t pull back.
I’ve realized that learning to walk away is so important. It sounds so simple, but it’s not always easy in practice. I have a long history of misinterpreting my messages to myself. I had problems overeating. The more I ate, the more uncomfortable I’d feel. But eating was my emotional coping mechanism. So I’d try to eat away the discomfort of overeating.
I couldn’t walk away from a conversation. I couldn’t emotionally detach. I felt like, if I left, everything would fall apart. Oftentimes, it was the other way around.
I couldn’t take breaks. If I felt irritated sitting at my computer, I’d take that irritation to mean “Work harder!”
I couldn’t take time to myself. If I felt uncomfortable around people, I interpreted this to mean that I needed them to pay more attention to me.
It’s taken me a long time to realize that my body isn’t always saying “Go!” or “Harder!” Sometimes, it’s saying “Stop!” or “Slower!” And, sometimes, I don’t need people’s attention. Sometimes, I need to be alone.
From my perspective now, this all seems obvious. But I honestly had no idea. No one taught me to look out for those messages.
I was watching a documentary about babies the other day, and it talked about how important it is to respect a baby’s control over his or her body. Kids don’t just refuse food to “be bad.” Sometimes, they don’t like the taste. Sometimes, they aren’t hungry. Sometimes, they have gastrointestinal issues. For parents to respect this? That rocked my world. Imagine respecting a one-year-old. That might just be the definition of enlightenment.
But I am just such a one-year-old somewhere in there, and now, I’m catching up on all that respect I never got. I don’t blame my parents. They, like most people in the world, were never encouraged to learn the vocabulary of their own experience. It’s my responsibility now. I’m my parent now.
As I write a book about learning to self-communicate better, I am learning to understand myself better. It is the most beautiful thing.
My vision with The Art of Talking to Yourself was to have it be like an onion. I wanted it to unravel. To be a journey of looking at the same thing from different angles, different views, expanding into a holistic understanding. Magically, the more it comes together like this, the more I become like this too. I am growing with these words, into them, from them. I am learning from teaching. I am a mysterious creative force unfolding myself.
I saw it written somewhere that the best way to learn something is to write a book about it. I remember, when I first started writing this book, I felt like I was writing about something I was already practicing. Like it was a reflection on something that had become an intimate part of my life. Maybe, (I am embarrassed to say), I thought I’d come to some kind of plateau with self-awareness. I’ve been humbled.
There is nothing like self-expression. And that, I suppose, has been my greatest lesson. Writing is not a chore or a responsibility. To me, it is a need. And just like my body whispered for me to slow down and my emotions whispered for me to walk away, so my creativity implores me to write. Sometimes, I forget this. Sometimes, I forget that something as simple as putting words onto paper can be as nourishing as a meal or a hug or a breath of air.
I wrote a post a long time ago about how I kept trying to meditate, but in the end, I realized I just needed to write. I remember I got some comments on the piece about how I obviously wasn’t meditating correctly. At the time, this raised self-doubt in my mind.
Now, I know that writing is a kind of meditation. Maybe it isn’t for everyone, but it is for me. It helps me detach from my ideas. It helps me be curious. It helps me heal. It helps me play.
And walking away from writing is a kind of meditation too. Running. Walking. Singing. Or just sitting quietly letting myself listen to all the sounds around me. It’s part of life. Ebb and flow. Rise and fall. And I’m going for the ride with my heart open.
I have to admit that I felt stressed when I first started writing this book because I felt like I had to do it. I felt like the world needed to hear what I was saying, like this was the most important thing I could do right now. And yes, I still believe that. But the peace with which I am creating now has come from one, beautiful realization: I need to write it too.
Some cynics say there’s no such thing as altruism, no such thing as a selfless act. And you know, maybe it’s true. Maybe each time we do something that benefits others, we get something out of it too. It isn’t just for other people. It’s an act of love for everyone. I don’t have to choose what’s necessary over what feels good. It’s the same thing.
To tell you the truth, I think this book has been a bit like a child to me. I felt I got handed a huge responsibility in saying something important. And maybe I focused so much on the difficulty of my new role that I missed out on its beauty and magic. I can see more clearly now.
To give the world what I need most is a gift. To feel that this is something I need to do is a gift.
I couldn’t feel more grateful.
But what I am grateful for, more than anything, is my own curiosity. For taking those dark and stormy pathways into my inner wilderness. For exploring beyond the brick walls. For taming my dragons. For caring enough about myself to wonder why I felt certain things instead of hating myself for not bending to my own will.
We all deserve this kind of respect. We are all one-year-olds in some way, unable to communicate as well as we want to about the things we really need. All it takes is for the person “in charge” to be curious. To show us respect by wanting to discover us.
How beautiful that we can all be these kinds of caregivers to ourselves.