From the Board: February 2023

Each month, a member of the board will share a reflection on the Soul Matters monthly theme. The theme for February is Love. This month’s post is offered by Shelley Buss. 

Turning away from the concept of love that’s referenced around 98.97% of the time, I want to share a few thoughts on what I think is the hardest kind of love to understand and learn: loving yourself. It’s a pretty simply concept really.  Recognize yourself as the #1 person in your life, and treat yourself with priority. But here’s where I think the rub comes in. In order to love yourself, you need to know yourself and be comfortable with that person. As I parent I try my darnedest to be mindful of what I’m teaching and modeling to my kids. Parents, extended family, teachers, and neighbors all silently imprint children with their beliefs and value systems. Our kids become sponges of their environment. So thinking back on your own life, when or how did you decide who you really are, and do you love that person today? 

I love a good analogy and in this instance, I imagine a child getting dressed in the clothes given and favored by those around them. At some point, you (the growing person) become cognizant of what you’re wearing as you become cognizant of what the people around you are wearing. Or maybe something just doesn’t feel good on you. People you encounter hold figurative mirrors up to you and you start questioning what you’re wearing. Who are you? The people you love dressed you in these clothes and wear the same ones. But who are you really? Danger Will Robinson- vulnerability cliff ahead. To know who you really are, you need to take everything off, lay every item you have on the bed, and then decide, YOU decide, what you’re ready to give away and what you’re comfortable presenting yourself in. That step, starting with the unknown, is HUGE in terms of finding yourself, and something only you can do for you. Then how does that work out when you gather with your family and they realize that you slipped out of the family uniform into something more comfortable? Your identity up to that point has been based on the mold the others put you in, so finding and being your authentic self might create turbulence. Does this affect how you feel about yourself? Or maybe you keep the old clothes out of duty or fear. Alternate the clothes for specific people and places, despite your feelings. If you want to see this going down in real-time, just fire up Netflix and watch any episode of Queer Eye with your box of Kleenex at the ready. There’s a new phoenix rising as each person is lovingly confronted and supported by the Fab5 while finding their inner beauty, but alas, we don’t all get 5 fairy godfathers to lead the way.

You know maybe my analogy isn’t quite up to snuff and it’s really something more like Stone Soup. Growing up, it’s others who are adding ingredients, and at some point when you’re older, you question the soup you’re sharing with the people you meet and invite into your life.  You realize that there are ingredients, either added by others or even yourself, floating in there that you do NOT like (yeck, mushrooms).. 240_F_73995522_WtfOcZoafgnFiHZb3tmGaU5DwWZGl8r8Loving yourself is acknowledging all of your ingredients AND mindfully ditching the ones that don’t suit you. You fill your life with your own spices as you grow into your own being. But sometimes a remnant flavor has a power over us that we can’t shake. You sense its trace, which makes you believe that the soup is no good, even when it’s only a memory, and despite all the wonderful ingredients and flavors you’ve added since. Yes it was there, but give yourself credit for deciding it wasn’t what you want to be, and for taking action to choose something different. Part of loving yourself calls for recognizing that the path is circuitous, and let’s face it, we’ve all done some sucky driving on the road of life. There is a highway ahead of you and you’ve got gas in the tank, so put on your favorite tunes and give yourself permission to drive.  We’re all a work in progress. We have darkness and light, scars and beauty, endings and beginnings. If you can’t let go of those seemingly toxic traces, then choose to replace the period with a comma and continue the story: “, and I am a loving friend. And I am creative. And I make a difference in someone’s life. And I give my time and talents. And everyone, including me, deserves forgiveness and love.” I think we’ll find our soups nourishing not only ourselves but others.

—  Shelley Buss
Member, UUCM Board of Trustees

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