…as you love yourself

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In my previous post, I wrote about the ways that we do unloving things in the name of love. As children, many of us didn’t have the best models for how to love, and as a result we were conditioned to be ashamed of and hide our true selves. We received the message, at least by some adults, that we were unworthy, undeserving, unacceptable, and that nothing we did would ever be “good enough.”

One of the big criticisms I hear about childhood education today is that kids are taught that “everyone is a winner.” While it’s true that there are times when one person succeeds more than others in a particular event, I cringe when I hear rants about how children are being overly coddled and not taught “the truth” that they can’t all be proud of their accomplishments. Those sorts of critiques sound a lot like that same old message I internalized in childhood regarding the aspects of myself that I knew adults wouldn’t approve of…my sinful heart, sinful mind, and sinful ways.

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When we constantly hear that there’s something intrinsically wrong with us, we do indeed absorb that message. It can lead to all sorts of self-destructive behavior that impact us for the rest of our lives. Children who are abused physically or sexually might be told that it’s their fault or that they’ll be hurt even more if they tell anyone…that is, if anyone would even believe them over an authoritative adult. Wives put up with various forms abuse (physical, sexual, emotional) as well, with reinforcement by some misguided church leaders who instruct them to submit to their husbands no matter what.  Teenage girls (and increasingly boys) develop eating disorders that cause long-term health problems, in an attempt to have a “perfect” body. And some at-risk kids even take their own lives after enduring physical and emotional bullying from peers, often with accusations surrounding their sexuality, with teachers and principals silently refusing to intervene.

And yet, Jesus told us to “love your neighbor as yourself.” I mentioned before that a lot of my own childhood shame stemmed from conflicting messages that I received at church. For a large portion of my life, I’m not even sure that I really knew that I should love myself. I was more preoccupied with what was wrong with me than what was good in me. One way I masked that was to overcompensate and be super-virtuous in my behavior, something that I still catch myself doing at times. I might shy away from talking about unpleasant feelings, such as times when I’m angry, until it finally bubbles over and I can’t contain it anymore.

God loves you

I’m still learning how to love myself, but I do know it involves acknowledging both the good and the ugly. I can strive to make peace with the world and people who have hurt me, but there will still be times when I feel angry, frustrated, impatient, and judgmental. Rather than push those feelings down and hide them (even from myself), I try to find healthy outlets to express them. My work with children has taught me that anger in particular benefits from a physical outlet because it is a form of energy that needs to be released. That might involve going on a long run, playing the piano, writing a poem, dancing, crying, eating lunch at the local soup kitchen with friends I’ve made there, praying, or meditating. Sometimes I do all of those things.

I also try to treat myself with loving-kindness by eating healthy and nourishing food, stretching and strengthening my body through exercise and yoga, creating art and music, traveling to and discovering new places, reading to stimulate my mind, learning new things, laughing, getting enough sleep, and taking a break when my introverted self needs some quiet time. And when I’m at my most vulnerable, I surround myself with friends and family who treat me with loving-kindness as well. Those are not times that I want to be around people who are vicious, nasty, or abusive.

Travel light, live light, spread the light, be the light

The self-care that I’ve learned as an adult differs from what I had internalized as a sometimes timid child. Where I was once afraid that I couldn’t be loved for who I truly was, now I realize that I must first love myself. Only then I can extend love toward others. The way I look at it, we’re stuck with ourselves no matter what. We can try to escape by self-medicating or engaging in self-abusive behavior, but we’re still there from the first breath to the very last. Sometimes we enter into relationships as a means of avoiding the a-lone-ness of facing our true selves, but those types of relationships create other problems. When we’re finally comfortable with ourselves, we can form relationships that are affirming, mutually respectful, and loving.

This same principle can be applied to how we relate to our communities and larger world around us. If we are cruel to others (even those we’ve never met), it’s a sign that we don’t know how to love ourselves. Even with the purchases I make, I find myself questioning whether it’s a purchase that helps or hurts others. If child labor was involved…or people halfway across the world being forced to work in an unreasonably hot room without sufficient breaks or adequate pay…or the materials were sourced in a way that caused destruction to the habitat that others must live in…or the profits will be used to fund wars, discrimination, human rights violations, or other atrocities, I must acknowledge that the harm could be happening to me just as easily as it is to others.

For if I wouldn’t want to subject myself to such conditions, then I can’t in good conscience contribute to systems that harm others. That’s not how I would love myself, so that’s not how I want to “love” others.

Bringing this back in to smaller day-to-day interactions, when we condemn others by telling them that they are “going to hell,” we’re acting as if the Bible as if it’s a “social improvement manual” (credit to Don Lee, the lead pastor of my church, for that brilliant phrasing) instead of a message of love. Some might still argue, “But love involves calling people out for their sins and not condoning ‘evil’ behavior.”

My response: Is that how you “love” yourself? If someone physically attacks you because they disagree with your identity, do you sit there and allow them to continue the attack? Do you hurt yourself, kick yourself out of your house to live on the streets, yell at yourself, or flat-out stop speaking to yourself? Do you demand Biblical canonical perfection from yourself? (If you say yes to that last one but omit a single instruction from the Bible then you’re not being honest…and that kind of self-dishonesty is not love.)

Now, I’d like to add the caveat that there are times when we do indeed need to step in and address the self-destructive behavior of our loved ones. One common example is in the case of addiction, when we witness a dangerous downward spiral due to chemical or behavioral dependency. But if I mention my concerns to a friend about excessive alcohol consumption and encourage that friend to seek treatment, my stance isn’t “You must stop drinking or you will go to hell.”

Rather, my worry is that my friend will develop cirrhosis or be involved in a car accident that could kill others. If that friend continues to prioritize alcohol over personal and public safety, I might decide that I need to stay away from the friend for my own self-protection. That’s a far cry from invoking God in an attempt to control the friend. Similarly, if someone abused me or otherwise intentionally hurt me, I would not spend time around that person because I love myself too much to subject myself to an unhealthy and abusive relationship.

I’ve been writing this from a Christian perspective because that’s my own cultural experience. Plus, it’s the religion that I most frequently see used as a justification for treating people unkindly. But everything I’ve said here can be applied to other religious and spiritual (and non-spiritual) traditions. The question still remains: how do we love ourselves, and by extension, others?

At the end of my last post, I suggested that we might reflect on the times in our lives when we’ve felt most loved. If we could rewrite our histories, what would we want love to look like for ourselves? Imagine the best possible childhood, and how a parent (or other adult) could have responded differently at a time when you were hurting. What would have made you feel safer?

Then do those things for yourself. Perhaps if I came home crying because I had been picked on at school, I would hear these words: “Others might not see how beautiful you are, but I do. Even if they are mean to you, I love you.” Or when I didn’t advance in the spelling bee: “Yes, you misspelled a word, and I’m sorry that you didn’t get to continue in the competition. But I still love you anyway, exactly as you are. My love for you isn’t based on your ability to spell.” Those statements acknowledge that bad things happen, that we don’t always “win,” and that we can’t escape feelings of disappointment or anger. But love is still at the heart of those statements.

Once we’ve reconciled the past, we have the freedom to move forward with self-love. Rather than clinging to the pain that we experienced in childhood, we can make peace with it or maybe even release it. And then…we can go forth and love others. I think of that mystical word Namaste that is often uttered at the end of yoga classes. “The divine light in me honors the divine light in you.”  If we don’t see God’s imprint in ourselves, we can’t honor it in others. And if we don’t acknowledge its presence in others, we’ll never truly see it in ourselves.

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In the name of love

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I’ve been stalling on writing this post because it’s kind of an intimidating topic. I mean, I’m not always the best at modeling love…who am I to try to write about it? But it’s been on my mind for quite some time, so here goes.

A lot of things done in the name of love are not very loving. At various times, some people have claimed to do all of these things due to love: physical assault, rape, murder (crime of passion), verbal attacks, neglect, and war. Yep. Every single one of those things, and that’s just a partial list.

Part of me wonders if those who make such claims are intentionally lying, but then I also wonder if the problem has more to do with misguided notions of what is love. Maybe it’s a bit of both. The one thing I’m certain of, though: those are not acts of love.

Do we even know what love is?

[Cue the 1980s-era Foreigner song…]

More seriously, I suspect that a lot of us don’t really know how to love. After all, our earliest models in childhood weren’t always the best (even if the intent was well-meaning), and the same can be said for our parents’ childhoods. I could just throw up my hands and declare that it’s a never-ending cycle, and we’re stuck in this pattern of modeling less-than-loving behavior.

But I don’t believe it has to be this way. I also know that many of us did experience a safe, nurturing childhood environment, with at least one parent (if not both) who modeled healthy love. Some (but not all) of us still become scarred later along the road.

Ironically, one of the places where I see cruelty masked as “love” is in churches and religious institutions. To me, this is nothing short of spiritual abuse, especially when a religious authority tells others that God doesn’t love them for who they are. I’ve seen it a lot recently in debates about same-sex marriage. This issue surfaces in many other scenarios, though, such as when an unmarried teenage girl becomes pregnant or even when someone simply questions their faith and experiences doubts, as in the long tradition of what’s called “the dark night of the soul.”

I want to be clear that while I’ve seen this happen with leaders of all the world’s major religions, my own story is based on my childhood experience in Christian churches. 

During my childhood, my family spent several years at a small church that nearly caused irreparable damage and trauma to me. I don’t think it was intentional on the part of my Sunday School teachers, but the trauma was still all too real. I was terrified that I hadn’t been baptized because I was told that God would not “wipe the slate clean” until such an event happened. In the meantime, I lived with the threat that if I died before I was baptized (fully immersed in water, of course, as christening “didn’t count”), God would hold me accountable for every single sin I had committed, regardless of whether I was even aware that I had sinned. What a warped notion of what a loving God should look like!

Picture of my mother, sister, and me

Church portrait of my family shortly before we started attending the non-denominational church

I cannot begin to describe how scary this was for me, as by that point in my life I had somehow absorbed the message that approval from “adults” meant everything. This led me to two habits: 1) praying every night “for the sins that I didn’t know I committed” (my own little loophole that I hoped God would grant me); 2) hiding certain aspects of myself that I didn’t think would be accepted.

In retrospect, I can’t help but laugh because the thing I was most ashamed of was that I loved rock-and-roll music. I didn’t find anything wrong with it, but I knew that my Sunday School teacher would have been horrified if she had known about my secret. The message at church was that “secular music is Satanic,” and my childhood mind wondered if there was something inherently evil in me that caused me to love that music. There were other things that I kept to myself as well, such as the questions and doubts that I had about what I was being taught in that church. But if I couldn’t be perfect, at least I could pretend to be.

When my church decided to hold its first baptismal ceremony, I jumped at the opportunity to be washed anew. I sometimes wonder if part of my motivation was to stop feeling the need to pray for all those unknown sins. Admittedly, it was nice to shorten my nightly confession, but in spite of that little incentive, I really did believe that Jesus could (finally) work in my life if I was baptized.

As it turned out, I became the very first person to be baptized as part of that church, a sort of symbol for how God could work in anyone’s life…even if I was the daughter of a single mother who had willfully sinned by deciding that it was important for her kids not to be raised in the unhealthy home environment that we had experienced in early childhood. My mother’s divorce became a bigger issue in the coming months (although she was still encouraged to play piano every Sunday for services, by that time without any financial compensation). Soon after that, we went back to the United Methodist Church (UMC), my family’s church home for multiple generations.

I later lost faith in the vengeful brand of God that I had come to know during those few years away from the UMC. I had reached a point where I could no longer believe that God was so cruel and vengeful as to banish children to hell simply because they hadn’t been immersed in a baptismal pool. It took a lot longer for me to reestablish trust in God, but fortunately the UMC taught me about a God who was less condemning and more grace-full.

I considered deleting the above story from this post because it does make for a lengthier entry, but I’ve decided to keep it. To me, this is representative of the tension that exists between different religious camps when it comes to what constitutes love. The God that I feared in childhood was that of a harsh, stern father who wouldn’t hesitate to condemn His own children to a fiery eternity in hell. My own personal concept of “father” didn’t help to balance out what I had been taught of fatherhood at church–my own father was largely absent and often unpredictable.

Some pastors and churches use intimidation and fear to force people into submission. We’re told that we’re utterly wretched, but if we follow certain rules, we can be part of a chosen elite. Those who select which rules should be imposed typically ignore other parts of the Bible that are more inconvenient. Sometimes it’s a matter of recognizing the near impossibility of adhering to orthodox standards such as unmixed fibers in clothing or kosher crop division. Then there are times when behavior is excused or covered up for “men of the cloth” but condemned for others. (Note: These instances of abuse are not representative of all or even most religious leaders–one of my closest friends is a priest, and I would trust him, as well as anyone I love, with my life.)

This hypocrisy leads many people to reject Christianity entirely. When churches bully or otherwise abuse anyone who doesn’t conform to their understanding of scripture, they can have the effect of undermining the proclamation that God is love. At a deeper level, this conduct also sends out a message that love is a twisted and conditional sort of thing. 

The mantra “Love the sinner but hate the sin” is a classic example of how spiritually abusive behavior confuses the true meaning of love. I have tried and tried to understand what this means (“I love you but I hate the way you live your life”), and I still can’t wrap my head around how this sort of intimidation would motivate someone to change, if that’s even the intent.

Regardless of the protestations, those words still sound a lot like hate, conscious or not, and remind me of the list that I offered at the beginning. “I love you, and that is why I am speaking for God by telling you that you are going to hell.” Or said to a teenager, “I love you, and that is why I am kicking you out of the house for telling me that you are gay.”

Originally, I had intended for this post to delve into what authentic love looks like, but I’ve decided to write that as a follow-up entry. In the meantime, I would like to challenge us all to imagine what love would ideally look like in our own lives. Imagine those moments when we’ve truly felt loved, and what it felt like. 

Did it feel safe…or scary? Was it comforting…or unsettling? Was it familiar…or uncharted territory? Or was it all of the above? Next, let’s imagine how do we show love…and how can we be the love that we want to receive.

On be-ing Cynthia

Yesterday I found myself standing with a sign in a one-woman protest on the corner of Central Expressway and SMU Boulevard down in Dallas. It’s not the first time that I’ve been involved in a protest, but it was a little unusual to be out there alone.

I had thought that I would be joining a larger group, but when I arrived, most of the others were in the process of moving to another location where they would be for quite some time. My reason for participating in the protest didn’t really make sense in the context of where they were headed, so I decided to stay put. A few others contemplated staying with me but then headed home instead.

So there I was. Alone. On the access road at an incredibly busy intersection. During rush hour. With about a dozen police officers watching me from the other side of the access road. No problem.

Methodist for Peace

My protest sign

I held my sign and smiled at passersby, including the many who waved or otherwise cheered me on. I recalled a time when my Grandma had launched her own solo protest (at the age of 80), chuckling about how this sort of thing must run in the family. Then a man in a business suit crossed the street to talk to me. I smiled and politely asked him how he was doing, and he introduced himself as a sergeant for the police department. He explained that I was within my legal First Amendment right to be there, and then he proceeded to tell me a few rules for standing on that corner (most of which sounded like “rules for not getting run over by a speeding car”).

He asked me how long I would be there, and I said that I didn’t know. I made an innocent remark about how I would have brought some bottled water if I’d known there would be so many officers present, and I said that I hoped they were all comfortable. He laughed, thanked me for my concern, and said they were doing well. I guess he decided that I didn’t require monitoring from quite so many officers because most of them left after that. Two stayed behind, and to be quite honest, it felt more like they were watching out for my safety than anything else. A bit surreal.

I’m telling this story because it relates to an aspect of myself that it took me a long time to come to terms with. When I was younger, I had a rather romanticized view of activists, mainly from movies. I also loved to read about transformative movements such as the Civil Rights Era and the women’s suffrage campaign. I fantasized about living in other historical eras and felt that I was out of my element in my own surroundings.

During once such phase, I declared to my mother that I should have been around in the 1960s because I would have been an excellent hippie. She responded by saying that I would have hated the lifestyle because I valued my alone time too much to live in a commune or travel around on a bus. I wasn’t about to admit it, but I knew deep down that she was right. Yet, it looked so glamorous in the movies: dancing around in fields to “San Francisco” (I loved to wear flowers in my hair), protesting the Vietnam War, and risking the possibility of going to jail for my principles.

As an adult, I’ve learned that I simply don’t have the personality to be a radical activist. I soooo wanted to be one, but I’m not very good at it. Although I participated in debate throughout high school and still sometimes enjoy the challenge of “winning” an argument, it usually exhausts me now. I want everyone to get along. I don’t like war, but my dreams for world peace extend to inner peace. And when pushed, I’m more likely to become rude and say things that I end up regretting, which doesn’t help with the whole inner peace thing.

I will still join in public protests when I’m able (I love the energy of community and collective action), but then I’ll balance these group gatherings with solitary activities such as blog writing and artistic expressions.

Blackout poem

A blackout poem that I created on the 9th anniversary of the war in Iraq. (Click on the image for a larger view.)

Now, the most important thing I’ve realized with regard to this aspect of myself is that I’m not better or worse than anyone else because of my method of engaging with the people around me. For so long I felt inadequate because I’d watch friends do all this really cool stuff that I didn’t feel comfortable doing. But there is really no reason for me to feel inadequate.

I can admire some activists’ willingness to capture lots of people’s attention with their bold, aggressive actions and appear regularly in the media while recognizing that I prefer to maintain a lower profile. Conversely, I’m not going to develop an attitude that I’m somehow superior to others because of my more gentle approach to social and political movements. We’re all striving for a better world, and when we work together, each drawing on our own gifts, we can accomplish amazing things.

What I’d like to encourage others to do is to get to know yourself. Learn what your strengths are in terms of advocating for a world in which all people are treated with dignity, live in a safe environment, and have their basic needs met. Then find a way to insert yourself into spaces in which you can make a difference. It’s OK (perhaps even good) to get angry sometimes about the injustices and violence in this world, but don’t let anger consume you. Find balance with compassionate people and with activities that make you happy. Treat yourself with grace, and don’t beat yourself up for being different from others.

Also remember that some people will be able to dedicate more time and energy to social causes than what you might currently be able to do, and that’s OK too. We’re all on our own journeys. Be proud of what you are able to accomplish, and hold onto this wisdom from Mother Teresa: “Peace begins with a smile.” Smiling is something that almost all of us can do, even when it’s only on the inside.

It’s not all relative

Back in the summer of 2001, I spent a month studying African drumming and culture in Ghana. My mother met me in London afterward, and when she asked me about Ghana, I found that I didn’t have the language to talk about it. This scared her. She worried that something awful had happened to me, or perhaps she worried that I might have converted to the indigenous religion.

My time in Ghana was wonderful and transformational, and I still look back on it as a pivotal moment in the formation of my adult value system. I needed time to process what I had experienced, and in a way, that process continues to this day.

The lack of words had to do with my own concerns that I would somehow exoticize the culture, and I didn’t want to say anything that would make my new friends sound strange. Since then, I’ve developed a set of tools for talking about other cultures, and I strive to do so in a way that is respectful and honors the amazing breadth and depth of humanity.

This doesn’t mean that I agree with everything I encounter. For that matter, I don’t even always agree with myself…ideas, belief systems, and ways-of-knowing in this world can be complex and seemingly contradictory at times. It’s in the recognition of fluid “in between” spaces that we can begin to connect with one another on a deeper level.

As I move forward with my posts about Cuba, I’d like to request that readers keep this framework in mind. This is something of a generalization, but I find that we in US-American society tend to look at other cultures through a lens of superiority, or alternatively that we might over-romanticize the “Other” outside of our own heritage and traditions.

The more I travel, the more I realize that everyone I encounter has something of value to  offer in terms of how I view myself and larger communities. Rather than reduce other cultures to some sort of comparative “We’re better” or “they’re better,” perhaps we can begin to delve into the situations and conditions that give rise to both differences and shared humanity.

There will be times that I might say, “Hey, this is cool! I wish we could do things that way,” and then there are other instances where I might provide an analytical critique of what may or may not be working. In the midst of that, it’s important to understand that different cultures are not always relative. Some things don’t translate. And some comparative interpretations are subjective, depending on one’s perspective.

The challenge is to try not to fall back on the crutches of superiority and exceptionalism (or the inverse inferiority and relativism). I might push you a bit to consider new ideas, but it’s not intended to put anyone in a defensive mode. Let’s stretch together!

I can see clearly now

This gallery contains 11 photos.

Something odd happened the last full day I was in Cuba. The sky suddenly seemed brighter, colors were more vivid, and Havana seemed so vibrant. I felt kind of like Homer Simpson in the episode where he finds himself in a 3-dimensional world. It was utterly, truly surreal. I attribute the transformation to a couple […]

The power of one

When I arrived at my home tonight, I discovered that my heater isn’t working. It’s kind of cold outside right now. Well, cold enough for the local emergency homeless shelter to be open tonight so that those who are unhoused in our community can sleep indoors. Still, not as bad as last week when it snowed and created a cold slushy-wet mess under the bridges.

I contemplated going over to the emergency shelter to hang out with friends there. I spent several hours over there on Christmas night, and I had a great time. Icy bridges made it dangerous for me to drive to my aunt’s house (about 45 minutes away), so I had spent all of Christmas day at home alone. I honestly enjoyed the time at the shelter because it offered me a place to share in community.

Tonight I just wanted to be alone. I’ve been traveling for the past few days, and while I loved my visits with family and friends, I needed some quiet restorative time. That’s definitely part of my introvert nature (although in the past couple of years, I’ve experienced spells when I’m more of an extrovert).

There has been a lot of talk about the care and feeding of introverts lately. It’s been something of a hot topic as some of us introverts peak our heads out of our shells and talk about how we often feel out of place in a society that rewards extroversion. I can usually fake extroversion, even when I’m at my most introverted, thanks to my INFJ personality type (inasmuch as the Myers-Briggs system is ever accurate). In fact, I can fake it so well that it sometimes surprises people that I am an introvert because, as has been pointed out by several vocal introverts, shyness is different from introversion. We’re not nervous or afraid to speak in public–it just takes a lot of energy, no matter how much we enjoy and even thrive on social interactions.

Yet, for all this recent attention, I’ve felt that a certain aspect of introversion hasn’t really been discussed. Or, at least, I haven’t encountered it in the booksTED Talks, interviews, and articles. I suspect, though, that there are academic critiques that delve into what’s been lacking in the popular media.

Underlying the discussions about introverts is an implicit class privilege. Oh, I know, I have a tendency to bring up this notion of privilege a lot, but that’s because it’s so much a part of my world. I’m increasingly aware of the advantages that I have.

And yes, the ability for introverts to rejuvenate quietly is indeed a privilege. I’m able to sequester myself in the privacy of my home whenever I am feeling particularly exhausted or overstimulated. This holiday season has brought out my need for alone time, as I’ve been contemplating where I am and where I’m headed. I find that writing helps me to think through my ideas, but unlike extroverts who might prefer to write in coffee houses and communal office spaces, I usually accomplish more when I am by myself.

Not everyone has the luxury of retreating to a quiet space. I am able to afford to live alone, and the last time I shared a bedroom with anyone for an extended period of time was during the first semester of my freshman year of college. That lasted for less than two months before I was able to get a private room.

I’ve shared a room with others during travels abroad, but I think that my record was during the month that I spent in Ghana in 2001. I had the best possible roommate in Ghana–she was laid-back and usually didn’t get back to our little grass hut until long after I had gone to sleep. The same was true during the two weeks that I spent in the Czech Republic (minus the grass hut).

Chelle and me in front of our hut.

Chelle and me in front of our hut, August 2001.

It’s not that I intend to spend the rest of my life living on my own. I did share a space with my mother during the years that I cared for her…well, my mother and, with the exception of the nights that no one showed up, a string of nurses who sat with her so that I could sleep. I don’t know what I would have done if I hadn’t been able to close my bedroom door and hide away. If I ever get married or cohabitate, I’ll need a designated “Cynthia space.”

Poverty doesn’t afford this kind of space. When my parents separated, I lived with my mother and sister in a small apartment where my sister and I shared a room. The only reason we were able to move into a three-bedroom house was because my mother’s parents made the downpayment. But even the apartment offered more privacy than some of the places I’ve visited. After all, my mother had her own bedroom.

Her bedroom couldn’t have been much smaller than the one-room hut that I saw in Haiti where a single mother and her five children piled onto two small beds each night. And Mom’s room was certainly more private than the emergency shelter that I visited on Christmas, where the most personal space that anyone had was a few feet immediately surrounding each cot in the open room.

A tent city in Port-au-Prince

A tent city in Port-au-Prince, Haiti

In a way, there’s a certain irony in that, as I have written elsewhere, poverty is often incredibly isolating, while at the same time not usually allowing people to experience intentional aloneness. Community is incredibly important, even if it’s for the sake of surviving together under a bridge or in a tent city.

I think that the key word is “intentional” when considering the value of solitude. When I feel that I would benefit from alone time, it’s a choice for me to retreat. Having my own space affords me the privilege of deciding when I want to be by myself and when I want to spend time with others.

I don’t want to isolate myself from others–I love building community and connecting with the world around me, both in one-on-one interactions and in larger groups. I am better at this when I can occasionally recharge alone. The degree to which I need quiet time varies, but I get to make that decision myself. It’s a privilege that many people in this world don’t have. While I’m going to continue to relish my solitude, I try not to take it for granted but, rather, be mindful and intentional about it so that I can offer more to others. Yes, there is power in oneness.