Friday, February 3, 2012

I Love Me.... I Really Really Do... I Think....

The main post is here.  Click on over to BlogHer and comment on what the expert has to say.
As an extra incentive, there's a sweepstakes to enter, too.

So, BlogHer wants me to weigh in on these questions:

How do you practice self-acceptance and find unconditional love for yourself?

How does practicing love first help you attract more love and happiness in your life?

I'm so glad they asked.  It's a topic on which I've been ruminating since I was shot 13 months ago.  I was responsible for my girlfriend's daughter and something terrible happened before I could bring her home.  I held her hand and I looked into her eyes and I told her that she was loved but I couldn't bring her home.  Typing that used to make me sob.  Today, I am smiling.
It's not that I'm not sad.  I miss Christina-Taylor every day of the week.  It's that I have arrived at a place of self-acceptance which, while it may not be unconditional love just yet, is coming pretty close. 

I've never doubted the wisdom of taking a 9 year old to meet her Congresswoman.  I'd do it again tomorrow.  I never second guessed the venue; it's about as up-scale as the Northwest side of Tucson gets.  I never wondered if I'd dragged an unwilling child along; her mom and I had that conversation which ended with "She loves going anywhere with you."  It's the conversation I am happiest to have had.  

But, still, Christina died while she was with me.  Getting my brain around that fact took patience and therapy and believing that the love which was surrounding me was real.  For a snarky New York heathen, that took some doing.  Yes, indeed, it did.  Ultimately, I had to accept the fact that the world is a scarier place than I'd imagined it possibly could be, and that, bizarrely, CTG and I had been at the center of it that Saturday morning. 

Thinking out of the box never felt so relevant.  I had absolutely no box in which to contain the notion that bullets had perforated my body.  I was totally unprepared.  That infuriated me.  I took pride in the fact that life rarely surprised me.  Thrown into the deep end, I'd swim to the side and figure out what to do next.  Awake and immobile in a hospital bed, I vacillated between questioning and whimpering.  Should I be strong?  Should I give in and wail?  Could I close my eyes and let Little Cuter and SIR manage what needed managing?  What was the right thing to do?  Who was I?

Was I the neighbor who was holding the little girl's hand?  Was I the gym rat who would not let a few bullets get in her way?  Was I the person sobbing uncontrollably in the shower, crying over feeling clean and feeling pain and feeling loss?  Where had my sense of self gone?

The hospital brought me cards and notes which had been left at the vigil.  Strangers thought I was special.  People who didn't know me wished me well.  I wanted to reject them but I couldn't - my heart felt warmer as I read I am sorry you got shot and We are praying for you and Stay Strong.

I'm not exaggerating about the warmth surrounding my heart.  It was there, a giant hug that felt every bit as real as the pain radiating down my right side.  I took my laptop and I began to write, and as I posted and readers responded I began to heal from the inside out.  For the first time in my life, I was not second-guessing a compliment, not looking for the hidden agenda behind good wishes.  I was raw and open and my friends and my readers and my family were there to cosset me and envelop me in their love.  It would have been churlish to refuse them.

Accepting help with grace has been a challenge.  Liking the person that others see when they look at me has made it much easier.  I never thought that I was all that special.  I was doing what I liked with the people that I liked and I never understood why some thought that what I was doing was odd... unusual... remarkable... notable.  I was just me.  I wasn't used to people telling me that they loved me.  After all, I didn't hear it from my father until I was 41 years old. 

Lying in my hospital bed, reclining on Douglas (the couch, for you newbies to The Burrow), watching the sun move across the horizon over 3 months of enforced inactivity, I had plenty of time to figure out who I was.  I decided to believe the people who loved me. I decided to accept the hugs from strangers in the produce aisle.  I decided that I must be worthy of affection, for surely the entire town of Tucson could not be possessed by the same form of mania.  It must be real.

And, watching others take pride in my walking makes me stand up straighter and engage my quads more fully and proceed with alacrity instead of with a lurch.  As I smile, others smile back.  Rhonda-at-the-check-out tells me she's noticing improvements.  I tell her it's because she's smiling at me.

I'm not sure that I've fully embraced the wonderfulness that others see.  I've had 60 years of insecurity and that's not easy to overcome.  But, as the love is returned in ever increasing degrees of amplitude, it's getting easier and easier.  And, as I relax into it, as I stop apologizing and denigrating and shrugging,  as I nod and agree and invite you into my world I'm realizing that, perhaps, I can allow myself to believe it, too.


  1. I liked Dr. Aymee's acceptance as part of learning to love oneself. I think this is one of the hardest things for me. I worry a lot. Often things are out of my control and yet I get great anxiety about them and then this makes things much worse. I then beat myself up about it.

    "This does not mean you have to like your circumstances. Instead, accept that some things are out of our control, and that we are unable to change what happened in the past. I believe in a notion of "faith," that only good will come from a situation."

    At first reading this post, I started to cry, but I think part of me has to accept what happened too. It's still so hard to fathom what happened. My heart still aches for you and all those that lost loved ones that horrible day. BUT... my heart can still ache, but I do need to accept it. I think taking a deep breath and learning from it like Dr. Aymee says, will help too.

    I loved this post today.

    You are truly loved.

    Sending big hugs your way.

    Megan xxx

  2. A/B, You're the ReaL DeaL. I wish I knew more people like YoU.


  3. "I decided to believe the people who loved me." Wow. That is HUGE.

    1. I agree... WOW. Just... Wow. I'm going to be chewing on that for a long time.

  4. You know Ashleigh, a few things came to mind when reading your blog. One, you have overcome and endured a tremendous event and in that you can truly commend your spirit for digging deep down and holding onto that hope and courage within. You felt fears you never thought you'd have in your life and in that, you should take great pride. Two, I think whatever the circumstances that lead us to a point of fear; mine was physical and sexual abuse throughout my childhood, it takes us to beleive in the impossible--that people could actually love us, and that we could actualy beleive that they do. I'm glad you are beleiving is a powerful tool in the healing process.

  5. Well said a/b. I don't really "know" you at all, but have felt so moved by your postings and your observations, I feel like you'd be a grand person to talk to in person. I, too, have a hard time believing that someone could just love me for being me. No trauma in the corner, no ugly truths to face, just me, staring out at the big, wide world and wondering how could someone as insignificant as me, have someone love just me. You've taught me some things in your struggle and yes, even your snark. Thanks for being the teacher, I guess the pupil was strolling along looking for the right one!

  6. Such a tremendous story you tell! I love that you dove right in to feeling what you were feeling and let your reactions come. I love that you began writing and therapy and found ways to be with your pain instead of shutting it away. Such a fierce reaction and a great example for all of us. Thank you for sharing this story.

  7. The part I find so special is the part that shares all this with me.


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