By Charlene deGuzman
Listen. This is important. I understand that you are a very busy person and you’ve got all these things and these things and ugh these things and it’s hard enough to find the time to take care of yourself let alone keep up appearances and convince everyone you are happy, put together, in control, and definitely a good friend, a supporter of the arts, I mean of course you’ll be at that improv show/that standup show/that one-woman show/that experimental puppet show/that writers group show? (What does that even mean?)
But listen. This is important. Really listen.
I need you to know that love is okay.
I know what you’re thinking - love is bullshit, you’re incapable of it, you don’t want it, you don’t need it, you don’t deserve it. “I felt it once, but never again,” you say, and I get it – your father left, your boyfriend left, your innocence left, I know – everyone knows – it’s the one thing we all understand, every single person on this planet understands, all the ones you know and don’t know, the ones you like and don’t like – we all understand – we all know love.
And I’m sorry for your pain. I’m so sorry.
But what if I told you that love is everywhere? What if I told you that everything is love? That anything that seems otherwise is just an illusion? Would you look for it? Would you see it? What if I told you that everyone has access to it? That you don’t have to be “this good” or “this bad” and it doesn’t matter what your checklist looks like or what your childhood looks like or what your Instagram looks like and it doesn’t matter what you did that one time. (You could let go of that, by the way - you know, if you want.)
Listen. This is important. Love is everywhere. I didn’t see it before, but I do now, and I need for you to know.
Stop saying you hate yourself. I used to say that too. We say that because it’s easy, it’s safe, it justifies all of the negative things we decide about ourselves. We say that because MAYBE WHEN YOU WERE 12 YOU TOLD EVERYONE YOU WERE IN LOVE WITH JESSE PIZANO AND THEN HE DUMPED YOU AT THE BASKETBALL COURTS IN FRONT OF EVERYONE AND HE TOLD YOU HE LIKED JENNIFER WONG INSTEAD AND YOU CUT YOURSELF FOR THE FIRST TIME AND EVERYONE CALLED YOU CRAZY AND THAT WAS IT YOU MUST BE CRAZY FOREVER AND YOU ARE WORTH NOTHING WITHOUT A MAN’S LOVE, okay maybe that’s just me, point being, we decide these things, and they’re easier.
Give yourself more credit.
You know when you’re waiting at the front of a red light, watching a group of people cross the street. You’ve had a bad day and your eyebrows are exhausted with stories and you just want to get home and start drinking and the thought crosses your mind – “I could kill all these people.” Yeah, how easy it would be to take your foot off the brake and stomp into the gas and you could kill all these people. Because you’re angry. Because you’re sad. You could keep driving and driving through people’s houses, through family dinners, past the people who have hurt you, and you could keep going till you reach a cliff and you land in the ocean and you drown GONE FOREVER. But you know what? You don’t. Every single day, you don’t. So even if you “hate yourself” there is a tiny little itty bitty sliver of you that doesn’t. And that tiny little itty bitty sliver is love. I’m telling you, it counts.
That ice cream you ate to feel better, it counts. The courage to wear your hair out of your face for the first time, it counts. Getting out of bed, even if It’s the first time in weeks, it counts. Love is everywhere. See and hear and listen to that tiny little itty bitty sliver inside of you. Allow yourself to feel it for once and practice it and learn from it and let it grow. You’re the only person who can do that for you. Nobody else can do that for you. Not even that man, not even that woman, not that money, not that nail art, not a pill, not a bad habit. Nothing and nobody can give that to you except for you. Do it for you, because it feels good. I’m telling you from experience, I’m telling you from living an entire life ignoring and avoiding and not feeling worthy enough for that tiny little itty bitty sliver and then finally letting it in that IT FEELS SO FUCKING GOOD. And the best part about that tiny little itty bitty sliver is that once you give it a damn chance, it’ll grow and grow and it’ll be anything but tiny.
It doesn’t have to be tiny anymore. Give yourself more credit.
You put your shoes on today. You listened to a friend. You showed up to work. You liked a Facebook status. You were polite to a stranger. You paid for your food. You looked at the sky. You have a party to go to tonight. You’re breathing. Have you ever thought how cool it is to be healthy? That’s not a thing that everyone has.
GIVE YOURSELF MORE CREDIT.
You told the truth when you could have lied. You said sorry when you could have been quiet. You shared a secret when you could have held on. You asked for help. You forgave. You have all the information you need today and you’re making choices. You’re listening to me right now, I know you’re listening to me right now.
“It’s not all love!” you shout at me. “What about that thing that happened to me, that horrible awful ugly thing. What about that thing. THAT THING.” What did I tell you about that thing? You still haven’t let go of that thing, I need you to let go of that thing, and the best way to let go of that thing is to remind yourself that that thing is also love. The most horrible thing in the world is just something that needs more love. But it’s love. Because it’s a part of you, and it makes you who you are, and you are love. And now you can help others with what you’ve learned, and that is love. Everything is love.
12-year-old me is rolling her eyes at me right now, trust me, I get it. But you know what, 12-year-old me, you’re rolling your eyes at me because it’s easy, and because you’re protecting yourself from believing something that sounds too good to be true, and you don’t want to be hurt because you’re scared of being hurt and you just want to feel good, and you know what? That’s just love too. And it counts!
I know it sounds so hard, I know you don’t think you’re ready for it, but I need you to try. Come from a place of love, come knowing that all you need is love and even the people around you need love, and it’s all we need and we’re all doing what we think is best in the moment. We all hurt and we all get angry and sad but even in those moments, try making a switch in your brain. Try challenging the default. Try coming from love instead of fear. You’ll feel a difference, I promise you’ll feel a difference, even if it’s a tiny little itty bitty difference, you’ll feel a difference, and it’ll make you want more, and you’ll practice it more, and you’ll feel it more, and you’ll chase it more, and before you know it, it will just be.
Listen. This is important. I need you to know that love is okay.
(“Letter to Self.” Read live at SLUSH, Stories Books & Cafe, Echo Park, October 26, 2013.)