I shuffled into the bathroom and looked at my sleepy self in the mirror. I immediately thought of Louise Hay and her commitment to the practice of “mirror work” – saying “I love you. I really, really love you,” each time you look in a mirror. As I smiled at her memory and silently said the words to myself, I grabbed my electric toothbrush and began cleaning my teeth.
“Hey, go easy with that thing,” my husband Michael said as walked into the room.
What? I said using my best zombie impersonation.
“You’re so rough when you brush your teeth. Please, be gentle with yourself.”
This was the second time in a week that Michael mentioned something about how rough I was when brushing my teeth so I took note. It’s one thing to say “I love you,” to yourself and another to act like it.
When I finished in the bathroom, I went downstairs to sit in my favorite chair by the window overlooking our backyard. I wanted to think about Michael’s comment. Why was I still so rough on myself in ways I hadn’t even noticed? Tears flooded my eyes as I felt the pain of self-neglect – years of working crazy, long hours, staying up late when I needed to sleep, keeping commitments to others and breaking them to myself, and pushing my body to move faster when what it desperately needed was to slow down.
I sat quietly, allowing myself to grieve, to release the pain gathered inside for decades. So many versions of rough and so little acquaintance with softness.
The body holds memory. It’s a wise student who follows our lead and it does its best to memorize the behaviors we engage in frequently so it can use autopilot to its advantage. This is one of the reasons why old habits die hard. They’ve been in place, often since childhood, and they are as automatic and reliable as a sunrise.
I want a different kind of sunrise at this stage in my life. I’m learning to value the gentleness of waking up without an alarm, the joy of a commitment-free, spontaneous day to do what my soul wants to do. I’m putting time between activities so I can experience and appreciate the value of smooth transitions from one task to another. And I’m learning to ask for help and then receive it when offered in spite of how strange it feels to do so.
Oh, and I’m now learning to brush my teeth with tenderness.
In the words of Louise Hay, “You will be with you longer than anyone else on the planet. Why not make it a good relationship?”
Always the teacher, even from the other side. I hear you, sweetheart, I say to her as I stare out the window at the morning light rousing the day. “Soft and gentle” is my new mantra and I welcome them in with open arms.