I am nothing.

Don’t get bent out of shape. Don’t take that title out of context. Don’t think that this is a post about putting myself down. It is, in fact, quite the opposite. You just gotta stick with me for a bit.

You also might notice the amount of time that has elapsed since the previous post. #lesigh .When I go without posting for awhile, it can be for any number of reasons, usually boiling down to one (or two or all) of the following:

a) Life happened. I got busy. Survival took preference over my online pontificating. b) I am wrestling with something. I feel like I have changed my thinking or positions on something, and maybe even something I’ve talked about on here before. c) For whatever reason, I’m feeling bad about myself, or like I’ve failed at something. And when I’m feeling like that, hiding is my MO.

The last 2 months have been a mixture of all of the above. I’m not going to go into all the specifics right now; but, suffice it to say, it’s been an “interesting” fall. For better or for worse (literally – it can go either way), when I feel a complicated mixed bag of emotions, I dive deep. I don’t know what goes on in your head (aren’t we both glad for that?!), but my mental rabbit holes are the stuff of legend.

If you need me, I’ll just be over here putting my (super-cute pink rubber boot clad) feet one in front of the other. 

One of the many (oh so many) things on my mind these days? Five little words: “without love I am nothing”(now maybe you’re getting an idea of where I’m going title-wise).  If, like me, you’ve grown up/spend a lot of time in church (and please don’t stop reading if that is not the case. THIS IS NOT A SUPER-PREACHY OR SECRETLY EVANGELISTIC POST, I PROMISE), you probably recognize these words as part of 1 Corinthians 13:2, the whole verse reading:

And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.

The phrase also shows up in a couple of songs that I have been listening to a whole lot of these days. Typically (and by typically, I mean for literally my entire life until last week); I think about the idea of being nothing without love in the context of big acts (after all, the apostle Paul is talking about prophetic powers, mysteries and moving mountains for crying out loud!) or doing things for others.

Like, if I’m trying to make my students learn things without loving them first (which is admittedly a bit of a challenge when you deal with adolescents all day), I’m doomed. if I do something out of duty or obligation, but don’t have love in my heart? Might as well not bother. I think you get the idea.

So I was driving home from work last week, singing the lyrics “without love I am nothing” in my head. Then it hit me: these words don’t just apply to things I do and how I see others. They apply with how I see myself. Lightning bolt. Mic drop.

For a lot of my life, I’ve struggled with how I see myself. And I struggle hard with being kind to myself. This had lead to a variety of issues throughout my life in terms of self confidence, body image, weight, etc etc etc (seriously, the list goes on and on). At times I have done better or worse (although I really hate using those terms in this context), and have even felt at times like I have “beat” some of the things that typically get me down (although the older I get, the more I realize that that is kind of an illusion…but I digress). Not surprisingly, these past few months have been struggle bus city.

I’ve fallen down in areas that I’ve been successfully managing for years. And so I’ve tried to make changes and improvements. But you know what? They’re not motivated by love. I’m not trying to change because I love myself. In fact I am sending myself pretty much the opposite message on a repeating loop. The result? Change isn’t happening the way I want it to. And so I end up feeling even worse about myself.

It turns out that trying to make a change “for the better,” because you don’t like yourself right here right now is actually really really hard. And also SUPER frustrating. Like, “running head-on into a brick wall on the daily/wanting to scream/cry/punch something” levels of frustrating.

What makes it even more frustrating is knowing that I did it before. I changed a pattern that was getting me down. And if felt different, better, and (I thought) more maintainable and permanent because it really DID come from a place of self-love. That’s what makes where I am now so damn discouraging.

I desperately want to go back to the frame of mind I was in, and all the positive changes that came with it, but it feels like I’ve lost my way. I’m so upset and disappointed with myself that I’m letting myself spiral further and further away from where I know I need to be (sorry if this is getting a little bit dark, but, that’s honest vulnerability for you folks).

So…action plan. How to stop the spiral? Believe me, I’m not all the way there yet. But I am trying to take small steps to help myself right here right now.

First of all is ask for help. There are several different spheres of my life. And there are things that are not feeling great in most of them right now. And there are different people who can help in different areas. So I’m reaching out to them. In some cases these are people who have helped me before, but I’m also reaching out and trying new things (I’m being not unintentionally vague, both because I don’t feel quite like disclosing absolutely everything; and also so that you can apply what I share more easily to whatever you’re going through).

Just like if you found yourself in a deep hole you’d need a hand (or two or three or four) to pull you out, so it is for shame spirals. And the people you reach out to can be anyone – from “professionals” to trusted friends. Just spill on what you’re dealing with, be willing to be vulnerable, and see what happends.

Give yourself a break. Seriously, just be nice to yourself. When you sit back, stop and realize just how many of your actions have been coming from the harmful and negative space of self-loathing, it can be staggering. Instead of asking what you “should” or “need” to do, ask yourself what you want to do. What would serve you best? You might not get the answer right (or even know what it is), but I can guarantee you that it feels better than constantly existing in a a low-level state of self punishment.

Laugh and be grateful. This is pretty generic advice, but that’s only because I try to carry these two things with me through whatever I’m going through. It might take a darker turn from time to time, but my sense of humour pretty much never leaves me, even with life seems crappy as heck. I’ve found myself saying a lot these days “I just have to laugh, or else I’d cry” (*not that I’m advocating for not crying or feeling your feelings).

And gratitude? Honesty time: it’s hard right now. But I’m trying. Doing the whole gratitude journal thing. And remembering that even though things that suck feel, well, sucky; they pretty much always teach me something. And there’s a lot learned from time in the trenches. And before I know it, I’ll be right up there with Drake: “started from the bottom and now I’m here” (that song is about self esteem issues and mental health…right?!).

If you’ve been reading on here for awhile, you’ll know that happy endings with a nice little bow on them are not how I roll (it’s not how anyone rolls in real life actually – sorry kids). If you’re waiting for the part of the post where I magically get my stuff together, pull myself up by my bootstraps and rise above self-negativity, well; so am I. Instead I’ll just be over here putting one fit in front of the other, asking for help, trying to be kind to myself and grateful; and laughing all the while. I mean – what other choice do I have? But whatever I do, I’ll be doing it all with love – because without that – I got nothing.

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