I liked myself—that is, until I accepted that my flaws can’t make me any less perfect than the loveable creature that God made me to be.
Then I fell in love with my perfectly imperfect self.
Instead of tucking regrets, guilt and grievances into every cell in my body, I forgave myself for the frailty of being human. I unzipped my heart and healed the holes that spiraled through the organ like worms in a rotten apple.
I began treating myself kindly, just as I would a stranger who was lying on the side of the road, injured. I allowed myself to feel compassion for myself without feeling that doing so was vane or narcissistic.
I told myself that, in order to extend empathy to another person, I had to first be willing to extend that courtesy to myself. It was like being on an airplane in distress mode, oxygen masks deployed, and I had to place the oxygen on my face before I could assist other travelers.
It felt awkward at first — sometimes even selfish, but I began to notice that how I felt about others was actually how I felt about myself. They were my mirrors for what was actually going on inside of me.
When I felt trusting of others, I was indeed feeling trustworthy myself. When I was sad, everyone I met seemed to be depressed about something.
When I refused to accept an apology from someone who had harmed me, I realized I actually needed to forgive myself — possibly for feeling vulnerable enough to be hurt in the first place; possibly for being naïve enough to let the person apologize for something they’d done numerous times in the past.
Often I found myself distrustful that the person was actually sorry for the offense. Then I’d recall several instances where, I too, had whole-heartedly apologized with the most honorable intention to not repeat the same mistake, but had made the same mistake anyway. I’d scold myself, telling myself that I’ll never be a better person, and I’d find myself eating a rotten, worm-filled apple that was eating a whole in my heart yet again.
I finally acknowledged that they may be apologizing just like I had so many times with an honest intent to not repeat the action.
I’d imagine my heart sealed with a zipper — a zipper that, even when broken or in need of repair, absorbed the most divine love— a zipper that I could unzip, unleashing so much love into the world that there’d be no room for even one worm hole.
I’d unzip it slowly and allow myself to feel the pain or disappointment. As I forgave myself, I imagined my love for myself and for others as a white light saturating my whole being and shining directly into their hearts.
I still practice unzipping my heart when it feels achy — embracing the beautiful vulnerability of its healing power — for both myself and any other recipient involved in the conflict.
Compassion, forgiveness, trust — I’m still reminding myself that these sorts of human struggles are the much more prevalent when I choose not to look in the mirror.
Sometimes the reflection is unexpected, so if I happen to see a monkey in the mirror I just tuck my hand under my armpit and make monkey noises back. What you see is what you get.
Michele Zirkle Marcum is a native of Meigs County and an author. Her column appears each Tuesday.