A friend of mine says that even though she’s been married for 35 years, she’s been married to maybe 5 or 6 different men. What she means is that the man she married at their wedding is not the man she’s married to today: he has changed, and marriage is a process of working out how to love this person in front of you. It means not assuming that their desires or preferences or dreams or responses will be the same as they were a year ago, or five years ago, or when you first got married. I thought that was a really poignant way to describe marriage, and I suspect it’s true of self-love as well, of learning how to love yourself as you are on this day, in this body, in this situation, with these hopes, fears, desires, disappointments, etc. Here are three things I’ve learned about myself this year.
I’ve learned about sensory profiles, how there are more than just the 5 senses. There are 7 including proprioception and vestibular. All of us have a unique sensory make up, seeking out or avoiding certain sensations according to our own sensitivities. This is why certain sounds or touches can set one person’s teeth on edge, but be soothing for another, or how some people love swings at the playground while they make others sick. Most of us are unaware of these but they contribute to our levels of stress, and an OT friend got me into this because Elliot’s little nervous system needed calming while we were in Australia. Though it was initially for his benefit, it’s been useful for my own self-awareness too, and helped me to identify ways to be kind to myself. One of the reasons we decided to move Callum to his own bed overnight was because being touched all night and all day was getting too much for my nervous system to take!
I’m learning about grief. Christmas marked a year since Red Twin’s cancer diagnosis, though of course this time last year we just thought she’d be sick for a while and then get better. It was later we learned that it was terminal. I’m learning how much energy and time grief takes, and how I need to clear space in my life for it. I’m learning that grief isn’t just about losing one person, but about losing a whole family as I know it, because the entire family system is altered. I’m learning that it’s worth sharing the process with others, including the faith dimension to it, because many people assume that anger or disappointment with God or the church is a liability to faith, and my profile as a ‘missionary’ gives me a chance to show how it is actually an expression of faith.
I’ve been learning about shame. Brene Brown has brought this topic into the western social consciousness in recent years. I have this really strong memory from when I was a child, maybe 8 years old, of a big dinner where we were to be on our best behaviour. The guests were people my parents were obligated to see, but who were toxic to them, and they were just hoping to get through the evening without giving them anything else to use against them. And, trying to help, I did something really inappropriate. Then, I led my sisters in to join me in doing it. Aghast, the guests asked my parents, “Does she know what that means?” My mother, ever gracious, covered for me, “Of course she doesn’t, she’s a child,” but I could tell she was mortified. I had let her down big time. As I grew older and developed more social awareness, I also came to see just how terrible it was. However, I mentioned this story to two of my sisters the other day and neither of them had any memory of it. None. I recounted it in more detail, cringing, eyes downcast, my voice faltering, tears springing to my eyes. And they saw the funny side of it. In fact, they thought it was absolutely hilarious. I have carried such shame about this incident that their laughter shocked me. But they did not think it was worthy of such condemnation. They said the same thing as my mum, “You were just a child!” This brings me back to the reflection about self-love: on top of loving myself now as I am, I also have to work on having grace for more immature versions of myself.
Categories: Written by Tamie
Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.