Spring has sprung and no one is more excited about it than me! It’s a time for new beginnings. Re-invention. This month we kick winter out the door and get ready for the sun, strapless tops and for those who are lucky enough to live by the coast… the beach. But the most exciting thing about spring is that it is the season of love. Not lust or infatuation – because that’s summer. Spring is about love. I saw a an elderly black couple at the jazz (maybe in their 70s) dancing to Caiphus Simenya and looking as in love as two love-struck teenagers. How heart-warming is that? In a world where at least 40% of all marriages end in divorce, that one couple grew old together. They will bury each other and leave behind generations of children and grandchildren born out of love. (Ok, so I’m a hopeless romantic who doesn’t know that couple from a bar of soap but I’m pretty sure if I did, that’s what they would tell me).
Human beings are social creatures. We not designed to be alone; to be without family or friends. It’s true that not everyone is meant to marry and grow old with someone, but everyone is meant to have at least one person who will love them and cherish them and take care of them. Equally, everyone is designed to love at least one person. To hold someone dear and be good to them: a brother; a friend; your mother… Life’s greatest gift is the ability to love, and its kindest pleasure is to be loved in return. And as corny or clichéd as it sounds, it all starts with the self. A love for yourself attracts, reflects and embraces a love from others. So what often happens with those who find themselves feeling alone is that somewhere along the line, they stopped believing they were worthy of love and pushed it away. One’s inability to recognise the beauty within oneself will make one doubt – and at times resent – those who do.
But this love doesn’t just come. It is learnt and practiced. It is affirmed and reaffirmed by those around us until it becomes an irremovable part of us. It is taught to us by our parents and teachers (or at least it should be) and reaffirmed by our friends and family – in an ideal world. The work and commitment it takes to sustain a healthy relationship with another person, is the same work and commitment it takes to maintain a healthy relationship with You. If you don’t respect your body, or you don’t take care of your emotional well-being, your relationships will reflect that. And if you are insecure and doubt yourself, it is only natural that you will enter into insecure relationships (romantic and otherwise). If you cannot be comfortable in your own skin, then you will never be completely comfortable in your partner’s arms. So, when your boyfriend tells you he wants to spend a weekend with his boys, your insecurity will hear “he doesn’t want to be with me”. And when your girlfriend of two years suddenly develops a love for make-up and sexy underwear, your insecurity will assume she has met someone else because she couldn’t possibly doing this for you (or herself- heaven forbid!).
Love for The Self is about being able to be honest enough to make the necessary changes because The Self attracts what The Self reflects: beauty attracts beauty; confidence attracts confidence. In as much as you want your partner to be successful (personally and professionally), so too does your partner want these things from you. In order to create healthy relationships, we need to ensure that the standards we set for others are the same standards we set for ourselves. We also need to accept that as much as we are flawed, so too is the next person and a relationship with them will require some kind of give and take.
The Luyia people of Western Kenya have a saying: “bad dancing does not break an engagement”. What this means is that imperfection is not a reason for separation. Nobody is perfect but that doesn’t mean we are unlovable, it just means that that list you drew up in primary school (and reworked in high school) about the perfect guy should be more of a guideline as opposed to being a rulebook. But please don’t take that to mean that all imperfections are worth accepting because they’re not. A bad dancer and an abusive person are two completely different things: bad dancing we can compromise on; abuse we should never settle for!
Even though love isn’t quite the Hollywood movie (actually it often has as many twists and turns as a Nollywood movie – hopefully without the often disappointing endings), that doesn’t make it less worth pursuing. The hopeless romantic in me says throw caution to the wind! Love like you’ve never hurt before, guard your heart – but never so fiercely that you cage it from its purpose – and be good to your SELF. Put your sandals on, walk barefoot on the beach and be sprung!