In the gently singing dark of early morning, with stars still flecking the long cold sky, I drink tea and imagine the quiet season to come. One of my favourite things about winter is that there are no cicadas. I do not like them. I was raised in forests where their sound was relentless, riotous. I can never quite ignore it. And yet, as I listen now, I do appreciate the trembling loveliness, and how it gives a kind of structure in the lightlessness to my little garden. Without that cicada song, I might easily believe the world falls away from my windows, leaving only dark sky and dreams. Such is the vulnerability of an autumn morning. Such is its enchantment.
Have you ever been told that no one will love you until you love yourself? I imagine so; it seems a common thing to say. But it's also a cruel and condemning thing. Someone who struggles to love themselves may then utterly resent themselves for the weakness that supposedly keeps them from being loved. They may believe their fragility and low self esteem make them ineligible for love. They might not believe it when it's offered to them. And so they go on in loneliness and pain.
But that's not how it is at all. True love is a response to a true heart. It takes all the fragile pieces and holds them close. It sings in the dark. If love required high self esteem from its every object, no one would ever have it, because we are, most of us, uncertain. I believe this idea that we must love ourselves first is a manifestation of our culture's current cult of the individual. It is dangerous and mean, because it keeps us from relationships with others.
If you are struggling with self-love, may I suggest you ease away from that, and instead go out into the world to love others? Be kind to strangers. Take care of small animals. Have a conversation with someone who looks lonely. Do charity work. Love is not about ourselves. It's about how we are with others. It's a doing thing.