On Women’s Day, what we need is love (but not the kind you think)

    I am on record as hating Women’s Day*.

    But today, the 2019 incarnation of this irritating festival in pink, I am thinking something different. I am thinking more about love than I am about being crabby.

    It all stems from something that happened in my Pilates class.

    We were doing some hateful stomach crunches, and one of the women present said she would like to have a flat stomach like the admirable one sported by our Pilates teacher.

    “Nope,” I said, breathing heavily, “I want the stomach I had when I was twenty.”

    We all did another painful crunch.

    And then another woman (who is blonde and thin and generally gorgeous) said: “But we all hated our stomachs when we were twenty.”

    And, dear reader, we did. We hated everything about ourselves when we were twenty. (In my case, the self-hatred has always been fixated on my hair).

    Loving ourselves

    I have been thinking about this on and off, ruefully, while avoiding my own gaze in the mirror and thinking about myself as a twenty-year-old and wondering why I did not celebrate myself then. Wondering if men feel like this too, or if it is a “woman thing”. Thinking about why how we look is so important to us.

    Then I came upon a revolutionary idea via the wonderful Brain Pickings website.

    A post there pointed me to a poem by Derek Walcott. In part, that poem says (recreated here as a sentence):

    The time will come when, with elation, you will greet yourself arriving at your own door, in your own mirror… You will love again the stranger who was your self…. Give back your heart to itself, to the stranger who has loved you all your life.

    That phrase: “the stranger who has loved you all your life”. How powerful it is, how much there is to think about!

    Brain Pickings brings another quote, from Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk, teacher, and peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh:

    The essence of loving kindness is being able to offer happiness. You can be the sunshine for another person. You can’t offer happiness until you have it for yourself. So build a home inside by accepting yourself and learning to love and heal yourself.

    This Women’s Day I am thinking we would all have less to mourn (so many injured women, so many damaged men) if we started by building that home for ourselves.

    How about it, sisters and brothers?

    Main picture by Allie Smith on Unsplash

    * For people outside of South Africa, Women’s Day is a national public holiday commemorating the 1956 women’s march. In 2019, it is, of course, exploited commercially in every way you can imagine.

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