Today we’re going to get a little deep. This topic has been on my mind for a while, and I’ve been wrestling with it for a while, and it seems ready to come to life so let’s see how this goes.
First off, a bit of a story. And of course it has to do with Charm, as all great stories do. When I adopted her back in 2015, all I wanted was a companion who would cuddle with me, go for walks, and keep me company. She was the only one who was sleeping in her crate at the humane society while all the other dogs were barking, so I figured she’d be a nice chill addition to my life. Little did I know she was only sleeping because she was probably too tired and weak to do anything else.
Long story short, she kept getting sick the first week I owned her, and after an emergency trip to the vet the Saturday after Thanksgiving I found out she had a mystery mass in her abdomen. The vet told us that they had no clue what it was, and there were a couple of possibilities but really the only way to find out would be surgery. I decided to drive back to Nashville with her (we were in NC for the holiday) so that she could have surgery here, and that 11 hour drive (with the worst traffic I’ve ever experienced) I remember feeling like I had a ticking time bomb in the car with me.
On Monday I went to work knowing we had a vet appointment that afternoon, and my mom and I took her in after lunch. After seeing the x-ray they decided they just needed to operate in order to figure out what was wrong, and she went in for surgery at 2 pm. By 9 pm she was out and they had removed a foot of her intestines and had no idea what caused the massive inflammation she had there. I drove her from her regular vet to the overnight ER vet (in the rain, of course) which was the most stressful drive of my life, with my mom holding her in the backseat.
Needless to say I didn’t sleep much those few nights between finding the mass and her surgery, and my little diva was just as diva-ish as could be as if nothing was wrong. Oh, except that she couldn’t keep any food down. When we went back to get her the morning after her surgery, she walked out and looked up at me and wagged her tail as if nothing had ever happened.
It was a long path from recovering from a huge surgery, to finding out what was wrong with her, to months of an experimental treatment that only works 50% of the time. I spent many nights waking up in the middle of the night to take care of my poor sick dog, was the most stressed and sleep deprived I’ve been in a long time, and didn’t have an interest in anything except making sure she survived.
Here we are, almost a year after she finished her treatment, and I have a little miracle dog curled up on my lap as I write this. It’s the happiest of happy endings, and I have a bit of a hunch of why she made it: Love. I’m not just talking about love in terms of good care, taking her to the vet, and doing anything I could to try to make her better, though I certainly do think that helped. No, I’m talking about the healing power of love. Every night she slept on my bed with me, often curled up on the pillow next to me. Before we went to sleep I would tell her, “I love you Charm” and I often woke up multiple times each night just to be sure my little nugget was still breathing. (Now she snores so it’s easier to tell that she’s breathing.) I spent all my spare time with her on my lap on the couch or on the bed (or even at the kitchen table). I told her I loved her and more importantly, I sent her that love at all hours of the day and night. I had a puppycam set up so I could watch her when I was at work. I poured my heart and soul into her, and I truly believe that’s why she survived: unconditional, radical, consuming love. She consumed my life for months and all I thought about was making sure she lived, and I really believe this just goes to show the power of love. Think about it – she had a disease that is usually fatal, and underwent a treatment that is 50% effective and still very experimental, and here she is missing a third of her intestines but otherwise as happy as could be. That’s pretty amazing and I think there’s got to be something beyond science that tipped the statistics our direction.
Now, here’s the reason I told that story. I spent months loving my pup as much as I possibly could, and I truly believe it had an impact on why she’s as sassy as ever these days. But do I ever show myself that kind of love? What would happen if I gave myself that kind of love? It’s a little scary but also kind of awesome to think about what might happen if I looked at myself in the mirror each day and truly loved who I am, if I tucked myself into bed each night saying “I love you” to myself, the decisions I made that day, and the person I was that day. It’s so easy to love others but so hard to love the only one who will be with you for your entire life.
I don’t have any magical, earth-shattering tips for how to love yourself. But I will say that it doesn’t mean you need to spend tons of money or have brand new clothes or be extra fit or eat the perfect diet. What it means is that we can all start where we are. We can tuck ourselves into bed each night and say to ourselves, I love you. We can look in the mirror each morning and instead of seeing puffy eyes, see a beautiful creature who is carrying us through this crazy journey called life. We can see the best in ourselves, we can forgive ourselves. We can treat ourselves gently. We can think about those in our lives we love the most – our dogs, our families, our kids, our friends – and treat ourselves how we treat the people we cherish most.
One tip I picked up (from a podcast, of course) that might help with this is to write down a few things, or even one thing, that you love about yourself each day. This doesn’t mean you write down something you’re grateful for, or something you love in your life – it HAS to be about you. You also can’t write what you love that someone else did for you, or what you love about someone else…there has to be something that you love!
For example, I love that my body feels so strong and able and connected when I do yoga, and that I can practice it daily. Not just, I love doing yoga.
Or even, I love my smile and positivity. Simply put, rather than, I love all these great things that make me smile.
Try it. Wake up and tell yourself, “I love you.” Tuck yourself into bed with love. See what might happen.
I know I said I’m not one for resolutions, but maybe loving yourself is the most important resolution of all.