Reading a Derek Walcott poem recently I was reminded of the importance of the way that we relate to ourselves. So much of the time we focus on relationships with others - family, friends, colleagues. What is sometimes missed is that our relationships with others can only be as good as the one we have with ourselves. In her book Intimacy and Solitude Stephanie Dowrick explores this, reflecting on the ways that love and respect can allow us to discover the very best in ourselves, and through this to open up authentically to others.
Oftentimes our relationship with our own internal world can feel one of our most testing, we can be prone to spend time avoiding being alone, or when we are filling our space with noise, and our hands with activity. With so much information and stimulus available to us through smartphones, tablets, computers, television etc, it would be easy never to be alone with ourselves. At one level this may be appealing, at a deeper level it is deeply depleting and in time can leave us fraught and exhausted.
Taking just short periods of time to be alone, to re-connect, and to be still can energise and engage us with what we sense, think and feel. A few moments of simply breathing can boost us, and at the same time help to relax both body and mind. These time-outs are manageable for us all, in between meetings, walking from one place to another, pausing to look out of the window before we start the next task.
Derek Walcott's poem, Love after Love, for me speaks of the simple pleasure of being, a small oasis in a desert of doing.
The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other's welcome,
and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.