A younger-than-me friend asked what words of wisdom I had to offer on my birthday last weekend. Dispensing advice at age forty-three may well lead to taking it all back at sixty, but I’ve been thinking about it and decided it’s worth the risk.
My sage advice is: love who you are. I can see the caterpillar in Alice in Wonderland, framed by a perfect smoke ring, asking, “Who are you?” We have so many selves, so many voices bumping around in our head, so many personas for so many situations. I would say this:
- Love the person you are when you are overcome with joy.
- Love the one whose soul sings looking at a baby’s smile or the ocean or a leaf you’ve seen a thousand times without, until this moment, noticing the pattern of its veins.
- Love the human being whose heart breaks for a friend’s suffering or for the child half a world away whom no one wants.
- Love the you who cannot seem to change that one fault—or, OK, many faults—no matter how many times you make the same mistake.
In other words, love the entire package that is actually you, not the person you think you should be. Because this love will lead you to yourself—the mystery of yourself, the divinity of yourself, the you that encompasses all the selves on that list but is other than their sum total.
We are made in the image and likeness of God. We have that within us that both is and transcends all that we are, and when we love ourselves enough to get in touch with it, we’ll meet the rest of the world there.