I recently had the opportunity to go out on country with a respected Gumbaynggirr man living and working in the Bellinger Valley. I’ve come to know him in a short time as a storyteller, photographer, culture man and healer.
Early in a conversation with him, I commented that one must learn to love themselves first, before they can love others. Later that day, we are sitting on a fallen tree across the Never Never River in the beautiful Promised Land, looking out over refreshing, crystal clear water gently flowing over the river rocks. I am reflecting on my happy life and questioning why I should be so lucky to have things always fall my way, while other people are not so lucky. I’ve never had anything traumatic occur that has changed the course of my life, in fact, quite the opposite – I’ve been able to achieve all the goals I have been able to set myself, without any barriers or hiccups. Putting aside the fact that my white skin automatically gives me privileges over other cultural groups, I attributed my “success” in life to my parents that had provided a safe, loving, healthy home, surrounded by nature and fresh air on Victoria’s farming country, protected from the worries of the world. My companion politely pulls me up “do you not think, that YOU have had something to do with it?” and points out the contradiction with my earlier statement – YOU must love yourself before you can love others. He goes on to share that once we have left our mother’s arms, we are out on our own. As adults, we are responsible for our own decisions. The choices we make in life are ours alone and cannot be attributed to our parents.
I think about this in silence as the water trickles below my feet and a tiny blue bird visits a nearby rock. It would not have been possible to learn how to love myself without the love of my parents to show me that I am worth loving. But I get his point. There comes a point as adults when we have to take responsibility for our own choices in life. This is what it means to love and respect yourself. To know that YOU are truly worthy of setting the course of your life. And no one else can do that for you.
I peer into the reflection of the water now cooling my feet. Water knows how to flow. It learnt this from mother earth since the beginning of time. The fallen tree does not prevent the water from doing what it wants to do. It finds a way to flow through, around, up and over. And new life springs forth from the rotting tree.
As you reflect on the love that others have provided you this Valentine’s Day, consider what nature can teach you about loving yourself? What choices will you take today, on the path towards love? Make a decision today, knowing that the universe has your back!