Love your neighbor as YOURSELF.

breath

I’m five weeks into a new job and I love it. I can honestly say that I feel like the luckiest person alive to do what I do. As a Family Nurse Practitioner resident at Community Health Care here in Tacoma I spend my days learning how to, and practicing how to partner with people as they move toward a healthier self. I spend so much time and energy focusing on other people and their needs. That’s a good thing, right?

Yesterday I noticed myself developing a headache toward the end of the day. I realized I was parched and hadn’t taken the time to refill my water bottle or empty my expanding bladder. I stopped, breathed deeply, went to the restroom, filled my water bottle, and noticed two thoughts floating into my consciousness. The first was something Ben, my husband said to me a while back. “I feel like I get your leftovers sometimes.” Ben spoke those words to me almost two years ago and they cut right through me. At the time I was angry with him for saying what he said. After all, I was working my ass off trying to survive graduate school so I could do my part to change the world once I was done. Couldn’t he see that? Two years later, post graduate school, and post many, many counseling sessions I have realized how much truth there is in those words. I often get my own leftovers, let alone having anything left to give my partner. I’m really good at what I do, and I’m passionate about what I do. It feels good to do well at my job, but I need to remember to maintain a sense of self in the midst of it.

The second thought that floated into my mind as I took a moment to notice my own needs was, “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” A friend of mine recently shared a reflection that focused on the latter part of this quote. The call to “love your neighbor” is why I do what I do, but I too easily forget about the part of this ancient commandment that instructs me to love myself. This commandment does not say, love your neighbor instead of, or better than yourself; rather it says “love your neighbor AS yourself.” If I neglect myself, my efforts to take care of others will always be lacking. I am learning that the most authentic and complete love and care for others must grow out of a deep love and care for myself. Easier said than done. I can love others so much more readily than I love myself.

So, my prayer this day will be for grace as I learn to love and care for myself so that I might more completely love and care for those around me.