Love what you do and do what you love. Don’t listen to anyone else who tells you not to do it. You do what you want, what you love. Imagination should be the centre of your life. – Ray Bradbury.
The past couple of weeks, I’ve been thinking a lot about love. The things that happened last week – the bombings, the explosion, the news from Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan, the repealing of an essential part of the UK’s equality act…the list goes on. I’ve been thinking about how people come together, and how the process of healing starts. If you fill yourself with hate and fear, no matter how justified, something will snap. Part of me feels like if we spent all our time watching, listening or reading about the news from all over the world, we would become cynical, jaded and as though everything is hopeless because there is too much violence and pain in the world.
Last week took a lot of energy, especially if you’re on Twitter. Its okay to let yourself feel, to be sad or angry, or afraid. Yet I think it’s possible to feel like that all the time, if we pay too much attention to everything all the time. There are things happening right now, but you can be aware of them, and carry on with your life, with the things you want and need to do. Empathy is a precious thing, something beautiful, but I found myself becoming overwhelmed. Where is the place when you go from empathy and thoughtfulness towards becoming too caught up, expending all your energy?
And love – loving yourself, your family, your friends – and spreading that love – is the ultimate healer. When communities come together, when people are aware that there are other people thinking about them and sending them well-wishes from across the globe, something transformative can happen. Kindness and love, for some, is hard to come by. One of the people I follow on Twitter, Amanda Palmer, is a force for that love.
She attracts the best kind of followers – people who care, who will rally, who understand what it means to love and to share that. I find it hard sometimes to be open; but part of writing is being open, exposing everything that is underneath the façade that we present to the world. I don’t mean exposing all your secrets, I mean writing and finding that place within us that is like love – writing so much that you feel exposed, as if all the walls have fallen away. It’s good to feel safe, but writing isn’t that safe. It is, like love, transformative, if you let it be that way. If you just let those walls fall away and go deep into the writing.
It goes both ways. You have to be kind to yourself too, not just to others. Everybody has their faults and their habits and everyone has their skills and the things that make them beautiful. When you love yourself better, you love those around you more fully. I’d be the first to admit that it can be hard, some days, some moments – but that’s okay too. Accept that you’ll have bad days too. I feel that we’re living in a world that we’re not 100% built for – one that is on the go all the time, that has news 24/7, that has information coming from every side.
Some of that is good – more freedom of information, especially on Twitter – but sometimes, it creates more anxiety. Sometimes it can be good to empathise with others, to see what is happening in other places – these are things outside of ourselves and it helps us to know that there are things that are bigger than us. Yet too much can pull us down and weigh on our minds and add to the daily stress. So part of being kind to yourself and loving yourself is to find the balance, to put your phones away more, to silence that nagging thought that makes you feel guilty if you haven’t replied to that email yet.
As an introvert, I crave quiet moments, to reflect, to read, to write something not related to work. I find it hard to cope with the demands of modern life without those moments. Part of being kind to myself is recognising that, and realising how essential it is. I also recognise that in other introverts, and I respect their need to wind down and have their own space. On the flip side, some extroverts also recharge by having more social contact (you can tell I’ve been reading Quiet by Susan Cain, right?).
I’ve also been putting anger and empathy into action, rather than bottling it up or becoming obsessed by my Twitter feed. In the case of the Equality act, that translates to sending an email to my MP. There is only so much we can do about things, but for some things we can do something. Transforming empathy and connection into something more like love. I believe that love is not just about who loves you and who you love, it is also a way to live your life.
There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle. – Albert Einstein.