Love after Love

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I’ve been thinking a little bit lately about the idea of loving yourself. It seems obvious – of course I love myself. But like any big love, a relationship with oneself is bound to have its ups and downs. To be unconditionally appreciative of yourself is hard, especially when we live in a highly competitive and comparative society. It’s often easier to dwell on the things we think we should improve in order to deserve our admiration, than just be happy with ourselves as we are.

This reflection made me think back to two very beautiful things I encountered on a visit to The National Gallery in London a few years ago with my brother-in-law. The first was this painting:

The Toilet of Venus, Diego Velázquez

My eyes gaze straight to the soft, silky exquisiteness of Venus’ back. Her flesh is so smooth and peachy, her form so supple and relaxed. It seems natural for her to be frolicking in a bed of drapery, checking out how fine she is in a mirror held by her little Cherub slave. Being the goddess of Love, Venus clearly doesn’t have self-esteem issues. If there is a lesson in this painting it is clearly that we should all take more time to admire our own Toilet.

A more accurate interpretation of this work of art can be found on the National Gallery’s website

The second beautiful encounter that day in the National Gallery, was hearing this painting described in a podcast by the Nobel Laureate for Literature, Derek Walcott. I don’t recall a word he said, but the he officially has the most mesmerising voice on the planet. It sounds like the rhythmic lapping of waves on the shores of Saint Lucia, from whence he hails. It was this initial encounter with his sexy voice that led me to read more of his work, and find this, my favourite, and a very moving expression of our relationship with ourselves:

Link to Derek Walcott reading Love after Love, From SEA GRAPES, 1976

Derek Walcott, Love after Love, From SEA GRAPES, 1976I love this poem because it so brilliantly conveys the complexity of our interaction with ourselves over time. The neglect and abandonment and the eventual reunion that comes with wisdom. It is a necessary reminder that the longstanding relationship we have with ourselves is the most important one in our lives.

A timely reminder to us all to go forth and feast on and with ourselves!