When I was 17 or so, I started going to a physical therapist for my scoliosis. Unlike the typical physical therapist, Analea McGarey held her appointments in her house that was situated on a rising hillside in Glen Ellen. You had to cross a bridge to get there, over the wooded Sonoma Creek, and loop up a steep hill where you'd park by her overgrown garden and enter where the cats stood licking their paws in welcome. Her house always smelled like lavender and multivitamins.
Aside from being a remarkable therapist and the woman who was greatly responsible for the majority of my back healing, she was also a great source of advice on how to exist in the world.
One appointment, when were were sharing our joint anxieties about our futures (I was in my late teens and she was in her mid-40's) she told me that her new routine was to wake up every morning and say, "Today, I will love myself." We laughed at how obvious it was, and yet how hard it was to do. Shortly after my appointment, I vowed to do the same thing. I'd start every day, I promised, with "Today, I will love myself."
When she died of cancer in 2007, I remember thinking, "Well, f*ck it. What good is loving yourself if you're just going to die anyway." Because that's how I looked at death back then. "She died anyway," was my initial thought. Then, of course, after I recovered from losing her, I went back to saying it and, this time, I kept in the back of my mind, "because I will die anyway." And we will, won't we?
This is a long introduction to the poem that just recently came out in The New York Times T Magazine. The poem is about that choice to love yourself, even when all the outside world (or maybe just your inside voice) says you shouldn't. I don't know why its publication made me think of Analea, but it did and she's always worthy of honoring. And today, like most days, I try to love myself.
You can read the poem and hear my read it here. It's paired with a beautiful piece by the artist, Pae White. Many thanks to the editor, Meghan O'Rourke for publishing the poem.