To See Takes Time
"Nobody sees a flower really; it is so small. We haven't time, and to see takes time ~ like to have a friend takes time." ~ Georgia O'Keeffe
I first read the above quote 12 years ago. It was Valentine's Day weekend, and I had decided to take a trip to New Mexico by myself. The previous Christmas, my boyfriend and I had broken up, and taking the trip was a way for me to make this holiday my own.
Valentine's Day was a Friday that year, and when I arrived at the rental car office at the Albuquerque airport that afternoon, the agent said that for just a little extra I could have a convertible for the weekend. I hesitated for a bit, but then I realized that the convertible felt right.
The sun was setting as I drove up to Santa Fe, and I felt the impulse to be surrounded by the sky, so I pulled over and put the top down. It was February, and it was cold. I thought about doing the sensible thing and putting the top back up. But I didn't. And even though a rule-bound part of me said it was wasteful, I turned up the heat. The sky was beautiful.
When I got to Santa Fe, I realized that if I wanted to eat dinner, I'd have to eat it alone, at a restaurant, on Valentine's Day. The idea made me panic a little. I felt vulnerable and exposed. I considered skipping dinner, or just getting something at a grocery store and eating it in my hotel room. But that felt like hiding out. And some part of me wouldn't allow that. This trip was about me doing things my own way, not the way that Hallmark said they should be done.
So, I went out for pad thai. And I was surprised to find that, instead of feeling mortified, I felt happy. I was surrounded by couples, but rather than feeling sad or self-conscious, I felt at ease. They were all focused on each other. No one was paying attention to me, or feeling sorry for me. there was a welcome simplicity to eating alone. I also felt like I had broken some rule about how a single person was supposed to feel on Valentine's Day, only to find that none of it was true.
The next day, I went to a hot spring, and I read a book at a coffee shop. The day after that, I visited the Georgia O'Keeffe museum, where I saw many of her paintings, as well as her quote about how it takes time to have a friend. I was about eight years into my self-compassion journey, and reading that quote helped me realize more fully that befriending a flower or a person (including oneself) doesn't happen immediately. It takes a breadth of time, as in years. But it also takes a depth of time, as in attention and presence.
As Georgia said, to see takes time. Change and growth are ongoing. If you don't take time and really attend to what is, you'll miss it. You'll think you know what's happening, when really you are relating to an idea of what's happening.
So, whatever your circumstances this Valentine's Day, I invite you to take some time to slow down this month and cultivate your connection with yourself as you are. Even just 15 minutes. See if you can be present with your experience with the intention of befriending yourself.
What does it mean to be a good friend to yourself? To me, it means being willing to acknowledge the truth, as best you can, about what you feel and what you need or want. It also means being willing to be present with yourself during joyful times, as well as difficult ones. It means not checking out on your experience, but staying with it, and experimenting with how you respond to it.
There's something deeply nourishing about taking the time to recognize what's true, and finding the courage to challenge a belief that isn't congruent with that truth. It's one of the things that good friends do.