I’m no angel, and if I am, I’ve got a burnt broken wing and a bent rusty halo. I’ve been branded with the hallow stare of a soldier who’s seen the unseeable… Memories so haunting they give bad dreams, bad dreams. I’ve been humbled, beaten, and broken, yet here I stand, a lion reborn. Defiant, staring the demons of my depression square in the eye, and saying, not today. No, not today. See for me, self love and self care, has become nothing more than a primal survival tactic, nothing less than a tortured soul’s absolute salvation. For my tale of resurrection was scripted in the trenches of battle, as nearly two years ago I was called to duty, to the aid of my father, who was suddenly ravaged by Alzheimer’s Disease.
Being blunt, self love and self care are no simple tasks, even under the best conditions in life. They require a strict dedication to maintain it’s delicate balance. Add in the stress, anxiety, and constant uncertainly of being a caretaker, and the task of showing up for one’s self can seem unimaginable. So if you’re sitting at home, overwhelmed by the most honorable burden anyone can ever know, I empathize with you and understand the paralyzing pain permeating through your heart. But I’m also here to tell you can do it, you can make it, if for no other reason than because I did. As I’m the type of person who believes that anything I can do, you can do too.
The last 18 months of his life my father couldn’t formulate a cognitive sentence, yet in this time, he taught me two of the most powerful lessons I’ve ever learned. Apparently some truths transcend all boundaries. The first lesson he taught me was what it means to love selflessly, to be willing to sacrifice everything for someone else… what it means to find boundaries and limits you didn’t know you had, then watch them fade in the review mirror, as the next challenge barrels down the dark highway.
Still somehow, the second lesson came as more of a surprise. I don’t know why, I’ve only heard a million times that you have to fill your own cup before filling someone else’s. But I guess I never got it until Dad. Self love is a prerequisite to Selfless Love. Being there for Dad was going to require reaching deep, having some very honest conversations with my reflection, and seeing once and for all that ALL love starts with self love.
Self Love and Balance
So, what is self love? Well I’m more one who believes in ideas rather than answers, but I do know this: Self love is a amazingly intimate journey within. Unique to each individual, it’s a sacred manifestation of our best self .. The balance required as to live our best life. So in essence I can’t tell you what self love is, I can only share my journey with hopes it gives you some ideas as to potential paths to help heal and grow.
Balance. I’ve said it a few times and that isn’t unintentional. This word has been the cornerstone for my life’s reconstruction. And self love, as I’ve come to see it, is the practical application of how one pursues their personal balance. Further, I believe that all our balances, though unique, rely on the “wholeistic” trilogy of mind, body, and soul. (See what I did there, “WHOLEistic.”) To truly achieve self love and it’s endless benefits, you have to step back, broaden your perspective on your own life, and take in the whole picture. Only then can you see the vast potential behind your life’s grand masterpiece… You!
In regards to dad, the first place self love came into play was on the physical level, my body. My father, though athletic, was no small man, and after several weeks laying in a hospital bed, had swelled to 230 pounds upon his return home. It didn’t take reading any of the studies about how often caretakers find themselves hurt, to realize that my 5’9″ 130 pound frame wasn’t going to cut it. One uncooperative shower with Dad in a cramped slippery bathroom sent the message loud and clear. I had to up my game.
Exercise as Self Love
Several days later I ·went and joined a local gym and instantly started working out. At the time I didn’t so much see it as self love, but more as simply rising to the occasion. In hindsight, I now see this as my first step, if even just subconsciously, toward understanding that if I wanted to be there for Dad. that meant being there for me first.
The gym became a place to release anger when I wanted to curse. the gods, an inspirational community of others out to overcome personal challenges, and a constant dose of positive endorphins which helped soften the depression’s grasp. But most importantly, it gave me the strength to care for dad without risking detriment to myself. The benefits have only continued since Dad’s passing. I may be starting over in many ways in life, but at least I’m doing it stronger than ever. At nearly 39 I’m in the best shape of my life, and am proof that through immense pressure, diamonds can be forged.
The next area I had to address was my soul. It was obvious this test may be the most brutal of them all. Alzheimer’s is a wretched, unforgiving condition. In short summary… The day my Dad forgot my name, hurt. The day he forgot my face, was devastating. but the day he forgot himself, was soul shattering. Anything resembling a regular sleep routine became distant and thus I was forced to find peace through new avenues.
Sunrises and meditation
I became addicted to watching sunrises at the local pier. That first ray of light piercing the crisp morning air with a warm kiss on my cheek became a simple constant reminder of being grateful for each day. I would take time to meditate and pray. “First I prayed for anyone I knew that needed me to hold space for them in my heart, then for our earth, my family, my father’s safe passing, and lastly for myself. Making sure I was concise with my intentions, stating clearly to the universe what I needed to endure another day.
The other practice imperative to my soul’s balance was yoga. As not only did it give a counter-release to lifting weights, and thus was beneficial to my body, but it also gave me a place to center myself at a moment’s notice. I’m not one who much cares for yoga class, and for me, my yoga practice is only ever a breath away. If I needed to step out of the hospital when the walls where crashing in around me, yoga had my back. I’ve come to find that when it comes to our souls, a little can go a long way. Unfortunately, we often forgo sprinkling ourselves with nourishment, and then wonder why our garden. doesn’t grow. Through this I’ve learned to keep my bed moist and hydrated and have been watching my spirit bloom like never before, or ever since.
The last aspect of my balance I had to address was my mind, which truthfully has always been a complex puzzle, but generally, I had the key to said puzzle… make art. All the art. All the time.
In a world as I see as complete madness, art is my mind’s only true Zen place. The only problem was, Dad’s care meant moving here to southwest Florida, where I knew no one. And thus I had no immediate place to release my emotions. (Without even mentioning their increased intensity.) But as they say, if there’s a will there’s a way, and luckily I quickly linked with Farmadelica Sound, a breathtaking music studio found on Pine Island, and a local glass blower who was willing to let me rent a bench in his shop. And suddenly, though my life was chaos around me, I began to find a true balance like never before.
Every day I was taking the space to make sure to cultivate all aspects of my life. Meditate, care for Dad, work out, make art, repeat. I began to see a cyclic connection between my mind, body, and soul. I watched their momentum feed off each other. I may have been enduring the greatest challenge of my life, but I was doing it in the grandest fashion I could. Waiting patiently until I could relaunch my career, which finally happen January 1, with the release of two new music videos (The Test Of Healing and King Of The Jungle, which can be found on www.aaronevansart.com) and continuing this spring with the release of my new line of glass and first ever stop animation film, “The One Tribe.”
I wish Dad could be here to see me reach this finish line… or better said, my new life’s starting gates. But in my heart I know I never would have gotten here without these last two invaluable lessons he taught me.
Putting it all Together
Above everything, Dad may have introduced me to the importance of self love and self care, still I had to discover for myself exactly what that looked like through my eyes. Only I could unearth the practical and proper applications that lead to my soul’s balance. Ultimately coming to the understanding that through my ego’s death, I found something I didn’t expect… Myself. And it turns out, I’m pretty damn proud of the man I’ve become. Perhaps this may not have been my preferred route to my destination, but often it’s life’s untraveled roads that lead to our unanswered questions.
Realistically, I’ve only scratched the surface on the many things I’ve done to understand, appreciate, and ultimately practice self love and self care. And for you self love will be a completely different painting. As I said, you are your own masterpiece waiting to be expressed upon our world.
Still in closing, I’ll share and invite you to partake in my favorite weekly routine. I call it #SelfLoveSundays. Throughout this whole fracas #SelfLoveSundays has been a constant. On top of everything else I do during my week, on Sunday it’s all about me. That can mean bubble baths or fires by the canal, boating adventures or a bouquet of flowers. It can be extra time bonding with Graice and Boombox, my two favorite furry friends or treating myself to my favorite meal, crab legs and grilled corn on the cob. But that’s me. I want you to make #SelfLoveSundays yours. It can be anything, everything, all the things that remind you, that you are special, that you deserve love, and that the most important person who you receive love from is yourself.
Self love and self care isn’t always easy, but I believe in you. Now you just have to believe in yourself.