Let's go back - August 2016. I've decided to take the evening to myself and de-stress. After leaving my corporate job to build my own company six months earlier, anxiety and stress levels are quite high but I'm learning to take a break from work and try to relax. "Try" is the operative word. So, tonight, it's chick-flick time!
I'm laughing, smiling without a care in the world. Then, out of NO WHERE, it hit me! My stroke and brain surgery was not the only challenge I had faced. Me and "death" have had a peculiar relationship of sorts over the years. It was far from the lovely-dovey relationship I was currently witnessing in watching my girly movie.
I had eating disorders as a child, was in a very serious car accident in my 20s and a massive stroke at 29 years of age where there was no certainty if I'd live or die.
This overwhelming compulsion to share this with the world comes over me. I want to write a book! I HAVE to write a book. But how? What would it involve? I don't actually know how to write more than one page. Perhaps I am too naive and jumping the gun?!
Bright and early the next morning, I call Erin McCann (Creative genius and now my editor) and can barely get the words out and form a coherent sentence. How do I start? How do I write? What is the process? As I pepper her with questions (OK, OK...I am totally bombarding her with questions), she calmly says, let's meet and talk tomorrow.
Brimming with excitement, I run to Indigo at the Eaton's Centre and pick up a few books to understand this brand new world of writing a book and plough through them.
The next day I meet Erin for coffee. My brain is swirling with thoughts, ideas and a million questions. I even have a sheet of questions ready so I don't forget anything. A little while into our coffee date, she calmly asks me: "Dina, do you love yourself?"
What kind of a dumb question is this? What does this have to do with writing a book? I've got too many OTHER questions on my mind and don't have time for this "love" talk or really any other emotional nonsense.
I'm nervously looking down, squirming in my chair and my brain is like......."Seriously, what the f**** do I say." I'm trying SO hard to not look so uncomfortable and utterly clueless but I know that ship has sailed.
I try to look up and meet her gaze (which I can't) and say, "Umm......ya.......sure...sure I love myself. I've done some cool things and accomplished a ton." I'm sure Erin is not buying my BS** and so, I say in my most convincing voice, "Yes....totally love myself....yup, obviously I do!"
If I'm completely honest, I actually have NO idea what she was asking me and what "self-love" even means. I KNOW the love I feel for my parents and my sister. It's such an obvious love, so easy to describe, visualize and feel in my heart. But I'm blanking on what "love of myself" means. I haven't felt this clueless in a long time.
Flash forward to Jan 2017. The book is now written. Erin and I had met every week for 4 months so we had all the material and now the editing process would begin. Writing my memoir forced me to accept, acknowledge and deal with everything that I had swept under the rug for many years. (Who knew ones past can affect the present!)
We discussed everything from the secrets I kept hidden to the painful memories that had left me feeling ashamed and guarded. It was an emotional roller-coaster but it was all out there in the open now.
It's a cold winter evening in Feb 2017. I was getting ready to go out for the evening. I look in the mirror. Make up – check! Hair – check! Dress (not tucked into my stocking so my butt isn't exposed) – check!
Then I did something I had NEVER done before. I looked into the mirror, deep into my own eyes... and smiled. Genuinely smiled!
I stood there in fascination because I FINALLY understood what Erin had asked me six months ago. So this is what self-love feels like. There was a ball in my throat and I could feel my eyes welling up with tears.
I wanted to stay there and relish this moment for as long as I could. I had always thought I had to appear perfect and strong and hide everything else from the world.
After writing my memoir, very gradually, the feelings of shame, guilt, anger, sadness, loneliness in my past are slowly being replaced with love.
It is a love that goes way beyond accomplishments, success or money but instead embracing all parts of who I I am, including my imperfections, many (many) quirks, my shy, raw and vulnerable side. It's a love of myself, at my very core.
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