Jonathan Stack explores the concept of self-love.
From our earliest age we are told in so many ways of the power of love. Be it our nation, our God, our parents, our friends or our children—we are taught of the honor and joy that comes with loving that which is both beyond and bigger than ourselves. Yet, for some reason we are never explicitly told that we should love ourselves as well.
The Bible admonishes us “to love thy neighbor like thyself” but what if you don’t love yourself? Or worse, what if you don’t like yourself or even hate yourself? Some may call it indulgence, but the price we pay for lack of self-love is written daily on the front page of our newspapers. Self-hate, and the shame that accompanies it, is toxic for ourselves and deadly for our “neighbors.”
For as long as I can remember, my relationship with myself has been a rollercoaster. There are days when I feel so alive I not only believe in a greater power, but know that this greater power resides inside myself. Then there are the down days; when everything feels bleak and hope disappears.
As I get older I manage better. On the good days, I push forward, taking on every challenge and embracing every opportunity. This is when I dream up projects and try to convince others to join me. On the dark days, I try to be alone. No calls, no emails, no activities that might cause regret … or like a spiritual teacher once told me, when you can’t do good, at least do no harm.
I experienced the true meaning of unconditional love when I had my first child. He was bright and open and his existence gave me purpose. Yet, the relationship with his mother was so fraught with anger that I had trouble separating the joy of parenting from the misery of our battle. And so despite our love for him, sadly, our pain also became his.
When he finally graduated from college and was legally emancipated, I wrote his mother a letter acknowledging the goodness of our child despite our fighting and asked for forgiveness for my part in the “battle.” Her response was swift, “Are you dying?” For the record, I am not. I was just trying to let go of the part of me that was killing the best of who I am.
A man’s relationship with women is often grounded in his relationship with his mother. I love my mother, but whatever else could be said, I had not found peace with women and I certainly had not found peace within myself. Bad relationships were not just about bad luck or poor choices, but my own diminished sense of self worth.
In the months before my daughter was born, I began asking myself a simple question, “if my son had taught me the meaning of unconditional love, what would she teach me?” Then it came to me like a revelation: my daughter was going to teach me to love myself.
And so it has been from the beginning … a healing that started from the moment I held my daughter in my arms to our latest hug. Her big blue eyes have shone brightly and she has always reflected back a love that is both hers and mine.
I don’t want to pretend that it is so simple; no, the pain of past mistakes and the shame of the error of my ways still weighs me down. There is no escaping the truth of our lives, but as I embrace my daughter’s teachings, I witness other good things coming into my life.
It is no accident that today I am fully surrounded by loving feminine energy. I am living with a strong and kind woman who has three daughters of her own and they all bring richness into my life and into my daughter’s. Yes, we have our struggles, I certainly have mine, but now the dark days come and go quicker and the good ones last longer. My work is better too, reflecting more generosity, clarity and kindness.
When I met my girlfriend we talked about having a child of our own. And even though we had so many children between us we thought it would be beautiful to create one together. Letting go of the choice was both harder and simpler than I had imagined, but over time we decided not have another child. We have enough responsibility now and it felt like we would do well to take care of what we have already and work harder to give more time to each other.
I started this project in the hope that I could tell a story so powerful it would change my own life. And so, my friends, although it has not been easy coming to terms with the next critical juncture, I have now transitioned to a new stage of my life. I love children, but there’s an unchartered path ahead and it’s not going to be based on procreating, but on the foundations of self-love and self-respect.
And this is how I came to acknowledge to myself, “Yes, I am ready to exit the gene pool.”
So after three years of shooting and a lovely but intense three weeks in Australia I am returning home to New York with our film, THE VASECTOMIST complete!
PS My friend in Australia says, we New Yorkers (I sense he mostly means me) think too much about ourselves. Apparently, Australians don’t do therapy. I, on the other hand, am a New Yorker and I’m not ashamed to admit I’ve been to therapy. Personally, I know no more interesting journey than that of the human mind and none that I spend more time with than my own.
And speaking of Australia. Go Bombers! I have become a fanatic of Australian Football, or as it’s called, Footy.