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Who comes first? Me.

Amy and I are each working on different levels of the same Positive Intelligence course, AKA PQ. The focus for this week in my version is, drumroll please, The Power of Empathy. My hope is that every time you read that phrase you will mentally conjure a deep bass radio voice with lots of reverb. Got it? Ok, let’s proceed.

This is not your grandmother’s empathy where we are encouraged to eat all of our Brussel sprouts because there are children in Africa who don’t have them. The focus of the program this week is encouraging yourself to have empathy for yourself. I am cultivating adoration for me! The goal for the program this week is to fall in love with myself.

I spend a fair amount of time castigating myself for procrastinating, not staying in touch with pals, eating too much, not being able to resist chocolate, Oreos, maple syrup, and potato chips. I get disappointed in myself for not getting up earlier like I said I would; for overcommitting; for impulsive buying; for staying up too late; for subscribing to too many streaming services. The list is literally endless.

Dear Reader, it’s possible that I may be projecting onto you my flaws and fallibilities, but I bet you have a few, so I hope you can relate. Spending a week just loving the essence of Pam. It sounds like a nice vacation from the tireless rant that goes on in my head.

While I was contemplating all this, I remembered a time right after my divorce when I couldn’t get the biblical reference Love thy neighbor as thyself out of my head. It was like an earworm that stayed with me for a long time. I thought about it a lot. I mean, all the time - on my commute, while doing laundry or making dinner. I probed it for meaning that I could apply.

First, full disclosure here, I spent a grand total of nine months in Sunday school when I was seven years old. That pretty much constitutes the totality of my formal religious education. My family mowed the lawn and did yard work on Sundays - we didn’t go to church. That means I have a long history of parsing out religious meaning for myself.

Also, don’t forget, this was hard on the heels of my divorce, so this “neighbor” contemplation was born out of my overriding question, What is love?. Thus, today when the focus of the week is The Power of Empathy (reverb on) I am pleasantly reminded that 12 years ago, I concluded that the path forward in love is to love thyself first because that creates a strong foundation of love, or a deep well of love, or a strong bank account of love - choose your metaphor. Without that, the foundation for love is shaky. When I find myself to be worthy of adoration, it’s a whole lot easier to receive, nay, expect adoration. When I start my day by looking in the mirror and smiling lovingly, I find that it comes more naturally to have the capacity to do that for my sweetheart, the post office guy, and the student driver holding up traffic while they attempt to master parallel parking.

Some easy steps for embarking on a self-love affair: Mel Robbins never passes a mirror without high-fiving her reflection. I like that. I’ve written a little love note to myself for my bathroom mirror as my cue for a loving smile. Read Hafiz. Tack up Derek Walcott’s Love After Love on the inside of your cupboard. Reread my Valentine blog post.

I have this photograph of little four-year-old Pammie that I’m framing to keep on my desk. When I look at her, all I see is perfection, she is absolutely beaming sweetness and joy. She’s so easy to love. I’m still that person. And so are you.

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