The Unplanned Path to Self-Love

Glinda the Good Witch, must be my spirit animal, because her words often come to me when I need guidance: “You’ve always had the power, my dear. You just had to learn it for yourself.”

My own words, on the other hand, have not always been a big help. There were times when the best spiritual tool in my repertoire was to retreat to a bathroom stall and whisper to myself, “Find your happy place…find your happy place, damn it!”

Needless to say, it was beyond ineffective, and my “practice” of forcing myself to find peace only made me feel worse.

I had a slew of excuses to be out of alignment: a turbulent childhood, a father in the mob, a mother with mental illness, a couple of rapes under my belt, and the rubble of many failed relationships piled up behind me (just to name the highlights). I’d stuffed all those things in a big sack and dragged it around with me, because I didn’t know what else to do with it. It all belonged to me, so naturally, I had to tend to it, nurture it, keep it alive. I’d made those things my identity, my story. As a result, my boundaries were flimsy, my self-talk was harsh, and I struggled with honoring my own spirit.

I’d practiced meditation but found that taking the time to do it interfered with all the energy I was putting into being a basket-case. So, really, who had the time? Every self-help book I read championed self-love, the one thing I was clearly lacking, but no clear roadmap to get me there. I searched and searched—I couldn’t find it.
And then, just as the Universe tends to do when it runs out of subtle messages and hints, it threw its arms up in the air and stepped in to help…by giving me cancer.

Dr. Wayne Dyer wrote that illness is really just dis-ease and that we attract that to which we are perfectly aligned. Sometimes illness is our exit from this life, and sometimes it’s just a big, fat lesson. Once I accepted that my illness was not just some random thing that was happening to me, but that it served a greater purpose, I found some peace.

As a result, and with no choice in the matter, my entire life shifted gears down to a molasses-slow drip, and this was the gift it offered. Cancer cut my work hours, giving me more time with my son. It took away my hair and my eyelashes, removing the option of dating—as I discovered the whistles suddenly stop when you’re hairless—relieving me of the illusion that I needed a man to be happy. On the days I felt especially good, it let me walk through the park, but at a much slower pace, so that I would take notice of the things I’d taken for granted before. Cancer made me take long, hot baths of contemplation. It allowed me to weep. It kept me in bed some days, bringing the need for better sheets with a higher thread count—something I’d never spent money on before.

As the walks, baths, quality time with my son, and self-reflection accumulated, my soul, unbeknownst to me, was receiving messages of self-love, and a transformation was occurring. When your sole concern is survival, all your fears, anxieties, trivialities and insecurities boil down to a rich, self-reflective sauce, and as a result, a gentle euphoria takes over as if you’re wrapped in an angel’s wings.

Naturally, my euphoric state has wilted over time, but the memory of that sensation stays with me, and all I really need to know is that it exists for all of us. We don’t need to wait for the Universe to toss its arms up and give us cancer.

It’s comforting to know we can all find that happy place where fear doesn’t have a spot at the table if we simply honor ourselves; that we can summon Glinda to step in, point her sparkly wand at it, and say, “Fear, you have no power here. Be gone! Before somebody drops a house on you!”

And now, whenever I’m feeling lost or can’t seem to get out of my own way, I remind myself that my happy place exists in the land of letting go of things I can’t control, in knowing there’s a lesson in all things, in talking gently to myself, in pampering myself, in allowing myself to say no without guilt, in standing in my truth and trying to do these things with grace.

That place was never in a bathroom stall; it is out in the open, in the light and within me. And the only tool I need is to remember to nurture my soul.

Maggie San Miguel

About the Author | Maggie San Miguel

Maggie San Miguel is the author of the new memoir Dressing a Tiger, about growing up with a mobster father, and a glamorous, unhinged, often-cruel mother. She was born in Dallas and grew up in Greenwich, Connecticut, and is the founder of a non-profit for cancer patients: Bald Mama Inc. Read more here: https://www.maggiesanmiguel.com

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