Imagine a woman who remains faithful to herself through all the seasons of life. A woman who preserves allegiance to herself even in the face of opposition. Whose capacity to sustain interest in others deepens as she is loyal to herself. Imagine yourself as this woman.
Nathan and Sandy requested my assistance to plan and facilitate their wedding. They are a conscious couple with the skills to celebrate the gifts and navigate the challenges of their partnership. When it was time to design their ceremony and to write their vows, Sandy phoned me. She felt blocked because the romantic, idealistic vows so often said at weddings didn’t fit.
Sandy wanted to preface her commitment to Nathan with a clear commitment to herself. I encouraged Sandy to trust her intuition and spend the time writing a vow to herself. She phoned me a week later to report that when she completed her vow to herself, her vow to Nathan flowed without effort.
Inspired by Sandy’s experience, I developed the “Remember Yourself” process for women who fear losing themselves in their relationships, being swallowed up by the demands of partnership or parenting, or being distracted from their own projects and dreams by their commitment to their children, partners, and employers. Some watched their quintessentially female mothers ignore their creativity and vocational interests and set aside their projects and dreams, in order to finance the dreams of others with their blood, sweat, and tears.
One woman lamented, “My fear is that it’s in the genes. No matter how much hard work I do to counter the habitual loss-of-self-once-married syndrome, my partner and I will revert to the way marriage has always been done. I hope the process of composing a vow to myself will change my negative thinking and support me to remain loyal to myself in the marriage.” One new mom wondered: “Will I lose myself in the swirls of parenting? Where will I find the stamina, courage, and inner strength to sustain my commitment to the child, and to myself?”
Most women want to find the middle space in which it is possible to honor their own needs, interests, and projects, and to be significantly involved with their children, partners, and professional lives. Filled with a mixture of fear, hope, and excitement, they work through the process. It does indeed relieve their anxiety, support their hope, and provide an outlet for their excitement.
Remembering themselves, women set aside fifteen minutes a day to work through the vow-composition process, incorporating the lessons of their own lives, the wisdom and experience of other women, and a commitment to continue to set aside fifteen minutes a day, long after the group, to “remember herself.” Acknowledging that distractions are a reality of life, they embrace the life-practice of noticing distraction without judgment and then returning, always returning home to themselves.
Here are the stories of two women who wrote vows to themselves, inspired by Margo Anand’s words, “Loving yourself…does not mean being self-absorbed or narcissistic, or disregarding others. Rather it means welcoming yourself as the most honored guest in your own heart, a guest worthy of respect, a lovable companion.”
Sandy: I prefaced my vow to my husband with a vow of faithfulness to myself. Reading my vow during the ceremony rounded out the experience for me. My wedding wasn’t just an event in which I was getting married to a man— it was my life taking its next right step. It became a part of the circle of my life, rather than an isolated commitment to a man. It felt complete.
Jessica: Pregnancy was the perfect time to write a vow to myself. I was moving from one season of life to another and wanted to do it with consciousness. I set aside fifteen minutes a day for myself. The habit of “remembering myself ” has stuck. I continue to cherish “my time” each day even as I care for our newborn. The vow reminds me that I can’t be there for my family unless I’m available to myself.
To culminate the “Remember Yourself ” process, some women create a ceremony to which they invite their closest friends and allies. Others choose to read their vow at the bridal shower, rehearsal dinner, or other rites of passage. Whatever the chosen format, women pledge to honor their vows in tender times and turbulent times, in graceful moments and in awkward situations, in flowing times and in seasons of stagnation, in fullness and in emptiness, in fear and in courage, and in trouble and in beauty.
They review their vows monthly and renew them yearly. When faced with marital challenges, swirling children, or professional expectations, they review their vow before confronting the situation. For all of us, regular cultivation of the partnership with ourselves is the best investment we can make in our significant relationships.
Imagine a woman who remains faithful to herself through all the seasons of life. A woman who preserves allegiance to herself even in the face of opposition. Whose capacity to sustain interest in others deepens as she is loyal to herself.
Imagine a woman whose vow is her north star, her guiding light, the faithful breath she returns to in every season and situation of her life. Imagine yourself as this woman…as you compose a vow to yourself. The “Relationships from the Inside Out” self-guided retreat will support you in this process.
Patricia Lynn Reilly is the author of 5 traditionally published books and countless less-traditionally published ones. She is also the founder of Imagine a Woman International and facilitator of the popular “Beginner’s Eye” photography workshop. If you’re ready to author your own life and relationships, visit www.imagineAwoman.com for inspiration and support. If you’re inspired to pick up a camera on your next walk in the neighborhood, visit www.OpenWindowGallery.com.