Love after Love by Derek Walcott
The time will come when, with elation,
You will greet yourself arriving at your own door, in your own mirror, and each will smile at the other’s welcome,
And say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was yourself. Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
All your life, whom you ignored for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
The photographs, the desperate notes,
Peel your own image from the mirror,
Sit. Feast on your life.
I first heard this poem while on retreat in Maho Bay, St John. Jon Kabat Zinn was one of the presenters, and he opened with this poem. I was taken by its elegance in describing exactly what I was feeling on my personal journey. I appreciated the poem’s emphasis on the welcome home and not on the time spent away. I was enamored by the thought of coming home to myself, like a long lost friend that had been holding my place at the table until I found my way back. What a beautiful vision. The poem also gave me hope that all paths, well marked or otherwise, guide us back home if we listen in the quiet moments of life.
I had recently started a daily meditation practice, and was experiencing emotions that I didn’t recognize as my own. One of the most amazing revelations from meditation were the compassionate feelings I was having for myself. I was so accustomed to my hyper-critical mind, that this gentle, loving feeling was a lovely break. The surfacing compassion reconnected me to a part of myself that left a long time ago. These feelings invoked a kinship that was unfamiliar. I had an experience of coming home to myself. Until meditation, I never even realized that piece was missing from my heart. In these early days of a self care practice, it all felt quite complicated — until I heard this poem. This author understood me, and described my experience perfectly.
Recently, I spoke to a person who joined our 40-Day Meditation Practice on Facebook. She contacted me to tell me how much the simple practice was bringing to her life. She further explained her need to keep her practice private. She just was not ready to share it with anyone else yet. She reiterated my old sentiments in saying that she had this feeling of reconnection to herself that she’d never experienced before. She was overwhelmed with the love that was bursting from her, and felt so personally connected to the feeling that she had no words to describe the experience to anyone else. I understood. As the author expresses in the poem above, there is an elation in greeting yourself arriving at your own door.
It’s occurred to me, possibly there are no words to fully capture what rediscovering yourself means to your life.