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“Love the One You’re With”

Stephen Stills released the song “Love the One You’re With” in 1970. He was reportedly at a party when he heard singer Billy Preston say, “If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with,” and it caught his attention. After getting Preston’s permission to use the phrase, he brilliantly wrote a song around it.

I don’t know when I first heard the expression, and I don’t remember hearing Stills’s song. Consequently, I was dumbfounded when the expression kept repeating itself in my head during the holidays. And even now I hear it.

Obviously, the advice encourages a person to appreciate the partner they are with rather than foolishly longing for the lover who got away.

I’m the One I’m With

But my contemporary interpretation is quite different. If I couldn’t be with the one I loved—my deceased husband—I should love the one I was with. And the one I was with was me.

How could I do that? I didn’t have a list of self-care activities for the holidays. But in the end, I came up with some satisfying ways to care for myself.

Creating Christmas Presents

First, wherever I could, I continued my tradition of making Christmas gifts rather than purchasing items in stores, although I made an exception for gift cards.

In my little sewing room, I made napkins, a Christmas runner, placemats, tablecloths, and fuzzy scarves. I also recovered two pillows for my daughter-in-law. The design was so challenging that it took me about twenty hours to fabricate each one.

Alone with my sewing

When I’m sewing, I’m in a state of flow. Time disappears. That is one of the consistent ways I’ve nourished myself.

Second, I wrote a holiday letter to my friends in the United States. It wasn’t one of those boastful letters that leave readers feeling awful about themselves and how little they’d accomplished in the prior year. It was an honest letter about my struggle to get back on my feet as an expatriate in France. Writing, editing, and then re-editing took hours. The process allowed me to distill my experience and gain perspective. When I finished the letter, I addressed each one by hand and sent a short note to each recipient.

Repair, Replace, or Donate

Clearing out the old and making room for the new—or just making room—was the third joyful task. I looked at “stuff” with an eye toward repairing, replacing, or donating it. I’m not finished yet. It may turn out to be an ongoing task.

The fourth task was an odd one. I wrote goals I wanted to achieve in 2024 in various areas—home, health, finances, writing, and more. When I finished, I typed and printed the list. Then I sat down with the list and drew a line through every single goal, thereby deconstructing my list.

No one knows what the future holds

Deconstructing Goals

The idea for doing this wasn’t mine; I’d read about the process in an online article. I was surprised that the experience was freeing! The goals are still in my head, but I’m also open to receiving gratefully and gracefully whatever 2024 provides.

I could not have accomplished the fifth task without the help of WhatsApp. This free application allows people to call anywhere in the world at no charge. My French telephone service permits me to call at no charge, but some phone services in the United States charge for receiving a foreign call. There is no charge when I use WhatsApp because it is a computer calling a computer.

Although I didn’t reach everybody I wanted to, I did talk to many family members and close friends. This technology is fabulous!

Practicing Self-Care in 2024

Since the phrase “love the one you’re with” is still stuck in my head, I guess I’ll have to keep my focus on self-care.

I’ve never been good at it. For as long as I can remember, work has taken priority over self-care. More than one person has labeled me a workaholic. And although I’ve made progress, I’m always in danger of reverting to my bad habits.

One hand to care for self, one hand to care for others

One Hand to Care for Self, One Hand to Care for Others

At least for the holidays, I managed to love the one I was with. Looking ahead, I know I’ll need to remind myself that self-care isn’t selfish. To that end, I pinned the following quote from Maya Angelou on my bulletin board: “As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.”

 

 

(All photos courtesy of Canva)