Do You Really Have to Love Yourself Before Loving Another Person by Valerie Nifora

February 26, 2020
I am taking part in a WOW! Women on Writing blog tour. This post is written by author Valerie Nifora. More about her poetry collection "I Asked the Wind" at the bottom of this post! Take it away Valerie!

Thousands of years ago, on a temple wall in Ancient Greece in Delphi, the phrase, "know thyself" was inscribed in stone. It served as a reminder to all that it was best to understand oneself completely before embarking on any effort to understand another. The ancient Greeks also had several categories ascribed to the word, "love." It was too complex an emotion, too fundamental to existence, to be allowed to exist as just one word without dissection and analysis. I've always wondered if to truly love another, one had to "know thyself."

The modern definition of love in its basic form, can be summarized as "an intense feeling of deep affection." But, how does one go about feeling deep affection? Is it just a natural occurrence of a healthy psyche? Is it just biochemical? How do you know that you love? I've often struggled with those questions. And adding modifiers in front of the word, just complicated it even more, i.e. "first love", or "true love"... it can be just too overwhelming.

Certainly the world is rife with failed relationships -- those that simply didn't manage the test of time. Did they fail because the parties involved didn't "know themselves"? Any friend will tell you that to enter into a relationship with someone, you need a list of deal breakers -- things you would simply never tolerate of stand for. And then, there's the list of qualities that you feel are fundamental in another person -- things like honesty, trust, kindness, etc. But, how do you come to that list? How do you know these are the things that you require? Is it through a deep analysis of oneself, or maybe the trials and tribulations of relationships gone wrong? Who hasn't uttered the declaration, "I'm never doing that again!" ?

I've found in my own existence, as I age I learn more about myself. The fundamental core of me, is still there -- but self-doubt seems to be subsiding and being replaced with more trust in my first impressions. I've been able to leave space for the unknown, and room so that there's growth. I love the people I love, with the same intensity, I always have. I have learned more about myself with my reactions and responses with these same people. So, do you have to "know thyself" before you can love another? I think to a degree. You have to know the fundamental "you", so that you can share it. And you have to know yourself well enough to leave room for healthy growth and change. But, it certainly is perplexing when you consider it, "Know thyself."

About I Asked the Wind: A Collection of Romantic Poetry

I Asked the Wind: A Collection of Romantic Poetry is a journey into romance, love and loss through poetry. The poems published in this collection span over 15 years of writing. Often starting with short rhythmic patterns, each poem’s lyrical tone is filled with inspired words to express the deep emotion experienced in the intricacies of romance.

Handwritten in a journal and hidden away until this publication, the poems chronicle the journey into and out of love. Written in three parts, the book enables the reader to transverse the intensity of romantic love, from the first moment of falling in love, to the intense pain of heartbreak.

Beautiful and powerful in its lyrical and simple verse, the reader is immediately immersed in a world of sensuality, passion, desire, and innocence; all woven together into a tapestry of human emotion. Each poem transports the reader to a story through the art of poetry. Drawing on natural elements such as the sun, sand, wind and moon, this collection explores the light and darkness of romantic love, leaving the reader questioning if love was ever real at all.

I Asked the Wind: A Collection of Romantic Poetry is available to purchase at, Barnes and Noble, and Target.

About the Author, Valerie Nifora

Valerie Nifora was born and raised in New York to Greek immigrant parents. For over twenty years, Valerie was Marketing Communications Leader for a Fortune 50. She served as a ghost writer for several executives and has executed award-winning campaigns using her special gift as a storyteller to inspire. Her first book is a collection of romantic poetry that explores innocence, sensuality, passion, desire, heartbreak and loss through the lens of her personal experience spanning over 15 years. Her beautiful and powerful voice immediately calls forth a time of leather-bound books and invites the reader to find a comfortable chair and begin their journey through the powerful human emotion of love. Valerie holds a B.A. in Communications from Emerson College and an M.B.A. from Fordham University. She is married and a mother of two amazing sons.

Twitter @vnifora
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My January Reads - A Monthly Round Up of Short Stories & Other Pieces

February 3, 2020
I have been wanting to read more short stories and so this year, I am attempting to regularly blog about my monthly short story reads. This all came about because I have submitted a lot to literary magazines this past year and I want to make an active effort to read short stories that get published. Over the month of January, I spotted quite a few pieces that were worthy to add to this list (many NOT short stories at all) but all well-written, entertaining, moving, touching, and unique.

I hope you find a few good ones on this list to check out:

1) Green Tunnels by Taimur Ahmad

This is an environmental-themed story that doesn't come across so at first. You start out reading about a girl who misses home. At first, I figure home is but a drive away. That isn't the case, though. This story is rich in detail and ends with a bit of a surprise. It also shows me a lot about nonverbal communication in characters and using more descriptive action words (which I need help with in my own writing). The author uses the main character's dreamlike state to weave you into the world she desires to be in. One of my favorite quotes:

"The trees lean over each other, bows arching across the sky, making a royal hall for Alice to proceed down. By the roots of the trees are sunflowers, their heads heavy as they bow before Alice, turning as she passes by."

A very poignant short story that reminds me that not all stories are told in a standard way.

Read now.

2) There were 9... by Lucy Ash

I discovered this long-form investigation piece thanks to the newsletter I just subscribed to Sunday Long Reads. It's an article about a group of students who trekked through the Ural Mountains, a remote mountain region that divides Europe and Asia. The 9 students (except for 1, who ended his trip early) were found dead in mysterious, chilling ways and their deaths are still not resolved or understood completely. It's a read that feels like it is part of urban legends. It has a mix of first-hand observations from the journalist writing the story, along with interviews, journal entries from the students who went missing, and photographs. I liked it because it drew me into a mystery that felt as chilling as the winter. Not a short story per se, but an invigorating read that had strong writing.

A quote:

"My guide Alexander tells me, officially, it was stated that the skiers had died of hypothermia and frostbite, but some of the other bodies had serious injuries that had nothing to do with them being too cold."

Read now.

3) I Quit My Job at 50 to Reinvent Myself Pro Tip: Don't Do This by Ivy Eisenberg

I think we all daydream about reimagining our life. Turns out, though, it isn't as easy as we think it would be. In this creative nonfiction essay published with Narratively, author Ivy Eisenberg tells us about her attempt to shed the burden of a corporate job and start anew. This teaches me a lot about the approach of telling a creative nonfiction essay. This almost has the same technique as a short story actually! What I notice the most is that this piece begins with that desire for me to want to know more. I wanted to know more. Read more. Isn't that the best type of writing?

A quote, "One morning, I come up with a phenomenal business idea, which will propel me out of Verizon and make me rich and famous: I’m going to start my own line of custom corporate fortune cookies."

Read now.

Another Narratively essay that struck me as poignant. It gives me the idea that you never know what is behind the scenes of someone's life. It may seem like someone's life is this great success story that you can't measure up to, but in reality, we don't have any idea what goes on behind the curtains of someone's life. Well-written, emotional, and honest. 

A quote: "I could feel my entire life changing with his words."

Have you ever seen or heard of the painting "The Race Track (Death on a Pale Horse)." Check it out if you haven't. I likely have only seen it in passing. In this piece, I could almost imagine the prompt or question that inspired this story. "What's the story behind that painting?" This piece answers that question in a dark way that has sort of a gothic feel to it. It was poetic at times while giving me insights into a different way of telling a story.

Favorite quote: "Even if you are the painter, exorcising his ghost, twelve years of labor still won't banish the guilt."

Read now.

Major first sentence goals happening with this story. This story gave me such a heartwrenching feeling as I read it - from beginning to end. It actually began like a true account of a real moment. I felt really close to the narrator and it took me by surprise to see how this story transformed. I love when stories take me by surprise in terms of direction. This also answered a question proposed by the narrator in the beginning in a very touching way. I absolutely recommend this one.

Favorite quote: "I remember the expression of ecstasy to the point of pain that burst from the woman when she saw her children’s faces again. But her other face, the empty one, was more firmly etched in my mind."

So, that's the short stories, creative nonfiction, and investigative long-form journalistic pieces (I'm sure there's another word for what I just wrote out) that ended up on my January monthly reads. If you happen to read - and enjoy - any of these pieces let me know. 

Also, the websites and literary magazines that published these pieces are:

Fireside Fiction (Website)
BBC (Website
Narratively (Website
Gordon Square Review (Website)
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