Updated: Sep 8, 2019
Life came at me foul this year. Like foul foul. She did me all the way dirty. Like she took off her earrings, tied up her hair, put Vaseline on her face (so she didn’t get scratched) and swang on my ass over and over. She thought she was going to win .. but she didn’t realize I knew how to fight back. Following specific steps to take care of myself was necessary for survival. Not in a hashtag self-care type of way. In a way that declared — I’m going to figure out how to create harmony between life, and my physical and mental health.
In June 2018, I was in the midst of transitioning out of my career in educational administration. I was preparing my $13 million budget for a new administrator. I was creating a plan to support long term project partners. I was deciding how I was going to continue to advocate for young people in my new position. When I got that phone call. Yes that one! The one you pray about nightly. The one you “knock on wood” to avoid. That one! My 19 year old daughter, and her dad, had been in a motorcycle accident. They were being transported to a local trauma hospital.
A year later, after multiple surgeries, months off work, a brain surgery, Yes! My baby girl had damn brain surgery. Coupled with my own health complications, a major work transition, and a partridge in a pear tree. Of course this took a toll on our relationships, health, and well-being. But one day, I looked up and realized, not only did I survive this year … I, along with my family members, including baby girl, thrived!
I learned a lot about the steps necessary to take care of yourself, when life tries to kick your ass. I think of these areas as sort of a self-care pie. As in, pie chart. Not the pie you eat (although some would argue a good slice of apple pie and ice cream *in moderation, is self-care all by itself). Think of this pie as a holistic way to approach wellness. If one of the pieces pie is empty you will be out of balance. If the areas of the pie are too rigid you may cause yourself stress and anxiety. Like in a pie chart, these areas may change depending on how much of a whupping life is putting on you at the time.
You cannot have self-care without rest. Rest is a necessity. It is not a luxury we fit in, if we have time. According to medical professionals the goals is 7–9 hours of sleep a night. Good sleep allows your body and your mind to rejuvenate and grow. Without rest we won’t be strong enough to fight back when life comes at us. The Nap Ministry states, “it shouldn’t be radical to rest, but after centuries of living under and participating in capitalism and white supremacy, here we are. We can disrupt and resist. Let us nap.” This is #facts.
You *clap* Have *clap* To *clap* Say *clap* No! This was one of the hardest lessons for me. I have struggled with saying no in my personal and professional life. Black Superwoman has been one of the internalized racist tropes I have worked to overcome. People who do not identify as Black or female have other pressures to be busy and always available. Some of the pressure is internal. Some is external. Josie Pickens offers us a glimpse at the intersection between Black Superwoman and depression. When life comes at you, depression and anxiety are often not far behind. As we set more boundaries, our health improves and we become more productive.
I have named the type of self-care that involves vacations or getaways as “respite”. Which is described as a short period of rest or relief from something unpleasant. These are things you can plan in advance. In fact, the planning of respite, in and of itself, seems to also provide temporary relief. Traveling, having a nice brunch, a day at a winery, are some of the things I look forward to as respite. I even took up camping. Ok, maybe glamping is a better descriptor. It has become a way to get outside, walk on a beach, and spend the night outside of the house. Being in nature is one of the best ways to get respite. You can unplug, unwind and reduce your cortisol (the stress hormone). Girl Trek has a great model for getting outside!
Rituals & Routines
Since respite is a short term fix, I also learned how to build in rituals, and routines, into my day. This makes self-care part of the way I do life. Morning and evening routines can ground you in a sense of normalcy, especially when life is coming at you. I prioritize the important daily routines of eating, drinking water, peeing and moving. It’s amazing how you forget the most fundamental things when you are under stress. Some other things I do on a daily basis are: writing in my journal, taking my vitamins, drinking tea, and spending time in meditation or prayer. Walking has been a way for me to get exercise and unplug. Lighting sage, and incense, turning off the lights when I shower, and allowing the water to replenish me, has also become a ritual. To create a spa ritual, add lavender to your bath, or a sprig of eucalyptus to your shower. Reading is also a meditative routine that can replenish you.
Melissa Harris Perry coined the term squad care. She writes, “what lifted me from the floor, locked the front door, helped me find a counselor, and initiated 20 years of bullshit-free friendship was not self-care — it was squad care.”
We need relationships. We need people to walk on the journey with us. We need them to hold us accountable for taking care of ourselves. We need them to tell us to get our ass out of the bed. Sometimes we need them with us physically. Other times, especially if we are introverted, we need them to be available *sometimes via text so we don’t actually have to talk. Black love is self-care.
Requirements are all the things you forget to do, especially when you are fighting life. The most important being “breathe.” How many times have you gone throughout your day seemingly as normal, and then realized you have been holding your breath? I incorporate deep breathing into my daily routines, but breathing is actually a requirement. To live. Another requirement is stretching and moving your body. Exercise can reduce stress, help you sleep and improve your sense of well-being. Eating is also a requirement. If you have a more balanced diet, you will feel better. You will also have more stamina to fight life back. Finally, you have to drink water. Like lots of it. At least half a gallon. Other requirements are not so frequent, but are essential. Things like: making a doctor’s appointment, doing laundry, going to therapy, cleaning your house. You may need help with these things *see superwoman reference above. It’s ok to ask.
We started this list by talking about rest as a form of resistance, yet, resistance alone is also a form of self-care. There is a trendy conversation about the building of resilience. For Black women, and other oppressed groups, resilience is what drags us out of bed every day. A more salient term is resistance. Resistance is the refusal to accept something. It is also the attempt to prevent something through action. Angela Davis said it best, “I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I am changing the things I cannot accept.”
Social justice is a form of self-care. Working to change circumstances bigger than my own, strengthens me in ways I can only begin to describe. In 2010, when I was going through a divorce, I was doing advocacy and healing work with girls in Juvenile Hall who had been exploited. This changed my life. Healing justice reminds us that our social justice must include care of self and care for others.
We must have a balanced pie in order to be well. After all life, has had a lot of training in kicking ass. If you want to win when she comes at you, you better be ready.
To see original article click: @Medium.