real talk about self-care
I've written before about how the very idea of self-care really pisses me off.
Because oh, oh, OH! We all just have the time and money and support to just STOP what we're doing and do self-care whenever we need it!
And YEAH! A champagne pedicure has the magical ability to vanish our problems so those problems won't be waiting for us when we get home!
And my personal favorite: ever noticed how when someone tells you to do self-care it feels like they're telling you, "Wow, you're a hot fucking mess right now. Clean your shit up,” which feels like you just got a boot to the gut AND another thing to add to your mental list of things that you’re bad at: perfect. Thanks for letting me know that I’m ALSO terrible at self-care. Great. That’s a super helpful thing to say to someone who’s struggling.
Now all that being said, I do want to talk about some of the different ways that we can take care of ourselves and each other right now. Not because any of these things is a magical solution or because we can all do all of these, but because you matter and what you need matters and it deserves this post and whole lot more, better posts.
Near as I can tell, there are 5 major breeds of self-care:
Each one of these kinds of self-care has its own role to play. Let’s unpack them, shall we?
Useful for when you’re ABOUT TO FREAK THE FUCK OUT and you just need to walk away from everyone until you stabilize. If you need to hide this weekend you could:
search for Queer Eye tags on Twitter
or just put down your phone and get off social media for a little while. IT WILL KEEP. Delete Facebook and Twitter off your phone for the weekend. You can download them again on Monday if you’ve got the shakes. But if you don’t need them right now, take them off. Hide for a minute.
rewatch old episodes of the BBC’s Sherlock with Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman, or Great British Baking Show, or Brooklyn 99, or whatever show is about NICE PEOPLE DOING THEIR GODDAMN BEST OUT HERE.
go see Crazy Rich Asians because it is a delight
start a new project like a PHOTO CALENDAR for CHRISTMAS even though it’s OCTOBER 5TH, or clean out the closet, or organize the board games, or alphabetize the bookshelf, it doesn’t matter as long as it’s consuming and you can hide from the world in it
go somewhere that demands nothing of you - the gym, the coffee shop, the hills, Canada, whatever
Useful for when you have shit you need to finish before you can hide. Yeah, I am talking about self-medicating, but I want to be absolutely clear: do not hurt yourself. Do not abuse drugs. Do not abuse alcohol. Do not engage in self-destructive behavior. We need you with us.
A lot of the self-care tactics that have a low barrier to entry are, at their core, about numbing you. They’re rich food. They’re drinks. They’re reality TV. They’re numbing agents.
fat, cheese, bread, salt, sugar, potatoes, butter… did I miss anything?
other drugs (I’m such a square; I thought about listing all the other drugs but it became clear very quickly that my only IRL drug experience was from the suitcase that the police officer brought to our class during D.A.R.E. I was like, “You’ve got your PCP, quaaludes, LSD, Angel Dust… wait, before I go any further, I need a brown suit and a mustache.”)
junk media - tabloids, reality TV, etc. I’m not using junk in a derogatory way. I love junk media. But it’s junk.
Numb with caution. If you realize that you mostly stick to numbing self-care tactics, try something different this weekend. The trouble with feeling nothing is you never know when you’re done. And we miss you when you’re gone.
Useful for when you’re fucking done with this shit, you’re angry again, and you’re ready to knock the teeth out of whatever has been dragging on you. Problem-solving self-care has the advantage of being the only self-care tactic that actually addresses the root issues that create a need for self-care. Problem-solving self-care has the drawback of being more fucking work. I hope you know that I will never judge you for saying, “I’m not strong enough to problem-solve this weekend, Katie. I need to hide, numb, and maybe hate a little.” I get it. You do you, boo boo. But if you’re feeling strong, and you want to leave this weekend feeling proud of yourself and more in control over at least something, you could:
Clean out the closet that punctures you every time you look into it. Tackle that spot in the yard that needed to be turned and mulched. Get dirty. Fix it. You can. You are capable AF.
Make a list of the things that you do every week. Categorize them: What energizes you? What is neutral? What sponges from you? How can you do more of the things that energize you? How can you limit the things that sponge off of you? Giving yourself a clear picture will help you build a sustainable week.
What have you been dreading? The dentist? That email? Checking the bank balance? Just do it. Just do it, then it’ll be done and you can take the next step. You’ll feel better when you do.
Enroll in a class.
Fill out a volunteer application. Solve a problem in your community.
Sometimes the hardest self-care is the most loving. Love is output. And when you feel like you have nothing left to give, the idea of loving feels as impossible as pushing an out-of-gas F-150 up the side of Mount Rainier.
But love breeds more love, and it’s nonnegotiable part of your self-care. The loving things you do remind you that you are good, that there is good, that not everything needs to be numbed, solved, hidden from, or raged against. There are so many ways to bring love into this weekend for yourself:
Go to the gym or take a good walk outside. Love yourself. Love your body. Flood your brain with love chemicals.
If you can spend 15 minutes in the sunshine, do that. If you can spend longer, do that.
Connect with a friend. Text, call, email, Snapchat if you’re into that, meet for a walk or a coffee or a drink.
Snuggle with someone or something. Put on fresh sheets. Put on soft jams. Soothe your body.
Interact with an animal. Scrub a dog’s ribs and see it smile at you. Scritch a cat’s chin and see it roll over to show you its belly. Watch some fucking ants. I’m dead serious. Those ants are a goddamn inspiration.
Write a love letter. To your partner, your parent, your friend, your child.
Have sex, partner optional. Love yourself, babe.
Let somebody merge in front of you even if they snuck up in the turn lane and now at the last minute they’re like WHOOPSIES can I pretty please get over because I’m more important than you are? Even then. Let them in, show them some love, and take a deep, sweet breath of the fresh air on the high road. I love the smell of moral superiority in the morning.
Volunteer somewhere. You are needed right now. You are vulnerable, but there are people in your community who need you. Go. Help. You’ll feel better.
Go to a protest or a community event.
Donate to a worthy candidate or organization. If you need recommendations I HAVE ABOUT A THOUSAND, but find something that’s meaningful to you. DonorsChoose.org lets you put your dollars directly into a specific classroom. The International Rescue Committee has an entire shop of rescue gifts that you can give, from a safe birth to school supplies to water systems. Whatever you care about, give to it. You’ll feel better.
Watch a classic rom-com that hasn’t become a sexist horror show in the years since it was made and since you’ve Matrixed yourself and become aware of the sexist horror show tropes that haunt so many rom-coms. Now accepting recommendations. Please comment below.
Cook something you love to cook. Enjoy it alone. Enjoy it with someone special. The act of assembling your nourishment is powerful love. Especially if it’s got a shitload of cheese melted on top.
Sing. Dance. Not kidding. Do it. Now.
Listen, nobody ever said that all the self-cares will get you into heaven. Sometimes the thing that feeds your soul the most is the knowledge that you just fucking destroyed one more brick in the wall that has made your life smaller. Fuck the fuckers. Fuck them right up.
Donate to the fund that will go to whoever opposes Senator Collins if she votes for the turd. Hate bucks, I call em.
Write your rant. Post it if you want, or rant it to a friend, or email it to me. I have a thing for rants.
Go to a protest. Notice that this one goes under loving or hating. Depends on what you put on your sign. You pick what you need. Show up with an open heart or a raised fist. We need both of you. We need all of you. Just don’t, you know, actually fight anybody. Like I said, we need you.
Sometimes when I go to the gym I run on the treadmill and I imagine chasing down the fuckers and passing them and their faces when they get scorched by a girl. I’m loving my body by exercising, and hating the fuckers in my mind. It feels real good. Not gonna lie. Along those lines, take a kickboxing class. Find one on YouTube. Punch some air. Feel strong. Feel dangerous. You are.
Sure, babe! Spend some time in the echo chamber. No shame in that game. Do some rage-Tweeting! Join some Facebook groups with names like “My vagina just made the Windows shutdown noise,” or “Found the incel,” or “Men failing at erotica,” or “Holy Shit Let Women Actually Enjoy Things,” and laugh and laaaaaaugh.
I find that I take the best care of myself when I do a combo of Hiding, Numbing, Problem-Solving, Loving, and Hating. Here’s my plan this weekend:
Hiding: I just downloaded season one of Killing Eve. That’s 8 hours of hiding. That should do me.
Numbing: Drinking a lovely glass of red right now. I ate 6 breadsticks for lunch. I splurged on a case of sparkling water so all my water is gonna sparkle this weekend. ALL OF IT. Yeah, I’m riding the crystal dragon, bitches. Gonna piss diamonds. (That actually sounds excruciating tho.)
Problem-Solving: Researching how I can donate specifically to pay for birth control and women’s health initiatives in communities of color. Plus, I’m cleaning out my closet and the bathroom cabinets. I will sigh in relief every time I go in the bathroom, and not because that’s where I go to literally relieve myself, mmkay smartass?
Loving: I’m taking my kids to a ranch that’s a shelter for farm animals. We’re going to feed carrots to goats, pigs, horses, donkeys, cows, and pups that have a forever home. We’re going to pet them. There is a baby pig there, and a toothless goat for whom the rancher makes vegetable soup every day.
Hating: I already donated to the Fuck You Collins Fund. I plan to do my Hate Run on Sunday. I think I’ll be good.
Share your plans for taking care this weekend! I want more ideas.
Remember that we don’t give up. We just don’t have a give-up bone in our bodies. We don’t have a choice. We keep going, together. We need you. Take care, babe. If I can help let me know.