The Nth Post About Self-Care

tumblr_m5oqf40mea1qc4uvwo1_500We’re approaching the seven-day anniversary of whatever the hell it was that happened on Election Day. I said to one of my friends in the last days of the election that it felt like all the self-directed work I have been doing in terms of learning how to control my anger and how not to give in to my knee-jerk reactions and so on since 2005 was just unwitting preparation to survive the presidential election cycle.

I’m hearing a lot about ‘the work’ that needs to be done and, without touching all the problems inherent in waving around ‘work’ as a thing with no referents or specifics, it seems pretty obvious there’s shit that needs to get done.

That said, even if you know what you’re doing, you can’t just labor endlessly. I remember trying when I was working on my master’s thesis and it does not turn out well. I ended up sick, depressed, living from cup to cup of coffee with side dishes of M&Ms (peanut M&Ms — I do have some nutritional sensibilities), and an inability to sleep through the night.

This past week, I’ve felt the push to live like that again: something is wrong! it needs to be fixed! we have to do something! All true and I’m a fixer by nature — my wife and my friends will attest to this. Something left unfixed when I could fix it or feel I should be able to fix it nags worse than a torn hangnail.

Two things, though: it isn’t clear to me yet what I can do and jumping in and flailing around is great when it comes to new cookie recipes but less good when it comes to a national politics of hate.

I know some people have developed an allergy to the word ‘mindfulness’ — personally, I’m not keen on ‘self-care.’ I don’t know why; I just don’t like it, but I don’t know of any better term to describe with these posts. I want to encourage you to take time to make sure you’re okay: “Adjust your oxygen mask before helping anyone else” and so on and so forth. It isn’t easy but I’ve come to the conclusion over the past 11 years that, like the word or not, it’s vital. My friend Sun was kind enough to read me a lecture about self-care once when I really needed it and I cannot tell you how many times I have repeated what she said to me to myself: I cannot usefully or positively engage in anything unless I’m basically okay myself.

I want you to do what makes you okay so we don’t spend the next however long this shitstorm lasts on the edge of a bigger catastrophe curve than we have to. Being me, I have some suggestions for you in case you need them.

I’m what Alan Plater described delightfully in The Beiderbecke Affair as a “theoretical Buddhist” — I didn’t want to shave my head. As I said above, I know ‘mindfulness’ has become a dirty word for some people but I don’t think it’s used once in this 15-minute meditation and I can’t honestly see any harm in sitting down and being quiet for a quarter of an hour. And maybe you’re like me and your monkey mind starts jumping and screaming when she talks about how ‘outside things are just things’ and they can’t really affect you — my advice? Let it go. Put it in the fluffy white cloud and let it go.