Good morning! I don’t hear the foghorns this morning — does that mean things have cleared up a little bit out there? I’m writing from my newly set-up office; yesterday I decided I wanted my desk to be a place where I could actually work, so I spent the morning tucking away the as-yet-unpacked boxes, filing papers and figuring out where books could go, putting up some artwork (thanks especially to Dorian Katz) — I’ve got the candle going, the good tea, I’m at my own desk.
And what’s next? This morning, I set my alarm early, and I don’t even remember the alarm going off the first time, barely the second. I actually woke up, broke open to consciousness, about 15 or 20 minutes later, and then the voice started going in my head. This one: Get up, Jen, get up! You keep saying you want time to write, and then you fritter it away in bed and then you’re miserable all the rest of the day. So get up–god! Just do it!
It may not be all that surprising that that voice doesn’t really inspire me to get out of bed, to stretch out of tired and could-easily-sleep-more (and might-benefit-from-more-sleep) and move into the cold air outside the covers and sit down in front of the blank page.
This morning, in part because of a conversation I had with my sister yesterday, I let the voice shift some — or, I asked myself, just somewhere in the midst of all that racket in my head: What if you talked to yourself differently? I’m sure I’ve wrangled with this in the blog here before — and it’s ongoing practice, isn’t it? So, I thought to myself, to the part that didn’t want to get up, that wanted to (and had good reason to want to) stay in bed: Good morning! Thanks for waking up today — I’m so glad you’re awake! I know you look forward to this time in the dark for your best and favorite writing time, and look! You’ve made that time for yourself today! I’m proud of you.
I felt something soften in me, open; I felt actually glad to be awake. It still took me a few minutes to swing my feet out from beneath the covers and push away from all that warmth, but when I did so, the balance in me was more toward gratitude and looking-forward and desire, and less toward guilt and shame.
Here was the conversation with my sister: self-care is maintenance work, it’s daily work, it’s every day. This isn’t really a revelation, is it? Don’t I write that sort of thing often? Haven’t we been over self-care here? But here’s what she said: It’s important to take care of ourselves even when we’re not in crisis — especially when we’re not in crisis! Once we’re in crisis, it’s “too late,” in that those regular maintenance practices won’t work the same way.
We thought, Oh. Every day? This was what opened for me: The self care isn’t just about fixing myself when I’m feeling overwhelmed and out of control; it’s about creating a whole different sort of steady state.
It’s more simple than that. She said, “We have to brush our teeth every day, right?” And we laughed, but it’s deep — right. These kinds of self care are like that. Like a daily shower, like breakfast. Why can’t some form of exercise be that important, and that routine? Why can’t even just a short meditation fit there?
As I type up that paragraph, I know that there are times when none of those care practices work — days when showering feels like the hardest thing ever, times with no teeth-brushing or breakfast, when all forms of self care feel unavailable because I have felt like there’s nothing in here to care for. So I’m not putting this out there lightly, or with any blame/shame/guilt — but more like, Ok, you’re to the place where some regular, routine self-maintenance feels all right to do. How does it feel to stretch that daily definition to include a couple more pieces, something small, morning breathing, maybe, or 15 minutes of yoga or stretching?
There was something exciting for me, I’ll admit to you, in thinking about emotional/psychic/body self-care work as being as routine (and maybe even sometimes as boring as) brushing my teeth — you mean it doesn’t have to be some big psychological drama anymore, requiring lots of therapy and processing? (Note: Not putting down therapy and processing at all — they got me to this place.)
I’m sure I’m going to have to have this epiphany again, as I move more deeply into this different and new relationship with radical self-care. I’m so grateful to my sister for sharing it with me yesterday, though — and for our work, every minute, to be here.
The possibility of a prompt: What are some pieces of emotional/psychic/body self-care that you (or one of your characters) want to incorporate into your (their) regular, daily schedule? Let yourself make a short list of small acts: 5 minutes of mindful breathing upon waking up? 7 minutes of stretching before your shower? 2 pages of journaling before bed? Some gentle inside talk-to-self as you wash your face? What other ideas? Just write down a few — then choose one and let yourself write for a few minutes about what your morning, your day, feels like after you’ve (or your character has) been doing that practice most days (doesn’t have to be every single day, perfectly) for a couple weeks?
Thanks for your steady, flickering resilience. Thanks for the ways you make way to care for you. Thanks for your good words.