Thursday, September 15, 2016

Radical Self-Love

At the beach in the DR
“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” — A Burst of Light: Essays, Audre Lorde

For the last four months or so, I have been trying really hard to practice self-care and practice radical self-love. It is the only way I can psychologically and emotionally carry all of the various traumas around in my body. (racial battle fatigue, illness, infertility etc) While I have been healing a great deal from the physical trauma chronic illness has wrecked on body over the last eight years, I am now more vulnerable, attune to and receptive to emotional trauma brought on by the crazy world we live in and by needing to come to terms with what I have lost because of chronic illness. 

The charts and the stars and the mystics keep telling us that 2016 is a year of transitions. I can agree with that. I have started so many new things, been on many new adventures, met new people and felt and experienced things I swore I never would. In the process I have cried a lot, questioned a lot and felt really lost and scared at times. If I let myself go I could fall into a pretty bad place. But I also know, that right now, I still have a choice in the matter. And as long as I have that choice, I choose to take care of myself and not let the emotions and the grief overrun all the good that is in my life. 

So, while I may often post that eating a cupcake, or drinking a glass of wine or taking a lavender bubble bath is "self-care" that's not the only kind of radical self love I want to talk about today. For me, it's more than that. I recently read an article on The Mighty about how another woman practices self-care, and some of my suggestions are similar. 

Radical Self-Love Includes:
Quiet time and writing time.

1)Nonnegotiables: I learned about this in my first teaching gig almost ten years ago. What are the things you are NOT willing to compromise on? Make a list and stick to it. These are your non-negotiables. For me, I decided four years ago that I would not and could not work full-time outside of the home. Period. It is not good for my mental or physical health. I am lucky enough to be able to financially afford to do this thanks to the support of my husband, but even if and when we have struggled financially he has never let me backtrack on this nonnegotiable and I am so thankful for it. A few of my other nonnegotiables include (and sometimes this list changes a little depending on how bad I'm flaring and what my body needs)
A) Quiet time at least once a day (through meditation, deep breathing, alone time)
B) Writing time (as often as I can get it)
C) Time with my husband--anything that gets too in the way of that has to go. 
D) Rest- I have to find the time to rest
E) Flexible weekday schedule to go to doc appointments and take care of adulting responsibilities
F) Of course my health is a nonnegotiable. Anything/anyone gets in the way of that, they gots to go.

When you make your list and it's a true and honest list, the hard part will be not compromising...which leads to my second act of self-love---

2) Learn to say NO: Boy do I struggle with this one. Us Type-A people often do (notice how Type-A people are THE ONLY people that constantly remind you of and define their "Type?" We like labels and lists). I am a people pleaser and I want to be of use. I want to show the world that I CAN DO THIS! I used to over commit myself so that I wouldn't let anyone down. Boy did that ship sail once scleroderma and lupus decided to have their way with me! I am a flake. Period. Get used to it. Get over it. Love me anyway. 

I can't help it sometimes if/when my body decides to shut down, so plans I made weeks ago may just fall through. Instead of beating myself up over it I've just learned to say no or "maybe" on the front end. If I know I have a busy week of work or readings coming up and someone invites me to dinner or hanging out that week I usually say "I can't promise anything. Maybe. I'll text you the day of." My real friends understand this and at least to my face have never give me slack for it. (Thank you real friends!) Instead of "flaking" out and seeming unreliable I just have learned to say no and create a flexible and reasonable calendar and schedule for myself that allows me to do what I need/want to do without sacrificing my emotional or physical health. What's more radical than saying no?!

My bedroom...when it's clean :)
3) Clean Up/"Adult": Yes. Do some damn chores and get your adult life right. Now that I have the energy and the physical ability to wash the dishes, fold laundry, sweep, mow the lawn, vacuum, wash my car and bathe the dogs, I feel like a normal real human being again. I know that cleanliness isn't everyone's personality...but trust me even just organizing your clutter can go a long way to making you feel better. I hate the sight of mess and clutter it stresses me out. Taking the time out each day to clean up and tidy even just one corner of my personal or professional space makes me feel really good. I feel like: "hey I love myself enough to take care of the things I worked so hard to get." 

I have a strong sense of pride in taking care of my home and doing this on a regular basis keeps me motivated and happy overall. I usually start the day with one small chore. It's also where I find my quiet time. No music or TV, just me and the "boring" task at hand. I get some great ideas for writing, I think of my to dos for the day, I contemplate life. It centers me and I feel good. Also, what's more feminist than taking care of your man and your house because you CHOOSE to? :) 

4) Treat Yo'Self: Of course! And that is going to mean different things for different people. Does a pedicure and a massage make ME feel good? Hell yes. So sometimes I indulge. Does the gym and a swim in the pool also make ME feel good? Yes, so I do it often. Does a cupcake and wine sound good too? Damn right. But those are my "treat yo'self" options. Sometimes indulging means roaming the bookstore for a few hours, buying a new book and sitting in a coffee shop to read it. Sometimes it involves reading tabloid magazines while bathing in a lavender bath. Sometimes it involves planning nothing on a Saturday and Sunday morning and cuddling with the hubs to binge watch Netflix all day.
Treating myself also has involved making time for and allowing myself to laugh. At a movie, at my husband at myself. Laughter is the best treat you can give yourself any time of day.

All of those things are "treat" to me and I do them often. Because, I can't take care of others if I don't take care of myself. And...most importantly DON'T FEEL GUILTY! The guilt ruins the act of self-love. Enjoy it because you deserve it. You've earned it just for making it through another damn day. No guilt!

5) Stand Up for Yourself: Like saying no, this one can be hard. But it is so important, especially as a woman of color. It's hard for most anyone, but I definitely feel like WOC are often silenced more than any other group. (I experienced this this summer at my MFA program and boy did it almost destroy me). The only way we will be heard is if we speak up. In an age of social media cyber bullying and trolls where anyone and everyone says the most racist, ablest, sexist, obnoxious things we must find a way to speak our truths and be heard. (I am not suggesting that you engage with racist trolls on the internet) What I mean is, if you are in a situation like at the doctors, or in a group of friends/family/co workers, and you are in conversation and someone attempts to silence or worse "correct" your point of view or your story, don't stay silent. Speak up and speak your truth. Don't be afraid of the confrontation (I HATE confrontation but know it only eats me up inside later). Showing that you will not be silenced and that they cannot walk all over you is the most radical form of self love and political warfare you can engage in without picking up arms. Microagressions are real and they can eat away at you if you're not careful. Standing up for yourself is a way of healing those wounds before the cut gets too deep. 

Galveston, TX
6) Unplug: Yes, it's hard. I love social media too. But close the lid. Turn off the screen. Back away. Sometimes it's just all white noise (pun intended). And you need to find the silence. Silence is good. Listen to the silence. (no screen distractions, no beeping phones, no email alerts) It's hard. I unplugged from FB last year for 30 days---most restorative time of my life. I signed off this year for almost two weeks (yes I did suffer withdraw) and now I only come back to share writing links and see pics of my niece. I need to step away from all of that because it is draining and emotionally taxing. I suggest you find a way to unplug too even if just once a week like a Tech free Tuesday or something. I know we need our devices for work, but disconnect from social media for 24hrs or more. Trust me, you'll thank me for it later. 

I'm sure there are other things I can/should or am doing as self-care but it's 5:45am on a Thursday and I have to get to know, I like living in my technically going to this job is self care too because know..I also like to eat. 

These are just the first few things that came to mind. The ones I practice regularly or am learning to get better at in order to save my sanity amidst the chaos. 

What are YOU doing to practice radical self-love? What is keeping you from it?