self + care

Last night I dreamt that I had long, beautiful blonde hair and violet-blue eyes. My limbs were lithe and my skin flawless. When I woke up, I couldn’t help but feel disappointed at my choppy mousy mop, my sallow complexion, and the ugly mottled redness across my arms. It doesn’t help that my face has grown fatter from weeks of eating like crap, mostly thanks to the discovery of Door Dash and Way Better Chips. It also doesn’t help that my hat caused stinging break-outs after my hike.

I couldn’t look myself in the eyes this morning.

This means I’m overdue for some serious, take-no-prisoners self-care.

Now I’m not talking about the bullshit self-care in magazines centered on consumption. This isn’t the time for bath bombs or a pedi. Rather, this is the time for treating myself like a person I want to thrive, which means I need to parent my inner child rather than spoiling her. This means taking vitamins again. It means foam-rolling and stretching before and after work-outs and going to the chiro more regularly. It means buying bulk iced coffee so I’m not tempted to stop at the gas station for caffeine (and chips!), deep-cleaning my make-up brushes so the allergens don’t spread, and gently tending to the small scrapes and bruises I’ve earned while at work in the yard. It means balancing my budget so I don’t feel stressed and uncertain every time I pull out my card.

It also means having an honest conversation with myself about the current state of my self-care, which right now is going something like this…

Am I hydrating properly?

No, I am not.

Am I eating sufficient protein?

No, I am not.

Am I treating exercise like a joyful privilege rather than a punishment for imperfection?

… No, goddamnit. I totally am not.

I think you get the point.

So that’s what’s on my mind right now. I don’t need reassurance that I’m pretty or a badass or anything like that, because appearance has nothing to do with this mood. This mood is about unkindness. It’s about what grows when we sow a hundred little seeds of laziness and disrespect toward the self.

Slowly (because doing it all once never works) I’m going to seriously improve my self-care, starting with something as simple as a glass of water and the removal of all of my make-up as soon as I get home. I need to let my skin breathe again, I think.

And also my half-loved spirit.

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thoughts on love

wild.jpg

PART I: WILDNESS

Wildness, to me, is the opposite of safety. Wildness is being free and open and vulnerable to the whole wide world of danger and opportunity. It’s a sprawling vista, a door that won’t close, a clock that doesn’t matter anymore… Exposure. The feeling of being dwarfed by an endless roof of stars.

Of course, wildness is also getting caught out in the storm. Wildness is price you pay when you trade your shelter for a chance to be alone with the Moon.

Love is notorious for this kind of wildness. Just think of all the songs that romanticize love’s soaring highs and breath-taking lows. We’ve all experienced the racing heartbeat, the inability to quiet our thoughts, and the sudden and exhilarating departure of logic when love takes the wheel. Wildness is what makes love so compelling. Love is the sunlit ocean begging us to tear down the walls and let the waves surge in.

The prospect of giving into love this way is terrifying. Will we sink or will we swim?

The answer is neither.

When we surrender to love, we become love.

That is the goal.

The intellectual is always showing off,
the lover is always getting lost.
The intellectual runs away
afraid of drowning;
the whole business of love
is to drown in the sea.

– Rumi

PART II: SAFETY

But love that is only wildness is grueling. Over and over again we wash up battered and broken on the rocky shore, completely destroyed by the very hands we trusted to lift us up. We dive into the sea and are stung by jellyfish. Shark-hearted people swallow us whole. Eventually we protectively drag our sea-sick and sun-burnt hearts into the shade, declaring that love is not only foolish but also fucking insane.

We’re not far off.

But the problem is, we are mistaking passion for love.

Love that is only wildness is passion. True love – full love, life-giving love – balances vulnerability ­and safety. The truly beloved jumps off the cliff of passion knowing that they will be caught by their lover, trusting that they will be held and cherished when the stars cloud up and the sea begins to rage. The beloved roams freely, but not without anchor. Love gives shade and shelter along with the wide open sky.

It took me a long time to find love that could be both wild and peaceful, passionate and gentle, heart-racing and soothing. Love does not have to be a struggle.

And to be honest, it took me even longer to accept that fact.

Love should not drop the bottom out of your life without providing a new, shared foundation. Love should not constantly demand that you run to catch up. If you find yourself exalted by wildness but starving inside for stability and calm — leave. That is half-love. You deserve better.

Special thanks to Pete for teaching me that love is not only a shared adventure up a mountain, but also — afterward — the wordless honoring of each other’s favorite side of the couch.

and were you being good to yourself?

Recently a group of people I was briefly with close with gathered together to celebrate a wedding. Others had a reunion in my city. Looking at the photos they shared, I was startled with a sudden realization:

For three years I was nearly impossible to love.

Looking back at graduate school is painful. Japan, even more so. The year before – worse. For three years I was not so much a woman as a bear trap of anxiety and need, simultaneously begging for love and violently warning it away.

When I look back, several moments stand out to me in painful clarity. Once on a patio in Costa Rica I was told that I talked too much, that I made my “friends” feel like I was uninterested in hearing about anyone else. This of course was the opposite of what I was trying to accomplish with all my talking – the chatter was a desperate attempt to accelerate bonding and find common ground.

I cried myself to sleep to that night feeling powerless and misunderstood. I would do this many more times with many more people in the years to come – especially in Japan, where my companions were kind but courageous enough to say we deserve better.

What a relief to have come so far.

—-

I do not begrudge the people who wisely avoided me when I was aboard the Hot Mess Express. However, I am hugely grateful for the friends who stuck by my side, and particularly glad for those who told me, “It doesn’t have to be like this. You can get help.” In my case, therapy and medication were the tools I needed to begin digging myself out, but everyone’s different. You never know when someone is a phone call away from finally being freed to become their best self.

Blessed are the clear-eyed.

Blessed are the kind.

I’ll end with an important poem from Warsan Shire.


 

“[love letter to self]

i don’t think so. but, i forgive you, girl, who tallied stretch marks into reasons why no one should get close. i forgive you, silly girl, sweet breath, decent by default. i forgive you for being afraid. did everything betray you? even the rain you love so much made rust out of your jewelery? i forgive you, soft spoken girl speaking with fake brash voice, fooling no one. i see you, tender even on your hardest days. i forgive you, waiting for him to call, i forgive you, the diets and the cruel friends. especially for that one time you said ‘i fucking give up on love, it’s not worth it, i’d rather be alone forever’. you were just pretending, weren’t you? i know you didn’t mean that. your body, your mouth, your heart, made specifically for loving. sometimes the things we love will kill us, but weren’t we dying anyway? i forgive you for being something that will eventually die. perishable goods, fading out slowly, little human, i wouldn’t want to be in a world where you don’t exist.”

Warsan Shire, “and were you being good to yourself?”

monday morning thoughts

I haven’t blogged in roughly two years. Cass says I ought to. The sunrise agrees.

So, here’s some thoughts.

  • On Saturday, 29 million people tuned in to watch the royal wedding. That means that for one beautiful morning millions of people put down their weapons, shelved their discontents and disagreements, shut down the endless to-do lists in their brains. I’ll never understand the accusations of frivolity. The world needs beauty more than anything right now.
  • Yesterday I noticed an elk crossing sign on my commute. I sometimes see mule deer and packs of coyote in the open space off of Indiana, but elk? I had such a hard time imagining roving herds of elk there that I Google image searched to confirm. Yep… turns out herds of elk are an actual road hazard in my neck of the woods. I’d love to be late because I had to wait for a herd of elk to cross the road.
  • This morning the sun came out after an unusual stretch of cold gray rain and the world feels brand new. Everything’s leafy and green all of a sudden! The light is filtered through glistening leaves! I believe we should get the day of work today. The world’s too beautiful. Go outside. Your deadlines can wait.
  • Why does office coffee always taste burnt?

Wind and Snow Paralyze the Northeast.

I tuck my flip-flopped feet underneath me and minimize the news.

It doesn’t feel right that it’s so mild out today, that the sky is once again bottomless blue. The brownness of the grass doesn’t feel right, either – back in my hometown, there are already tiny flowers beneath the snow.

When will it rain again?

Everything feels like it’s waiting and it’s tired of that wait.

Right I’m sitting in the Panera where I first apartment-hunted two years ago. I’m sitting in the exact same table, in fact, looking out at weather much nicer than before. I can just make out the roofs of the apartment complex I would end up living in before I found my beautiful house… the house that I have now had the pleasure of living in just shy of a year.

Last year at this time, my mind was on fire with excitement and impatience to begin renovation. One year later, I once again find myself restless with the need for a DIY project, the desire to trade my sweat for a small transformation consuming my thoughts. I need methodical tasks to relax, these days. I need the before and after of dirty wood and crisp paint.

Grief is heavy on my mind, confusingly muddled with gratitude and hope.

I wish that I could throw myself into work today, that my mind would engage and rise to challenge of building my professional development plan.

What is your vision for the next two years? The next year? the worksheet asks. What tangible action items can we put on your agenda for the next six weeks?

I don’t know.

I write, “Improve my agility with sales forecasting tools.”

That’s the right answer, but the real answer is learn to breathe air rarified with grief without stopping to catch my breath.

ransacked

Hi friends and family!  Remember me?  😉  Things have been mental here recently because my friend’s home was broken into and ransacked.  The thieves took everything of value from her, including some material that is so irreplaceable and sensitive I can’t even blog about it here. 😦 It affects many people. It affects her livelihood.  They took the both the tools and the fruit of her labor.

Basically, this totally sucks…

If you’re wondering what to do if you get burglarized, what I’ve learned is that you can’t roll over.  The cops will be unhelpful at first and everyone will express a general air of “there’s really nothing we can do…”, but the truth is, there are things people can do. Be a tigress and others will join you.  

All week I’ve helped my friend cooperate with cops (we got a detective to come and helped him figure out what to fingerprint), tell her story to neighbors and the media (because more watchful eyes = better chance of catching them), work out what to do with affected clients, and scour Craigslist/pawn shops/used electronics stores/eBay for any sign of her stolen goods.  In addition to this she bravely posted local flyers, searched dumpsters and other wooded areas nearby where the burglars may have hidden stuff for later retrieval, and registered the serial numbers of her items online and in the police database.  You would not believe how courageous she’s been, even though she now has to move and life is nuts.

I cannot wait for the Relief Party we have when we find her stolen electronics…

In the meantime, wish us luck.  Hindsight is always 20/20 but I’m encouraging her not to not to look back, as it’s far too easy to blame oneself because of less-than-stellar security measures. The way I look at it, blaming yourself for getting broken into because you didn’t shut your shades each day to hide your valuables / buy a fancy security system / whatever is like blaming a woman for getting raped because she walked outside at night in scandalous clothing. Should the woman have been more cautious? Yes, but she didn’t deserve to get raped. In my friend’s case we all underestimated the risk, but that doesn’t mean we were asking for the door to get kicked in.

Anyway. I’m glad she’s safe and will continue to support her as much as possible, hopefully in increasingly fun ways. Soon I will post some recipes and photos from fun events! 🙂