DEFIANT SELF CARE
I spend a lot of time thinking about leaky buckets. I spend more time than I should thinking about a lot of things, like what my cat thinks about, or why porridge birds lay their eggs in the air (thanks, equally weird husband). Aside from the fact that our disposable society wants me to replace it, I’m inclined to repair or ‘MacGyver’ my shit until it is shit no more. And if I were inclined to edit more, we could maybe stay on the subject of buckets and their leaking.
So, where are our leaks? How do we find them? Plug them? Give up and get a new bucket? I wish, but in a metaphorical sense, no can do. I have the brain and the body that I have – that’s my bucket. My sister Vicki and I have a joke. We’re kids six and seven (out of seven and no that’s not the joke). As we’ve gotten older and compared notes we concluded that we’re made from Mom’s junk drawer. A lot of our shit doesn’t work so well, and we’ve lived with a good amount of un/mis/changing diagnoses. Recently I’ve come to find out I have a hypermobility condition which tends to wreak havoc on the parts of my body that have collagen, which is kind of all of them. It can be exhausting, like trying to pretend my brain’s handling the world well when it isn’t. It was a thousand times worse though, when I was convinced it was all “in my head” and I just had to fix it somehow.
It wasn’t my head that needed fixing, it was the leaks! I think a bunch of us go through life with colanders, not buckets, and think that’s how buckets are. A lot of those holes don’t have to be there. I’m learning how to spot and fix the leaks I can, and how to make the fixes last as long as possible. More importantly I’m learning what causes leaks to spring. I may not be able to prevent them entirely but I can sure try to minimize the damage. Knowledge and preparation equals power, friends. Another powerful and humbling ally is to identify your sneaky leaky habits. I don’t have much control over what the world’s throwing at me, but I can sure try to avoid tripping over my own hurdles.
Oh bother, more about self-care? I don’t know when the term took off but it’s become overused and sort of shallow (Self-care mani-pedi two-for-one!). It’s more than a couple hours a week of some ritual. I had to incorporate it into my day, my life. I won’t accept the minimization of the term because it’s about self-empowerment and I kind of like the idea of empathetic and aware people gaining power. The meek won’t inherit the earth by getting weaker. And we sure won’t if we compare ourselves to each other with a whole bunch of Shoulds, ironically ignoring the Self in self-care. Find out what self-care is to You. Then do it. At this point in my life I’m pretty much held together with rubber bands so I’ve had to look critically at what really works. This year’s mantra has become, Reboot My Files. I’m allowing old shit to be overwritten when it no longer serves any purpose but to feed its own hunger. At first it started as a way to be a little wiser. Now it seems vital. Discerning not judging, and honestly searching for that universal and inner wisdom is how I want to be living my life. If I practice listening to the small stuff - like realizing that the memory foam dog bed at TM Maxx would fit perfectly in the back of my closet and no I don’t have a dog (don’t judge my hideyhole, instead admire my resourcefulness) – I will get better at knowing what to do about the bigger stuff.
I finally learned some practices I could understand and utilize in my own weird way. That’s when I started having wonderful surprises. For example, I’ve tried all manner of meditation over the years, most of them with me having to leave whatever workshop I was attending due to inappropriate giggling. Every few years I’d try again though, full of hope. Well not full, but I had some in my purse. Or maybe it was desperation. Whatever. I finally hit on a workshop that made sense. I learned techniques that worked for me and I could truly practice incorporating them into my life. Then one day months later I was stopped in my tracks when it hit me how much quieter my mind had become. Without me trying! Well, I was trying, but I hadn’t been actively working on my non-meditating thought stream. Which has always been constant chatter, most of it annoying and unnecessary and very, very loud. Ah, the calm. I could hear the smarter, quieter voices that had been underneath all that din. And those voices know really good self-care so I started listening. Defiant self-care is having enough critical awareness, inside and out, to monitor your fuel levels. It’s leaky bucket monitor and defend. It doesn’t stand around watching the bucket leak because self-care day isn’t till Thursday. It knows that buckets leak all the time and it’s not selfish to want to address that. The trick is to learn where those leaks develop and either avoid those situations or have the right tools.
When I first started noticing how many dings my bucket had, a mistake I made was looking more at the outside, rather than how I was poking my own. When I did turn to face myself in the years before I didn’t just hate what I saw, attempting to address the inner weaknesses felt just as futile as trying to change the world. Ironic, maybe (seriously, I don’t even know what the fuck that word means anymore, like Literally, or Facts) because looking at self-pokiness sounds like the opposite of self-care. It sounds like self-blame. Ah, but with an attitude of Love, it’s like feeling pain all over but at last locating the wound so you can take care of it. And nothing heals faster than not hating yourself. So I say felt just as futile because it really wasn’t. It’s never futile to try, even if we fail, right? One reason I love baseball is because it constantly reminds me that you can be really good at something and still maybe suck over half the time! Failing…well, isn’t. It’s just part of the game. It’s not all that bad to think, “Wow that was quite a fuckup. Hmm, there’s a chance I won’t fuck up so bad next time,” is it? If I take enough shitty classes, see enough sketchy professionals, work on cutting down on my cynical view of classes and professionals, statistically I’m bound to glean something helpful and fruitful and full of the fullness of something. In other words, something’s gotta pay off. And it does. It’s not futile because well, I’m still here. That nagging, annoying, hopeful little kid inside had been forcing her way into all sorts of learning situations where she had no business or reason. A little tiny voice urging me to keep trying. I really believe if your goal is to peel off all the crap that’s covering You, no attempt is weird, even if it’s weird. Thinking away your thoughts on the matter just delays you from addressing those dings. Whether or not they’re leaking now, I guarantee you they will.
Practice listening to your intuition.
Intuition’s polite and won’t yell until you give permission.
Don’t allow your personality to be pathologized.
I’m done paying professionals to undermine all the work I’ve done to finally love myself.
Update your files.
Be aware of when you’re just going off an old script. Notice and say, “this is the part where I ___” then breath and consider whether it could use a rewrite.
Find your superpower.
Mine’s butting in, can you tell?
Make sure you have self-care quickies on hand.
Examples: Nutrition bars, plenty of water, baseball cap, $5 coffee or sandwich card (if I’m out walking it’s something easy to give and kindness is a renewing act), frozen peas (for easy icing), ibuprofen, cannabis, small notebook and pencil, noise-cancelling headphones, black obsidian stone, a certain ring, Rumi book, and that one movie whose title I’ll just keep to myself.
Oh! Don’t beat yourself up for sucking at self-care.
This shit takes practice. Start by being easy on yourself and getting rid of The Shoulds (more about those later).