This phrase has announced itself in my brain over the last week or so: radical self-care. I’ve been thinking about self-care for several years (not that I’m always very good at it), but the announcement factor is new. And the “radical” is new.
But I’ve learned over time that when a phrase announces itself to you, you’d best listen. Just ask the Mail Order Bride (sigh).
So I’ve been rolling the phrase over in my mind — radicalselfcare, radicalselfcare, radicalselfcare — wondering: why radical? why now? … . And thinking about what this phrase is asking of me.
If you poke around on the web you can find one zillion definitions of self-care from the medically inclined (which speaks to a patient performing some of the tasks of her own health maintenance, such as administering medication and having regular labs done) to the spiritually inclined (which speaks to care of the soul). For me, the whole spectrum is important. Yes, we need to take care of ourselves physically: enough sleep, healthy food, physical activity, taking our meds if we’re on meds, seeing the doctor, flossing, resting more when we’re sick, etc. For me, this is the easy part.
The hard part is care of the soul. Partly because it seems to me that much of Western history saw the soul as a tortured thing, at risk of eternal damnation, and not as a thing that deserved care. Partly because American culture is very practical / pick-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps- inclined. Partly because: Is it just me, or are women generally and culturally expected to take care of other people and be happy about it? (And I’m not just talking about women who are mothers — I think this societal expectation exists for all women. Not that there are no societal expectations for men: I think they are expected to be “tough” and “manly” and not need any such fluff as self-care, or even the soul.).
I think of the soul as the essence of who we are. I think being practical is often overrated. And when I think about radical self-care, here’s what comes to mind:
- embracing my inner introvert: We all have temperament traits, and we do best if we work with them, rather than against them. I know that, while I enjoy a good crowd from time to time, what charges my batteries is time alone and silence. By the time I get through the weekend of all-mama-all-the-time, I want to crawl into a cave forever (albeit a cave with a very comfortable bed, a blazing fire, and tea-making supplies). Instead, I’ve been trying out Hermit Mondays. On Mondays, I don’t schedule anything; I try not to make small talk or talk at all to very many people; I make sure there’s a lot of alone time and silence. I also try to stay off Facebook and not check my e-mail, but I kind of forgot about that yesterday — a reminder for me that self-care requires us to be intentional.
- making time for my creative life: Yes, creative people, this is a form of self-care. Those of us with the need to create are denying the essence of who we are if we don’t make time to make our art.
- saying no to things I really don’t want to do: I believe we all do best when we participate in society in ways that feel important and natural to us, and that excite us. Nevertheless, I’ve typically been in the habit of helping with things that don’t excite me at all: classroom parties, cooking for the weekly teacher brunches, and going on field trips (and believe me, you do not want me to be your field-trip mom because then you have to — gasp! — follow the rules). This year, I’ve promised myself to limit my volunteering to the things that feel important, natural, and exciting to me, like this program. Anything else, I’m leaving up to other folks. Bonus: this helps make more time for Hermit Mondays and making art.
- speaking my truth: In the past I’ve often been guilty of going along to get along — at least for the little things in life (see above: classroom parties, teacher brunches, making small talk, pulling myself up by my bootstraps, etc.). Lately, I’ve come to see speaking my truth as a form of self-care, as a way of claiming the essence of who I am. Speaking our truth might make other people uncomfortable or disappointed, but as long as we do it politely that’s their issue, not ours.
I know there will be some one-step-forward-two-steps-back moments for me as I try to live the phrase “radical self care.” And I realize none of these things are all that radical — but apparently my psyche needed to get my attention somehow. But the phrase has my attention — I’m going to give this thing a real try.
Reader, you know I often write here about things I’m puzzling through to see what I can learn. Thanks for humoring me on that score again today. I hope that whatever else you’re doing, you’re taking really good care of yourself.