There was a time back at the beginning of the century (how fun to say that!) when the first thing I did every morning was blog. I sat down with my coffee, opened Xanga (yes, I had a Xanga) and I poured my heart and soul into the text box, hit ‘publish’ and then went about my day.
There was something about that practice that (slowly) brought me into alignment with myself, with the life I wanted to be living but wasn’t. Slowly, over time, I began taking a longer, harder look at what was going on in my life ~ the choices I made, the relationships I invested in. I started taking what I’ve come to call ‘the long look’.
One of the immediate benefits of ‘the long look’ was poetry. It poured out of me. I bled the stuff all over every available surface and I’m not here to claim it was *good* poetry, but it was definitely poetry and because it was creative, and because poetry doesn’t lie (even when it tried), it shone a light on all my dark places, cast huge shadows on the walls of my heart, and brought me home to myself.
I’m taking Poem It Out with Liz Lamoreaux and though I am plodding rather slowly through it, it is reawakening that part of me that grew up through writing poetry. That part of me that got so horribly blocked back in 2006 and stayed blocked right through 2009 (until I discovered art journaling) is yawning and stretching and reaching for her pen.
Stuff like this is coming out:
Night calling birds,
a soft moon through newly opened windows.
that defies the boundaries of
out there and in here
Did I just yield,
or did the day?
Which one of us surrendered?
My ears, filled as they have been
with white noise
let the night pour in.
It’s not much. It’s what I think of as a trifling little bit of a poem. It’s unpolished and a little embarrassing, but it. is. poetry, and it helps me see myself more clearly.
I expect trifling bits of poems will be finding their way into my art journals in no time.
Morning writing has always been a goal of mine. I’ve done The Artist’s Way a few times, and I am intimate with those dreaded morning pages. The rules always made me grit my teeth and while I once *loved* forcing myself to attempt to do things i disliked doing and then beating myself up over it when I failed, I don’t love that anymore. I love ease. I love doing what feels good.
My mother, were she here, would suck her teeth over that.
Life isn’t supposed to be easy, right? And it isn’t supposed to feel good.
Except, I think it is. I think it can. When we make that choice.
I came into this business not knowing it was going to be a business, and when it started to morph into one, I put my nose to the grindstone and I worked my ass off. If I wasn’t stressing over my to do list, I felt like I wasn’t doing enough, so I added more stuff to the to do list. I had this idea about what it meant to run a creative business. This idea had me running myself ragged. I became (and remain) very, very anxious all the time. Happy, but anxious. There was an old message playing itself over and over again in my brain that nothing comes easy and I must always be doing more, better, faster, harder…
I’m calling bullshit. If I don’t leave time and space for writing trifling little poems, if I don’t make time and space for long bubble baths, aimless walks, dinner with friends, camping trips, camera jaunts, if I do nothing but create content and then babysit it like I’m afraid it might dash off into the streets and get run over, I will end up depleted.
Me time. That’s what’s needed. Which won’t impact how much work I actually get done, but it will impact how awesome it feels doing it because I will be full up on the things my muse loves to eat, touch, look at, hear, do…
…and that will feed a cycle that never leaves me depleted.
I’m learning a lot from Leela Sinha. We Skyped a couple of days ago and it was one of those amazing conversations that holds every ripe, juicy thing you’ve been dying to eat after a week on a diet. In my case, it’s been eight months on a diet. I’ve denied myself down time. I’ve denied myself pleasures (even the simplest ones, like a beautiful breakfast or a luxurious soak). I push myself to some invisible line in the sand and then collapse in a hormonal wreck of needing to be taken care of. I do a lot of self-medicating (tobacco, mostly, but wine, too, and food binges in the evening!) because my anxiety levels are through the roof most days. I was chasing after this ideal of extreme self-care I’d heard other people talk about, and get this:
I was trying to do it perfectly.
And since that was impossible, I just didn’t do it at all. I thought about it. Stressed about it. Ranted at myself in my journal about it…
…but that’s as far as I got.
How’s that for completely missing the point?
If I couldn’t do a candlelit bath with incense and fluffy towels right out of the dryer, it wasn’t good enough. If I couldn’t make a Quinoa salad with raisins and almonds for lunch, lovingly prepared and gorgeously plated, well, I just didn’t eat. I thought I needed a weekend retreat or a day spa experience to do self-care properly, but I’m learning that a container of yogurt and a hot shower really do count. I’m learning that painting my toes and brain-draining here in my blog totally counts. I’m learning that a half hour walk isn’t as good as a weekend retreat but it’s better than nothing. Something, some little thing that might not look like much from the outside looking in is still SOMETHING.
Mornings spent with coffee, writing my heart out, followed by breakfast, a shower, fresh clothes ~ that’s where I begin to love myself back into balance. It isn’t the perfect morning pages, meditating, yoga and smoothie combo that I’ve longed to incorporate into my life for *years now*, but it means I’m not launching myself, unwashed, unfed and anxious, into my work. It means I eat something before four in the afternoon.
And that’s something.
How about you? Where are you at with self-care? Does the phrase bug you? Do you practice it with ease or do you run yourself ragged?