This one was just for me, and it was epic.
Last week was all about everyone else. There was a birthday party to prepare for (my step-daughter's 19th) and family in from out of town. There was stuff with one of my kids - big stuff that is still unresolved! There's big stuff with another one of my kids - not as bat shit inducing, but still big. There were all the feels about beginning the process of reclaiming my former home out from under a year of neglect. There were all the feels about what it will mean when we move back into together (slowly, slowly, slowly). There was my own work and needing to show up for that despite feeling like I needed to find a cave somewhere to hide out in for a few years.
So, on Monday, I begged off my evening plans with the Manfingy and I opted to relish my solitude.
Not just relish it. Mark it as territory, as sacred.
I will fail to express how epic this was, but dudes. It was epic.
I built myself a fire.
I know. It sounds so simple. It's so not a big deal, right? Except that in all the years I've lived, I've never built a fire *just for me*. I have always needed to justify the indulgence of a crackling fire by including other people. Otherwise, a fire was a 'waste of wood' because, apparently, I am not worthy of the time or effort. Building a fire was up there with busting out the fine china and linens. It was reserved, in my own unspoken rule book, for special occasions involving other people *only*.
I'm exhausted. The week completely depleted me. I don't want to talk to another living being for a hundred years. I am spent. The night is coming on strong. There is a chill in the air that carries autumnal promise. I have options that include Aimlessly Surfing The Internet and Six Hours Of Netflix. I could art. I could do the dishes and the laundry.
A little voice inside my head said "I wanna fire". Fire as a thing, and also fire as a verb as art is a verb in my lexicon. I don't just 'have' a fire. I *fire*. Prepare it, light it, tend it. I love to fire.
But an insidious voice responded, as it always has, "What a waste of wood."
And you know? I have always listened to that voice. I have always shrugged and said "Yeah, I guess so..." and abandoned my desire to fire and wandered off to do other, far less satisfying things.
Monday night, though? I stamped my foot. I said "EXCUSE ME? I am NOT a waste of wood!" and I spent a good half hour and at least a dozen matches trying to get a fire going with damp wood and too little kindling. I almost gave up, but dudes.
It took, and I took it, and we burned long into the wee hours together, that fire and I, through wind and rain and the voices in my head that said I should not use all the wood, I should save some, I should wait until I had company, I should go to bed.
That fire was the best fire I've ever had.
You think of these things,
you might like to tend
As some kind of tragedy,
As though your hand,
striking the match,
your own senses,
are not enough.
And then a night comes on
as strong as nights do
when the earth turns toward autumn
and you stamp your foot against the damp earth
and say to the dew soaked gloaming
'The mist is as much mine
and so is mine
the power to banish it
and light, and heat.
You strike the match
and maybe it takes a while,
and maybe it takes
a hundred matches,
but you take
in your hands,
and for once,
you make it
In Other News
These classes are open for registration. It would be grand to see you in either of them. <3
16 guest teachers, 32 lessons, art journaling immersion - starts October 1st. $99
Six weeks of FACES. Members only (all you have to do is join my NING). Pay What You Can. Starts September 4th.
Trigger alert for mentions of sexual violence against children/child abuse.
Self-care is a thing I have to really work to engage in.
When I first started hearing that term bandied about on the Internets, I was agog, because, dudes. The self-care gurus were talking about spa days and mani/pedi dates and glamour photo shoots and buying that handbag you've always wanted.
Me? I just wanted to like myself enough to feed myself breakfast.
Radical self-care, for me, looked like showering consistently. It looked like feeding myself *before* my blood sugar tanked. It looked like giving myself a few hours off a week instead of driving myself into the ground. It looked like *not* letting myself run out of the medication I need to breathe.
I genuinely did not know how to care for myself properly, and it took about a year in therapy before I started doing the very basic first goal I'd set for myself: eating something before noon.
I find the self-care climate uncomfortable for that reason. I find it difficult to talk about self-care because I secretly think most people are just fine around the issue of showering, feeding themselves, making and keeping medical appointments. I feel like a bit of a freak because when I *do* make and keep medical appointments in a timely fashion (before I run out of meds/when I actually have a medical concern), I feel deserving of a medal AND a gold star AND a tiara.
It's been a struggle.
My 'self-care deficit' is a direct consequence of childhood abuse. It's a hot button issue within my body. Exploring it means dredging up a swamp full of old pain. There is shit under there that I don't want to deal with, but without the willingness (and courage) to deal with it, I will never break the old patterns of self-neglect and abuse. For example, showering triggered a lot of terror in me because a lot of the sexual abuse I suffered happened at bath time. The bathroom was a chamber of horrors. Tiny bathrooms were especially terrifying. Larger ones were better, but even after knowing why I had difficulty with the showering/bathing part of self care, bathrooms still leave me feeling like I'm in danger. I have licked this issue - I shower regularly. It's no longer a problem. But I still don't feel perfectly at ease in a bathroom, even when I appear to be enjoying a long, scented soak in a hot tub.
I'm mostly pleased with my progress.
Showing up for myself on the page on a regular basis (journaling, art journaling, blogging) means that I am more present. Showing up on my therapist's couch once a week means I have a partner in accountability and self-empathy. I can't get away with sticking my head in the sand when it comes to caring for myself anymore. On the other hand, I also can't depend on anyone else to nudge me to eat/shower/make an appointment with the doctor when I'm sick/almost out of meds. I can ask for support with things like getting me TO the appointment, but I am on my own when it comes to most of the things that I find challenging.
Eating breakfast at all.
Eating lunch before dinner.
Signing out of 'work mode' and into 'life mode'.
Making space for art that's just for me.
Dressing myself in a way that makes me feel good instead of hiding behind over-sized layers.
Dressing in colour instead of choosing to camouflage my bright, shiny in black.
Leaving the house for pleasure and not just to keep necessary appointments.
Staying present rather than escaping into hours of mindless Netflix watching/Internet surfing.
Today, I'm off to see my doctor.
I'm having a follow up after a mammogram & bone density test, and I'll be getting my asthma meds refilled. I left it right down to the wire this time. I ran out last night. I'm sucking on the last, glorious dregs of Ventolin this morning. But! I did make the appointment and I also enlisted a friend to help me get there.
It's an ongoing struggle.
I don't know that self-care will ever come naturally to me. It feels sometimes like I have to disentangle myself from a trap made up of old tape every single day. I have to do a lot of self-talk to get myself to do the things I know are good for me consistently. I fear that I will always be this sucky at self-care.
But I'm trying...
And you can help. I think what I need to know today is that I'm not alone. I know it's hard to talk about it, and I know that asking for this kind of vulnerability from you is a LOT to ask, but if you struggle with self-care - the basics, not the mani/pedi spa day stuff, then could you let me know? Let's bust the shame associated with the struggles we face with self-care. I see you. You see me. It's easier to talk about it once we know we're not alone.
I love you long time. :)
I just want to take a moment to thank you all so, so much for your amazing comments on my last post. You rock my life, and I appreciate you.
I just wanted to pop in with this:
The perfect pixie cut + bonus flannel
This cut made me so freaking happy. Also, I got my eyebrows done (waxed) for the first time in - oh - a year. Self-care win!
My beacon of gentle joy, created for Life Book 2015.
And finally THIS!
There's a new Wildly Inspired up in my on line network. It's free and it's for you, so do pop on over and check it out!
It's been a weird time of very calm innards and very chaotic outturds. (Is that a word? Well it is now!) I know I've mentioned this a few times in the last month, but in this life that is not a series of pure moments, I do get to have a point of peace, a center of unstoppable, an inner sanctuary. I get to have it because I know how to create it for myself.
But that doesn't always mean I remember I have it, and it doesn't guarantee that I won't find myself out of whack. Like today. I'm out of whack beyond belief. Anxious (panic attacks), overwhelmed with how the chaotic outturds are impacting my innards, burned out from feeling like I'm dealing with too much of what I like to call OPS (or other people's shit). I'm also really tired because when I'm anxious I don't sleep. My body twitches from the instep of my foot up to my low back - twitches and then spasms me awake - so yeah. No sleep.
I woke up wishing I lived in a softer world - a world where my youngest son weren't so angry that he can't live at home. A world where youth unemployment was not completely, terrifyingly rampant. A world where people do not walk into public spaces with guns with intent to kill. A world where people are not gassed to death by their own government...
None of us get a softer world except the one we create within our own very tiny circle of influence. We have to make our own little bubbles of safety and calm and peace, and even then, even if you've mastered it, maintaining it is a whole other ball game.
I was doing pretty well there for a while. I delegated OPS to OPS to deal with. I was all 'head down, do the work' and I was *happy* in that bubble o' mine.
But it got to me today. Badly. The world feels jagged and hostile. I feel like an unwilling witness to it. I want to go hiking somewhere - maybe in Athabasca (my old 'hunting grounds' where I camped and hiked in my younger, fitter days). I want to crawl into a blanket fort and turn off my phone. I want to be buffered, thick skinned, unflappable.
Today, though, I'm not, and that's okay. I can admit that and get on with the business of making *my* world softer.
- Letting the manfingy come home for the afternoon so I'm not having a panic attack alone.
- Making chamomile and hops tea instead of drinking the tenth cup of coffee.
- Working on things that feel proactive and empowered instead of succumbing to the spinny monkey brained omgdoom.
- Telling my youngest that I can't be around him until he either a) learns to accept that I'm disappointed in his current choices and lets me feel how I feel without attacking me for it or asking me to feel differently or b) gets his shit together so that I don't have to struggle to nod and smile through my disappointment.
- Eating something.
- Taking a long, hot soak with a juicy vampire novel for company.
- Crying my heart out into a pillow.
- Recognizing where I have power and where I do not. Letting go and letting good orderly direction.
- Collapsing in a heap for a day. (I've earned it.)
- Asking my people to be gentle with me today.
I can't make the world less jagged around the edges, but I *can* take care of myself when it all feels like it's too much for me to bear.
At the end of the day, it's all any of us *can* do.