Some Real Adult Self Care
Wouldn't it be funny if I just...abandoned this blog yet again for months at a time? Hilarious. The best part of the joke, I think, is the fact that I identify as a writer, yet haven't been writing much at all. Trust, in my time away I've been thinking about writing. Thinking about it a lot! Doing that classic thing us creatives do where we think and think long and hard about our ideas, but never actually do the hard work. Getting inspiration in the shower or before bed or on the drive home. Letting my mind wander and virtually penning metaphors (good ones, too...from what I recall) but never actually committing the thoughts to paper or screen.
Most of those aforementioned thoughts have had to do with introspection and adulthood and identity and that self care the kids are always raving about. I've been thinking about what self care really is, and what it looks like for me as I get older. Is it selfish, is it productive, is it all just face masks and Netflix? It's all of those and none of those. Here's my real ass thoughts on some Real Adult Self Care. Each thought is not long enough to be its own blog post, so please enjoy them all hodge-podged together.
Real Adult Self Care Number One: Brevity, Not Bleeding.
I went back and read some of my older blog posts recently. "Older" as in high school and early college. They are...yikes. An over-sharer by nature, blogging has done for me what Trader Joe's frozen dinners have done for many: Made my natural overindulgences nearly instant and accessible from the comfort of my couch. The turn of the century is great, you guys! You can publish the status of your mental health and eat just-okay macaroni and cheese for the low low cost of your self-esteem! Okay, maybe I'm being overdramatic. But, wow...those older blog posts are bleak. Can someone please tell my teenaged self that I didn't have to broadcast my depressive episodes?
I'm not alone in doing this, though. I can tell you deep, dark secrets about people I don't really know, only because at one point I read them. Directly from the source, too. Somewhere on the way to candid we lost our way and ended up way past normal discretion. Our parents warned us against posting photos holding red Solo cups, but they didn't think to warn us about writing down our most vulnerable feelings and pressing "Share." Maybe because they didn't think that was a thing we would have the ability to do, but also because why would they think we would want to?
I guess that logic is flawed. There's a lot of reasons why we would want to share our secrets, and a lot of the rationale behind it does make sense to me.
I think the root cause of my oversharing is I considered it to be brave. Someone or something must have taught me it was courageous to stand at the top of a virtual mountain and decree, "These are all of my problems!" And sure, when you boil down what I was doing to its purest form, I was trying to remove a stigma. But instead of shedding light on real issues, it seems like I was just bleeding out for the sake of it. Because I thought it was revolutionary. Or noble. Or...something. I guess in my younger years I thought, "If I tell the story, I control the narrative." I was coming from a place of being wounded and insecure. I wanted to manage what people were saying about me. I knew that people thought I was moody, or judgy, or just plain crazy. And to that I said, "Well, if you're going to think those things about me, I'm going to sacrifice myself. You're going to get the Joan of Arc version of the story. Maybe I'm all those things, but you heard it from me."
Humans have a natural desire to connect, and the internet has made that easier than ever before. I think that's a beautiful thing at its core, but when I was younger I lost the intent. I didn't want to connect to people, I just wanted some fleeting sympathy and a moment to show off my scars. I've learned growing up that I favor brevity over this type of sacrificial bleeding. I don't want to let myself bleed out for everyone to watch just for the hell of it. But I'm also by no means a closed book. I'm just more of a final draft now. There are still people in my life who get to see the messy first edition of my feelings, and still get the pleasure (??) of sorting through my problems with me. But when it comes to the internet, I'm less quick to post. Don't misunderstand though: I'm very open about a lot of things. I'll tweet about my anxiety and I'll tell anyone who wants to know about my embarrassing celebrity crushes. But I'm not doing it for anyone's sympathy, and it doesn't feel sacrificial. Keeping some things to myself and thinking before I share has helped me to discern the public from the private, and has made me much more in touch with myself and have more intimidate relationships with the people who do know more than most. Brevity is easier breathing.
Real Adult Self Care Number Two: I Will Not Be Embarrassed About What I Love.
Related to sharing, I've learned that I'm no longer embarrassed about my passions. Or least I try not to be. It's still a learning process. As a woman (here we go, she's making this a Feminist Thing!), I'm no stranger to my interests being belittled. Music, movies, and entire industries dump millions of dollars into advertising to the feminine audience, and then when the audience comes, we're made to feel foolish or lesser than. Music that women like is not as valid as music for men or the general public. "Chick flicks" are inherently dumb guilty pleasures, while action movies are exciting box office hits. And honestly, you ask a male sports fan to discuss his favorite team, you'll unleash the same enthusiasm that you would asking a makeup lover to talk about her favorite products. So those more interested in traditionally feminine (or otherwise "niche") content started to shut up about the things we love. And I hate that, so I stopped doing it.
I love blasting One Direction in my car, even after all these years. Some nights I'd rather watch Rupaul's Drag Race than go out. I saw Bohemian Rhapsody six times in theaters. And I don't care if you think lesser of me, because I'm having a good time! Why should anyone feel guilty about the things that make them happy, so long as those things don't hurt anyone else? I believe people are at their most beautiful when they're doing or talking about something they love. I refuse to make myself small or hide away my interests because they're deemed silly or unintelligent. I've spent too many years turning down the music or feigning ignorance, and let me tell you it's not nearly as fun. As Kacey Musgraves (one of my unapologetic faves) once said: "Smoke your own smoke, and grow your own daisies. Mend your own fences and own your own crazy."
Real Adult Self Care Number Three: You Don't Always Need an Opinion.
For a long time, women weren’t allowed to be a part of the conversation. Like children, they were to be seen but not heard. Women were beautiful, women were useful, but women weren’t considered smart or thoughtful or interesting. Fortunately for us, this has started to change. While there will always be people who are militantly against feminism, we speak up, we command rooms, we vote, we consent…we have a seat at the table. Women across the board—all races, all sizes, all abilities, all orientations—are taking up space; merely existing where we once weren’t allowed. But with these new opportunities, I worry there is also a pressure to not only always have a seat at the table, but to always be leading the discussion. And call me naïve, but sometimes I don’t want to sit at the table. I don’t want to attend the dinner party at all.
Don't get me wrong, I want a voice. I want to exist and I want to be viewed as the smart, complex person I am. But so often I see people overexerting themselves just to have a half-baked opinion or force themselves into every conversation, and it's just not worth it. It's very relaxing to see a dialogue happening around you and realize that you don't have to participate. And I don't mean that in the privileged "Oh, I hate talking politics!" kind of way where you can choose to remove yourself from the fear marginalized groups face every day. I mean it in the way that you don't have to respond to every negative thing someone says about you. You don't have to watch that show everyone's watching if you don't want to. Sometimes it's okay to not have a single thing to say. Especially if all you have to contribute is bitterness or "devil's advocacy" or rain on someone else's parade, it's so alright to take a timeout. Own your self-induced exclusion. Take a few deep breaths. Go for a walk, and then come back when the conversation shifts to something you care about.
Real Adult Self Care Number Four: It's Okay to (Sometimes) Be Unavailable.
Related somewhat to number three, the next lesson I've been thinking about is going on "do not disturb" mode, and not feeling guilty for it. Can you tell that almost all of these are related to online spaces and technology? As Madonna once said (kind of): "We are living in a digital world, and I am a digital girl."
I no longer feel guilty for not responding right away. If I am truly busy, or if I just don't have the patience to respond kindly or appropriately, I will give myself some time and distance. Unfortunately, of course, that means some communication falls through the cracks entirely, and for that I really am sorry. I do wish there was a way to mark text messages as "unread," and if I've ever seemingly ghosted you, know that it was probably as a result of me going offline. It's not personal, it's just self care, y'know?
In the days before the internet and hyper-connectivity, we had the choice to disassociate. We could be with our family or selected friends and not have a million notifications and seemingly better plans going off in our pockets. If you were out and the phone rang, you just missed the call. Conversely, if you were home when the phone rang but you weren't up for chatting, you just missed the call. You called back when you were available. No guilt. No hurt feelings.
I've been challenging myself to communicate with others more intentionally, and it's been really interesting and eye-opening. I love talking (anyone who knows me knows I love a good deep chat) and genuine human connection, but I hate the urgency and stress that my cell phone puts on it. I hate small talk and its digital equivalent. I know I sound like a whiny old person, but constantly being logged on, I realized, made me give less of an effort in my relationships. I would respond right away to un-urgent matters and I would give my gut reaction as a result, and let's be honest: Whose first response is nice or even worth contributing 100% of the time? While I'm sure it's annoying to sit on the other end the screen and wait an hour to hear back from a friend, I would prefer that over a biting or quippy response because they were heated up in the moment. If it takes more time to give my kindest, most available self to people I care about, then that's what I want to do. If someone gets in touch while I'm genuinely busy, I'll respond as soon as I'm available. But I don't feel badly about putting my phone away in a meeting or a spin class. I was just doin' me, but now that I'm back, let's chat!
Of course, because of who I am as a neurotic human, I'm still trying to learn that I need to be less anxious when I'm on the other end of this. When a friend takes an unexpected break in responding to me, I assume I did something wrong. I reread my last message and think about our past interactions trying to deduce what I did to piss them off. I know that sounds crazy, especially after I laid out my justifications for going silent in the four paragraphs immediately above this one. I'm just trying to keep it real with you and tell you it's a process. I haven't mastered this one yet, but it's been really eye-opening and helpful just starting to learn.
Real Adult Self Care Number Five: Loving Your Body is Kinda Cool.
Finally, the last piece of real ass adult self care that I've learned in the past few months is that loving your body is really cool. I mean, duh, we knew this, but I mean it on a really deep, difficult level. Like the fact that "loving your body" means putting in the work to be healthy. Not putting a contingency on when you'll start loving your body, but loving it enough to want it to be its best, and loving it through the whole process. This is where self love gets hard. This is where self love means exercise and vegetables. This is where you realize it's not about what you look like, but it's about how amazing it feels to sweat. This is the inconvenient, challenging, "damn, I'm so glad I did this" self love that can't be solved by a $2 CVS sheet mask.
The difficult thing about body positivity is how deeply fatphobic our culture is. It's changing for the better, but holy hell it's still really difficult. A genetically predisposed size 2 woman who has terrible eating habits and no upper body strength is deemed inherently better than a genetically predisposed size 12 who goes to the gym religiously and could deadlift your entire family. When the size 2 has McDonald's for the 4th time this week, she's deemed cute and quirky, but when the size 12 has pizza because she's craving it, she's looked at with pity. I'm not pitting women against each other and I'm not ranking people in any sort of objective way, but I am just saying that self love is hard when society is under the impression that you should hate yourself.
So like, I'm here to tell you I know loving your body is difficult. I know there's so much that goes into fitness and holistic health, and I'm not here to shame anyone into anything. There's enough of that as-is. I'm just saying that, regardless of what society thinks of the way you look, you owe yourself your best effort. Your teenaged eating habits eventually stop feeling good the next morning, and being aware of who you are–mind, body, soul–is really transformative. It changes the way you feel about yourself, and it changes how much you appreciate a Chick-fil-A sandwich, knowing it's not an all-the-time thing and you're having it because you really want it. Okay, stepping down from my soapbox now.
Well, that's it! Just a real ass adult sharing with you the real adult self love things I've been thinking about while I've been gone. The inconvenient, hard-to-swallow, "maybe if I look the other way I can pretend it's not there" self love. I'm by no means perfect (we know), and I'm in no means in love with who I am. But I do like myself. More and more each day. Enough to be aware of how preachy and fake-deep this post is getting, so I'm gonna go now.