It may come as a surprise to you, but my normal reaction to any basic girl mantras is an aggressive, face pulling eye roll. "Nothing tastes as good as being thin feels", "Dance like nobody's watching". Up until recently, the idea of "self care" was relegated to that category, buzzy terms that had no place in my life.
Beside finding the term très crunchy, it's alway felt like code for expensive facials where they extract both the gunk and the evil spirits of frugality from your pores, or yoga retreats where you pay a premium to pretend to be poor in a distant locale. The idea of taking care of yourself has always felt both fascinating, and financially irresponsible to me.
One of my favorite articles of all time to make fun of, which is a high honor, is this article from Elle about Amanda Chantal Bacon, the founder/owner of LA-based Moon Juice. Moon Juice is a store that purveys powders and liquids and what I assume are boxes of curated air that strike me as the health food equivalent of the Emporer's snazzy wardrobe. Amanda Chantal Bacon is its inappropriately named HBIC.
The article begins as follows:
"I usually wake up at 6:30am, and start with some Kundalini meditation and a 23-minute breath set—along with a copper cup of silver needle and calendula tea—before my son Rohan wakes."
It then proceeds to recount a full day of Baconing. Everything she puts in to her body is raw, obscure and boosts things I didn't know were in the peril of neglect- activated cashews support her brain chemistry, bee pollen feeds hormone production, quinton shots provide mineralization.
The article was quickly followed up by this gem of a Jezebel follow up.
I'm not sure if Elizabeth Gilbert ever actually used the term "self care" in Eat Pray Love, her 2006 memoir wherein her life falls apart and she responds by traveling around the world to find herself but I will denounce the book to anyone who will listen.
I can't help it. I find myself resenting the luxury of large chunks of time off of work to focus on your spiritual health. I am peeved (and, let's face it, a little jealous) about your doting husband who provides a 24/7 emotional safety net. I scoff over your regular acupuncture appointments and your insistence that you actually really enjoy your electively gluten-free diet.
These examples of excessively Instagramable "self care" are at face value harmless and hilarious, but at their worst, can be excuses for not even trying to work on yourself. They can make you feel like self care is always over the top and intimidating and that it's easier to keep rolling along with the status quo.
I've been at this job for two years now. My first project was a monster, it required months of working really hard to finish it on time for a round of user testing. The Friday before the Monday tests, to my chagrin, there were still open bugs and assets that needed to be reviewed and implemented. Not sure how we were going to make the deadline, I begged the developer, Scotty, to come in and work with me on that Sunday.
I'll always remember being curled up on one of the couches at the office, shoes off, squinting at my computer screen. Scotty sat next to me, his fingers flying across the keyboard. Scotty is a few years younger than me, really talented and liked by every single person in the office. I can't remember what exactly we were talking about while we worked, but I said something about how I could spin some status email to our Israel office to make it sound better than the reality of the situation. His reaction, without any judgement, was just "I don't know. I try to be really truthful. It's important to me that I'm always at least trying to do the right thing."
This was a year and a half ago.
I remember at the time immediately feeling kind of stung. Like I had suggested we rob a bank and he was oh-so-gently gently reminding me that it was a felony and that it may not be the BEST idea I've ever had.
A couple of weeks ago, a close friend of mine had something really unexpectedly rough happen to her. I found out via text while at work, as I was looking over Scotty's shoulder (unabashedly back seat coding) as we rushed to fix something broken in one of the project. It stopped me in my tracks.
Later that night, my phone lit up with a text from Scotty. "How's your friend? If you ever need to talk about anything, just let me know."
This time, his good person-ness didn't immediately result in me feeling embarrassed and flawed. Or at least, not embarrassed. It just made me feel like I wanted to be better. Things over the last month or two have started slipping into better focus. It's becoming clear that my frustration and disgust with celebrity lifestyle preaching, while fair enough (and SO fun) is not actually helping anyone.
It's so easy to prioritize survival as you make your way in New York City. Throughout my 20s, my job has come first for the very simple reason that I need to pay my rent, and if the job goes away, it sets off a domino sequence of destruction: of stress, exhaustion and constant panic mode. I've eschewed the idea of active self care up until recently because I have no interest in drinking candeluna tea and I can't afford to hang out in a sensory deprivation tank.
For now, I want to try to make bettering myself a priority, for myself and for everyone around me and I can't pretend that it's impossible for me anymore. I don't need to belong to Equinox or study Reiki, there are other real actions I can take. I can drink less. I can make a point of being honest. I can be better about flossing. I can try to figure out who I am outside of my job.
I can give myself credit for the things I do well, and look at the places where I struggle with hope instead of stubborn defensiveness. I can forgive myself when I screw up and keep working.
And if all else fails I heard that Kim Kardashian is using healing crystals to get over that time she was robbed at gunpoint.