Sh*t To Help You Show Up January 22, 2021
I don't know about you, but I am TIRED.
I don’t know about you all, but January so far has been exhausting. So much turmoil and transition at once— my birthday, an insurrection, my kids returning to in-person school, re-peachment, and (finally!) the inauguration. Not to mention the last four years, which, for those of us with abuse history, has been a daily retraumatizing event.
I am completely wrung out. So overstimulated that I find myself retreating to old habits that seem easier to bring to hand to quiet the maelstrom than the more recent habits I’ve cultivated which have some integrity to them.
Wednesday, the younger of my bonus kids, who is an exuberant, explosive, extroverted six-year-old boy, was loudly playing in the bathtub no more than a handful of feet from my chair. I don’t think I was doing more in that particular moment than scrolling through my Twitter feed reading posts about the day’s events in Washington, so nothing important, but between the emotional high that was the inauguration, the emotional low of posting my weekly column over on Medium and realizing nobody was likely to read it, and the screeching and banging, I found myself suddenly in the kitchen pouring a stiff bourbon at four o’clock in the afternoon.
I wryly joked to my partner that I remembered why I drank more when my kids were small. As soon as the words popped out of my mouth I thought, Oh. Time to slow down and take care of myself.
Caring for myself is not self-indulgence. It is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare . — Audre Lorde
Self-care is itself an act of integrity. Embodying the deep belief that I matter, that committing time and attention to my own wellness, even if it means I have to shuffle things around, manage my ego, choose the harder thing, is essential for me to be fully present. Only when I’m fully present can I be integrous.
So, today I woke up and began again. I got my kids to school and started a batch of bread. I watched the National Prayer Service. I messaged some dear friends. I took a long walk by the lake. And I spent several hours pulling together these resources, which refill my cup and hopefully will help refill yours, too.
Please, over the course of this next weekend take some time to rest and refill your cup, however you need to. There is much work to do with a new administration in the White House, but the work will still be there when you get back. And, as Audre reminds us, taking care of ourselves is also the work.
This poem, from poet jamilah malika, was commissioned to “facilitate rest and relaxation among fellow Black people” for Black Power Naps Magazine, but I think all of us could benefit from it in these days. Read it slowly.
wherever you are, whether you are walking around or lying down,
if your top and bottom teeth touch,
if your tongue touches the roof of your mouth,
soften it down and away
notice your eyes—like your tongue—can rest inside your dear head
soften down and away
and your eyebrows, might they rest too?
or if not, notice if you can feel their weight for a moment
like your bottom teeth, tongue, eyes, and eyebrows, notice your shoulders
can there be any amount more space between your shoulders and ears
and your ears—like your shoulders—can let go a little with each exhale
any amount is real good… there will be another exhale for another go
notice if this next exhale can last any amount longer than the last
and the next… and the next… keep going, dear one…
and there isn’t anything you must do or be to be breathed
your exhale will always follow your inhale and your inhale will always follow your exhale
maybe put one hand on your belly or chest to feel your breath in your body
maybe feel breath above your lip or below your nose
maybe hear the sound of your body breathing
maybe find the bottom of your exhale and then the top of your inhale
to do so, maybe stand on all four sides of your feet
notice which feels heaviest: the inside edge, outside edge, heels, or toes
if you are lying down, you can flex your feet to feel that place you tend to rest most on
is one spot tighter than the rest?
if you are standing, you can bend your knees any amount and lift and spread your toes
is there one part that is heaviest?
notice all the parts of you that rest to any surface like the floor, chair, or bed
notice all the parts that don’t
maybe the arch of your foot, or the arch of your back,
notice the parts of yourself that rest on yourself, like your soft inner arms to the sides of your body, or your soft inner thighs to each other
notice because it is nice to know ourselves more and more not because you have to change anything; we can be curious…
if you are lying down, notice on your next exhale how the front of your body softens into the back of your body and the back of your body can soften, too
if you are standing, notice how your shoulders can soften towards your feet and your feet into the floor
if you like, you can speak this aloud: my flesh and bone are home
For me, listening to other people talk about what makes them tick is grounding. It stimulates my own reflections, sinking me firmly into my own skin, and when our perspectives align it helps me feel less alone.
This long-format interview with Elizabeth Gilbert is one I return to over and over again. She talks about honesty, curiosity, mercy, radical love, and embodiment in ways that ring true deep inside of me.
I’ll say at the front end, there’s some unacknowledged racial privilege in here, and a lack of acknowledgement that the reality, historically and currently, is not the same for White women as it is for Black women and other women of color. Because life is often a both/and, still, I think there’s some essential human truth here. Does it ring true for you, too?
I sing in a community choir whose repertoire focuses on spirituals and gospel. Though we technically are still meeting through the pandemic, participating in virtual choir does not fill my cup. This video of the Resistance Revival Chorus singing their song “This Joy” ironically helps fill that void. Watching it today I cried happy tears. Tears are good medicine.
That’s enough for now, my friends. Happy Friday. Relax, reflect and rejoice. We made it!
Sending much love to each and every one of you. Thank you for supporting my work. Please share widely, like (click the heart!), comment, and SUBSCRIBE if you haven’t already. Let’s grow this conversation.