It will be November 2, 2020 when this blog posts. One day before possibly the most important election of our lives. Many of us have already voted by mail, by drop box, by early in-person voting. Some of us have made phone calls, rung doorbells, asked anyone and everyone about their plans to register and vote.
Others have made donations, sometimes more than we could comfortably afford, to candidates up and down the ballot in our own states and in those called “battleground.”
Our country itself has been a battleground, and we are all to one degree or another battle weary.
Yet, unlike other election years, we will most probably not find out who the next president will be for several days—maybe even weeks. And no matter who is declared the victor, we will all need to buckle up for claims of voter interference, accusations of voter fraud, and even violence. The battle will not be over tomorrow.
Even the Word “Unprecedented” Feels Old
Add to this tumult the COVID—the only entity on the planet that is not tired. After a short pull back, the pandemic is again gathering up speed.
Unprecedented times. Yes. But while we’re trying to navigate this new, brutally challenging territory, the very word “unprecedented” feels old and tired too.
I’m focusing another few other words today: Self-Care and Recovery.
Let’s examine the notion of self-care first. Some women swear by it.
I’ve always had a problem with the term—more specifically, with what the term has come to symbolize.
I’m certainly of the mind that it’s important to take care of one’s self! I’m done with putting everybody else’s needs before my own—not because I’m selfish (which I don’t think I am) but because unless I’m in a good place, I cannot be of any use to myself or anyone else!
The term “self-care” irritates me, though, and I’ve been struggling with why it rubs me the wrong way. It feels like the words have been hijacked by those in the profit-making world who want to sell women things, encourage us to feel like we’re not good enough (all under the guise of empowerment), and make us chase yet another unlikely standard of health and beauty that keep women in the same “less than” position that we’ve occupied for too long.
YAY Meg Kissack!
I doubted myself and my thoughts and feelings (does that sound familiar to anyone?) and began raising my self-care concerns with friends—and fishing around the internet, where I found a new shero. Her name is Meg Kissack. She lives in Liverpool, England, and writes a wonderfully inspiring blog for women called That Hummingbird Life. I happened upon one of her posts aptly entitled: “The Problem with Self-Care” .
Kissack is funny, bold and unapologetic about who she is and in what she believes (and she happens to curse like a sailor). Kissack believes that the self-care movement has been co-opted “by corporations and mainstream media which uses it to sell us more sh*t we don’t need.”
“This new #self-care trend tends to do one of two things,” Kissack claims:
- Makes you feel sh*t about yourself because self-care looks like something that has to be beautiful and impressive. It seems to be something exclusively for white, middle-class, skinny, yoga-doing, green-smoothie-drinking and law-of-attraction believing women…
- It tempts you into believing that if you just got on the green smoothie wagon, everything in your life would be okay. …”
Quick, Easy Fixes Are Not the Answers
Kissack wasn’t always so anti-self-care: “I used to think the whole notion of self-care was revolutionary in the way that it was about reclaiming yourself, and it was a radical act to look after yourself in a world that tries to convince you you’re not good enough at every turn you make …
Now I find myself arguing that the notion of self-care is no longer a revolutionary act but something that is becoming yet another tool to further oppress women.”
And I just LOVE this: “Because buying a new gorgeous mug and expensive tea, brewing said cup of tea in said gorgeous mug and putting together in a flat lay of candles, notebooks and pens to photograph on Instagram to show people you’re having a #selfcaresunday is not f*cking self-care.”
Now tell us what you really think, Kissack!
(Kissack is not the only one pushing back against this new trend in self-care. Just this past Friday, the New York Times “In Her Words” column published Hannah Seligson’s interview with Leigh Stein, the author of on the novel Self Care, in which she takes on “the monetization of self-care,” a $10 billion industry.)
I don’t know about you, but I have found myself chasing these instant fixes—and money drains. Maybe a mani-pedi would do the trick, I’ve thought. A facial. A massage (yum). Maybe a nice new outfit or something lovely for my home.
There is a place for sprucing up, for sure, but real self-care is not as easily attained as taking out the charge card and “improving” our outer image.
Recovery Recovery Recovery
So what’s the alternative? If not the trendy self-care options, what is there for us women to do? Kissack goes back to the “roots” of what the self-care movement was all about, and she suggests it stems from “self-preservation.” Yes … and …
I’d like to offer an alternative word: recovery.
What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word recovery?
I imagine, most people go to health issues—recovering from an illness, a surgery, a fall.
Those of us who have addictions or who are close to someone who does, might think AA. I thank Sherry Danner from September’s interview for introducing me to the Rational Recovery program. Rational Recovery. I like the sound of that.
Recovery is not just for surgery, illness, or addiction. It works well, and I am going to suggest, is necessary for our daily lives.
Athletes can teach us a great deal about the importance of recovery. Elite athlete Christie Aschwanden wrote in Men’s Health:
“I’ve learned that it’s not enough to just go hard. To make the biggest gains, you also have to optimize rest. That’s because it’s not the training itself that strengthens your muscles and bolsters your endurance. Instead, it’s the adaptations your body makes in response to that training, and these adaptations happen during the recovery period between workouts.”
Balance Balance Balance
Women are masters at “going hard.” We put our hearts and great effort into so much of what we do. We often take on way too many responsibilities and can have trouble saying “no”—even when we’re stretched beyond our limits. Call it cultural influence, socialization—whatever—the result is still the same. We’re tired—and often resentful.
Yes. We know exactly how to go hard but could use some help with the recovery phase. We could use some help with balance. Placing less emphasis on the outside and nurturing what’s within. Recovery entails taking a break from (or even giving up) the endless chase. It involves breathing and slowing down.
“The Answer Is Consistently a Drumbeat of ‘Do Less, Do Less'”
My dear friend and beautiful writer Gabriella Souza and I have been talking a lot about recovery lately. I’d love to share some of her thoughts:
“I know I need recovery the most when my thoughts swirl so intensely that if I ask myself the question, “What do you need right now?” I can’t even answer it. When I slow down, open up my innermost self, and ask myself the same question, the answer is consistently a drumbeat of “Do less, do less.'”
“In my creative work, I value discipline and follow a strict writing schedule. But even then, recovery is absolutely necessary—so much so that I schedule week-long breaks every three months to ensure that I’m getting the rest I need. I always know I need to take a break when the thought of taking one absolutely terrifies me. But once I do so, I find that the less I do, the more quickly and clearly the creativity comes. Doing less actually allows me to do more with my work.”
Amen, Gabriella! While recovery itself is a gentle process, we often don’t listen to its tender calling. Only when the need for recovery bangs on our door, do we open up and let it in.
We Will All Do Well to Put Recovery on the Top of Our Lists!
What if we decided to be rational about our recovery—deliberate, judicious, and wise? We are full of wisdom, aren’t we ladies? And have no problem being deliberate and judicious when making choices that affect others. Why not give the same consideration to our own glorious selves?
Why not have a softer touch and gift our bodies, hearts, and minds the time to adapt—and grow—in the healthiest of ways?
Even under normal circumstances—anybody remember those?—recovery went a long way. Today, tomorrow, and for the foreseeable future, we will all do well to put recovery on the top of our lists!
As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts!! Do you think self-care and recovery differ, and if so, how?
For me, recovery includes making time for long walks (and talking to ducks), singing along with oldies that I blast on YouTube, writing about issues and people that carry meaning for me, talking with friends, meditating, and reading while taking long baths.)
What do you do—or will begin to do—to support your recovery?
Please leave a comment or send me an email.
See you November 16th!