“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”
~ Audre Lorde
Okay, so I know that I said this time last year that I didn’t think January was the right time to be making resolutions, that we should all maybe think about postponing them to 1st April instead, but this year – happy new year by the way – I think I’ve found one that’s actually workable.
An exception to prove the rule if you like.
I think it helps that it’s not an ongoing, active resolution, i.e. not something that I’m going to need to remember to do, and maintain motivation for each and every day.
This is something that I’m only aiming to happen once a month. Once a month for just a couple, maybe three, days at a time.
It also helps that what I’m aiming for is an act of comfortable self-care rather than of self-deprivation or self-control.
And it’s incredibly simple.
I’m going to take the first weekend of every month off throughout 2016.
Which might not sound like much of a resolution on the face of it. Most people, take most weekends off, right?
But I’m not just talking about work, which I find actually has a tendency to creep into whatever time space it can find to encroach in, especially now I’m working predominantly for myself and mainly from my own living room. I’m talking about labour of all kinds – physical, mental, emotional.
I’m going to carve out a sacrosanct space where nothing may be scheduled that can’t be considered an act of self-care.
So, not only will there be no work, there’ll be no engaging with anything that is either stressful or emotionally distressing.
Obviously, unless somebody close to me dies or gets rushed into hospital or something. I’m not going to ignore that. But anything below that level of urgency can wait for two whole days.
Now, this might not seem all that radical to a lot of people. Maybe this is even most people’s idea of a normal weekend. But it’s carving out this kind of resting space is something I struggled with for a lot of the last year.
And so, on top of the mental health stuff, and the physical health stuff, I approached the holiday season we’ve just had feeling, as I know plenty of other’s did, completely worn out by not just my own life but the world in general.
So I took eleven days off.
The two festive bank holidays, and the week in between.
No engaging with any not essential stressful or dramatic issues in my own life that could wait until the new year.
No news checking.
And limiting use of social media strictly to social interaction and fun stuff.
Focussing only on resting, relaxing, and recuperating.
And I had a lovely holidays – with good friends, and good food, and good fun.
This past weekend especially, where we had friends staying and visiting for new year’s, was exactly what I had in mind, and I finally feel as though I’ve managed to recharge and refresh.
So, now I’m going to try to make a habit out of it.
It isn’t entirely as straightforward as it sounds. Especially not with my over active amygdala that wants to react immediately and extremely for everything. But I can imagine it can be challenging even with just a normally developed sense of guilt.
2016 was, well, 2016.
There were so many time when it felt like there was no let up from the people dying, or killing, or other catastrophic and/or game-changing happenings.
And at those time it can be really, really hard to just switch off and turn away.
There is a very strong feeling that we must *do* something. Even if the only something we’re capable of in a particular situation is to just bear witness to what is happening.
There can be a guilty pull, especially for emotionally sensitive or unstable people, any time you consider taking any kind of meaningful break from observing horrors that other people aren’t able to escape or take a break from.
But the thing with that guilt is that it isn’t helpful to anybody in this situation.
Guilt only serves a purpose if it’s going to induce you to change your behaviour. Otherwise it’s just a masochistic form of self-indulgence.
There was no change that I could make in myself or my life that was going to make any difference to the people of Aleppo. My learning of the murder of new year’s eve revellers in Istanbul made no difference whatsoever to the horror that the victims, survivors, and the families experiences or the pain they’re still going through. Even switching off the notifications for my Worrying Signs Facebook group made no difference to the incidences of hate crime in this country.
Neither my attention, nor my guilt, nor my inattention over one weekend can make a difference to these people.
But by taking the time to recharge my batteries I’ll be more resilient and better equipped for the battles that I can fight – be they with my own brain or body, alongside and on behalf of the people I am able to offer my help and support, or as part of the activist community.
And as this year kicks off with slim prospects of making life any easier for us than the last one this small, manageable, resolution to take better care of myself might be one of the most important I could possibly make.
If you’d care to join me, here are some suggestions or reminders of how to be kind to yourself to get you started. Do you have any other tips on making the space to take care of yourself as well as you’d take care of others?