No Bullshit Wellness in a Real World
Here is something I wish I could teach the world: humanity at its core is exactly the same everywhere. We worry about acceptance, we want love, we want better for our children. Some of us are complete fucks. Some of us approach the world with a serenity and love to which the rest of us aspire. It's a mixed bag because all humans are capable of all things. We are large and contain multitudes, as an old friend might say.
Yesterday, I got my hair cut by a talented, brilliant woman who lights each room she walks into. Her parents are Sudanese immigrants, a country now banned from receiving visas to enter the U.S. Please think about what is at stake. They are Americans. She is American. But if they are sick, if the unthinkable happens, no one from their family in Sudan will be allowed to enter the U.S. to see them under Trump's Muslim ban. These are people. Not policies.
Choosing Action, Choosing Care
It's in these moments I think my soul is probably most in danger. I drank and used drugs for two decades because I could not handle the burden of seeing injustice and knowing I must fight it. I may have dabbled in activism, but it was not nearly as sustained as my commitment to checking out of the world every chance I got.
One main component of sustaining our energy is understanding we cannot be everything everyone for everyone. But if each of us chooses the causes closest to our hearts, the accumulation of effort inches our world forward daily.
For me, my heart is with:
access to quality, affordable public education because this changed my entire life.
access to quality healthcare and substance abuse treatment.
access to reproductive care for all women and full autonomy over what they do with their bodies. Sure, you might think abortion sucks. Let's work on systems that provide quality care for women everywhere.
vulnerable immigrant populations because despite my family's white assimilation, they came to this country during a time Slavic immigrants were despised and stereotyped in the same tired ways we stereotype people today. Same shit, different groups.
While it is essential we choose tangible actions that align with our belief systems, time allowance, and availability, it's just as essential we refill and nurture our well within. Our energy isn't an infinite resource. It can be depleted easily, especially as what's going wrong in the world increases in volume.
Five Inexpensive, No-Bullshit Ways to Recharge
My heart is also emotionally raw from seeing the very real, very personal consequences of a fear and hate-based public policy. From xenophobia set as the standard by our highest office. So, I am exhausted, and I feel really overwhelmed. I know I need to make my food for the week, so nutritious meals are easily accessible. I also want to clean my house because living with two dogs makes for disgusting house hygiene. I only have a few hours before a large gathering of wonderful women for whom I need to show up as my self, so I'm probably blowing off the house cleaning and getting in the tub.
1. Buy Some Essential Oils
Not the crazy expensive kind that sound a little like a pyramid scheme (no shade if you're using those; I'm just a little suspicious of how all that works). Whatever you can afford that make you feel at home the moment you pop the cap and inhale, buy those. Carry them in your purse. When I feel like I'm going to burst with the pressure exerted by my responsibilities and the hardships in the world, I dab a little on my fingertips, massage my temples, and cup my hands over my nose while I breathe deeply for 5-10 counts. Eventually that scent becomes associated with calm for me, conditioning myself instant peace.
2. Up Your Bath Game
This is not a luxury, friends. You may think of a long, hot bath as a nice dream for some nebulous, less stressful future, but upping my bath game changed my life. I keep inexpensive lavender oil and epsom salts under the sink. When my mind is doing that somersaulting super chatter, I fill the tub as hot as I can stand it, get some cheesy yoga playlist going on my phone, light candles and just concentrate on my breath. It's a rare shitty day I emerge from the bathroom as strung out as I went in.
3. Write. Or Art. Or Sound. Yes, these are verbs
Creativity is also not a luxury; it is a necessary expression of your greater self. We are makers. Our well is filled by our acts of creation, no matter what that looks like in your life. For me, it's lying on my stomach and writing in the same kind of journal with the same kind of pen I've used since I was a child. This is a routine comfort I've sought for as long as I can remember. Find that thing for you, the refuge in creativity your child self sought, and reconnect. Maybe that's baking, which to me sounds like a horrible chore people would only do under protest. Maybe your creative self likes to collage or write songs or arrange dominos into intricate patterns you will gleefully destroy. Whatever that thing is, prioritize it in your life. It is the sacred, superfood of soul life.
4. Do Yoga. No, seriously.
It seems unfair to put yoga on a list of no-bullshit wellness because I think of this as practical and accessible ways to feel better. There is, for me, no better way to feel at home in body than yoga. Unfortunately, this shit can be expensive, I know. If you live in a more urban place, find a studio that might be willing to trade a little work for free yoga. I've gardened, cleaned, and performed routine office work for various studios around New Orleans in exchange for free classes for about 6 years. Best shit ever.
If that's not within your reach, google free or community yoga. There are many studios that provide free or sliding scale classes as part of their mission. Still too pressed for time to get to a studio? Don't think of yoga as an all-perfect-or-nothing commitment to a tight ass and bendy limbs. Even 10 minutes of gentle yoga at home will center you. And websites like Yogaglo, which I love, provide a ton of classes for a very cheap price.
5. Breathe. Meditate. Walk. Whatever.
Do the thing that gets your methed-out monkey brain to quiet and focus. Breath exercises are wonderfully simple tools to use to just get some internal space. Guided meditations through apps like Headspace can provide structure if you need it. If both these things sound like hell for you, maybe you could take a walk. I generally feel like anything involving exercise and leaving the house are to be viewed as chores, not rejuvenation, but that's me.
The point to all of this is that we have a fight ahead. We also have daily shit to which we are committed. Your kids want dinner, your dog wants walked, and the house, despite its poor hygiene, wants to be clean. Shed the notions of have to, of perfect, of everything must, and think of your time and energy as light given to the seeds of your soul. Whatever you shine it on grows, so choose carefully and deliberately and don't forget that you too need light.