I have been putting a lot of energy into political activism lately. When I get like this my self care tends to slip a bit. I walk around with a baseline of emotional and physical tension, my sleep suffers, I eat bad things, I am quick to anger, quick to tears. I often have to remind myself to practice what I preach. Below are three big things I do to move anger and anxiety through my body and make room for a more grounded emotional baseline.
Practice good sleep hygiene.
For me this means GOING TO BED, and it means I need to stop looking at social media & news at least an hour before bed or else I’ll be up all night stewing over it. This is really tough for me, but I have to remember that whatever it is can wait until tomorrow and I need rest to deal with it. Read a nice, fun, fiction book, or a funny biography and go to sleep. And when I inevitably wake up at 3am in sweating in fear, instead of reaching for the phone I put one hand on my belly and one hand on my chest and breathe deeply and calmly until I either fall asleep or I am calm enough to get up, do some stretching, and then go back to bed and read my book until I’m sleeping again.
Repeat this mantra: Whatever it is can wait until morning.
Move the body.
I am sitting here, typing away on my laptop or phone with my shoulders up around my ears, fuming, furious, frightened, I can’t even feel my legs, I don’t even know if I have legs, I am just a furious brain and a fast beating heart with some fingers attached. When was the last time I took a deep breath? I have no idea. Sound familiar? It helps to get into our bodies, and feel them, and not neglect them. Get outside, go for a walk, go for a run, ride your bike, have some sex, do some yoga. Lift something heavy over and over again. Put on your favorite music. Get uncomfortable, get wet, get cold, feel the burn, feel your body. This is your first home. It belongs to you. YOU get to decide how you want to feel. Decide to feel POWERFUL. A strong body is a vital asset. Let your mind have a break and enjoy the freedom of retreating into the physical for a while.
Repeat this mantra: I am strong and I am well.
Untangle your emotions.
It is easy for me to go from zero to sixty when it comes to the news, or social media lately and that is because I tend to take things personally. For example, sometimes I hear something about civil rights being taken away and I feel a deep sense of personal betrayal rising in me. It is as if I am simultaneously experiencing every betrayal and violation that has ever occurred in my own life, rather than just dealing with the one in front of me, now, here, in the present. Although this personal connection is what drives my activism, I need to untangle these abstract issues from my own personal experience and resist the urge to time travel emotionally, otherwise my emotional baseline is hijacked. This requires self-awareness and practice. (I fail at it all the time, FYI.) It means taking a moment to pause and untangle what is present in the now, and what was present for the past and give these emotions their own space. I can still be angry and upset about current events without bringing in very old emotions to cloud the issue. I can still find space for those old emotions and give them the healing they need while untangling them from my feelings about current events. Often this means stepping away from the situation for a minute and giving myself room to untangle. If you need help understand what untangling means or how to do it, email me.
Repeat this mantra: I get to decide how I want to feel. There is space for all of my emotions.
The world feels like it is contracting in fear lately and when that happens my instinct is to expand.
I made myself this button, and I wear it in public on days when I feel up to the challenge of opening myself to the vulnerabilities of others. This is one of the ways I fight isolationism.
Turns out that if you wear a button that says If You Need Someone To Talk To, You Can Talk To Me, people are in general significantly more friendly to you. Rather than just a little bit of polite banter with sales people and bank tellers, people will actually ask you more in depth questions about how you are and be more forthcoming as well. So far no one off the street has talked with me about anything too challenging, but people have remarked that they think the idea is really sweet. A bunch of my lovely friends asked for buttons and it felt nice to package them up and send them out, knowing that maybe they are helping to keep people from feeling like they are all alone.
Fighting isolationism starts with ourselves and being willing to hold space for people in our community. If you want a button, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your mailing address and I will send you one, along with a lot of love and gratitude for the work you do in the world.
The world feels out of control to me even on the best of days, and as a sensitive sort, I tend toward disengaging from it to cope. This week I was simply unable to retreat from it. Bombings in Iraq and Turkey, police shooting unarmed black men, snipers killing police. I was overcome with grief and shame. I felt myself twisting a web around me, beckoning me to turn inward and examine myself and prepare for the sort of metamorphosis that occurs when the truth is definitively revealed. There was no turning back from this. I could no longer continue to be the person I was. I couldn’t turn away or hide from these truths. They were all at once my companions and I needed to process how to internalize them and evolve. I curled up into my cocoon and grew silent and still.
I’m stirring, and I’m beginning to understand what changes are taking shape within me. As I feel these transformations solidifying, I can start to emerge from my cocoon of grief and in doing so find my way back to the work. The biggest truth is this: We are all implicated in the continued suffering of our fellow human beings. Not a single one of us is innocent. There are no good men or bad men, there is no us vs. them, there is only we. We must resist the urge to pull away from each other. We must not listen to messages that tell us we are divided, because we are one people. We must not choose leaders who would divide us, or build walls between us, or tell us to fear each other. We must not hide behind our borders, or our privilege, or the color of our skin. We must listen to and believe each other. Those of us who have the platform of privilege must speak for those who are silenced until their voices are heard. We must stand up for each other, and stand by each other.
As you emerge from your own transformations, I invite you all to bring your exoskeletons, skins, shells and cocoons here. Cast them off because they are made of old material that no longer fits you. Let’s lay them down and build a bridge with them. Change hurts. It requires lots of energy and time. It requires stretching yourself beyond what is comfortable or familiar, but just imagine where you can reach if you just allow yourself the space to grow.
This is the third video in my self care series, and shares my favorite self care tool, the Amazing Hi Bounce Pinky Ball! You can find them on Amazon here.
This is my second video in my self care series. It is a short breathing exercise and guided meditation meant to stimulate the 3rd chakra, or solar plexus, and ground and center yourself. The actual exercise takes just a few minutes, but can really help you feel more connected with your sense of self and who you are in the world. Try it out and let me know what you think!
I am starting a new video series about self care! Here is the first one. It is about light neck massage to relieve compression of the ear drainage system, also useful for people suffering from, jaw pain, or other TMJ related issues. Enjoy!
Tonight is the new moon and it is in Aries, which gives me an excuse to connect with my passion, and spark some new beginnings.
I spent the early evening in my practice which was exactly what I needed. A welcome retreat from some deep internal work I’ve been doing around attachment, ego, disappointment, and expectation. I love that my healing practice is a place where I can either bring that sort of work along with me, or step away from it and into flow. No matter what I’m feeling before I head into my work, I almost always leave feeling transformed.
When I got home, I decided to do some yoga, but not with any specific goal in mind. I let my body lead me from pose to pose, leaning in or softening where I felt a need. Working through some midback and hip tension, feeling the strength in my arms as I moved from high plank to low pushup and enjoying feeling in my body without pain.
Then I started a new google doc and spent some time writing out my wildest dreams. Everything I would do if time/money/whatever was no option. At the top of the page I wrote “These are my wildest dreams. There are no rules.” It is super freeing and I highly recommend doing this if you’re feeling down. Just the act of unbridling my imagination felt like stepping into a hot tub. It made me realize how often I dream up crazy fun things but dismiss them as impossible, when really there are elements to all of them that are completely achievable. I forget sometimes that I’ve been making a lot of my wildest dreams come true for many years now. Try it out! Sometimes connecting with more purpose, passion and desire is as easy as pretending impossible isn’t a word in your vocabulary.
Sometimes I feel like I’m on an island of my own understanding and it’s surrounded by a really rough sea that I swam through to get here and there are storms and rocks. I don’t blame anyone for not wanting to, or knowing how to swim across it to get to me, but occasionally I wish that someone could. It would be nice to share a tropical drink on the beach of my psyche with another person, you know?
But everyone has their own sea to swim.
What if I join you in the churning water? I have a small boat and I can float along next to you as you swim. It’s work rowing the boat, but you’re doing the real tough job swimming and sputtering along. Sometimes I have to slip into the water too and do some swimming of my own so I can know what the water feels like, what the horizon looks like when you’re fighting the waves. This way I can guide you when the salt gets in your eyes. At times I have to dive under the surface to see the weights that you have hung from your heart. It’s easy to forget them when you’re working hard just to stay afloat in the moment.
What if we cut them free? Would you be so light you could walk on the water instead?
2015 was, for me, a return to myself, and beyond that, a return to what makes me feel a deep sense of personal freedom. What does freedom mean to me? It is a space in which to exist where choice is abundant. Is it comfortable? Not always, but it is where I feel the most like myself.
I’m the sort of person who has many different sides of the bed to wake up on and I work really hard to sort my life out to give me the space to be present with whomever I happen to be on any given day. Sometimes that means I am a person who doesn’t want to engage with the world. Sometimes that means I put on some animal print and kick some ass.
Sometimes it means I get a tattoo of a red and blue lightning bolt on the back of my neck because a living symbol of individuality and belief in personal freedom died of fucking liver cancer like a mere mortal and I can’t stand it.
Say what you want about the man, but he was a true artist and a priest of the holy church of personal freedom. I’ve spent the last few days with my brain gaping open like a vacuum, slurping up any bit of information I can about him, pouring over lyrics looking for messages that would make sense of his life, his death, his art, and finding that those three states of being were all one to him. He spent his whole life with his brain gaping open like that. Reading incessantly, listening to music constantly, taking in art, talking about art, living in art, being art, he made his death into art.
I keep coming back to this image he presented us with in the Lazarus video (his last and you should absolutely watch it but bring tissues and a friend) of him furiously and manically writing. A man possessed by the need to get it all out before he slipped away like a phantom. Reading into the lyrics of Lazarus, one understands that rather than give cancer the honor of taking his life, Bowie most certainly had the intention to make his final act of art his own.
This man spent his entire life subverting, rebelling, and dancing on the edges like the holiest of fools. Plucking out the juiciest bits of life from the carcasses of everything he encountered and dissected, presenting them to us in a carefully curated blend of flavor, texture and temperature to consume. When asked “Who are your heroes in real life?” he answered “The consumer.” When asked “What is your favorite journey?” he answered “The road of artistic excess.”
One reason why I believe we’re all feeling such a huge loss right now is that Bowie was among the last of the great artists who could use music to subvert. In many ways the medium of music is no longer able to be subversive due to its high saturation. (He said this better than I ever could here and you should watch the whole thing, but the bit relevant to this point is around 6min in.) As he says, the Internet promised rebellion to us next, and it was cool for a time, but has also become too saturated to be subversive anymore. We are experiencing a lull in creativity because we need rebellion. It is coming, can you feel it? I can. It’s that tingling sense of unease at the back of my mind. The rising feeling that it’s going to come down to us vs. them. That’s what a movement feels like. Like there are those who get it, whatever it is, and those who don’t, and that’s why it is cool.
So, what is it going to be?
(WARNING: semi-sappy lyric quoting ahead)
My vote is that we all turn and face the strange changes. That we be our truest, weirdest and best selves. That we connect with and commit to our individuality and personal freedom. That we give a big middle finger to anything that closes us in, or separates us from each other and our hearts’ desires. Because when our heroes leave us, it means we can be heroes. I will be king, and you will be queen. We can be us, just for one day. We can beat them forever and ever.