When someone recommends self-care, maybe you imagine the same images I do:
• A white linen massage table surrounded by dozens of small candles, with lilac and windchimes infused in the air
• Wicker beach chairs lined up facing the sunrise over the ocean
• Exquisitely painted fingernails that each have been shaped perfectly and decorated with a different combination of glitter, color, and bedazzling jewels
Although those experiences might be relaxing and fun for some, they are far from what my budget, schedule, and understanding of bedazzling can handle. So instead, here’s my self-care:
• Picking up Pad Sei Ew from Thai Garden (a nearby food cart) and watching Grey’s Anatomy (I know it isn’t as good as it used to be but I’m too invested to quit).
• Running eight-miles at a conversation pace every Saturday morning with the same friend for the past seven years.
• Ordering the Venti chai the morning of a job interview and maybe after the interview too.
In the real world, my self-care is little things that bring a smile to my face and make life’s challenges easier to tackle. So why is the imagery so far away from reality?
Maybe the problem is in the name itself: “Self-Care.” The first piece is about one individual, which can seem so minor in comparison to the needs of our children, of people living on the streets, of refugees in crisis, or of those who are too sick to go for the run I’m trying to fit in. And the second portion, caring, is something we all should do for one another, but our needs for survival are more about water, food, shelter, and caffeine than kindness. I can make it through my day if the barista at Dutch Brothers isn’t nice to me, but if she withholds my latte there will be trouble.
Another trouble with self-care goes back to those images I started with. All of that linen, wicker, and glitter is sold all over women’s magazines and media. But in media that is focused on the male audience, there is a truck strong enough to pull out the stump from your backyard and cologne strong enough to cover the smell afterwards. But neither one is bedazzled. Self-care is sold like something only feminine individuals want. That could lead to assumptions that its only available for certain people, and maybe, if taken to an extreme, is only for weak individuals. Why should you be getting a massage when there are tree roots damaging your foundation? #Selfish
If part of the problem is with the word, then let’s change the word. The dictionary is adding new words every year, and teens are even faster than that. Therefore, with the power vested in me as a runner, I hereby announce the end of “Self-Care” and announce the arrival of “Survival-Tactics.” Picture the conversation: “Sorry, I can’t go out this Friday night. I have some survival tactics to take care of;” or “I’m taking my lunch break today to get some survival tactic supplies. I’ll be back in time for the big meeting.” You may get some questioning looks, but no one will be wondering if you are weak or selfish for not being available exactly when, where, or how they wanted you to be. And if you’re like me, taking that time away from the wants of everyone else will help you to be there for when they really need you.
Because let’s get real, that’s what Survival-Tactics, Self-Care, or whatever you want to call this time is about. Running on Saturday mornings has benefits for me, my week, and my life. And it is also time to spend with another person, to hear about their life, and the talk together about ways we might be able to do good in the world. Races mean a shiny medal to hang on the wall, and a chance to interact with athletes and volunteers I wouldn’t otherwise, to know more about their stories and feel more connected to this city. And skipping a party for a solo run means that I’ll have the energy for Monday morning to be there for my coworkers when they come calling.
We care about ourselves so that we can care about everyone else, and in turn, so we can all survive a little bit better.
Go for that walk or run today. Say that its self-care, survival-tactic, or training for the zombie apocalypse. Whatever it takes. Just do it.