feminism · fitness

Self care, world care: hoping it’s not either/or

Yesterday my friend Janet and I went cross country skiing at Foss Farm west of Boston.  It was a picture-perfect snowy day in the woods.

The woods at Foss Farm, ski tracks in the middle and trees all around.

On the way back home, we stopped at Trader Joe’s to pick up a few things.  I ran into a fellow feminist philosopher (hi, Naomi!) in the produce section.  I noted my ski clothing and said what a wonderful day it was to be outside.  She replied that she had been at a demonstration in Cambridge to protest the Dakota access pipeline, and pointed out her very warm clothing.  We parted, planning to get together for a snowy walk soon.

It’s funny (interesting, not haha) that I should run into a friend who had been protesting instead of skiing that day.  Talking with Janet while enjoying the woods, I mentioned that I was really interested in going to the March for Science in Washington, scheduled for April 22.  But I can’t, because I had already scheduled to go to the East Coast Paddlesports kayak symposium in Charleston, SC.  I’ll be doing 3 days of on and off-water kayaking classes in warm water.  It should be great, and I am/was really looking forward to it.

Was? Why was?

Maybe it’s bad luck/timing, but I now count three times that I’ve missed chances to join others in public protest against political conditions that I consider dangerous for my country, the environment, and human rights.  The third miss-out was when I was at a cooking course at the Kripalu center in western Massachusetts on the weekend of the Women’s Marches.  I had scheduled that trip weeks before the election– who knew this would happen?

All of these things I’ve been doing or am planning are part of my efforts at increased self-care these days.  I’ve written about struggling with eating in healthy-to-me ways,  and also with physical activities that I love but in which I am  less adept/fast/comfortable/fit than I used to be.  So I made the conscious decision to shift my focus a bit.  I am teaching less (fewer overload courses, which means less money), going to fewer conferences, saying no to new projects (this is in itself a work in progress!), and doing more focused service at work and in my community (i.e. not saying yes to every shiny new opportunity).  I’m also trying (really, I am) to space out my social events– I love love love seeing friends and really hate to miss out on dinners, parties, etc.  In fact I’m going to try to go to both a lasagne dinner and a karaoke party next Saturday.  We’ll see how that goes…

Back to the conflict at hand.  Our time is limited, our energy is limited, our personal needs are real, and the needs of the world are wide and deep.  Lately it’s feeling like saying “yes” to myself results in my saying “no” to the world.  And maybe vice versa.  What to do about it?  How to find that seductive and elusive karmic balance in life?  I guess that’s what I’m asking.  At times like these it feels as mythical a goal as this:


an elephant balancing on a beach ball on the beach!

It’s funny I’m writing about the difficulty of balance, because I’ve always been good at balancing.  I skate (ice and roller), I ski (downhill in past, cross country from now until I expire), and I used to dance ( ballet, tap, modern) and still do recreationally when I get a chance.  I’m venturing into new realms of balancing– edging a kayak is an exercise in balancing yourself and the boat to optimize on the physics of forward motion and turning.  And yoga?  Yeah.  Don’t get me started on all the balancing that we’re supposed to do there.  Like this one:

Woman doing a forward arm balance on a yoga mat

Seriously, that is not happening.  But I found out just yesterday that I’m rather better than I used to be at this one:

Two children doing tree balance pose on a yoga mat

What I wish and hope is that getting stronger and caring for ourselves will open up new energy for caring for the world, which really needs our attention.  I’ve recently gotten involved in several teaching projects for minority STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) students at my university.  It feels stimulating to develop two new courses (philosophy courses on race and racism, and also a science and values course).  Maybe I’ll figure out how to make time for protests.  Or maybe protests won’t be the route for me– there’s lots of work to do to forward the causes of justice (however we see it).

Readers, how have recent world events shaped your time and energy and balance?  I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences.


6 thoughts on “Self care, world care: hoping it’s not either/or

  1. As I wrote here: https://cyclewriteblog.wordpress.com/2017/02/03/where-was-i-during-history-in-the-making/ I didn’t even know about the local womens’ protest march until a few hrs. before it happened. Had stuck to a hair cut.

    Then over a weekend later, there was a different protest march at our local city hall against Islamphobia, racism when Trump imposed the immigration, refugee ban for those from 7 banned countries or had dual citizenship involving those countries. When the ban broke the headlines, it was during my birthday weekend while vacationing in Banff.

    During such events, the best for myself is to discuss it with good friends who share similar values. I can’t kid myself to spend my energy convincing people perpetuating hatred, fear of immigrants. But then, I can say safely: I’ve spent my life avoiding such people. It’s toxic and an energy sucker.

    I have a mother who was immigrant but she still cannot speak English much. I guess, yes, I will defend her: She raised 6 children, she did her job for Canada. Can other women here match her? Just this statement alone, I do sometimes feel an enormous gap between writers for this blog and some other commenters.

    A father who taught himself English while he held down a restaurant cook job in Kitchener-Waterloo and had 5 young children before 6th came along. I write in my blog about various life experiences in a very light way. I don’t write much about racism, inequality because it’s difficult and complex. Deeply personal and still personal. Above all, it doesn’t solely define me but has shaped my own resilience. Here is me as a teenager helping my father do the immigration sponsorship for some relatives: https://cyclewriteblog.wordpress.com/2016/10/16/teenager-helps-father-sponsor-relatives-to-immigrate-to-canada/

    A protest march is just 1 action. Harder is live a life that integrates very naturally listening, learning deeply and bringing the best of one’s natural skills and expertise for others. For some of us, race is not something we can’t walk away from at all. Someone compared cycling and treatment of cyclists as marginal players in the transportation world. My response: It’s not the same as race.

  2. I love the saying you can’t pour from an empty cup.
    Self care is vital.
    I often felt guilty about making time for myself, taking time from my family, etc.
    But deep down I truly believe we are all interconnected, we are all,one, and by showing love and compassion and care to myself I am adding to the love and compassion and care in the world.

    We don not all have to make grand gestures to change things. Every little action counts.

    Take your time for you.


  3. As a Yoga teacher, I find that I can care for others through teaching, spread the global message, and take care of some of my own needs as well…..but as a mom of two young children who will inherit this world I always feel like I’m not doing enough world care nor self care.

  4. I’ve been so tired. It is exhausting just living through this moment! As Caitlin Constantine at Fit & Feminist wrote a couple of weeks ago, part of the govt strategy here, clearly, is to sew chaos and confusion in order to produce exhaustion and a feeling of helplessness – IE to WEAR US DOWN.

    And I feel worn down. It doesn’t help it’s winter in Canada!

    Right now I’m focusing my activism primarily on teaching – bringing lessons from the current media climate into my classes, talking about performance studies as a critical tool to help us make sense of how both actions by and reactions to the Trump administration work, culturally and politically. My job has always been to help students develop citizenship skills – so I’m redoubling that effort consciously, and talking as much as I can about the value of humanities teaching and research for exactly that purpose.

    Catherine, just FYI if you’ve not seen it, I did a post on caring for myself in the wake of all this crap last week on my blog. It also features a glamour shot of Emma the dog, and a really, really tasty cheeseburger.
    🙂 Enjoy.

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