So what’s new, everyone? Quiet week, eh?
For most of the people in my life, this has been a week of pretty tremendous emotional weirdness — ranging from generalized angst about the polarization and uncertainty of the world, to reaching limits of tolerance on the Circumstances we Find Ourselves In, to some hard personal moments. As I said to Susan the other day, I don’t think this moment in time is spawning a lot of creative family renditions of One Day More, like last March — people are… tired. Most of the people I know are feeling some version of a thing this writer has kindly told us the name for: acedia. I was in a bunch of meetings this morning where I felt like half the other people were on xanax, and it got me wondering, what are we all doing for self care? What are you doing for self care?
I asked a bunch of people that question today (Wednesday, the day of limbo).
First, on the American election, some people are delving into facts — “constantly checking vote counts and reassuring everyone all day long” — but many more are trying to avoid the news altogether — “reading paper books during my downtime to reduce the temptation to doomscroll.” One friend who lives in Arizona says “being very selective of what media I consume. Listening to the classical music station in the car instead of NPR, scrolling, scrolling, scrolling on FB, not reading my favorite news sites, decluttering and tidying my apartment, and right now I’m painting my toenails with ‘I’m Not Really a Waitress’!”
Another American friend living in Canada booked time away this week: My partner and I are staying at a cottage near Gatineau park.It’s been a week of hiking, fires, tasty snacks and very limited time on news and social media for me. With that I’m off to finish my 19th period drama/murder mystery.
For some, self-care is about being honest about what they’re feeling, which includes a lot of sadness, fear, anger and desire to connect with others. One friend simply said “acknowledging frustration.” One American member of my 2020 workout group said “Meeting a friend for a walk outside, knitting (so much knitting). America had a test on love, kindness, and justice. We failed miserably (no matter the final outcome).“
Another American living in Canada described this tension too: “Well, I did go for a long walk yesterday, and avoided the news completely yesterday. But I’m feeling like I should take up boxing or something else more… vent-y.“
My friend in Ohio did get venty — “Welllllll. At the moment, letting my anger rip on FB (not my usual MO.) Later I’ll take a long walk and start expressing myself with art.” She shared her art later, and it captured what I know a lot of people are feeling.
Beyond the election, creating a routine of self-care has been a big theme for a lot of people I know this fall. My cousin regrounded herself in practices she knows works for her: “I got back to daily workouts and mindful eating (I got lazy over the summer because of COVID) and I am feeling better overall. Physically I feel better, I’m more optimistic, and I’m more productive.” Another person said “Connecting with a friend (outside or on Zoom), intense cardio, yoga, going to bed earlier… I need self-care due to a brutal year (in general and personally) and ongoing anxiety about the American election. Sigh.”
A member of my 2020 workout group described “Yoga and baths, plus the daily accountability that comes from this group. I need self-care because working from my windowless basement is starting to wear on me (even though I am an introvert). Plus lots of decluttering and finishing craft projects. Having my office in the basement is definitely an incentive to reorganize the space to make it more pleasing.”
People whose jobs require them to care for others need a lot of self-support right now. One friend said “I need self care right now for two reasons: so I can have opportunities for relaxation and joy in my life, and to be able to have a strong foundation to support others in my work as the leader of a non-profit org. My self care looks like: making time for movement, getting outdoors, finding small opportunities for creativity and play.”
A teacher friend talks about feeling “vulnerable to COVID at work + am teaching 18 week courses in 23 day blocks — self care looks like walks outside and going to bed early and keeping in close touch with colleagues who understand.“
Walking and getting outside were common themes from my community, sometimes just plain leaving the house! Fellow blogger Catherine said “I’m doing a November Leave-the-House challenge: I HAVE to get out of my house (taking out the trash doesn’t count) every day in November. This is not as easy for me as it sounds. Working from home, typing away at my laptop, inertia is strong. But, it’s going okay so far. I have no conditions attached– even if I drive my car somewhere, it counts. My goal is to get into the habit of being outside every day during cold weather– it’s good for my body and soul.”
For others — like me — our focused fitness has been ramped up. I completed my 371st workout for the year today (a 5 km run). One of the guys in my 2020 group built himself a home gym, and another said “Running. Running is my therapy.”
Others are more focused on nature. “Getting outside in any shape or form!” one person said simply. Another put it eloquently: “Also – walking. Slowly, on purpose. Observing. Taking a similar route, and noticing it change. Watching the water, the birds, the leaves. Watching the same runners run, and the same dogs and their humans amble. It’s been beautiful. 4-8 km/day. Sometimes more.“
Gentle escapism, creating serene spaces and meditation are also common themes: “Preventing the chaos outside from entering my space through meditation, cooking, walks in the woods, and tackling all the little things to make my personal space more serene eg hanging pictures. Essentially being present in my life as it is rather than what it was or will be.” Another person wrote about “Walking outside, ordering my favourite chai tea in bulk, listening to an escapist audiobook rather than political podcasts, trying to be gentle with myself. And I just picked up my new night guard.“
Blended movement, cosiness and joy are big themes. One friend talks about “Walking in the local woods and fields, yoga, reading, puttering in my garden, needlepoint and alcohol (wine) only on Sundays.” Another is meditating, walking and learning Sanskrit. “Learning Sanskrit! Helping to have my focus be on something completely other, and to really engage my brain in new and different ways. (Like learning new shapes of sound, new kinaesthetic fine movements, chanting in a beautiful and ancient language).”
Sam also has a beautiful balance: “I’ve taken on a November daily gratitude practice. I’m getting outside when I can. Like I am holding my office hours outside today in the sunshine. Walking Cheddar even for quick around the block walks between meeting. Sarah and I are cooking good meals. And I’m exercising. I also ordered a stack of good fiction–the Booker Prize shortlist basically–from our local bookstore which I want to support and which same day delivers for free. Trying to get enough sleep and if that means weirdo random naps, just fine. Also, candy! Halloween candy but bonus other candy for snacking. Some literal sweet stuff in the day feels good right now.”
Like Cheddar for Sam, animals are central to self-care for so many. “Horses horses horses! They keep me busy and off the crazy news. Went back to orange theory and husband wants a kitten for his birthday! So now looking for a second horse and a kitten!!”
Dogs bring a unique joy and head clearing: “Dogs! Walking, training, cuddling. Also, just staring at them because I love them so much!”
Or from another pal, “family walks to clear my head, calisthenics in the morning to clear my head, stairs at work to clear my head, walk my dog after work to clear my head.” Another said, “Morning cry, self pep talk, shower, an afternoon walk with a friend & her dog in the Rosedale ravine.”
For another: “I keep up with my exercise with a focus on yoga when things are bad, as they are. I try to pull out my autoharp and play when I can. I try to appreciate the morning walk with the dog even though its cold because he’s still with me and we can still enjoy the beauty of nature.” My friend Ty, who acquired a tiny dog six months ago, added to the overall conversation “My hope is that 2020 is remembered as the year of the dog.”
And with that, I will leave you with my favourite photo of the past month, from my colleague Jackie who says the best self care she is doing is “volunteering as a dog walker for front line workers. Walks and puppy kisses are good for mental health.”
For me, a huge act of self care was asking people for their contributions to this post. It reminded me what beautiful, glorious humans and animals I have in my life — and I was re-immersed in the creativity and resilience of my humans. We got this. We care about ourselves. And we care about each other.
Fieldpoppy is Cate Creede, who lives and spins and holds out hope for shared understanding in Toronto.