Do you remember writing essays while you were in school? The easiest assignments were usually focused on specific things, such as events and people. The process for writing was time consuming but usually fairly straight forward: you would do your research, synthesize the material, and from that construct new content based on your understanding. Essays relying on broader thematic concepts were by contrast much more challenging because they was considerably less tangible (I’m looking at you philosophy). At least that was my experience and hence my lack of a Ph.D.
Since I’m not being entirely clear, I’ll allow someone more intelligent and articulate to summarize what I’m saying, this time borrowing from Eleanor Roosevelt’s wisdom: “great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people”. Of course Mrs. Roosevelt’s observation wasn’t designed to denigrate the work of biographers or historians, and I’m misconstruing her words to a certain extent but her quote touches upon the unique challenges of this type of discussion. When you discuss ideas you open yourself up to multiple (mis)interpretations and perspectives, which has its benefits but also requires substantially more work and commitment. Anyway, the reason I’ve brought all of this up is that today I’m returning to a theme that I’ve covered before and will likely return to from time to time, and that is the need for self-care. Some people will debate the necessity of this act and even if you agree on the role of self-care, the extent to which you partake is debatable. Also, what does and does not constitute self-care? If we indulge feelings traditionally perceived as negative, are we doing more harm than good? It’s complicated.
By now we’ve all come to expect that since I run this blog, most of my posts are directly correlated with recent experiences, so here it is.
I’ve more or less returned to a regular routine now and though I have my moments, I thought I was doing GREAT. After work on Monday my cousin Andrea took me to the Four Seasons spa in Toronto for some pampering, and we spent three hours in the space relaxing and chatting. She had recently returned from a retreat and we discussed her experience, and eventually our talk turned to my current emotional state. It was intense and emotionally taxing. In the end I realized that I am feeling much better in some respects but also lagging behind in others because I’ve muted that part of my emotional life. If I don’t think about it, it can’t hurt right? (Hint: one of the big trigger issues is and was my wedding.) Andrea was patient and kind to me, listening to what I had to say but also gently nudging me in ways I needed.
Not to make generalizations but on Monday evening, Andrea and I had a long discussion on society’s general discomfort with sadness and the need to “buck up,” finding meaning through the bad. I have to admit that I’ve fallen victim to this way of thinking. Most people have been overwhelmingly supportive but I often find myself feeling guilty for feeling sad with a negative, pestering voice in my mind telling me to give it a break, “you didn’t have it that bad”. In an attempt to put everyone including myself at ease, I’ve ignored my sadness, instead trying very hard (perhaps too hard) to see the light. There’s a certain preoccupation I have with making things better, at least on a superficial level but it could be more damaging in the long run. It’s clear to a lot of people and hell, even a song I’ve been listening to frequently spells it out explicitly but somehow I still managed to miss the message: Sadness is a Blessing. What I realized is that I’ll get to where I need to be eventually but I don’t have to be in such a rush to do so. More so, it’s OK for me to feel exactly what I feel when I feel it, and accepting this is all part and parcel of my own self-care.
I’ve discovered very quickly who I feel comfortable talking to about my pain, with some outlets being rather obvious (D, my mom, my cousin) and others surprising (this blog) but at the root of it is the desire to reach out and create a community with people that understand. I grew up in a large family with many aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends so community has always been important to me. I thrive when I’m able to connect with others and this is the time that I am most content, which brings me to part two of my self-care: continuing to build a community through this blog.
The importance of community in navigating crises is not a novel concept. In fact Livestrong shared an excellent article via Kuow.org on the need for African-American women to reach out to community members during trying times because of the unique support they’re able to provide one another. Time and time again we have confirmation that what we seek is a sense of belonging, and a group of people to help keep us grounded. In a way all these rambling posts seems like another distraction tactic but I honestly think that by throwing myself into this project, I will be helping myself.