Ferris Bueller’s shower wisdom wasn’t wrong: Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop to look around once in awhile, you could miss it. And if we at O’a HQ learned anything from Ferris, it’s this: sometimes, you have to take care of you.
It sounds so simple, right? But self-care can be really hard when you’re wrapped up in making sure you haven’t forgotten a social appointment (we know, who could forget happy hour? But it happens!), remembering the passwords for all your work software, and taking phone calls from your mother who wants to talk about your 401k contributions again.
Which is why Team O’a talks a lot about the art of making time for you. The truth is, it’s not easy. And unless you keep it top of mind, it will be one of the first plates you’ve got spinning to crash.
Enter the Self Care Series in Hairpin
We believe we learn best from our friends, and other people who have “been there, tried this, and done that.” Which is why when we came across Fariha Roísín and Sara Black McCulloch’s Self Care series in Hairpin, we had to share.
Roísín and McCulloch have conversations with women about – well, a lot of things, but the interview always revolves around self-care. So today, we’re bringing you excerpts of inspiration from the brave women who insightfully have opened up, discussed their struggles, and then talked about how they’ve moved forward.
What is self care to you? Do you do anything in particular?
Self-care is saying no, particularly in a refusal to work. I notice an ascetic relationship to work, a sense that in order to do good work you have to not listen to yourself; working more then you have to; forgoing sleep, in my case, to get work done, this almost Protestant work ethic that equates hard work with moral integrity. I am suspicious of that kind of discipline.
Self care is giving myself an hour of a day. In that hour I’m going to say no to everyone else. I’ll go swimming, or I’ll go to the Russian Baths with a friend. Just letting go of all that buzzy shit and falling into a puddle. Saying no to all responsibilities. Moisturizing myself, touching myself in places I normally wouldn’t, like my hips, my ass, my thighs; these fleshy parts that at times I wished I could wish away.
[Ed note: this is a conversation between Black (HB) and McCulloch (SBM)]
HB: That sort of leads to this point about self-hatred. Like, for a long time I was like, “Self-love is a dumb concept, I want someone else to love me.”
SBM: Do you still feel that way?
HB: Recently I was like, “Oh wait, self-hatred must be a dumb concept too.” It’s not the easiest thing for me and it’s sort of underneath my intellectualizations. Like I often experience people’s love or desire as totally panic-inducing. I don’t know what to do with it, and I’m often drawn to people and situations that aren’t very good for me. I read a book by the Dalai Lama once where he was like (to paraphrase) “I was astonished when I first came across the Western concept of self-hatred, I had no idea what it meant!” which is cute. It is a weird concept. Why hate yourself? It’s a weird practice. Why do we do it? Do I even really mean it, or do I use words like self-loathing to refer to something else? I think they might be partly an accurate response to the situation we find ourselves in: the situation of general ruin.
This just feels so obvious to me that how you get to self-love is through receiving love and giving love. I don’t even really know what self-love is. I know that’s a reactionary position in some ways, and I try to temper it with a self-critique, which is: self-hate and self-love must be equally dumb or equally useful concepts. For all my railing against self-love, I have at times been capable of self-hatred.
When I receive love from others I find it easier to generate love, to give it. But on the other hand, it goes both ways: when I find it easier to have loving feelings, it’s also easier to receive it.
Sara and I are trying to talk to women about their bodies, and themselves; their minds, in a transparent way.
I think about this a lot because there are people hurting others out there by doing it wrong. And I don’t want to seem morally superior—because God knows I’ve used alcohol and drugs and called it self-care—and that’s a grey area that I think is very interesting: self-medicating. Medication to meditate anxiety and depression can be a form of care, but for a lot of people, including myself, it can be very dangerous. So drinking and doing drugs can help me cope, and can sometimes feel like self-care because it puts off a problem, until I feel ready to deal with it. Is it really self-care if it hurts you?
Do you ever self-care with alcohol and drugs and feel like it is actually doing the thing that you need it to do?
Yeah, absolutely. I’m a very anxious person, especially on tour. If I’m about to go on stage in front of 5,000 people—then, yeah, let me tell you my complicated relationship with beer. When it comes down to it, in that moment, self-care for me is often doing the best I can do in the moment. To make it to the next moment..I don’t live the kind of life where I’m allowed a Saturday where I can take a long bath and read my books. I don’t have the kind of life where self-care means sleeping in. Sometimes for me it’s all about moving on to the next moment.
What does self-care mean to you? How do you define it for yourself?
Self-care means, for me, just checking in with myself in whatever capacity that requires. Sometimes it means just looking in the mirror for an extended period of time and remembering that I am not just a brain. I am a person with a body I have to take care of and acknowledge. I have so much body dysphoria as I get older and I don’t look at my body a lot. I look at it as a means of…it’s just like this thing that I use to wear the things that I love; it’s not a thing that I inherently give a shit about. Bodies are unreliable narrators. Having a chronic illness has led me to see my body more as a nuisance, something I have to negotiate, so self-care for me is checking in and letting myself know that it’s ok, you don’t have to love it all the time. You can make yourself comfortable and do what you need to do to make yourself feel more content with what you have.
For me, self-care is that Ralph Ellison quote from Invisible Man—“I am nobody but myself.” What does self-care mean for you, Janet?
I think self-care is something deliberate, something that I do to take care of myself in a world that tells me I shouldn’t necessarily exist. That my body and my identity don’t necessarily matter—especially in systems that weren’t built for me to really thrive. We can say that the ways in which we survive are ways in which we take care of ourselves—but I don’t really think that’s care—that’s us trying to survive in systems that weren’t built for us.
Writing is a part of my survival, for me to sit down and tell myself the truth about my experience, but I’m a writer so that’s also work. It’s rare that I have writing just for me. When I sit down in the morning and I’m writing I release myself from these thoughts.
Also, the home of my own creation, having a partner of my own choosing who takes care of me and who I also take care of, my dog who is so selfless and the embodiment of unconditional love and attention and affection. I choose to have [them] in my daily spaces and they take care of me.
Being in a community—being with the people that I can be the most intimate with—people who don’t necessarily think of Janet Mock the public person/writer/thinker, but Janet Mock, my girlfriend. If I’m empty, and I show up empty, they can accept empty on that day.
How do you self-care?
It’s become even more necessary to ensure that I define my space and friendships really clearly. I don’t call everyone my friend anymore. I have people who I’m in sisterhood with, and then I have my deep, deep friendship and love with.
Boundaries are a way in which I take care of myself. By putting up very clear things about what I will talk about, what parts of my life I will put out for the world to see, what parts of me will not be content, what parts of me will just be for me and not for the world to take for themselves, what parts of my life will I not let to be objectified content.
What are things that you do that are specific to your self care?
Deep conditioning my hair! Sitting with that cap on my head and taking care of some part of myself that is very important to me—like my hair. Also reading! To be able to sit down and flip through my magazines, my New Yorker, my New York Magazine. Sometimes when I don’t have time I realize I don’t read and I feel really guilty because I have stacks of them around the house. I really appreciate to be able to take in this content that I really love and enjoy and interact with, but also to be able to shut down my brain and just watch mindless television with a big glass of water with a little bit of apple cider in it and just be quiet. Also, I don’t have a problem sleeping and that really helps re-energize me. Even when my battery is empty I get the seven or eight hours of sleep that I crave.
Direct From an O’a team member:
A date once said to me, “I just don’t get what self-care is” He traced his finger across the chevron pattern of our picnic blanket and continued with, “Or why women are even talking about it.”
I wasn’t sure if he wanted an answer to his non-question, but I also wasn’t sure I had the right words to talk about it succinctly, in a date-friendly manner that wouldn’t immediately alienate him from the conversation or worse, ignite a defensive fire I didn’t know existed.
“Me either,” I replied lamely, to a silent chorus of womankind shaking her collective heads.
We didn’t go out again, but our one-time encounter got me thinking about how far off the self-care train I’d fallen, and how people everywhere need reminders not just as to why taking care of yourself is important, but even simple “how-to” notes, too.
We hope this post inspired you to think a little bit about what self care means to you and how to start giving yourself time to breath, live, and love yourself – or at least read the full interviews with these brilliant, thoughtful women.
Of course, dear readers, we have to ask: does this kind of sharing – where women talk about self care – inspire you? Does it give you a little glimmer of wanting to take control of your pleasure and take care of yourself? If so, you’re on our page – and we’d love for you to support our Indiegogo campaign to help more women do just that.
Look after yourself, you’re the only “self” you’ve got!