Self-Caring Till The End Of The World
At the time of writing this, I almost full-blown hate the term self-care. Possibly because of how I picture it all in my mind: I imagine myself on an operating table while people in scrubs gently put sheet masks all over my body. Or as the world crumbles and the hospital building in the movie Batman Begins blows up, I’m standing there, gently rubbing lavender lotion on my legs and thighs. It seems luxurious to the point of obnoxiousness. It seems like an over-escape, an excuse to bow out.
And yet, on a day where everyone seems snowed in, an idea forms, possibly after viewing Twitter and that thing that Chris Cuomo should not have said about fake news. Hmm. I need to step away. I should put on a face mask. And, like instinct, I do. It doesn’t help, really. It kind of dries out my skin. But it’s an instinct I’ve mastered that some have never really learned in the first place—take care of yourself when you need to, or when you've reached the brink of too much. Take a break. Self-care is there to tell you to “make yourself a pot of tea,” or “put the phone down for the evening,” or “sleep till noon on a Sunday.” It’s that little part of you that’s always reminding you to be good to yourself—not because you want to, but because you need to.
There are people in your life who do not know how to put their needs in front of others. My mother, for one, is just learning to wear makeup. Now. Again, really. I have introduced her to different products—to face masks and BB creams and cuticle oils—and usually they end up in a drawer, or she just gives them to me after a while. Every time I come, some token of what I tried to teacher her. A Clinique bronzer. A facial toner mist. She has been a mother for over 30 years, and it shows. I’m first. She’s second. She barely knows how to relax or sit or each lunch. I do not have this problem. I have never forgotten to eat lunch. When winter comes around, I go full on seasonal-shift with the shit I put on my face. I do not need to be told to take a minute to switch to a brightening exfoliant. I do not need to be told to shave my legs, or paint my nails, or put cream and socks on my feet overnight when they are dry.
They are beauty rituals to keep me sane. They are rituals to keep me in control when everything feels out of control. Is it my form of self-care? Sure, if you put a radar gun to my face and you were an alien and I had to explain it, I’d say this: my self-care is painting my nails very slowly, it’s turning off the computer, it’s cleaning my tub with Softscrub, it’s seeing my friend and watching a bad movie, it’s one glass of dry white wine during a Bravo Show, it’s washing my face, it’s applying a lip scrub, it’s listening to a Youtube video while vacuuming, it’s silence. It’s just getting away when I reach the point where I don’t know what to do with my brain anymore.
Everyone deserves it. But maybe this doesn't resonate with people like me, who is ready to drink a glass of white wine every time the world crumbles. Do you forget to eat lunch? Do you do things for yourself, ever? Then maybe this is more for you. Maybe this is the call for people not like me.
Self-care is not just buying products and using them, which is what I think people have started to equate it with. No wonder it’s so obnoxious, right? It’s just some weirdo capitalism thing that makes us go out and buy masks for our hair. But it’s not really that at all. It’s simple courtesy to yourself as a human being. What we’re really saying when we talk about self-care, like that’s not the title to some think piece nobody wants to read, is this: we need to treat ourselves with basic kindness. And if you forget to do this, and if that sounds foreign to you, well dammit. Do it!
Do you remember when you were at your lowest, and what you would deprive yourself of? Maybe you wouldn’t shower, or do the dishes, or do something you always liked doing—paint your nails, drink a cup of tea at night, juice fresh oranges. The deprivation was a punishment, wasn’t it? I’ve punished myself for many years for various reasons, and took away things I loved because I felt like I didn’t deserve them. The year I wouldn’t buy myself a new sweater because I felt too fat for one. The times I would refuse to eat. You know what I mean. And I think this influx of ‘self-care’ ideas comes at a good time for those people: the people who have refused and deprived for whatever reason. Guilt because of the world and what they will miss if they move away from it for a moment. Sadness because they don’t believe they deserve it. Unhappiness. Now---do you remember when you were at your highest, and what you would indulge in too much of? For me: nothing. When I was my happiest, I would indulge in mostly nothing.
So remember that the next time you feel the need to give yourself some basic indulgence and think of why that might be the case. It's okay to be nice to yourself when you are unhappy.
Now, I think the whole “I sort of hate the idea of self-care” thing comes from the fact that I know what happens when you do too much of it. You can’t slather the lotion on for too long. It cannot replace a therapist. It cannot replace real medical help. And you can’t just shut yourself away from the world in some vein of self-care because you really don’t want to hear or talk about the things that matter. And you can’t deny that sometimes, people just want to talk about shopping and nice things and are upset that they can’t anymore because of real things that happen in the world. So don’t do that. Take some time, but not too much. But perhaps I don't like it because nobody needs to tell me to do it anymore. Perhaps that's more of a me thing than a "self-care" thing. Perhaps it's because it reminds me of how unrested I feel. And that's okay.
Self-care is not a revolution. It’s a center. It’s a balance. It won’t keep us alive during these times, and if it saves us, perhaps it’s only for a minute. It’s just putting yourself first for five seconds during the times you need it most. So do it, if you need to be kind to yourself---right before you get back to the rest of the world. And remember: it doesn’t have to be a face mask or a pedicure. It can just be some real nice quiet.