On Self-Care

I’ve been feeling this for a while now – a sort of restlessness, a dissatisfaction with what my life currently is.  Oh, there are a plethora of reasons for it, but then I came across this blog post by Autumn at The Beheld (a blog exploring beauty work from a feminist perspective) the other day, and I had one of those DINGDINGDINGDINGDING!!!! moments.  It happened right about here:

Meof course, I’m a “real woman.” pilfer paper towels from the office kitchen instead of carrying special wipes made for special people. I stash dirty granola bar wrappers and unwanted flyers in my bag because I’m too good of a citizen to litter and in too much of a damn hurry to wait for a trash can. I carry around makeup from 2007, because who am I to think I’m so privileged as to deserve new cosmetics when these work perfectly fine?

It is not me being “real”; it is me short-changing myself on self-care. I used to think that self-care was anything that was utterly nonproductive. Cleaning my purse doesn’t feel like self-care; it feels like work. Zoning out on the couch with a box of graham crackers and watching five consecutive episodes of Dexter, however, was “self-care” because it was my fucking time, goddammit, and I’m not going to pick up the phone and I’m not going to answer your e-mail and I’m not going to exercise or even do a fucking Sun Salutation because I am far too busy caring for myself, do you understand?

You will not be surprised to learn that this form of self-care rarely results in me actually feeling cared for. My version of “self-care” has long been to wait until I am at the very end of my gas tank, and then to do the only thing I have energy left to do—which is pretty much nothing. But it gives me enough of a break to get back on track, until I’m running on empty again, and again, and again. And again.

Oh my god, I thought to myself – THAT’S ME!

Autumn goes on to talk about how self-care can actually require a little bit of effort, a little bit of work.  Sometimes, it’s about cleaning your damned house a little, or shaking all of crap that collects in the bottom of your purse out.  Self-care includes stuff like exercise and washing one’s face, as well as doing the shit we need to do to decompress.

You know, I didn’t used to be this chronically lazy.  I have avoided vacuuming the rug in the living room for like, a month now.  The wool rug.  That sheds like a motherfucker. (This is also attributable to the fact that my cat has puked on it twice in the past month in what appears to be indelible vomit.  I’ve wept over those stains as I feverishly sprayed Resolve at them, and only succeeded in bleaching out the surrounding area.  I no longer like this yack-stained rug, and vacuuming it feels like working on keeping a shitty relationship together.)

I think part of the reason I gave up on self-care has to do with fat acceptance – or rather, it’s just a step on my “journey” (as much as I loathe the word).  It should come as no surprise to those who have read me elsewhere on the internet that I still struggle with a lot of issues – food issues, image issues.  For as many years that I’ve been doing this, I still haven’t quite gotten to the self-acceptance part, and it’s making me wonder if I’ll ever get there.

Perhaps part of my problem though, is that when fat acceptance hit me like a revelation, I took the opportunity to shut down on myself.  I think I needed it.  I’d grown up in the land of “lite” and “free” foods, under extreme imposed calorie restrictions, and with the constant reminder that I was a “beached whale,” and that no one would ever find value in me so long as I looked the way I do.  I think after twenty years of being terrified of being fat, and being scared of the repercussions of gaining any weight, that I really did just need to turn off and learn to not feel guilty about being me.

At first, I kind of thought that was the end of my “journey.”  That I would grow into the “bad fatty” trope, and that would be okay.  And it would have been okay, except I’m realizing that that’s not quite the person that I am.  Who I am had been hidden from me.  All of the skiing and soccer playing and backpacking and bike riding I did as a kid was done because I was forced to do it.  I’d never learned how to feed myself because eating was not my responsibility when I was growing up – that responsibility had been taken away from me, because the fear was that if I was allowed to be in charge of what I consumed, I would turn into the Blob.

Well, it happened anyway.  My mother’s worst fears came true.  I am supahfat and…. nothing at all has happened as a result.

I quit smoking about two months ago, after ten years of being a smoker, and eight years going through about a pack a day.  The reason I gave myself was that I could no longer afford it, which is true, but after about the three week point, I realized that it was more than that, but I wasn’t quite sure what it was.

And then, Autumn’s post about self-care hit me like a freight train, and I realized that I am finally ready to be in charge of my own self-care, and I’ve realized that it’s going to involve more than “decompressing” at the end of the day.  What I really realized was that I don’t need to be afraid of doing work to care for myself.  Before, I was afraid that forcing myself to be productive would just lead me back to old patterns of behavior, back to the guilt, back to feeling like I was a failure if things didn’t turn out exactly the way I’d planned.  It doesn’t have to be that way, though.  I’m in charge now – no one else – and I think it’s time to go vacuum the pukey rug in the living room.

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About Megan E. King

Supahfat, queerfabulous, feminist, writerly-type. Cat person. Loves dirty bass lines.
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2 Responses to On Self-Care

  1. Eld says:

    I think this is such a super important topic Megan, and I am so glad you decided to post about it.

    I have so much to say and I don’t even really know where to begin. I can relate to Autumn of the Beheld /so/ much. I did the empty gastank think. Hell I still do. I think that’s part of the reason I couldn’t stay with a job for longer than 5 months. Work is so draining for me that I spend every fiber just trying to get through the day and do nothing but veg out once I’m home trying to relax. Shit piles up, I miss my internet routine, I miss my friends online, I don’t feel like myself anymore and I have no way to release any steam.

    Learning self-care is super hard though. Especially when I didn’t even realize /that/ is what I was missing. I just thought something was wrong with me. I’m just starting now to realize how much of my own work concerning breaking down why I don’t (or do) like to do certain things is part of creating a self-care routine. I’m trying to rewrite my own rules. Just like with the wearing red lipstick and mascara, not only is it part of identifying a gender expression for myself but it can also contribute to a self-care routine. Would putting on lipstick help me face a daunting task? Will it help alleviate stress on a difficult day?

    It’s been especially hard to unpack stuff concerning weight and exercise or weight and eating “healthy” and all that. I know I want a stronger body. To do that I need to exercise. However, it is really difficult for me to hear exercise (or physical activity or anything associated with it) and not immediately jump to weight. It’s so intermixed in our society that I can’t even separate it enough to apply it to my self-care. It’s such a fucked up thing.

    Anyway! Sorry for rambling. Great post. Thank you so much for sharing. I feel hope and happiness in your words and I think that is awesome.

    • I feel you so hard, my darling.

      The exercise thing – oh man! I was forced to do all kinds of shit I really, really didn’t want to when I was young. In the winter, I had nordic ski lessons every Saturday morning, so I learned to hate it when it could have been something fun for me had I not been forced into it. And in the summer, I was dragged on all of these hikes I didn’t want to go on because I didn’t like the bugs, and no kid likes anything that they’re forced and threatened into doing. My mom was just such a task-master about exercise and physical activity that I learned to hate it all and never really found anything I enjoy doing. And that’s what really gets me now.

      Now, downhill skiing – that was something I really liked in high school, and probably because I couldn’t do it when I was younger (too expensive), and so had never been forced into it. But like, there are no mountains here. So that’s out.

      And also, the self-care thing is severely compromised by my depression and anxiety. It’s hard to find the motivation to get shit done, and it’s also ridiculously easy to make excuses to not take care of myself or my home.

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