I has been a little over a month since I have written, I would like to say that it is because I have writer’s block or no inspiration; but I think that what is happening is that I can feel a little overwhelmed with this work and really don’t know where to start sometimes. Privilege is something that is extremely uncomfortable at times and will bring up really real and intense emotions that can seem impossible to process. It can also seem harder to write it down; many of these emotions can be mixed with shame, guilt, anger, sadness, hurt, etc. These emotions and experiences are difficult for us to work through on a one on one basis, so it can really feel like we are drowning when many of them come up at the same time. So what do you do when you just feel like you are drowning and are grasping for air among your emotions?
The classic answer is “Self Care”, but to someone who is new to this, what does that mean? It can mean a lot of things, but I will share with you at least what it has looked for me. I had a really hard time with this at first, I found that I was exercising my privilege even more by taking breaks (something that I told myself others could not have the luxury of doing), but how was I to work towards being a good ally if I was a tornado of difficult emotions festering and ready to explode at the smallest trigger? So, where do we begin?
I have a lot of things that I do for self care, I need to be doing these things to help me, I work in a penitentiary (which is already challenging in the needs for self care) and I am also doing this exploration which can throw me some really big curve balls. My self care regiment is based on one really big element (my spiritual practice) and then many small ones that I can spread out throughout the day. I see self care as a practice and it is something that is crucial to my wellbeing and to ensuring that I will be the best ally that I can be.
1 – Finding beauty in the world around you: I try to find something I believe to be beautiful everyday on my commute to work. It usually ends up being the sky because I work early and get to usually see the sun rise as I drive. I focus on the colours and how the reflect off the clouds, I am surprised sometimes at some of the beautiful colours I see in front of me. Right now seeing as it is the winter it is more challenging, but I can usually see something: it has even been the lights on the perimeter walls of the penitentiary where I work or a bird’s net in barbwire, there is beauty everywhere if you just take a minute to look around. This gives me a positive start to my day which is so important if I am to continue this work that I am doing.
2 – Morning check-ins: When I do my morning meditation I dedicate a part of the time to simply name without jugement what is coming up; I just sit in the silence and learn to become friends with what is coming up and approaching it with an attitude of friendliness and care. It is hard to not judge sometimes, but I have learned to forgive myself when I get in that mode and chalk it up as a new learning experience.
3 – Have a self-date: Take some time to just be by yourself and do something that makes you happy because it makes you happy. Read, watch a stupid comedy, take a walk, cook, whatever makes you laugh, feeds your heart or soul, etc. Be sure that what you are doing is nourishing you, this is your time to take care of you. It is really important that during this exercise you do you; no need to feel self-conscious, do what really fills your heart and make you feel happy.
4- Develop a spiritual practice: I know that this might not fly with everyone, spirituality can be a dirty word to some and I am not here to tell others what they should believe. I am speaking of my experience and I must admit that this is my most important part of my self care practice. My buddhist practice has made me feel more connected to myself, more than anything else ever has. The more connected we feel to ourselves, the more connected we feel to the world around us. It is thanks to my spiritual practice that I have learned to truly love myself (still working on it, but I am so far from where I was when I started); I also think that I am a nicer person than I used to be and everyone wins with that one. See what works for you, but try and find something that helps you connect with yourself and the world around you. It feels good to connect to something that is bigger than you. Unplug a little, you aren’t really missing anything except opportunities to ignore what you may really need…
There is so much more that you can do: spend time petting your animals (I have a cat and a rabbit) and see your worries and stress melt away for at least a little while, connect with people you don’t know (why can’t you say hi and ask how the barista is doing?) without being creepy about it obviously, take a walk (with or without music depending how you prefer to enjoy the city), plan a holiday in your city (tell everyone you are leaving for the weekend, turn your phone off, and go explore the city you may be taking for granted), make sure to put time aside for you to just be with you (alone time is a way to listen to what you may need and especially a great way to simply work on becoming your own best friend), and so much more…
I no longer feel guilty for doing this, I am not endorsing and perpetuating privilege; I am taking care of myself so I can be the best ally that I can be. There is nothing to be ashamed of in that statement. So you do you, take some time to make sure you are taking care of you, because if you don’t then who will?