The past decade of my life was rocked by a maelstrom of ups and downs, including several agonizing break-ups, chronic illness, sick loved ones, epic job stress, and two cross-country moves. Instead of allowing these experiences to derail me, I’ve learned the force of my own resilience and embraced my ability to love my way through pain.
Throughout this time, I searched for labels to name the phases I was going through. I wrote off my neurotic grade-grubbing, late-nighters, and caffeine binges as the cost of successful entry into the profession of my dreams. I was young, so I attributed my stress to a moment in time. But when I entered my late twenties, new challenges emerged, and it felt like a relentless reckoning.
Throughout those years, I spent a lot of time stressed out, frazzled, and grasping for a new program, self-help book, diet, or spiritual practice to help soothe my burnout. Sometimes well-intentioned family members and friends attempted to helped me along on this course, recommending that I read books like He’s Just Not That Into You and Why Men Marry Bitches to help with heartbreak, or attend personal development programs to “learn to let go” when I became traumatized by an experience with a workplace bully.
Many of the external messages I received, including my own inner monologue, compelled me to try to “fix” my emotions by masking them, to repress my pain by focusing on productivity, and to pour my energy toward movement and momentum when my body wanted nothing more than to sit still and chill out. I began to embody a saying from Danielle LaPorte, one of my favorite motivational speakers: “Your body knows before your mind knows.”
When I lay shaking in an emergency room in Queens after returning to work too soon after being ill, I realized that my trajectory may have been full of tough lessons (that often broke me down to build me up), but it was uniquely mine—and that made it valuable. At first, when my chronically sick and fatigued body forced me to sleep, hydrate, meditate, and prioritize my health and wellness, I felt like it betrayed my ambitions. But later, as I took time to listen to my body, to quiet my mind, and to write down my dreams every morning, I became acquainted with a version of myself who had been waiting for me to love and care for myself as loyally and ferociously as I did everyone else around me.
This time, instead of choosing to name a culprit, or to shame myself for living a story with more zigs and zags than straight lines, I would celebrate a life fully lived. When I became committed to cherishing my vulnerability as much as my tenacity, it was my most profound act of self-care yet. It was then that I learned that self-care is love in action, and soon after I started practicing how to say “no” without guilt, to take time for aloneness, and to set boundaries in relationships that felt unbalanced or unhealthy.
Soon after, I discovered the writing of the feminist poet and activist Audre Lorde, who has said, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” Her work inspired me to view self-care as a radical act in a society in which many of us lack institutional and systemic power, and/or struggle to access the most basic tools and resources for survival each day. That’s why I’m committed to cultivating a culture of care in my community and in the world, because simple survival without THRIVING is not enough for us to nourish ourselves, to feed our dreams, and to improve the world with creativity, compassion, and vision.
I’m asking Rookie readers to join me for a monthly self-care convo where we will discuss what self-care means to us personally, and within the broader world. While I’m still learning how to employ self-care in my life, I regret nothing except not discovering how to deeply care for myself sooner, and I want more than anything to explore this with you, together.
Club Thrive is for us. Learning that we’re not alone is powerful. That’s why we’ll be talking about self-care after bad days at school and work, after breakups, when we fail, when we’re embarrassed, when we’re overscheduled and overwhelmed, when we feel alienated, when we feel lonely, and I need your help to fill in the blank________________.
While I’ll be giving direct advice and reflecting on one question or concept per month, the comments section will also be an interactive space where I welcome your advice and practices to the Club Thrive mix. Feel free to post your advice as comments, links to videos, and audio, too.
When I said self-care is love in action, I meant it. It’s not one-size-fits-all. It’s not expensive or inaccessible, even though we often are conditioned to believe that the only way we can achieve self-care is through manis, pedis, massages, and trips to the spa (disclaimer: ALL THINGS I LOVE, but they are not essential or effective for everyone).
Everything we will discuss will come from suggestions based on experience, and you can “choose your own adventure” and adapt practices and ideas for your own context. I can’t promise that miracles will happen. I can assure you that our no-bullshit reflections and advice about making more time for yourself, creating spaciousness in your life, setting boundaries, healthy relationships, having more fun, and eating treats that give you energy and strength are likely to make your days bolder and brighter. ♦
Do you have a question for Club Thrive to talk through together? Email it to [email protected]. Please include your EMAIL, NAME, CITY, and AGE. I’ll also be sending a homemade “Welcome to the Clubhouse” self-care care package to a lucky winner to kick off our first month!