Friday, February 23, 2018


T H E   G U I D E  | S E L F L E S S  -  C A R E
An unconventional take on the self-care phenomena, moving beyond the paradigm of millenials taking bubble baths . . .

Because enough with the self-care that is inaccessible to anyone who have more than their 9-to-5 on their plate or a woman in her 20s. Where's the care pertaining to single mums, men, parents, veterans? Where's the care that goes into acton, beyond isolated time with the self?

In the age of late capitalist commercialism, it seems that even our health and wellbeing are commodified. Hearing others in this industry of wellness speaking of self-care has only been leaving me with a sour taste. Wellness has seemingly become a foul-mouthed monster feasting on our insecurities, especially as millennials. It picks its teeth at the gunk that is our anxieties around our bodies, minds, and futures with a toothpick of products

What seems to consequently be portrayed is a growing market of commodities garnered towards the idea that self-care can be bought. It's packaged in $30 bath salts, dusts, and coaching sessions with the newly-coined guides charging hundreds of dollars per session. This is a pickpocketing of reality. Millennials and beyond, many of us—say, everyone besides the 1% of the worldwide population—need the money spent on $30 bath salts for a meal instead or the coaching fees for rent. 

Self-care defined this way is merely a façade. It creates an illusion of safety. And, as irreducible as the fear this will induce, safety itself is also an illusion. It's only in the experiences, and not in the often indecision-inducing plethora of products, that this fear dissolves even if momentarily and self-care lives.  It's not to say that if these luxuries are accessible to you that you shouldn't employ them but to remind all that these are luxuries rather than necessities. Self-care does not have to be bought. Sometimes, self-care means closing your eyes as a new father in the bathroom, on the toilet or pretending to be, just to have five minutes to yourself . . .

Neither does it have to or, frankly, should be merely self-involved. Self-care isn't about isolating oneself in a tub covered in bubbles with said bath products. Rather, self-care is a kind of confession; it's in moments in which you can see yourself more clearly. Sometimes, that happens in those bathroom moments, when you can check-in with how to deal with both yourself and your kid and all the tomorrows. Alone but for others. And other times, it happens when you're with another, when you can take care of yourself as they take care of you. That may be in that you allow them to make a meal for you when you're always the cook, hugging your mother or best friend or partner just a half minute longer, or listening to a song echoing memories. Or it's in seeing yourself as a loved ones sees you, in your best light. 

On Seeing: The Art & Cinema
If I were to regurgitate the following words of James Baldwin, I'd be doing them injustice. He, as always, so eloquently portrays why art is critical and why, in my extended understanding, it's a form of self-care. It's precisely in the opposite of loneliness and isolation that the current paradigm of self-care advocates for that we can truly experience self-care. And that—art as film, paintings, and books— is not only priceless but also free. 
If you can examine and face your life, you can discover the terms with which you are connected to other lives, and they can discover them, too — the terms with which they are connected to other people. This has happened to every one of us, I’m sure. You read something which you thought only happened to you, and you discovered it happened 100 years ago to Dostoyevsky. This is a very great liberation for the suffering, struggling person, who always thinks that they are alone. This is why art is important. Art would not be important if life were not important, and life is important.

Take yourself physically on a date to a free art museum or gallery, or view one online. Alternatively, watch this BBC documentary series by my favourite, John Berger. Pick a Criterion Collection film—like Ascenseur pour l'échafaud or La pointe courteor pick one of these that you might not have seen in honour of Black History Month

Watch and read an expansive offering of art, of diverse voices and experiences, so you may experience the same breadth in your own self and life. Maybe you have two jobs, are a full-time student and employee, or barely have time to wipe your butt. Incorporate this according to your schedule; perhaps try seeing one film per month as an act of self-care, in your pyjamas with a loved one.

On Reading: The Bookshelf
On the related note of art, here are recent books that I have read or have added to my list:
This one by John Berger  |  This one by James Baldwin  |  This one by Haruki Murakami
This one by Vladimir Nabokov  |  This one by Zadie Smith  | This one by Teju Cole

If you don't have time to read, try audiobooks. When I had an almost two hour commute into my job at the EWG, I used it to either write my blog posts or listen to audiobooks. Audible is an option but can be costly. YouTube often has free recordings, such as this one of Giovanni's Room, or try your local library.

On Listening: The Record
I have a playlist appropriately titled "Emotional Escape," nodding at the transportive power of music. On this and singing, of which I'm an advocate for in showers, Berger says: ". . . [her] entire body, no longer dry, was filled with sound, as a bottle can be filled to overflowing with liquid." We don't need bubble baths per say when we can be that liquid for ourselves filling our emotional tub. When I feel drained, pun intended, I sing bygone Turkish refrains, pulling on the strength of my mother and my mother's mother as a reminder of how to push on forward to be the woman, or rather human, I aspire to be. As our past memories—free of the weight of time and free of charge—care for us now to mold a future self of ideal new memories. Memories that we have made and will continue to make with others . . .

On Giving: Volunteering
We often see ourselves through the lens of others. Extending our selves—through our knowledge or hands and time or, if possible, monetarily—can provide a renewed perspective of ourselves. It's the new adage in this self-care phenomena that if we don't take care of ourselves, we can't take care of others. That's certainly true, but it's also when we care for others that we also care for ourselves. That we can recharge ourselves through the elation that humankindness and kinship can provide. Most of us can feel drained from seeing our lives as less than when, in reality and in giving to others, we can see the gestalt or a larger perspective of our own situation. 

Again, with our own schedules or having multiple jobs or what have you on our plates, maybe this is not a possibility as often as you'd think it should be. But giving can be in many ways. You could plan one day of your weekend monthly to volunteer at a soup kitchen with a friend. Or, if you can't travel, you could take the time on a lunch break to call your representatives about gun control & violence. Finding a purpose larger than ourselves is the true self-care.