Monday, March 25, 2013

When it's the hardest.

Long time homie Beatfreak (HI darlin) left this comment the other day and I have been ruminating on what to tell you.

how do you engage in self-care when you don't really like the skin you are in.
Ah, this is one of those essential questions.

Let me preface this by saying as usual, this is how it has worked for me over the years. From the time I was a wee child up through now.

The first thing I want to tell you is that if you don't like the skin you're in, this is the most important time to care for it.

My philosophy (also see this older entry as well) is this.

This skin, the one you don't like or are not comfortable in for whatever reason, is the only one you get.

Mine is the only one I have, yours is the only one you have B. That is a hard, (not rationally of course) ugly thing to really take in and deal with.

Look down at your hands right now, I'm serious.

Those are the only ones you are going to get. As I look at my hands with scarred knuckles, mystery ashiness in the webbing of my fingers, jacked up cuticles and no longer cute manicure, that's all she write.

This part really sucks.

The good news is that you don't have to like your skin to self care. Hell you don't even have to strictly even like anything at all.

That is why it is imperative to start self caring now.

My ideas about self care are not really aimed at fluffy puppy love and rainbows type shit.

This is battle for a lot of us.

B, and the rest of you who are sitting there and making a face because you don't like yourself so logically you aren't into self care, I'm talking directly to you.

This is war.

We (YES I am including myself here) need to survive.

At the earliest, for me self care has been at the root of the thing about survival.

Surviving depression, self loathing, bullying, puberty, being a teenager, being a young adult, being poor and trying to scam my way into the nicer food banks, being unsure if I would be able to pay my rent, stress, illness all of it.

It is about survival.

It's not strictly about self love and metaphorically holding hands with yourself and singing hippy songs.

This is fucking battle.

You may be battling yourself.

let's talk about that.

If we presume we are self loathing in whatever form, we presume that it doesn't matter if we self care or not. That there is no point because of X thing anyway.

That to me is flawed logic.

That is the kind of inertia that in my view can just push us right down the path to not surviving the bullshit.

Let's look at it this way.

Let's say that you B are a car, you're not a super awesome model. Maybe you're dinged and dented and run kind of rough. But you are the only way you are getting around. You got me here?

This body that is not okay with you right now (or ever) is the only means you have of perambulating around the universe and just like the Beatfreak 1997 Sedan, it must be taken care of to a degree in order to function. And for me, when I function a bit easier, I feel better.

So where do we start?

I don't want to overwhelm you so let's start easy.

Drink some water.

Right now.

I will wait while you and I both get some water to drink.


For me, I function better when I am well hydrated. It gets me out of whatever shitty moment I'm having when I say to myself, shit self time to top up. Get some water.

Habits are easier to form than you know.

Level up?

Below you'll find one of my vital self care tools. It is a liter size cup. I fill it with water every couple of hours at work and I drink it all.

For me this serves several important purposes.

  1. We covered hydration.
  2. It keeps me mindful of what is going on in my body on days when I am disconnected. By that I mean instead of forgetting to eat or drink and feeling shitty all day. I put this in front of my face, I drink it, I realize I still need to eat or I have to pee. I am in this body that makes me so angry sometimes. Some days it's irritating as shit but, I do it because I know by now that my body feels worse when I don't.
  3. It gives me a clear tangible objective on days when I am too tired or spaced out to have one. I put my hands on it, I am grounded.
Now as always I can't tell you B or anyone else exactly what to do.

I can tell you that not liking your skin notwithstanding, you do need to keep that body of yours running as best you can. If for no other reason right now than you have shit to do.

Let's talk about something else.

When I have self cared during the worst points in my life, I look back now and marvel that I fucking did it.

I am not embarrassed to say that sometimes I think about the things I've survived and all I can do is shake my head. The biggest thing I survived is myself.

And part of that survival has been self care.

During the times when I've been the most broke, I relied on very small things. I would buy travel size tubes of nice lotion at the dollar store and I kept my hands lubed with them. I made sure I sometimes ate a hamburger (because I really love them), I went for slow walks down very dark streets, I read library books, I took long baths.

My point here B is that the what is not as important as the doing.

So how do we start?

Start with something small and easy. If you are an instant gratification kind of person, go put lotion on your hands or feet or elbows. Sit and enjoy how that feels because it feels good.Or figure out if it feels good in an objective manner.

If you are more of a thinky person try this. Open a blank notepad document and make a list of things you think are nice. Doesn't matter what they are exactly. Reading, napping, bathing, brushing your teeth, having a nice lingering smoke, a cup of tea, a shot of whiskey whatever.

Look at your list when you're done and pick one thing. it can be totally random, it can be something small and stupid. Doesn't matter.

It's even better if it makes you smile or laugh.

I'll demonstrate.

I bought a big ass bottle of St Ives Intesive healing lotion. I keep it in my department at work and I use it regularly. I don't need it necessarily but it is one little tiny thing that is lifesaving some days. When everything else sucks and I suck and I'm tired and hating the fact that I can't sleep or whatever it is I feel I'm fucking up, I can do that. 

Actually I'm going to do that right now.

I also do things like limit my media intake. That means for me I don't read Xojane or Jezebel or anything with current news or tidbits.

I read gossip websites, I look at cuteoverload, I read any number of literary magazines and sometimes I don't even do that.

Self care is not just making yourself shiny for the world.

It is self preservation of the highest order.

Sometimes for me I just can't with the rest of the world. 

that's okay.

It is more important to me that when I am feeling depressed or overwhelmed or like I am walking shit, I care out space in this world and my day to day life, to self care because nobody else is going to do it for me.

That's another realization that was important to me starting out.

At one point when I was around 23 or so, I realized that when I do things that make me feel good or soothe me or make the shitty world a little less shitty in my view, it made me more comfortable and better able to deal with whatever I was going through.

So now I'm 36 and for me I decided that my best armor against a world that is frankly out to kill me. (Yes I am a woman of color who is queer, smart and not prone to being happy being invisible, this world is def. out to get me) I take damn fine care of myself even when I'm not super keen on me and the skin I'm in.

I do what the fuck I want to do with myself.

I decide what is good to me.

I do all those silly beauty things, and wear occasionally totally inappropriate daytime make up, I paint my nails crazy colors or grow out stiletto nails because it is good to me.

The other major thing I started doing?

I stopped giving a fuck.

I realized that the only person who really (beyond having to be presentable in a job so I can pay my bills) needs to approve of me, is me. So I made changes.

None of these things are easy B.

I will not (you know me by now) blow smoke up your butt about it.

Self care is mother fucking hard.

You won't succeed the first or second time you try. Sometimes it will be physically painful as trying things can be. Sometimes you won't want to.

Firstly I am giving you explicit permission, self dislike be damned to do what you need to do.

Secondly I'm going to get bossy with you for a minute because sometimes, we need that.

Beatfreak and anyone else who needs it. Open another text document and copy and paste the following.

Shannon says, I am important enough to be taken care of even if I don't like myself much right now.
Save it and look at it when you need a bossy ass voice in your head bossing you around. I know I need that sometimes and it's handy to have.

Thirdly, get bossy with yourself. I do this sometimes when I am feeling too shitty in any number of ways to do my habitual self care things. I tell myself, yes you're tired and you think your face is stupid but wash your stupid face. Put your moisturizer on.

I do things like that because I know that when I fall off of doing my self care rituals, my skin suffers and as we all know one of the things that can put my self esteem right in the toilet is my skin. I don't necessarily respond well to random people bossing me around, because I do an okay job of bossing myself.

Fourth and most important.


Beatfreak and all you other homies having trouble starting out, it's okay.

Let me say that again for the cheap seats.

It is perfectly okay for you to have a hard time establishing self care rules for yourself.

I have said it many times before and will say it again.

This shit is fucking hard.

It's even harder when, everything in our society supports our self loathing and only tells us to take care of ourselves when we are either trying to fit or do fit a Thin Pretty White Lady Ideal.

Fuck that noise.

So let's recap.

Start small. Buy and use a nice lotion, drink more water, paint your nails, read a trashy book, sit doing nothing, have a leisurely poop, take a nice luxurious bath, buy a bottle of facial moisturizer with SPF and put it on every morning after you brush your teeth, take your vitamins, pet your dog, watch kitten videos for a half hour a day, read a web comic that is just for shits and giggles, watch something on TV that is completely worthless (my personal choice for that is Bad girls club, don't judge me), go to the dollar store and get a bottle of bubbles or a few plastic toys.

Moral of the story is, it's not super important what you do, just do it.

Beatfreak if all you're capable of doing right now is getting up and opening your eyes, you're already doing it.

If you wake up and put on clean PJ pants, or take a shower, or eat something tasty, have a nice cup of coffee, take the dog for a walk, put your shoes on, don't get fired from your job, etc you are doing it.

Hear me B and my other homies?

You are doing it.

You are here reading this, you are asking questions. You are doing it.

You are already one up on yourself.



We haven't had homework in a while, I'll do it too and report back later this week.

I want you Beatfreak and other assorted homies, to do one nice non-necessary for survival thing this week.

Just one.

My one thing is that I am going to do some body skin maintenance  I'm talking the whole works. I will use my fancy soap and bath brush, I will clip the hair on my legs, I will moisturize myself until I am slippery and greasy. One because I'm an itchy fucker right now and two because it's just nice.

I'm going to level up too and make sure that I am well hydrated and eat at appropriate times all week. To this end I'm setting an alarm on my phone to make sure I eat.

Now you.

You can do it.

Homo Out.



Emily said...

Thanks for this, Shannon. I do believe it was exactly what I needed to hear. I quite like your straightforward approach to all of this. I'm sending you general well wishes and positive vibes. Thank you.

rebecca said...

I'm so grateful for your voice and your blog.

Anonymous said...

Thank you.
Thank you for getting to the heart of a (to me) painful, complicated topic and putting it in words so clearly.
Thank you for your hands-on approach.
This is such an issue for me.
Thank you for lending me your talented writing so I can see my knotted, thorny thoughts a little better.

Tapati said...

It's been a difficult and painful last 2 weeks in this body. I needed to be reminded of these things even though I rarely think of my body in beauty/non-beauty terms any longer but rather painful/not-painful. It's hard to love my body through chronic pain. There are so many times I wish I could leave it behind. I am an old hand at self-nurture but sometimes I do forget so thanks for the reminder when I most needed it. I've been doing self-massage as well as my usual lotions, potions and teas.


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