January 17, 2017
Every day I want to expect the best. After finally reaching the other side of cancer and unplanned open-heart surgery with a ‘worry cloud’ of ‘what ifs’ following me for too long, it feels right to reframe my thinking to ‘expect the best damnit’. I have always been an optimist - expecting the best from people and movements, with the belief that love and kindness will prevail. However, I am now facing a new reality. Now we must work for the greater good while simultaneously preparing to respond and fight against those promoting and exhibiting bigotry, greed and dominance at the expense of those less fortunate or visible.
Our humanity and societal achievements must be measured by how far we can lift up individuals who do not have access to the same privileges as us. For the first time in my life however, this perspective is challenged because I cannot trust the motives, courage or moral compass of the majority of our Congress people as well as the President. I always thought the United States had the checks and balances of democracy figured out to ensure this wouldn’t happen. Yes, I’ve been too naive or, perhaps, over confident, thinking that the three branches – Legislative, Judicial and Executive - were enough to check each other. And now, I realize we have missed the most important point – that I and all of us who vote are the most important check and balance of all. These past few weeks have been a scary way to learn this lesson I was taught in fifth grade but didn’t have the experience to fully comprehend. Clearly, we have to ask ourselves; besides voting, what is the power of a citizen?
The day after the Presidential election I recommitted to a daily yoga and/or qi gong practice in the morning. I felt compelled to strengthen my core and prepare for what my gut knew was ahead. For the past two months, I have been preparing my chi or energy source for the reality of January 20. I want to hold onto my mantra of “expect the best”,” but it is ridiculously challenging amidst the dictator-like actions that are occurring by the Republican Congress ahead of the inauguration. I thought we had more time but, alas, the fight is clearly “full on” for the rights of human citizens in the U.S.A. to control our own bodies, receive adequate health care and be treated with respect.
As Republican white men try to dismantle health care from those who need it most, dismantle the protections we have given to women, LBGTQ or individuals of different races, ethnicities and religions, I feel compelled to share loudly about radical self-care. I urge my teammates in the struggle to not only take action but to also recognize that before we can effectively use our connections on social media, march, petition, call our Congresspersons, run or assist others in running for office, we must commit to taking care of ourselves. A thriving democratic society requires bodies and minds that are healthy, alert, engaged and active. In the same way that an athlete pushes themselves with discipline and goal setting to compete at a high level, we need to recognize that the same preparation is required to be successful in attaining and keeping strong a democratic and caring society.
It is clear that the attitudes, actions and manipulative workings of many elected officials aren’t going to cease any time soon. Therefore, it is critical that as feminists and leaders, we are centered, strong and ready for the long fight ahead. My friend Ellen is an exceptionally talented counselor and coach. She has a sign (pictured above) on her office wall that is a picture of drying herbs and it says “Practice Radical Self Care”. In order to lead others and be “present” for accelerated movement building and more, we have to commit first to nurturing and caring for our beings and spirits so that we can show up fully to lead and join with others. Clearly, today is the day to fully embody the idea that we must practice radical self-care as a strategy for not only social change and movement building, but also for survival.
I have had the curse and blessing of having to deal with fear and anxiety at a very young age. My sister and I often name the benefits of growing up in a household where alcohol and mental illness offered far too many images and experiences for a young mind to digest. We look at the pyscho-social and behavioral skills we acquired and realize that many of them have served us well. Some thoughts about these healing tools that have been crafted and improved over time are shared below.
Feel free to use what works for you as you embody the idea of radical self-care. For those of you who are still “on the sidelines” in shock, I welcome you to get engaged in communal and political action as well as noticing and tending to how your body and soul feels. Nourish it well because we are engaged in a marathon, not a sprint, to keep America’s democracy and compassionate, caring values alive and thriving. As so many of us engaged in service this week as a tribute to the great Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., consider also doing acts of service for your “Self” as well.
1. Listen more deeply to yourself, the quiet, the music, your family and others who may not look or travel in the same identities as you. Find ways to move away from the onslaught of news to be with your own channel of ideas for community, change, and shared resource building. My TV is currently permanently off and covered in a blanket of peace and om signs to offer a blessing to the talking heads to speak truth to power.
2. “Discharge” frequently in whatever form works. Take a page from Ellen DeGeneres and the daily dance routine she offers. Moving one’s body helps to free the chi and clear the frustration. Writing is amazing and cathartic and if you don’t have an opening line, I often use “Dear beloved, you cannot even imagine what I learned/realized today...”.
3. Nourish your body with good food, warm touch, water, vitamins, herbs and more. For every caffeine charge you imbibe, have two glasses of lemon water. For every sugary carbohydrate you choose to eat, add a fruit or vegetable. Thankfully, melatonin and marijuana are both legal in my state.
4. Manage your energy by paying attention. At the source of radical self-care is a deep knowing of what gives you energy and what depletes your energy. Move with purpose and intention away from people or conversations that drain you and towards environments and activities that build up your spirit and energy. For me, I am lucky to be able to walk the beach where I am always reinvigorated no matter who or what has infiltrated my consciousness.
5. Seek out inspiration from people, books and/or community. Join a group or regularly meet with others who share your values. Embrace a daily walk or simply observe the daily gifts of Mother nature – her clouds, a sunset, and other reminders of grace, ease and majesty. Quotes on my refrigerator are ‘gratitude attitude, ‘practice joy’ and ‘believe in yourself’ as well as my favorite Girls Athletic Leadership School pledge.
6. Maintain a sense of humor. Being able to laugh at one’s self and/or with others is key to maintaining a good life. Now more than ever we need to find the ways to learn, engage, take action AND make it fun. The neurobiology of stress and fear (cortisol levels increasing) is not conducive to our health whereas laughter soothes our brain and more while also releasing mood-lifting endorphins. My friends and I are enjoying our silly Marco Polo video voice mails as soothing humor and ways to cheer one another on in the daily struggle.
I know there are many more ways to take good care of ourselves and keep our minds sharp and our energy high. Feel free to share your tools and strategies with people in your life. My restorative yoga class ended today with a wise teacher Kayla saying “I truly believe that taking care of ourselves makes it much easier for us to take care of others.”
This piece was written as a response to 11 Strategies to Mobilize in a Trump Era as I felt the need to offer overachieving and critical thought leaders and colleagues reminders that self-care will keep us all in the game longer.