My nose is pressed to the cold window of a moving vehicle. I am quiet, my shoulders arched over in a way that’s caused tension over time, as this repeated posture has spanned over nearly four years of my life. I am being driven towards another room where the opposite shape will be taken – I will stand in front of people, run around, move chaotically, yell exposed feeling, healing and catharsis – a practice that has always felt like a necessary release of whatever became trapped in that slouched state : an emotional chiropractic adjustment.
One shape speaks to the other – the quiet of the day necessitates the outport and the outpour gives need for the quiet. My adult childhood has been spent in this rhythm – emptying myself and filling myself, emptying myself and filling myself, beginnings and endings (which are really just other beginnings), onward to empty and fill again. Touring the records I’ve made is both a fill up and an emptying state – one that has forced – gracefully, but yes, forced – me to find ways to take care of and show love to myself.
With all the back and forth, I’ve learned the most consistent home I have is my body and personal space and the care required to stay healthy is a daily effort. Acts of self-love have become a necessary ritual. I have to be my own safest space if I want to continue to be a safe space for others. I cannot give love that I don’t have for myself.
Learning how to be there for myself hasn’t happened quickly and a posture towards health does not happen overnight : it is a practice. It is a slow, building-up of heart-muscle and the strengthening of internal space that requires delicate attention and very large amounts of grace. It is not found through a face mask or sweating for 90 minutes to soft music. Although, yes, those things can be important – the outside world informing the inside world. However, I’ve found that the more I’ve trended in and out of new ways to take care of myself, I just keep realizing everything flows out of the way I feel for myself, the way I can give myself space. Self-care and self-love as merely an external effort will only keep running out. Even the best of self-care trends can just be a distraction from really facing yourself and I think that is what self-love is all together : facing yourself and deciding to take time to understand and to stay soft in the inevitable process of growth.
There are equal parts terror and relief when all of the distractions are gone. All the fragmented remedies branded as self-care and connection dissipate and you are alone in your room, recognizing yourself in the mirror and deciding to feel through the discomfort and to really work on getting inside of yourself. The greatest gift I have ever given myself is time and space to heal – not rushed efforts at growth, not pressure to arrive at a place of feeling “okay” when there is still heaviness and an opportunity to learn more, not moving from one to the next and calling it healing when really it’s just more of the same escapism.
Self-care as a genuine practice is not outsourcing an internal need but taking full ownership of yourself and learning the specific and personal language of your body, your emotions, your mind, your needs, your very personal way of feeling at home on this earth. Sometimes the space between how you want to feel and how you actually do is very vast and seems impossible to bridge but nothing needs to happen quickly. Your relationship with yourself grows like any other relationship. It takes time, devotion, tenderness, conversation and a posture towards health. There is no cure all remedy. There is just you and the sacred dialogue you can keep having with yourself. Nobody can teach you how to love you like you can teach you how to love you.
Some ways I like to ground and show love to myself:
- Taking off my shoes and putting my bare feet on some grass or in some dirt.
- Forgiving myself.
- Writing things down just for me to read.
- Taking a very long bath.
- Stretching my body and breathing with the intention of letting light in. Imagining a soft blue light starting in my chest and growing to hold all of me.
- Having a day where I am quiet, away from my phone and spending most of my time walking around outside.
- Getting a massage.
- Going to therapy. And then going to therapy again. And then again.