On self care, part two

18 March 2016

If I were to write a self-help book in the near future, because why not, it would likely consist of one sentence: “Follow The Rock on Twitter.” This is legitimately the best advice I have to offer anyone. I know I’m significantly impacted for the better when I’m reminded daily of how Dwayne Johnson lives his life: with humility, enthusiasm and one hell of a work ethic. That man’s social media presence is a marvel. It’s both inspiration to push oneself and warning against failing to push oneself. Plus, puppies.

Puppies aside (for now), the concept of pushing oneself is an interesting topic. I have the feeling that it’s not quite in vogue these days. Maybe that impression is colored by my own experience, in which I recently discovered the revolutionary idea of self-care. Allowing myself rest or luxury was rarely ever something I could afford to do, and when I became able to afford it, I found myself incredibly unused to it. Learning to take care of yourself is a challenge. It’s true that self-care is something that many of us, especially the traditionally marginalized, are not skilled at doing, and it’s true that taking care of oneself can be a profound act of revolution. But self-care, as a long-term plan, is a tricky thing, and not nearly as straightforward as I often hear it talked about, or how I once envisioned it myself.

The more I grow the capacity for self-care, the more I realize it’s a paradox. Self-care is on the other side of a razor-thin line between it and self-indulgence. Sometimes self-care is self-indulgence. But if it never gets beyond indulgence, then it ceases to be care. It’s then just a fast-track to some sort of social solipsism. Then it actually becomes a barrier to taking care of yourself effectively.

Lately, I’ve managed to figure out that self-care isn’t about constructing a shell so that we can live in our own world in constant comfort, that self-care is more about making ourselves healthy and strong enough to go out and change the outside world for the better. Self-care is about learning to make the uncomfortable decision in the moment because we know it will build us up. In short, self-care is about learning how to be a warrior. I’ve figured out that as much as I believe in taking care of myself, I believe more in paying my dues, earning my privileges and paying my advantages forward. I’ve figured out that an essential key of self-care is valuing hard, constant work—not because of any puritanical guilt or principle of industriousness for its own sake, but because I don’t want to take my good fortune for granted or lose perspective or empathy for those who have to choice but to work hard, constantly. I want to continue to work along side of them. What better care of the self could there be than pushing yourself to do what you think is right?

Which brings us back to The Rock. That mixed-race kid from hard places who still tells the stories of the times he was down to his last few bucks, who makes time for every fan who wants to see him, who Instagrams us from the gym at 4am because, damn it, he believes in us and he wants us to know he did it so we know we can do it. The more I go along, the more I think maybe that’s really the kind of care we should be giving ourselves.

Plus—puppies. Although that should go without saying.


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