Rachel · Self Care

Caring About Self Care

animals baby care faces
Photo by Nandhu Kumar on Pexels.com

Funny this picture of a monkey cradling its baby comes up when I search images for “self care.” The first time I heard the expression “self care” was from a neighbor dad who mentioned that he was leaving a neighborhood BBQ for an hour of “self-care.” It made me laugh. It sounded first of all like something you wouldn’t mention in public, if you’d engage in it at all. Definitely something you’d keep to yourself. I’ve since changed my mind. I would still feel funny mentioning “self care” in public, but I now see that as my problem, driven by a misguided loyalty to capitalism’s infatuation with productivity.

Anne Lamott in an interview once spoke about how radical it is to protect time for rest. Some people don’t place a high value on sleeping very little, always getting something done. I admire them. I’m trying to be more like them.

I’m in Houston now, working on an evaluation for a teacher training program. The days (only two so far, though it feels like far more! yesterday I couldn’t get online at night and therefore couldn’t post here) are full and tiring in a great way. In the evenings I can practice self care in a way it’s hard for me to do at home. I can shower. Put on a robe! Read in bed. Write in my journal. Or watch HGTV. (My parents were planning to move my entire childhood. Those house hunter shows bring back good memories of all those Sundays going to open houses.) This kind of self care—king-size bed to myself!—does feel a bit indulgent. But the kind that I’ve heard people at this conference mention seems essential. They are talking about self care for teachers. Teachers are, of course, always caring for others. Without finding ways to unwind and refuel, they won’t be able to sustain the challenges of day.

Teachers, mothers, women in general— maybe the quickest to laugh at the idea of self-care are the ones most often in need of it. Yet like the monkey, the instinct is always to care for someone else. The conventional wisdom goes that we need to care for ourselves before we can care for others effectively, like the oxygen mask. But the instinct is hard to overcome.


Rachel · Self Care

The now that you have

I started today listening to Krishna Das sing Hanuman Puja. I lit Palo Santo sticks and moved through various yoga poses while the kids half played half practiced beside me. It was the beginning of a centered day, or seemed to be.

At that moment, nearly fifteen hours ago, you would have pictured the day unfolding in a calm and orderly way. You would have imagined a short piece here posted on time. Kajal and I have left “on time” vague, but certainly it was intended to be a post for that day—the morning ideally, or at least mid-afternoon, not one posted hours after the daylight was long gone.

Even now, I found myself resisting. I still have work to do, I tell myself. I still have to clean up the kitchen. Forget my plan of cooking over the weekend in preparation for Thanksgiving. I find myself putting it off, even now. I’ll write later. After I finish my work. After I finish cleaning the kitchen, even though the standard for cleaning, like posting, has dropped precipitously, from originally fully cleaning everything, the dishes, the floor, to bringing the dishes to the sink for tomorrow morning and making sure nothing that will rot is left out overnight.

Write now, I tell myself. Now, in the evening. Not the now you imagined, but the now that you have.

Check in with the blog, with yourself. I suppose it also feels like checking in with Kajal, although I don’t know if she’ll read this tonight. I picture her in a meditative pose, surrounded by candles, electronics long since turned off. Then I laugh. She is probably working too.

I open itunes and put back on the song that started the day, Hanuman Puja. There is something so very sad about this song, the sound of it, not the words, which in English I do not know. Mournful. But there is this strength to it too, defiance; it makes me think of Irish music and of Wordsworth’s “faith that looks through death.”

But then I think, forget Wordsworth, forget Krishna Das, who was born on Long Island, whose real name is Jeff. We are smashing the patriarchy now. And I love that when—to try to figure out how to end this piece—I type “smashing the patriarchy” into Google, it auto-fills in for me this: “Smashing the patriarchy is self care.” Yet I let Krishna Das play on, and Wordsworth, I know, will follow me, even into sleep.




Kajal · Self Care

When the Pen Goes Dry

IMG_00094:21 a.m. – My eyes open sharply without any prompting this morning. Images from my dream still floating past me as I lay in my bed, trying to piece them together.

Still too early to get out of bed, I contemplate what my blog will be for today and have a great opening about nature being nurturing.

At some point, I drift back to sleep until my alarm goes off at 6:00 a.m. and get ready for work.

7:53 a.m. – On my way to work, I think through the blog topic again. Not sure if I am going to use it, but can’t think of anything else, so I focus on email and social media and push the blog out of my mind.

12:23 p.m. – I finally steal away for a few minutes at lunch time so I can hammer out the blog and get it published. (Feeling so tired – waking up at 4 a.m. has totally thrown me off.) I scrap the blog topic and what I had outlined mentally with such gusto this morning. Pen in hand, the blank page is staring at me. Sometimes when this happens, I find writing by hand helps my thoughts flow through the pen. I scratch a few bits down. But, this time, no good sparks to get me started. I’m empty and I have to get back to work.

Rachel and I had discussed not putting pressure on ourselves for the blog to keep it fun and fulfilling and not like a task. But I’m disappointed in myself and also feel like I’ve let Rachel down (though I know she will only be kind and encouraging). I turn back to work.

5:18 p.m. – Heading back home, I sit with a co-worker on the train, fully knowing I’m procrastinating and won’t be able to work on the blog because I will chat with her. I tell myself, “It’s okay, I’ll get home, put some food in my belly and then come up with something.”

7:45 p.m. – And so here it is. I really wanted to do something self-care related to help me relax before writing. But wanted to get the blog done. Now, to go and do some yoga and rest. (Still going to write that nature being nurturing post at some point.)


Kajal · Self Care

Writing as a Form of Self Care


I was listening to an interview on National Public Radio (NPR) with 24-year-old poetry sensation, Rupi Kaur, whose debut book “Milk and Honey” has been on The New York Times best-seller list for 18 months and has sold over 1 million copies.

She’s been writing poetry since childhood and, according to the interview, started because it’s something she felt she needed to get out on paper, purely for herself.

It got me thinking about the importance of self care, which consists of simple, low- or no cost- ways to reduce stress in your life and take back time for yourself. For example:

  • Buy flowers for yourself once a week
  • Eat breakfast every day
  • Instead of meeting someone at an exact time, agree to meet them between 1:00 and 1:15

And, a new one for me – just write for yourself to get it out on the page. When you think about writing as a gift to yourself and a way to take care of yourself, it creates a shift in perspective that is liberating. What other self care examples do you practice? Share them in the comments below.