On the eve of the presidential inauguration the three words that I chose of 2017 keep emerging in my thoughts. Self Care, Abundance and Friendship. At the beginning of each year I have a walk on the beach and I choose three touchstone words that I feel I am ready to focus on for the months ahead. This little ritual allows me to invest a bit of energy in the directions that I feel I need the most. 2017 will be a year to remember for sure.
2017 is going to be a year that life as usual will not be an option for heart centered folks. After a horrible drawn out and divisive election season where it seems no one was happy with either candidate but nevertheless became fiercely polarized around them- I think I speak for many when I say that I am exhausted. I am tired of people calling each other names and of the mean spirited manipulation by the media. I am tired of feeling helpless in the face of so many injustices and still struggling to make ends meet in my own life. I am tired of losing people I love to cancer. I am so tired that it seems tired is the only emotion I have space for some days.
This leads me to my first theme of the year Self Care.
At first self care seems ridiculous to write about in the face of so many serious issues going on at the global scale right now. In truth it would be much more comfortable for me to write about the Trump Administration picks or the Monsanto-Bayer merger and how it affects farmers, than to write about this topic. Recently however, I have begun to accept that Self Care might simply be the most revolutionary thing that anyone can do in these trying times. Why? Because we are all part of the problem. Just as importantly we are all part of the solution. It is nearly impossible to bring about the solution without first understanding the problem however, so to find the source of our dis-ease we must turn away from our social media feeds and gaze into a mirror.
When you find that mirror I recommend looking yourself in the eyes and telling yourself "I love you". If that seems hard or silly or absolutely intolerable even as a suggestion you probably need to do it at least 3x a day. I love you. If we can't stand the sight of our own faces in the mirror than how can we honor the pain, beauty and magnificence of the humanity around us? No one is harder on us than ourselves. We are pros at judging ourselves, and bullying ourselves and abusing ourselves with self hatred- I am so ugly, I'm fat, I'm such a failure, No one understands me. I'll never get anywhere. I'm so alone. I can't ever get it right. Nothing I do matters. I suck. I'm so broke. etc etc etc etc. (we all have our own versions of this record playing on low volume under our conscious thoughts day in and day out). They could be the voice of our parents, or ex partners or kids at school. The media echoes these voices daily, as do advertising firms in order that they might get us to buy products that make us more like able and beautiful, happy and successful.
No product of course is a match for that mirror and an "I love you". The reason self care/love is revolutionary (or R-evolutionary if your prefer the long view) is because much of the oppression we want to rage against, be it large corporations and corrupt politicians or social constructs like race and gender and class that keep us feeling divided and polarized, all stem from our own minds. We have internalized the negativity so deeply we oppress ourselves first before anyone else even gets a swing at us. We overwork, we stress, we rage, we eat crappy foods, we drink, we take medications, we fight, we judge, we hate, we envy, we fear and we fall into depression and apathy. This is the American of 2017. It's really doesn't matter who takes office because let's face it, we were already busy doing this to ourselves. I would say that if anything, having external bullies rise to power gives us an even bigger mirror to look in or an easy target onto which to project all our internal bad stuff so we can avoid the mirror entirely.
Self Care is about owning your own stuff- the good, the bad and the ugly. It's also about loving all that stuff unconditionally because it's a part of you. We love it and then we can choose to change it. We avoid it and it controls us in ways we don't understand- compulsions, addictions, trolling on face book. Self care is about having healthy boundaries. Boundaries and self love let us stop feeling helpless in the face of oppression. For example, the first thing we can do is decide to not keep judging ourselves. This is huge. This is life changing right there. From there we can decide not to take on other people's judgements of us and to stop judging those around us. (Can you see how this stuff leads to real social change really quick?)
We have to take back the power that we have given away at a core level. Take back your love. Give it to yourself in such abundance that it overflows onto those around you. If you think this sounds stupid easy then try it. It's much easier to go to a protest, to write a blog post, to walk your dog. to clean your house or drink a beer than it is to take 15 minutes each day in self love. It's free. It's simple. You don't have to go anywhere. No one can take it from you- even if you are in jail. But it takes a reprogramming at a deep level. I am calling it R-evolutionary Self Care. To change the world we change ourselves. One "I love you" at a time.
Over 2017 I will be your living and breathing experimental guinea pig of R-evolutionary Self Care. I do this gently and with compassion for myself because I am aware that for all my years of activism I have never tackled a fight this big. I also will bring my drum to the women's march tomorrow and join in some collective self care around speaking up for our rights, our bodies and our dignity. I invite you to join in on the conversation and on the R-evolutionary Self Care exercises I experiment with along the way. Let's Be the Change we Want to See. Only from a place of love and health can we manifest a loving and healthy future for generations to come.