Self Care and the Revolution

It's been a wild week. The women's march was so big, so bold, so beautiful that the whole world stopped for a day to acknowledge the awesome power of the female. I went up to my local march in Astoria Oregon instead of going to Portland because I feel that the local marches need the numbers and energy more than the cities. I was right. 100,000 marched in Portland. 1,200 marched in Astoria (and that is huge for such a small town). I might have taken it on as my personal responsibility to make enough noise for another 1,000 people but hey- If you have a drum and voice, use them! it is always a high to be in a sea of energy like a global day of action. For many folks it was the first march or protest they had ever attended. For many others it was one more in a lifetime of activism for a better planet, equal rights, peace and visibility for women's issues. 

The aftermath of the inauguration and the marches is in full swing. The right wing folks on face book are offended that women marched at all. That we aren't grateful to be living in country where we aren't forced to wear the burka. Also- how disgusting that women wore pussy hats and vagina costumes, no self respecting female talks about her own parts in public. It wasn't inclusive enough of republican women who voted for Trump or Pro life advocates. (who often wave around bloody fetus dolls in front of Planned Parenthood- but I guess to them that is less gross than pussy hats.)

The other and more salient arguments are that the march was too identified with white women and not with the larger female community (including trans women and indigenous women and WOC). This is an important reaction and one that I have been reading about with interest. The voices that are ignored in the mainstream were also sidelined in a mainstream march. It speaks to the lack of understanding among most Americans at how much suffering and rights abuses take place outside of middle class, straight, white America. At first, i will admit it, I felt like, "damn- can't women just be proud to march against hate for one day without getting slammed for not being all things to all people? Why are women always the ones who have to say we are sorry for everything we do." And then I realized that the deeper opportunity from this march is that these arguments are being made. On all sides. Because that is where we are. We are not in a self congratulatory world where our marches are going to make a difference. We are in times where our ability to listen and not react, to have empathy, to do the learning and reading to stretch our awareness is more critical than ever. It is also critical to be able to articulate our views in a way that makes change and not enemies. So I am trying to set aside my own anger at the man who was elected and instead reserve my strength for the love that is needed to unite this country. With love we can resist the divide and conquer strategies that the media and the politicians have perfected to keep us polarized and powerless.  

From the right I hear women wanting the country they were promised somewhere along the line to manifest. To be able to have a man take care of them and to have defined gender roles that make the world safe and understandable. I hear fear of the unknown. I hear anger at the rejection of their definition of what womanhood means to them. I hear the need for safety and a lot of repeating of media rhetoric. I have scratched a few surfaces and found that most of these women communicate only in their own circles and are surprised to hear from a woman with a different way of viewing the world. My challenge is not to react to the rhetoric and to look for common ground. I am batting about 50/50 on this so far. 

From the left I hear women angry that the oppression that they have been living under white culture is only recognized when white women get their rights infringed upon. Where were all the white women standing up for Black Lives Matter? Where were they for Indigenous Women for the last 500 years? The Democratic party and mainstream women's movements have failed to address any of the issues that face trans and queer women at the level of fervor it makes over  heterosexual women's rights. Racism and classism and Homophobia absolutely exist within women's movements and a huge march just shines a spotlight on those injustices in action. 

I also hear everyone declaring the beginning of a new and united resistance movement. I fancy myself a Star Wars resistance fighter (RIP Leia) so I think that sounds pretty cool. And I also admit it can make me feel exhausted again- because god damn it I just started a self care program and now I have a million more things to stress out about. Attacks on global healthcare for women and the Standing Rock reservation were the opening shots of what will be a long fight with big consequences. I cannot stand aside and watch.  I make calls now everyday to congress and other folks like the gov. of North Dakota. I found that I can walk my dog on the beach and make these calls as part of my self care walking routine. Self care- Earth Care. 

women'smarch.jpg

My point here is that self care can't be selfish. It's not about "we protect our rights and our time and money but once that's over we don't give a crap about yours." We are all in this together. Just like it's hard to describe oppression to people who do not experience it. We can't really understand empathy unless we have it for ourselves first. So everyone please take care of yourself. Do your yoga. Eat well. Drink water. Meditate on the big picture. Pray in whatever way you do for a better world. Commit to kindness for yourself and everyone else. Then get your light saber out and kick some ass in defense of all the things you love. I'll be right there beside you making enough noise to blow up the Death Star. 

2017: Self Care, Abundance and Friendship

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. 

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Staycations for everyone! How to stay put and love it.

 Me attempting to be excited about not traveling this year. Brigham is always stoked on life in general.

Me attempting to be excited about not traveling this year. Brigham is always stoked on life in general.

Don't get me wrong. I am a Sagittarius and by nature travel lust runs through my veins. I love being in exotic places where I don't know the language and every meal is an adventure. When I see friends posting pictures on Facebook of their romps through India or Brazil it makes me long to get on a plane and escape! However these past 3 years my husband and I have had to take a pass on world traveling so we could focus on financing, remodeling and running our new retreat center. This made me miserable. Or should I say, I allowed it to make my mind miserable. I was wanting to be somewhere warm and tropical, while in reality I was stuck on the cold rainy Oregon Coast in January. Our funds were tied up in a new business and all we did was work, non stop for months on end. That is enough to stress anyone out and make them wish they could  jump on a plane. 

This year I had put my foot down and demanded that we fly to India to visit my friend who is living there for a year abroad. I bought the travel book of India at Powell's but in my heart I knew that it was most likely that we could not afford the time or the money to be gone for a month like I hoped. When it was certain that we weren't making it out of our small village again this year I went through a depression (this also coincided with a certain person getting elected and the deaths of someone near to me). My mind was over come with bleak thoughts. Self punishing myself for failing to make enough money to travel, critiquing my husband for not working hard enough for us to leave. Everywhere I looked I saw work and more things to do piled high around me and the "gotta get out of here" valve was about to blow. 

Then something remarkable happened. I had a little breakdown. I told Brigham that I didn't want to run the bed and breakfast we were doing anymore. He asked me what I did want to do. I said I wanted to close for January. I also said I wanted to stop doing bed and breakfast entirely and switch to being a health and wellness center. To my surprise he just said, "OK. That is what we will do".  Did I mention that I love my husband? Because we have both been working so hard we finally just agreed that if we couldn't leave our lives for vacations- the vacation would have to come to us. Thus the "staycation". 

 Staycation moment. Working on the new website but also sun bathing in wintery light next to a wood stove. It's the little ways we pamper ourselves that make our lives worth living. Be good to yourself while you work. 

Staycation moment. Working on the new website but also sun bathing in wintery light next to a wood stove. It's the little ways we pamper ourselves that make our lives worth living. Be good to yourself while you work. 

I need to add here that the staycation isn't about turning your life in to a vacation in the classical sense. Sure we took a few nights and drank hot toddies in our empty bnb with the fire roaring. It helps that we own a place where people pay to come and vacation in. But that was always our reality. The real switch is that we suddenly realized that we had a choice on how we were going to live our everyday. If we don't get to run away then we had better face up to what is not working for us. What can we change? What do we drop? How can we make our lives something we enjoy everyday and not just get through to make money so we can jump ship for bit out and then come home and start the cycle all over again. 

 Manzanita Beach at sunset is magical- even if I did just run and catch it after making a bank deposit! 

Manzanita Beach at sunset is magical- even if I did just run and catch it after making a bank deposit! 

Staycation is a frame of mind. It's about appreciating what you have instead of comparing it to what you don't. It is a form of mediation that makes life happier in every moment. If I find myself tromping down the beach thinking about how I want to be somewhere else- I could as easily notice that this beach is covered with cold tourists choosing this exact spot as their "somewhere else" and loving every moment of it. I can choose to be a tourist too. I smile and take in the colors of January setting sun and feel gratitude that my life includes walks on the beach almost daily. The new moon is a crescent overhead and the icy cold east wind is whipping up the tops of the surf as it breaks in white lines along the shore. Life is good right here at home.