I just fell down an entire set of stairs, carrying a trash bag full of cat shit and old fridge garbage. After assuring my neighbors that yes, that sound was just my body, and my body is fine, I went upstairs and aggressively performed a ritual. I threw on the tea pot. I said some swears. I cranked the faucet on in the bathtub, swore again when the shower turned on instead, and chucked Epsom salt at the scalding water. I stomped into my freezing cold closet, and pulled soft clothes out of a pile of soft clothes. The self-care, it was there. It was waiting. Self-care is magic on good days. It feels like getting dragged to church on bad days.
I am going to tell you that I’ve been very happy lately, which is hard for me, because I’m a human and we are strange about admitting that stuff is good. I got over this hump with quitting drinking (that is a thing that happened, maybe 6ish months ago) where things were fun again, and I didn’t feel like a boring weirdy pants. I’m doing things I want to do. I met new magical people. I got a kitten. I learned to sew. In some ways, all of the good stuff came from taking care of myself. Like I said, self-care feels amazing on good days.
Today, however, was a crappy day.
I felt anxious about work stuff, battling that feeling that I’m fooling everyone into thinking I can do the things I say I can. I felt generally scared of fucking up all the good things I’ve found. I got mad at my dog for eating cat food again (which makes her barf at 4am, always, always, always on the rug) and I slapped her in the face. Like, super light slap, but she did this squinty thing with her eyes and my heart broke. I fought with the insurance lady on the phone about a bill. I went to yoga. And it was good. And I was calm. And then I came home, and I fell down the damn stairs.
Is it possible, that the self-care, and the patience with ourselves is for these bad times specifically? Practicing it is good, all the time, on the good days, when a hot bath and tea sound lovely. But it’s different when you need it to save you. It’s not there to shut you up. Like, I had a bad day, and doing yoga and writing about gratitude does not need to change that. For me, knowing how to take care of myself, to soothe myself like a cranky baby, keeps my chest from hurting. It keeps me breathing. It keeps me doing most of the stuff that I know keeps me sane, like not drinking and allowing myself to eat Hershey’s kisses for dinner if I need to, and going to yoga and taking long walks with my dog, unless it’s 11 degrees out, like it is now. In that case, it means not taking her on a long walk, and instead, hugging her too tight and apologizing repeatedly for the slapping. I don’t need to be happy all the time. I just need to be able to be alone with myself and feel like we’re not in a fight.
As I sit here, bruised from the fall and pruned from excessive bath time, I feel that I don’t have a choice but to ride this wave. Not a wave as in surfing down the stairs like a crazy trash queen. Wave as in, the ups and downs. Self-care your damn face off. It’s not selfish. Figure out what makes you feel sane and practice that. Like a musical instrument. Practice. Don’t stop when you’re happy. Don’t’ stop when you’re sad. Just do it, so that when you’re not ready, and you fall, your mind will kick in and take care of you. Or at least it will know enough to draw a bath and pour tea into your mouth until you surrender.