On Care of the Self

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“Do you spend a lot of time alone?”

I nod, “Yes.”

“Do you ever feel lonely?”

I shift in my seat and cross my legs, “Honestly, I’m more likely to feel lonely in a crowded room. I am an introvert.”

She writes on her notepad. “Well, that’ll be all.”

Since I submitted my MA Thesis, I’ve been thinking a lot about ‘care of the Self.’ It has become a recurrent theme in my life. It has arisen in conversations with my father and my partner. I call it the Gospel of Self-Care.

If you do not care for yourself, how can you care for others?

Even the care-givers need care.

Selflessness doesn’t mean neglecting self-care.

Too many Black women turn themselves into husks because they do not prioritize self-care.

So I’ve asked myself, “What is my self-care regimen?” The first answer was that I spend time alone after a long day, processing and de-compressing. After further thought, I considered how carefully I choose the food I cook for myself (and others, yes)- nothing but whole foods.

The Self is complex and multifaceted, and our self-care should be holistic. It’s not simply an act, it’s an experience that engages the senses, emotions and intellect. This is what a mani/pedi at home means for me- it is time deliberately set aside for my Self. When I finish, my nails are buffed and polished, and the residual pride I feel lasts for days. Self-care is also a brisk run to the beach. My mind is just as engaged as my body as I take in the scenery with the slipping sand beneath my feet.

Increasingly, my self-care has not been alone time. As an introvert, I value time with others who do not disturb the space. It is a joy to share a peaceful space with someone who simply understands your wants and gives you space. It’s a space in our togetherness.

And there’s much to be said about the importance of touch. I used to go months without hugs. I did not know how deprived I was until a hug from a new friend caused the stress I carried on my shoulders to dissipate. A loving touch is extremely therapeutic. I say this as someone who avoided touch for years after surviving sexual violence.

Really, self-care, for me, is the mundane aspects of life. Quiet time, loving touches, tea and books and small favors to myself. The grinding monotony of life (especially in graduate school) can crush the spirit, and we have to vigilant in caring for our selves. If we do not care for our Self, no one else will.

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