I’ve had conversations recently with friends suddenly granted a day or an afternoon free from work or caregiving duties, often after a period of stress, who were told to relax or do something for themselves. When you receive such a gift, what do you do? How do you fill your cup? How do you go from being always switched on, to suddenly off? Or is a binary of completely on or completely off even healthy?
I personally find the typical suggestions for “self-care for busy mums” in these scenarios well-meaning but not for me, and often with the insinuation that you should recharge quickly in consumption mode in order to go hard at being productive once again. I think this is part of the issue - trying to optimise things that are restorative until their value is only in what they enable you to do, instead of being valid ways of spending your time in themselves. There's also a pressure to "properly" relax - I'm defintely guilty of telling a friend that decluttering their pantry is not the right way to spend a kid-free afternoon. But sometimes taming a bit of chaos and doing something nice for others is exactly what's needed.
Right now I'm spending my precious kid-free lunch break writing this email, which is using a lot of brainpower and is not really relaxing. But I'm sitting in the sunshine, thinking and writing about interesting things to lovely people and I know I'll feel good when it's done. I don't know if I'm doing self-care right, but it feels right enough to me.
I've been creating
Daily(ish) sketchbook sketches. If this were a strict goal then I suppose I’ve already failed, but since I’m taking the approach of being a person who draws every day, I know that I’ll keep going and doing my best. I’d like to get better at accepting that some days my drawing effort will look a bit shit, and that’s okay.
A kids art table. My kids are now at a point where they (mostly) won’t go nuts with drawing on walls, so I’m tentatively trying to nudge them to do more art by setting up a little table for them with materials always ready and accessible. Is it working? Sort of. Do I sometimes start colouring pages in the hope that it’ll pique their interest, then get caught up in colouring Dino Ranch characters whilst the kids keep playing with trucks? Yes. It’s a work in progress.
A packing list for camping. Starting with a good list and some research is how I tend to approach something new and a bit scary to me, to make it feel more known and comfortable. There’s a lot in camping that’s outside of my control, but having the main things we need is something I can do my best with. I’m learning to let go of the rest and go with the flow.
I've been consuming
REAL Self-Care - Unladylike (podcast) Interview with Dr. Pooja Lakshmin, author of Real Self-Care.
It's not stepping out of your life for fifteen minutes to meditate, it's actually inside everything that you do.
Productivity - Overthink (podcast) I'm really enjoying Overthink lately for a bit of accessible philosophy
Marcuse notices we end up looking for some kind of release or pleasure precisely in the logic of production and consumption that ultimately is the origin of our very repression
Plein Airpril posts (Instagram), which are wonderfully envy inducing. A great way to lose a few hours and find new artists to follow.