I am an introvert with social anxiety, and as I ranted about on Twitter the other day, even receiving phone calls makes me shake. But frankly, it’s a time when even those of us with mental illness have to buck up and feel like crap in service of the greater good. So I have to start calling. I need to go to the next rally or march or community meeting. I hate those things, but nobody in the United States deserves to feel comfortable right now.
But we do absolutely need self care, and in most cases, we also have to make rent, eat, and do homework. I have three jobs, volunteer work, freelance work, and school, not to mention I like seeing my family and friends at least occasionally. But I’m going to try and shift at least some of my self care practices so that they involve intellectual tools that will serve me when I perform more active resistance at other times.
I minored in Spanish in college and am theoretically “fluent,” but I never use it and, given the aforementioned social anxiety, I feel really uncomfortable speaking it most of the time, and I’ve let a lot of it atrophy. A few months ago I started using Duolingo to get more Portuguese in my head (have heard it my whole life and took one semester in college, Portuguese for Spanish Speakers) for planned work later on in my PhD and for personal enjoyment. At the moment I’m only doing about five minutes a day, and that works for my schedule and the fact that it’s not a brand new language for me, though I may also start listening to Pimsleur while exercising. And now I’m adding Spanish to the mix and working on that again as well. I also subscribed to the podcast Slow News in Spanish (it’s also available in other languages), which means that once a week while I walk the mile from where I park to campus (walking=physical self care!), I’ll be keeping abreast of current events while practicing my language skills.
Knowing a second language (or three or four) not only staves off Alzheimer’s and stuff, but it also helps combat the fake news epidemic when you can read/listen from more sources, and knowing Spanish, Arabic, or Mandarin particularly in these times can make you a better citizen, whether it’s simply helping a refugee feel more welcome or assisting in providing materials in other languages or whatever else. Bonus self care moment: listening to music in other languages may not make you competent in having a fluent conversation, but it’s a great way to get sounds of other languages in your head, as well as learn a few idioms and colloquialisms. Ditto television and movies.
I really should not be adding four or five hours a week of committed time to my weekly schedule right now, but I decided to take my love of being active and turn it into volunteer work, so I’m assistant coaching a Girls on the Run team. So now I’m hanging out with about twelve upper elementary school girls from the most diverse school in the district (with lots of first generation and refugee kids) two afternoons a week to get active and talk about making good choices, taking care of yourself, understanding your body, etc. It is going to force me to take up running more seriously (self care) and, even though I hate actually rushing around to get there on time, is totally worth it to do my part to keep life as normal as possible for kids who have to grow up under this shit, as well as do a bit to maybe make them have more strength and fortitude when they are inevitably dragged down by it. And a bonus, though it doesn’t apply to my own team, is that GOTR strongly believes in letting anyone who identifies as “girl,” regardless of biology and physiology, join in, and everyone, regardless of income level, gets snacks and a free, brand new pair of running shoes to keep at the end of the season.
I have been giving blood since I was 17, and I used to give the maximum (6) times a year. Now because of fibromyalgia and chronic severe anemia, it’s more like three times a year, but as someone with a rare blood type and no phobias to speak of, I think it’s the least I can do, and I think we will be witness to a lot of physical violence in the coming months, so we may need a larger blood supply.
History and social studies at my fancy college prep high school were a complete and utter joke aside from the comparative religion class I took, so I’ve gotten most of my education from historical fiction (actually a great tool that is criminally underused to get kids engaged in history, especially social movements) and journalism. That is great, but from my nitpicky side, I hate that my goodreads account looks like I don’t read anything but fiction and fitness self-help books, and this also means that I know pieces of things and references to seminal works but haven’t actually read them in their entirety. There is some contemporary stuff I very much want to read, and there are also primary sources that I feel I need to know better. So, some books I’ve had lying around forever (or keep putting on the hold list and then canceling) but never read due to time or award committee obligations or homework or simply being too emotionally exhausted (still the case, but again, nobody, no matter our mental illness status, can be let off the hook right now to be entirely comfortable all the time) are getting pushed to near the top of the pile now. These include:
That’s to say nothing of the fiction and lighter fare I’ll be reading, but I’m going to try to use fiction as less of a crutch, because it’s always my excuse to put off the more serious shit that I know I’ll find engaging and worthwhile but that I don’t really want to read at any given time because I don’t want to actively put myself in a state of despair. But like I’ve said, none of us are entitled to feel comfortable right now. This is heavy shit, and I won’t be able to only read it at the expense of my usual reading, but I’m going to force myself to have a little less fun so that my self care time spent reading will be a little more productive. And the total pleasure reading I do do? DIVERSE BOOKS. For what little reach I have, I’m going to amplify the voices of the marginalized, not the white frontlist. And there’s also all the reading I’ll be doing for the two classes I’m taking this semester, Latinx/Chicanx Children’s Literature and Critical Race Theory. I get academic credit for #resisting, you guys!
So yeah. None of that is the real work, but it’s the work you can do while also taking care of yourself. Let’s do this.