The more I take care of myself, the more I see that self-care is the golden ticket. On June 11, I declared it Be Nice To Amber month. Because I enjoy making grand pronouncements that don't mean anything to anyone but me. I encourage you to try it - bonus points awarded for grand proclamations made while wearing a paper crown and wielding a scepter made out of a broom and tin foil.
In the past, these types of pronouncements have required massive lists of things I probably wasn't going to do, so that I could feel good and terrible when half of it didn't happen. This time, I just set the intention. I was going to be kind to myself, deeply kind, in a way I've rarely been - whatever that ended up meaning.
Here's What That Ended Up Meaning
Listed here because one of my favorite things on the internet is reading about what other people do and how it works for them - and maybe you like reading about that too.
Not Dating: Dating stopped making me happy, so I stopped dating. Easy. When I stopped dating the way we date these days - constantly prodding my dating apps and spending my days in a daze of hopeful despair over some random guy or another - I started feeling good again. Like all the pieces of my power and self-worth that went on vacation with Hot Guys #1-27 could come back to me. Like I could go about my life feeling whole and happy and not wondering if Hot Guy #16 - that day's favorite - was going to text me back. The energy that brand of dating sucked away from my work and my life and what truly makes me happy was immeasurable. I'm becoming very aware of the energy leaks in my life, and dating is a leach (and a leech - hi, fellow word nerds!) that's simply not worth it. Besides, the internet isn't the only delivery system for a mate. Certainly not when you're poking at it like a cocaine-addled lab rat in search of its next hit.
Stopping with the List Making: My lists expand into any media on which you can write words. I have lists on my phone, lists on my computer, lists on paper, lists on post-it notes, lists in my head. My lists have lists. This is exhausting. Draining. Lists are the Dementors of my life. So I gave them up - trusting myself to know what I had to do and trusting myself to actually do it. My happiness quotient jumped by a factor of a zillion. I would nap when I needed to nap, write when I had something to write about, work when it was time to work. Easy.
(Note: I started panicking and making lists again a few days ago. The lists are far lighter and more realistic than they used to be, but I can still feel them pulsing in the corner of the room, ready to suck out my soul at the first misstep. I'm thinking about walking over and ripping them up. Obviously, my relationship with lists is still in process.)
13 Minutes a Day Toward a Personal Project: Just enough time to get something done, but not so much time that you stress out about it. I always feel better when I'm working on the thing that's been squatting in the back of my brain for a year, throwing a bottle at my skull every so often to remind me that it exists. Not ignoring projects > ignoring projects.
Real Food: This one isn't so unexpected - I've known for years that if I eat more veggies and fruit and 90% less processed stuff, I feel better. More energy, more mental clarity, no worry about stuffing my thighs into denim tubes. But sometimes life happens and suddenly you're eating pancakes made with chocolate milk three times a week. When I started taking care of myself - looking at what truly makes me feel good and give me energy and what doesn't - the shift back to eating things that grow in the ground was effortless.
Bye, Bye Black Beans: Giving up coffee, yo. In all the dietary changes I've made over the last four years, in all their rises and falls, coffee is the one thing I could never bear to abandon. But suddenly I just didn't want it any more. When I experimented a bit, I realized that it fuzzes me out in a way that stunts my creativity and my connection. Nope.
Yoga with Candles: God, I'm such a girl. But Lanny told me about the Yoga Download app and instead of watching episodes of Frasier until I fall I asleep, I've been doing 20 minutes of yoga before I go to bed and when I wake up in the morning. My spine sounds less like bubble wrap being stepped on and my rest is better.
No Glowing Boxes Before Bed: Yeah, yeah. Everyone tells you this and I've always meant to do it. Really, I have. But there's something so comforting about sleeping with your phone right next to your head, isn't there? But then I wake up in the morning and instead of getting up to be a productive, happy human, I start jabbing at my phone with my index finger and then I've been in bed an extra hour for no good reason. Yoga cured me of sleeping with my phone like a teddy bear. After I'm all stretchy and glowing, the last thing I want to do is turn on the blare of a screen.
One Decadent Thing a Week: Massage. New running clothes to replace the hand-me-downs and ancient t-shirts. Reading Harry Potter on the deck with a peach. Decadent doesn't have to mean expensive - though in the case of the running clothes that's precisely what it means. (Being adorable during exercise does not come cheap, it seems.) It just means something I wouldn't ordinarily do for myself. Something I really, really like.
With every passing day, I feel better and more whole and like I am worthy of the fundamentals that I believe everyone deserves: work they adore, enough money to live the life they want (it's just lucky that I don't want a tiger on a gold leash*), a home that nurtures them, and to feel and radiate love every damn day. It all rolled out naturally, born of a desire to be good to myself in a real way. Deeply kind, not "I want to do this thing so now I'm going to do it because that's being nice to myself, right?"
* On second thought, A TIGER ON A GOLD LEASH SOUNDS AMAZING. Sign me up for that too.
My Be Nice To Amber month ends on July 11. Which also happens to be my birthday, if you happen to have a baby giraffe to unload. (Please note: Now accepting deliveries of baby giraffes.) All of this has changed the way I feel so significantly that I'm going to keep right on doing it. Especially that part about the massages.
I've taken care of parts of myself in the past. But I've rarely taken care of all of me - mind, body, spirit, emotions - all at the same time. This month, I've been happier, I've gotten more and better work done, the brain hamsters are all asleep in their hammocks, and I feel energized and peaceful. Well, okay then.
What's the nicest, most deeply kind thing you could do for yourself right now?
You don't have to answer here - although I'd love to know what your answer is - but give it a few minutes of thought. It's shifted so much for me in just one month that I want to walk up to people on the street and shake them and yell, "ARE YOU BEING NICE TO YOURSELF? IT HELPS! IT REALLY, REALLY HELPS!" Maybe while wearing a tin foil crown and riding a baby giraffe.