A teacher gave me an assignment a few months ago and I would tattoo it on my forehead if needles didn’t make me squawk like an indignant chicken:
“Your only job now is to raise your vibration.”
For those who don’t speak hippie, raising your vibration basically means turning up the dial on your joy and happiness. Even turning it up one notch above awful fulfills the assignment. Feeling whatever you’re suppressing because you’re scared or don’t have time or just don’t wanna fulfills the assignment. Stepping away from something frustrating to refill the tank fulfills the assignment.
As I focus on my new project for writers, I'm realizing just how crucial this kind of self-care is. How crucial every kind of self-care is. I'm getting really noisy about it, actually.
I'm even getting mad. Mad at myself for being so resistant to the idea for so long. Mad at the world for telling us we aren't worth this kind of care, that everyone else deserves it before we do, that taking deep and loving care of ourselves means we're being selfish and self-indulgent. I'm not quite sure how this crossed over from "good idea" to "thing that makes me want to yell and hit things because so few people believe this is true," but here we are. (I haven't hit anything yet, but I reserve the right.)
It just makes me want to curl up and cry. When did we collectively decide we weren't worth taking care of ourselves? When did we decide that our worth was contingent on what we put out, rather than who we are and how we feel? When did we forget that everything we send out into the world is rooted deep within us and if we send things into the world from a place of need and lack and disconnection, our world will absorb that message until it's passed on unconsciously to our friends and our children and everyone else who comes after us?
NOPE. STOP. NO MORE. Because you are worth all the gentleness, all the love, all the hikes, all the naps, all the massages, all the yoga, all the emotional tending, all the however-you-choose-to-define-it self-care you can muster up. You are worth all the soup.
Yes, soup. It's one of my favorite parables explaining the idea of growth and self-care. There's a table. You and all your friends and family are sitting around this table. You're all starving. From the ceiling descends a bowl of soup. It lands right in front of you. You are the only one who's allowed to dip your spoon into the soup. No one else can have any soup.
Here's the big question: Do you eat the soup?
Yes. You eat the soup.
Many of us fight this concept, especially if we're accustomed to believing that others are more important than we are or that belonging is more important than our own wellbeing. In some ways, it stems from a good place. We care for others. We want to be with them, we want to understand them, we want to feel connected to them. We all have a deep-seated desire to belong. Historically, we know we need to be part of the herd to survive. Stragglers get eaten by peckish mountain lions, after it chases you around for awhile to get you nice and salty.
You starving to death doesn't help your friends and family. Not even a little bit. Your pain doesn't remove their pain. You being in pain only adds to the pain of the room.
Yes, there's some guilt associated with taking deep and tender care of yourself. Because suddenly you're feeling better than people around you. But the guilt isn't because you aren't taking care of those people - you can't take care of them. They can only take care of themselves. The guilt stems from taking care of yourself when those around you aren't.
Just as your pain would only add to the pain of the room, your happiness also adds to the room. If you're in a happy space, that lightness will lift those around you, even if they don't recognize it. If you're taking care of your body and your emotions, it will show others that they're allowed to do the same. Your joy will show others that joy is possible.
Eat the damn soup. Feel better. Because feeling better is the magic bullet and I will never shut up about it.