Multitudes and universes and radical self-care
I am having something of a hard week. Between the news in the larger world outside–I am afraid to check the news now, afraid to check my Twitter feed almost all of the time–and little tiny sad things that nonetheless feel very big in my own tiny little life, it’s been a hard batch of days to slog through. And yet there’s been so much that is good about it at the same time–good food and fun walks and sunshine (maybe even too much) and writing and going to the gym, work projects that I really enjoy and evenings on my patio with dear friends, evenings on my patio with nothing but myself, lemonade, and the stars. So many things to be thankful for. So many things to enjoy.
There was a day earlier this week when something very exciting and wonderful was happening simultaneously alongside something else that was filled with sadness and grief. I was present in the wonder and dealt with the grief when I was finally alone, and the symbolism inherent in the moment has been reverberating out through the rest of my week. Grief and happiness, hand in hand. There were moments during that day when I could actually feel myself letting go of the past and jumping into the future, and it was exciting and also not as exciting as I had once imagined this would be, simply because I was sad. That might also be something to be grateful for, I suppose–the way that experiences can temper you, the way that this ability you acquire to carry both good things and bad things all at once might lessen the feeling but allow you to open yourself up even further, might allow you to carry more. We contain multitudes, as the saying goes.
Last month I bought a new couch. This is hardly newsletter-worthy but I want to talk about it because, much like the day earlier this week when my future and my past were staring each other down in the lane, the couch has become so much more than a couch. I bought it from IKEA, during a trip wherein I also bought bookshelves and picture frames and new kitchen implements and new sheets and twinkly lights for my patio and plant stands galore and fantasized about buying even more bookshelves because I am drowning in books and also I’d like even more picture frames, just because. I bought all of these things on credit, which is something I never would have done before and probably wouldn’t have done now had it not been for that insistent little voice in my head that’s been saying, over and over, you deserve this, you need to let go.
You need to stop worrying.
You need to believe that you are worthy of gifts to yourself.
You need to believe that you are worth so much more than you think you are.
Earlier this year I started tithing, because I was tired of feeling like I never had enough, that I was scraping by and working hard and nothing was coming together. Because I was working so hard and nothing was happening, I felt like I wasn’t working hard enough. But once I peeled back all of the years and years of layers and got right down to it, I am not working hard enough actually meant, for me, I am not good enough.
I am not good enough for this. I do not deserve this. I must try to be better, I must be a good writer who wins prizes and does big things because this is what I’ve trained for and I can’t do anything else, and if I can’t do this well, then I am nothing. I am not enough. Just me. I am not enough.
I am not enough, on my own. People cannot (and do not) love me for me–they have to (and do) love me for what I must bring to the world. I am not enough, just me. I must have icing. I must be smart, I must be funny, I must be talented, I should work to be prettier or thinner or more engaging, more of the life of the party. I should be more.
I started tithing, in part, because I wanted to trick myself into believing that I actually had more than enough money, even though my debt wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon. And it worked. Almost instantly. Suddenly these chunks of my paycheque were disappearing and they no longer felt necessary, and there was money left over, and it felt radical in a way that I think I’m still processing. Because that sense of moving from scarcity to abundance spilled over into the rest of my life in ways that I hadn’t foreseen.
Maybe, I thought, as the days got warmer and plans for a summer of writing began to take shape, maybe I could be enough. Just me. And because I was tired of feeling like I didn’t deserve nice things–because I am not enough, not enough–I took a leap of faith in April and booked a spur-of-the-moment trip to Vancouver because I wanted to trick myself into believing that I was.
And it worked. Almost instantly. Suddenly the pressure was off and I found myself doing nice little things for Amanda, here and there, just because–nothing outrageous, but also nothing that I would have thought I deserved a year ago. Flowers. Chocolate. That basket of cherries from the farmer’s market that I always longed for but always thought I shouldn’t buy because it was too expensive. Ice cream and a waffle cone whenever I wanted.
I booked a writing residency for myself in Banff. I booked a spa day for myself at my Calgary hotel. I thought about what I wanted for my summer: writing, flowers, sunshine, friends. And I gave myself permission to have all of it.
So I went to IKEA, and bought a couch. It’s a pull-out corner sectional. I’ve wanted to have a pull-out couch since I moved into this apartment almost five years ago. (I survived the five years in between with two halves of an outdoor patio seat that I bought because it was on sale, not because I loved it.) And I bought picture frames and plant stands and beautiful bookshelves and now my apartment finally, FINALLY looks like the apartment that I’ve always wished it could be but never thought I deserved.
And now, because I have this apartment and this space that maybe, maybe, I just might deserve, I find myself thinking that I deserve more, too, in these times of sadness. I am sad about this thing that I let go of this week–love, it’s always love, isn’t it?–but I am trying to let go of it because I deserve more than that, too, and I need to trick myself into believing that I am.
I mentioned radical self care in the title because all of these little things that I am doing, as small as they are, feel earth-shattering. It feels radical–even miraculous–to finally stand here and think: maybe I deserve a nice house, a nice environment, a nice little space, not just because I’ve earned but also because I deserve these things anyway. Maybe I am enough. Maybe I can celebrate that and not feel guilty about it.
Maybe I am worthy of more love than I think I am, and maybe I should start loving myself that way.
Self-care is a refrain that’s being passed around a lot these days. I do not in any way want to equate my own self-care with the care needed out there for those who are truly suffering–there’s a lot of privilege embedded in all of the above sentences, and I’m trying so hard to stay aware of that. But sometimes it’s hard to remember that you deserve to treat yourself just because you’re you. It’s also, I think, hard to treat yourself when so much of the world is dark and troubling. Guilt creeps in so easily. But one of the things that this year has taught me–oh humble IKEA couch–is that the fake it ’til you make it idea can be quite powerful. I’ve had to give things away in order to finally feel like I have enough, and I’ve had to treat myself in order to finally believe that I deserve to be treated at all. Pretending that these things are a reality has actually made them manifest, and I am grateful for the ordinary, easy, and yet entirely miraculous changes that all of this has brought about.
Time to believe in myself now. For real and now and always.