Self care

Fayes T Kantawala shows you how to approach it

Self care
The only downside of not having cable TV at my place is that I can’t just flop on the sofa, turn on the telly and catch the last twenty minutes of, say, Titanic. Having only the internet means I limit myself to streaming apps and I’m OK with that: partly because the last twenty minutes of Titanic are just the end credits but mainly because I like that if I want to watch something it has to be an active choice. In theory this should allow me an endless loop of bespoke, curated visual fun tailored to my idiosyncratic self. In practice it means me staring slack jawed at a static screen in the darkness, tears streaming silently down my cheek as Netflix keeps suggests embarrassingly familiar genres like ”geriatric period drama” or “fantasy series with whiny leads who enjoy food.”

But sometimes you don’t want to choose, and in an effort to capture that casual sense of discovery, I clicked the first movie title I saw, which is why I found myself knee deep in Eat, Pray, Love. For the uninitiated: its the whitest of whitest personal journeys that became a bestseller and, later, a fun vehicle for Julia Roberts’ teeth to travel around the world dispensing pop philosophy to mid-career divorcée’s. I thought I’d give it a try, if only for the close-up shots of pasta. I haven’t read the book in years (something tells me it would have received a different reception in a post-woke world) but the line that always stuck with me is when Julia is trying to reconcile why she was unhappy in her life: “There isn’t a single part of our life that I did not actively participate in creating. So why don’t I see myself in it?”

The isolation of the pandemic has meant that we are now confronting things we’ve spent years, sometimes entire lifetimes, avoiding

There, in a sentence, was my first tool to self discovery: responsibility. I like the line because it reminds me that we all have a choice, even, perhaps especially, when we think we do not. The truth is we usually only take ownership of the choices that make us feel/look good, and avoid responsibility for the ones that may us feel bad. Discovering this - that responsibility doesn’t simply involve the mundane logistics of earning a living and paying bills - changed my life. It reminded me responsibility can also mean being kind to yourself so that you can get through the day, or learning to trust your instincts so that your inner saboteur isn’t the only voice you hear. It reminded me that authenticity is success, and that happiness can be a choice. The kids call it ‘Self Care’ these days – something older generations tend to reject as millennial laziness because they usually only see it next to hash-tagged pictures of massage tables and artisanal bread. But Self Care has gone from a millennial indulgence to mandatory practice during the pandemic, a universal balm for our collective wound.

The isolation of the pandemic has meant that we are now confronting things we’ve spent years, sometimes entire lifetimes, avoiding. Every household I know is feeling these growing pains. For one, there are fewer distractions, and for another, how could we not change when our entire world has? Simmering, festering resentment has begun to bubble out of hidden chasms, old fears triggered by new threats, old cracks wider than the makeshift bridges we used to cross them. If you have done any of this inner work before, then chances are that in the stillness of this new fearful world you probably see things in your life much more clearly, better able to identify what wasn’t working and why.

Some of the forms taken by millennial Self Care

I want to tell you that the most important thing that both is and isn’t working is you. And that’s a good thing.

I am prone to extravagant depressions. In my twenties I ignored these, mistaking them for weakness, hopeful that a current of activity would carry me upstream from bad thoughts. But like people are discovering now, you usually run into yourself when there is nowhere left to go (nauseating truism I know, but thats the kind of person I am now), and I began working to understand why I think the things I do. What gets me up every day is not simply looking for things to be grateful for in my life (which are countless), but also actively acknowledging how it is my choices that have shaped my life. Good and bad.

It is a lesson very few people are able to learn. For years as a kid I used to be unhappy about being overweight. What I never wanted to confront was the fact that I chose to eat the vast amount of food needed to maintain that weight everyday. That was me doing that, not any body else. I’d say things like “I am big boned” or “can’t do anything about genetics” because it was easier than doing anything about it. Realizing my pattern was life-affirming, because it gave me back my agency. It wasn’t until I began looking at my daily choices (and not just the flattering ones) that anything changed.

And that’s what I want to leave you with today: that no matter the particulars of your life, you still have agency of choice. Realizing that is a more radical act of self care than any number of late night binges or pedicures. Ask Julia.

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