My summer months so far have been filled with dear friends and family, miles spent on the road traveling, day-jobbing, a slightly askew sleep schedule (due to aforementioned travel), and the usual hustle and bustle that is a subway/bus commute in a large city. Ironically, I just co-taught a workshop with three special friends last week at the American Alliance for Theatre Education here in Boston focused on self-care for artists. Afterwards, we joked that we need to be mindful to take our own advice about recharging and refilling our own well as to not throw ourselves into a creative and personal drought. It's so easy to get caught up in our list of "shoulds" and "need to do" checklists that after awhile, our neglected souls get a little withered in the process. True, we can't stop cooking or doing our laundry altogether, but it's so important to listen to our spirits when they tell us that they need some T.L.C. too.
I am continually inspired by the notion that as artists, we are called to create what we wish to see, hear, feel, or experience in the world, as opposed to waiting for it to magically appear. By this token, I wanted to share some advice that I wish I had heard more as a young artist and human being finding my way in this wild world. It's not novel and it's not complicated, but I believe it's crucial for our well-being.
Give yourself permission to recharge, guilt-free. Don't let ANYONE, not a partner or a child or a parent or a sibling or a teacher or an employer or a friend or the person sitting next to you in traffic make you feel bad. I have lost count of the number of times someone has said to me "Wow, it must be nice to have the time to sleep eight hours a night/watch a movie/spent the morning reading, etc. I wish I had that kind of time!"
Their lack of time or unwillingness to care for themselves is not your responsibility. Everyone needs to put on their own oxygen mask first, just as they say at the beginning of a flight. I used to fall apart with guilt when someone brought the snark but now I know that such words are not only unsupportive (and thus pretty useless to me), but a sure sign that the person speaking them is in need of some serious recharging him or herself. Their reaction speaks volumes about their own relationship with replenishment and has little to do with me and my own self-care.
Don't let the snark steal your peace. Let it go.
Have faith that when you choose to "be lazy" and watch a movie in your pajamas
or eat your weight in strawberries while reading a good book
or go to bed early for an entire week, that you are choosing to take care of yourself.
In fact, let's banish the word "lazy" altogether when it comes to the topic of self-care, shall we?
You would probably not neglect a window box of flowers that you notice are parched for rain, so why should you be content to ignore your own very real need for refreshment?
Take care of yourself and see what happens. Do it and don't apologize. If possible, gently remind others in your life to do the same and support them when they do. never shame anyone for refilling their well. Ironically, when each person in a community practices self-care, the entire community enjoys better health and wellness. And if you come across someone who tries to guilt you into keeping in line with the "busy, busy. busy" status quo we accept as the norm in our society, you may find that you need to rethink the role that the person plays in your life. If the person shaming you is YOU? Spend some time thinking about where the pressure to keep going without a break comes from for you, do some journaling about it and be patient with yourself. Self-care can be a huge shift in our routines and still feels like an act of rebellion in our productivity obsessed world.
How do you recharge? How do you deal with others in your life who make you feel guilty for taking the time to practice self-care? What barriers have you discovered within yourself to taking more time to replenish your energy and creativity?