The Shapes We Make

4 DELICIOUS SELF-CARE PRACTICES

Kate WeinerComment

A lot of the work I am doing right now is very draining. Environmental organizing can be both life affirming and emotionally wrenching. Grant writing is meaningful work but it is also a lot of screen time (and all my soul wants is to be in the mountains!) Bringing self-care into your life isn't selfish. If we want to be of service to this world and to others, we need to be vigilant about tending to and taking care of our hearts. 

No matter what you're doing right now or where you are in life, you can carve out time for self-care. You are your own permission! And it's okay to be happy, too. A big lesson I've learned through my self-care work is that I don't need to be critical of everything all the time. I can enjoy a moment without wondering Is this enough? Am I wholly considering my carbon footprint? I can simply be.

In that spirit, here are four ways to be—to inhabit—the practice of self-care. You are a very precious vessel of magic & moon power and you deserve love!

 

FOSTER A PLANT

Plants ROCK. My goal is to sleep inside a garden so I am always searching for plants to fill my room with. In many ways, plants are as nourishing as food. They give life, purify the air, and teach you how to tap into your internal maternal energy. Caring for a plant is a beautiful way to care for yourself because it invites you into a reciprocal relationship with the world. I also think it is important to name your plants! Right now, I sleep next to Sweet Pea, a feisty burro's tail, and I keep Milkshake, my succulent garden, by my window so she can get lots of luscious sun.

DRINK

Drink herbal tea. Drink bone broth. Drink lavender lemonade or apple cider or green juice. Find a beverage that feels soul-nourishing (mine is a warm mug of rooibos) and integrate a cuppa into your everyday. I am pretty sure that half of life's problems—fading energy, headaches, emotional turmoil—can be fixed with hydration. Sometimes I'm feeling cranky and sleepy and sad and then I sip on a glass of cold water and am revived. 

BE PLAYFUL

Play is one of the most important things that we can do. When Lily and I get together, we can crack jokes for hours. We might not be doing anything "productive," but also, like, we're not cogs in the capitalist machine, you know? So all that time we spend giggling and making up personas and dreaming up album titles for The Crop Tops is fortifying our friendship and feeding our creative spirit. It's healthy to be silly and to try and not take anything too seriously!

CREATE SOMETHING

Many of us are stymied during the process of putting together a project because we're worried that what we create won't be any "good." So we don't do ANYTHING at all. Taking care of your saucy, succulent souls means giving yourself permission to explore. Whenever I'm feeling frustrated after a long day at work, it's really juicy to just make something. I might draw or try out a natural dye or toy around with scrap fabrics. Pretty much nothing I create would ever get int a museum but who cares? Creating something brings me joy. 

What do you do to take care of yourself? Share with us in the comments and sending love (and flower power!) your way. 

Finding Power in Loss (or How to Weather a Shitstorm)

Friends & Lovers, Inner GoddessLily MyersComment

It’s a rocky week here at SWM headquarters (aka, my head). My boyfriend is leaving the country indefinitely, and some friends backed out of a living situation that cost me a heck of a lot of money, time, and energy. Great. The life I thought I was building for myself here seemed to suddenly dissolve. I’ve known for a while about the boyf leaving, but I didn’t start to really feel that loss until my sweet living situation--which I'd imagined as my refuge, my new solitary home-- also fell through. I felt blindsided, lost, and angry all at once. That’s right, friends, a good old-fashioned shit storm!!!

I spent a few days processing all this, steeping in anger, traveling back home from my favorite place in the world, a tiny island in British Columbia. As we sailed from Sidney, B.C. to Anacortes, Washington, I sat on the ferry and pressed my face up against the glass window, staring at the sea and the darkening sky. I watched the moon reflect off the water and found myself asking, “Why is this happening? Why do I need to go through this?” And I answered my own question almost immediately: “To more fully step into my own power. To more fully become the wise, kickass woman I am meant to become.”

Oh. Yeah.

It didn’t take away the pain, and it didn’t solve my problems or return my money or convince my boyfriend to stay. But answering my question this way calmed my stormy waters the way nothing else did. It was a direct message from myself, to myself, saying: I am not abandoning you. It was a promise to myself that despite sorrow and challenge and loss, I am here on this path to become the strong and powerful woman I am meant to be. 

Asserting this truth reframed the situation. Recognizing these losses as opportunities, as nudges for me to more fully step into my power-- to take more time alone, to concentrate on my own pursuits, to prioritize my own goals-- made this situation empowering, rather than victimizing. I’m still just as sad, but the sadness doesn’t feel like it’s random and purposeless; now I know it's something I must go through to become more fully myself.

My dear friend Alison once told me the phrase: “Become more yourself every day.” Sometimes the process of doing this isn’t comfy or familiar or fun. But sometimes we have to be prodded to leave the comfy and familiar behind, so that we can rise to the challenge of our lives. So that we are pushed to really pursue our true path. If my love wasn’t leaving and my cute apartment hadn’t fallen through, I’d be really comfortable. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But I also wouldn’t be pushing myself to pursue the things I want and need to be pursuing.

With the loss of these things, with the feeling that the rug had been pulled out from under my feet and the near future of my life had become a void, I realized I needed to look out for myself. That I needed to prioritize my own dreams. That this loss, this destruction of what’s familiar, is creating the space--yes, the void-- to create something totally new.

Each creation, after all, must begin with a destruction. Sometimes that’s painful. But it can also result in the biggest rewards. After all, that very night I got the news, after sobbing and staring directly into that void, I opened a Word document and finally began work on the grad school application I’ve been too scared to start for over a year.

So.

Why must I go through these losses? As the moon over the dark sea illuminated, it’s to become more fully myself. To become the woman I truly want to be.

Top photo via Flickr/Frank van de Velde

MERMAID TAROT TUESDAY: Six of Cups

Inner GoddessLily MyersComment

This week, I'm writing from my all-time favorite place on earth, Cortes Island-- a teeny, remote island in British Columbia. I'm staying on the island's southern tip, surrounded on three sides by water. I'm a watery gal; as a Pisces with a Scorpio moon AND a huge fan of mermaids, this is my paradise. So I thought I'd pull a card from my beautiful Mermaid Tarot deck (created and painted by the talented Dame Darcy!) 

Good news, lovelies! This week the cards have given us the six of cups. This is what I call the meet-cute card; it predicts the start of a new flirtation, a fun-filled friendship, or a blossoming new creative project. Something new will begin for you in the realm of love, emotional connection, or creativity. Woohoo! This card is pretty much totally optimistic, as you can see from the bright imagery. It's all smiles when I draw the six of cups.

Since the six of cups represents pleasant surprises, it's important to keep yourself open to signs, symbols, and new people you may come across this week. Don't keep your eyes downcast or your headphones on-- you may miss it! Look around wherever you go this week. Stay open to new sights, sounds and smells. Take a random adventure somewhere totally new! You never know what you'll find, but you'll only find it if you're open, exploring, and curious. 

This is also a random-act-of-kindness card. Think of some small way to brighten someone's day; send a card out of the blue or pick someone a bouquet of fallen flowers. You never know how much you can really change the course of someone's mood and day; the effect can be enormous. And someone just may return the favor.

This could also be a good week to visit someone you haven't seen for a while. On the card we see the human man traveling to the seaside to visit his mermaid lover (that's what I imagine happening, anyway). Who do you want to reconnect with? Who haven't you seen for a while? Is there someone you could visit or call, to make their day? This card is a strong suggestion for emotional reconnection with those who've been close to you. Send a "thinking of you" card if you can't visit!

Also, find a way to give yourself random acts of kindness! Buy yourself flowers to put on your bedside table. Give yourself some free time just to do art, or listen to music, or take a bath. Buy yourself a little present. Indulge yourself in positive, abundant energy! Treat yourself like a (mermaid) princess. It may sound indulgent, but it's good to be indulgent with yourself now and again! Who says you don't deserve a gift? The six of cups says that you definitely do :). Remember, mermaids know how to have a good time.

Spend time by the water, and in the sun. Pay attention to bright colors, and feel of the open air. And keep your eyes out for that meet-cute. Who knows where it will happen? 

Signing off from my island paradise! I hope this week brings you flowers, surprises, and bright days, as the six of cups suggests! xo

8 Ways to Get Out of a Rut

Inner GoddessLily MyersComment
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Ruts-- we've all had 'em. For the past few weeks I've been in a strange sort of funk. Nothing major, nothing drastic, but just a real mehhhhhhh about everything. My energy's been sluggish, my mind's been scattered, and I keep feeling like I'm just not getting anything done. We've all had bad days, of course, but what do you do when one day turns into a whole string of meh? There's nothing worse than waking up and finding that you're STILL in a bad mood.

So I've started my own personal manual for getting out of these phases of womp. Everyone feels the womp now and again. But we're smart, powerful, strong beings, and with some intention and some patience, we can change things up, lift our spirits, and move forward. Here are my best strategies for movin' on and movin' UP!!!

1. Change just one habit. This one always trips me up. I'm like, yeah, I know I should meditate every day. But if I do that, I should really also exercise every day. And while we're at it I should also cut out sugar. And get at least eight hours of sleep. And cut out alcohol. And start a gratitude journal. And make more money. And take herbal supplements. And deep-clean my room. And exfoliate. Argh! Soon I feel so overwhelmed with all the things I "should" do that I end up doing nothing. Which, of course, changes nothing.

So don't try to fix everything at once. Instead try to change just one habit. That, in itself, is HUGE! Change is gradual. Positive change also gives you momentum. So I won't be able to change all those habits at once; just the thought makes me want to crawl into a hole and watch Netflix forever. But if I do begin just by meditating each day, then it will slowly become easier for me to also get more sleep, and that in turn will make it easier for me to exercise, etc., etc. But don't think about all that just yet. That's all in the future. Right now, you're in the present, and you're focusing on one thing. Just one.

2. Pump up the tunes. Music is one of the best instant vibe-changers I know. It's like a magic channel changer for your mood. I can be in the mopiest mood EVER, convinced I'll never feel energetic or strong again, and if I turn on Sia's "Unstoppable" I'm suddenly flooded with energy, power and drive. Keep a playlist of songs that are so infectiously peppy you can't help dancing around your room. It helps also if you belt along. This is scientifically proven (by me). I'm always returning to anthems by powerful ladies about strength, independence, and fierceness. A few of my all-time faves: "Stronger" by Kelly Clarkson (oldie but a goodie), "Girl on Fire" by Alicia Keys, and Beyonce's "Grown Woman".

3. Start in the morning. Morning is my favorite part of the day, so however I spend has a huge effect on my mood. I find it's super important to set my intention of having a good day early on; morning is when you're the freshest, you've got the most momentum, and the day is a clean blank slate. If there's stuff you want to get done or habits you want to implement, start in the morning! The positive affirmation you'll get from them will help keep you feelin' strong all day long. Having a morning ritual can really help, whether that's sitting on the meditation cushion, reading a novel with your coffee, or doing 15 minutes of yoga. For more ideas, check out this great video by the badass Kelly-Ann Maddox on how to "set your vibration" every morning.

4. Change up your look. This is a fun one! Changing up your hair or dressing in something super fun and bright can give your spirits that extra little boost for the day. Today I'm wearing overalls and a t-shirt printed with tiny aliens, BECAUSE IT MAKES ME HAPPY. Kate and I talk about this in our podcast "The Vanity Paradox", and it holds so true for me; certain things we wear really can act as affirmations of our identity and intentions. I always wear my wolf ring when I want to feel extra fierce. I dyed a section of my hair blue-green when I was going gaga for mermaids. These acts are fun, and they're not superfluous; they announce a change to yourself and to the world. As one of my all-time favorite characters, the all-knowing goddess Sortilege played by Joanna Newsom in the movie Inherent Vice, says: "Change your hair, change your life."

5. Map your energy. For me, being in a rut is always a sign of energy depletion. Unfortunately we humans only have so much energy to run on each day; we think we can push through and always function perfectly, but we can't. We have energetic limits, and once we hit them, we must rest. There are so many ways we expend energy throughout the day without even realizing it. Pay extra-close attention to how your energy waxes and wanes throughout the day; it will provide clues as to which habits are helpful and which are unhelpful.  A few questions to ask yourself, to pinpoint where you may be losing your energy:

  • Are you spending too much time with other people? Not enough solo time can really tax your energy.
  • Are you not spending enough time with other people? Being alone all day can give us tunnel-vision. Seeing other people can give us that jolt of excitement, and take our attention off our own lives.
  • Are you eating things that give you energy? This is a huge one. Pay attention to how you feel after your meals and snacks. Your body will tell you, if you listen to it, whether it's feeling energized or lethargic from different foods. 
  • Are you drinking enough water? This one is so basic, but so big! When I'm tired, my instinct is to reach for more coffee. But I've discovered over time that after my first cup, water actually wakes me up so much more than coffee does! 

6. Get your blood flowing. Moving your body around and getting that heart pumping is another surefire way to induce a good mood. Your brain floods with endorphins after exercise, making you feel instantly happier and more awake. If you're feeling meh and it's hard to find the motivation, try going to a silly and upbeat group exercise class. It's easier to motivate yourself to go to a class because you don't have to direct your workout; all you have to do is show up. My favorite is Zumba; you can always count on insanely upbeat pop music as well as a room full of middle-aged ladies gyrating. It's a good time.

7. Look back at the past. Grab a journal and reflect on different times in your life when you felt really great and energized. What were you doing then, and could you incorporate some of those habits now? When I look back, I realize that I've always been happiest in phases where I was getting enough sleep, waking up super early, reading novels, and having a lot of time to myself. Those seem to be the magic formula for my energy and happiness. Knowing that, I can work to incorporate those into my present situation. Make a list of the habits that you've noticed, over the years, work to revitalize you. Gather information and evidence from your own life. Kate introduced me to the idea of making an "Absolute Yesses" list: a list of things you know you want to incorporate in your life. Make a list of your absolute yesses, and keep it somewhere you'll see it each day. 

8. Be patient with yourself. No matter how much you write in your journal, make affirmations, dance around, and drink water, sometimes we just go through lower-energy phases. It's completely natural. So if none of these tips are working just yet, don't panic. There are so many factors at play in our mood and energy-- stress, transitional phases, weather, etc-- that we just can't control them all. Be patient with yourself, if your rut is lasting longer than you want it to. There's nothing bad about being slightly down or more sleepy for a few days; maybe it's what your body needs. Remember that no situation is ever permanent. No matter what, you are moving forward.

But please note: while ruts are totally natural and happen to everyone, if you have felt severely down and consistently hopeless for over two weeks, tell someone you trust or a mental health professional. These tips are for mild ruts, not depression. Ask someone for help if you feel depressed.

 

THINGS ARE GETTING NOT-SO-PERSONAL

Kate WeinerComment

When I first started sharing essays on The Shapes We Make, it felt really empowering to be personal—to reveal the beautiful and the ugly. Telling my truth made me feel strong. And there was something addictive about the positive response that I received from friends and far field acquaintances alike. I loved hearing that an experience of mine resonated with someone.

I've always understood myself better by writing. But I no longer want to share everything that I'm writing. I want to be truthful. I want to be vulnerable. And I want to maintain firm boundaries. I'm glad that I pushed my boundaries—otherwise, I wouldn't have known where I stood. Because I am certain now that some things, like my sex life, I want to share only with friends.

This morning, I went through and deleted a bunch of essays that were too personal (you're welcome, anyone I've ever dated). There's still a lot up on SWM that reflects the whole of who I am; the messy stuff, the pretty stuff, the weird stuff. But I feel much more at peace accepting that I have perimeters that right now, I'm not interested in crossing.

Adrienne Rich had it right when she spoke of the power of one women's truth to open doorways for others. Alice Walker was spot-on when she extolled the love expanding capacity of sharing our stories. Telling our truth, however, doesn't have to mean turning everything into copy. We can keep somethings to ourselves if that's what nourishes us. We always have the power to guide our narratives.