Dear Self-Care 2017: Drop the terminal cool

Right before a photo shoot or a video production dealio or an appearance of some kind, I get really good at self-care.  Like, I drink water.  And green juice.  I get a bit more sleep.  I stop eating a pound of dark chocolate every night.  I hold off on comfort carbs.  I protect my time.  I do better workouts.  And it’s not just to “look” better - although fancy cameras and “live action” are damn impressive motivators - but also because of a word that is the epitome of Doing Your Shit in the World:  Visibility.

Having to be Visible can really shake you off the “fuck it” doomsday train to slothville.   And within just a few days of impeccable self-care, I’m like, DAMN I FEEL GOOD.  Aerodynamic.  Clear.  Not depressed.  Not ouchy.  Confident.  Ready.  Inspired.  Spacious.  Tapped in.  Connected.

But.

But, then, the seemingly temporary event of Visibility ends and, rather quickly and rather subconsciously, I find a way to cut ties with that aero-dynamism.  I jump head first into behaviors that I convince myself are deserved “fuck-it” moments after hard work.  It used to be with drinking.  Or with giving myself and my time to alluring, but abusive people.  It used to an entire box of frozen waffles followed by french fries and whatever else existed that was white, starchy, and guaranteed to instantly make me want to crawl out of my skin.  Lately, it’s been with sleep and overexertion and overpromising to a pathological, dangerous level.  And in a very short amount of time, I slide back into a zone that is akin in myself to the underbelly of the NYC subway system.  

Dark and dank.  Dreary.  Hard to climb out of.  Definitely not visible.  And certainly not aerodynamic.  And in that underbelly, I have to work SO hard to do the basic shit of life - which as a mom and a CEO and a human is a ridiculously arduous already.

WHY DO I DO THIS?

Society and pop psych tells me that it’s “sabotage,” which means to deliberately destroy, damage, or obstruct something.  And, ok, maybe.  But, so far that definition hasn’t helped me shift the pattern.  So, I’ve got to thinking.  And I think that, like most things, if we want to tackle this the right way, we’re gonna have to go A LOT deeper than “sabotage” would lead us to understand.

For me, my own Visibility Destruction is a combination of 4 things:

  1. Trauma:  I’ve been taught my entire life to do the impossible, to be bright, to express my talent, but only for others to feed upon.  It’s exactly like training an animal in captivity, actually.  Be magical, but don’t get out of that cage.  And, if you do get out of the cage, then harm will come.  HARM.  Over time, I have co-opted that caging - a specific term in trauma work called “learned helplessness.”  I cage myself when things get too good or I start getting too big for my container.  
  2. Behave/Belong:  I am by nature a feral beast.  I’ve never felt like I fit in and I’ve lacked certain social graces.  And I’m absolutely NOT a “lady.”  But, guess what?  99% of us feel that way, so I’m not special here.  The issue here is that when I’m doing my thing and when I’m Visible, I feel very connected with my wild self.  And it scares the social creature in me to death.  That social (and undeveloped) creature says, "I’ll lose my crew, I won’t belong, my sisterhood will hate me, I’ll be alienated, etc etc etc."  So, I pull back in order to belong.    
  3. Lonely:  When you’re doing your thing and being Healthy, no one tells you that it can be lonely.  You’ve got to sacrifice.  You’ve got to be discerning.  You’ve got to say No.  And you find out really quickly that a lot of people, even those really close to you, won’t like your Visibility.  And not because they’re bad people, but because they are human like you.  And they see their own shadows in your shadow and when you step away from it, they’re left to be alone with theirs.  Most people can’t swing that and they will walk away.  Or you will.  Or someone will hurt someone or not have the courage to communicate.  All in all, something will break within those closest to you, I promise.   We’re not very good at this part and, so, being Healthy can be temporarily lonely during a vulnerable time while you figure out how to be a better friend/lover/partner.
  4. Swirly:  This is probably the most important part of Visibility Destruction and something that is harrowing, to say the least.  When you get out there in whatever way you are supposed to and you’re doing your thing in your own skin and in your own way and you feel super healthy, guess what?  Everything will suddenly feel like it’s so big and you’ll feel like it’s not enough and you’re not enough.  The container of modern motherhood and the current state of the world will feel so freakin’ inept for the expansiveness in your healthy capacity that you’ll be left in agony.  It’s crazy, but it’s true.  The word I use is “swirly.”  Like an astronaut in outer space without a tether to the mothership.  You will feel that way at the beginning stages of Visibility and because you most likely haven’t trained properly for this mission, you are gonna do whatever possible to get back to that mothership.

Now, while all of these 4 things are a bit heady, the good news is that the solution to Visibility Destruction is simple: 

You have to learn to stay put, even when #1-#4 arrives.  It takes time to get healthy and to truly change in a way sustainable to Visibility.  It takes time.  It takes time.  Let me repeat, it takes time.

Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes, in Women Who Run with Wolves, writes, “There is a wild voice that lives inside all of us, one that whispers, ‘Stay here long enough ... stay here long enough to revive your hope, to drop your terminal cool, to give up defensive half-truths, to creep, carve, bash your way through, stay here long enough to see what is right for you, stay here long enough to become strong, to try the try that will make it, stay here long enough to make the finish line, it matters not how long it takes or in what style ...’ “

Damn, those are fierce words, right?  “Drop your terminal cool.”  “Give up defensive half-truths.”  What she is saying is the secret sauce to not destroying your path to doing your Thing in the world.  It’s inside of you.  It’s nothing out there.  It’s not your abuser or society or your family or your situation.  It’s your own diseased vow to the bull shit that keeps you in the underbelly.  And it’s your gorgeous, understandable, childlike pull to the security in the stories that live there.

We all deserve to live in our visibility, which seems the moment that a Hallmark card is warranted, one that reads, “The World Needs You to be Visible!  You’re Special!”  But, alas, I don’t actually believe the world needs you or me to be visible, even though it’s been shoved down our throats through self-help and motivational speakers.  I see myself as a drop in the ocean.  And while I'm a unique drop, it’s not essential to the ecosystem of that ocean that I and I alone be Visible.  What is essential to that ecosystem is that WE are healthy drops.  That the combined effort of a bunch of healthy drops changes the tides towards a better world.  

Your healthy droplet status starts with knowing that You need You.  Your children need You.  Your heart needs You.  Your soul needs You.  Your body needs You.  Your muscles and your breath need You.  Your home and your obligations need You.  That which you care for and that which you have taken vows needs You.  And, I don’t know about you, but for me those are vastly more effective motivators for lasting self-care than Hallmark-ian adages.  When your Visibility becomes a quietly personal and exceptionally adventurous pursuit, the bondage of the underbelly gets erased in a single whisper.  But, you don't know that yet because you've not given it enough time.  

Stay put.  Hang on.