Wednesday Missive: What Do We Do with Dread? A Self-Care Emotional Exploration (+ Membership is OPEN for the Beautiful Life Collective!)

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Hi Darlings,

Podcast Alert! This morning, I recorded a podcast on dysfunctional relationship patterns and how they relate to the larger political/social upset that’s happening in the world right now. I’ve been wanting to share on this topic for a while, but didn’t because I knew I would say it all imperfectly. And yet, here it is--warts and all--and I hope you enjoy! Also, listen soon because there’s a time-sensitive offer at the end!

And now, today…

This morning, I woke up today with a subtle feeling of dread. The dread felt heavy in my body and made getting out of bed more difficult. The dread also felt heavy in my mind. I’m normally pretty enthusiastic in the mornings (which can get annoying to the non-morning people in my life - Hi Micah!), but today I didn’t feel excited or motivated about the day ahead.

Over the past few years, as I’ve reduced my numbing behavior, I’ve gotten more curious about my emotions. Rather than deny them, especially the challenging ones, I try to feel all my feelings and understand what they’re trying to tell me. I trust them to be intelligent and to teach me more about myself.

I’ve learned that anger, when experienced consciously, connects me to my righteousness and need for boundaries. Grief opens up my heart to the pain of life, and right along with it, the transformative power of love and compassion. Guilt is a motivating dose of “get going!” energy that enables me to make a necessary change in my behavior.

But dread? When it showed up this morning, I realized that I didn’t understand what it was trying to tell me. And what better place to explore its message than with you incredible people!

From my emotional ponderings today, here is what I’ve gleaned:

  1. Dread shows up for me when I have to put myself out there in some way. For example, this week, along with my dear co-leaders Reba, Lindsey, and Elsa, I’m opening up the Beautiful Life Collective for new members. Although I believe so deeply in what the Collective offers the amazing women in our community and how their awesome self-care translates out as healing in our world, sharing our work publicly still feels like I am opening myself up to get hurt.

  2. I think I experience dread whenever I feel like I’m getting too big in my life. I never feel dread when I’m just going along with the status quo. Dread taps on my shoulder when I’m endeavoring to take up more space, say what I want more loudly, or just generally move my life to the next level. Sometimes this dread happens during genuinely exciting times (like expanding this brilliant self-care community!) and sometimes it happens during quiet, more necessary moments (like having a really hard conversation where I have to set some major boundaries and disappoint other people). This makes sense because despite their energetic difference, both of these moments mean I will be growing in new ways.

  3. Considering this, I think dread is a heavy form of fear, meant to slow me down and thus, protect me. In the past, it wasn’t safe for women to put themselves out in the world for their healing powers. In many parts of the world, including in the United States where I live, I still don’t think it’s safe for all women to fully take up space as themselves. Although many of us are working very hard to change it, we still live in a deeply patriarchal world. Our nervous system impulses are going to buzz when we enter the danger zone of going too far in our independence. Because, above all else, our nervous systems wants us to stay safe.

  4. Practicing self-care means I get to decide the best course of action based on the intelligence of my emotions. My self-care practices help me slow down my fear-based thinking and get a wider perspective on what’s actually happening in my life. This morning, I asked myself these questions: Will I really get hurt by putting myself out in the world by doing this promotion? (Probably not, but I might feel a little rejected if someone isn’t interested.) If I do feel the sting of rejection--which is completely built into living an awake life--do I have ways to care for myself? (Yes, absolutely.) And finally: Does enduring the discomfort of personal growth serve the larger values I have in this world? (100% yes! If I want our society to move with its growing pains and keep evolving, I must stay committed to my own personal practice of enduring discomfort so I can grow).

  5. Once I’ve learned more about dread for myself, I am more able to guide others when their feelings of dread are keeping them feeling small and bound into themselves.

This last point is what inspires me most. As I’ve peeled back the many layers of what it means to practice self-care, I always return to the concept of service. I so deeply believe that the reason we are here on earth is to be of service to each other.

I honestly don’t believe we are here to be of service so that we can prove we are good people by how selflessly we can take care of others. That line of altruism always ends up getting super dysfunctional and often hurts the people we are trying to help. Whenever we try to prove something about ourselves through a relationship, it never seems to end well.

Rather, I think service helps us to understand our inherent value as human beings. In order to truly be of service, we have to go through the hardest parts of life, including facing dread, guilt, grief, and shame. During these moments, we either learn to take care of ourselves more deeply or we get pretty lost in the process. If we emerge from these deep inner battles with an ability to respect ourselves through care, we honestly do have something of value to share with others.

Once we share our hard-earned care and grace with those who are ready to hear it, we can witness a real healing take place. We see that our struggles have not been in vain. Our transmuted pain, also known as wisdom, can make life a more gentle, beautiful experience for others.

This is why 12-step recovery preaches service in its final step. Once we have learned the grace of practicing self-care, we can help others. As we know we can help others, the “sh*tty voice in our head” gradually loses its power and we live on with authenticity and dignity.

Today, I’ve shared two main messages in this post: 1) Don’t let dread keep you playing small in your life because; 2) Facing your fears in the name of self-care will truly make you of service to others. These are deepest truths I know today.

If these truths resonate with you, I hope you’ll consider joining the Beautiful Life Collective! This is a community of amazing women who are working on these deeper layers of self-care together. We practice self-care so we can be of service to others.

We made this community because we were tired of feeling like our self-care had to be practiced in a bubble. We wanted a more critical conversation about the societal impacts of self-care and how our self-care can be translated into community care. We were hungry for the incredible magic that happens when women support each other in community. We were tired of going it alone.

Due to the deeper nature of our work, I only like to open for new members a couple times a year. After our doors close on Friday, June 21st at midnight EST, we can settle into our community and fire up the self-care work together. I hope you’ll be joining us before then!

Learn more about the Beautiful Life Collective here.

(Please note: We’ve created this community to be a more affordable personal coaching option. Still, if the price is not accessible to you and you deeply resonate with the self-care message we share, please let me know and we can discuss options.)

I hope you have a wonderful next couple of weeks. I’m here if you have any questions about anything.

Wishing you more and more of the transformative power of self-care in your lives!

With care,
Gracy

PS: Reading back through what I wrote here, I realize that dread might show up differently and mean different things for you. Please take whatever I shared that feels valuable and create your own meaning from the rest. I’d love to hear any insights you’d like to share with me!

Self-Care in Dysfunctional Relationships with Our Loved Ones and Donald Trump (Time sensitive podcast!)

Do you lose yourself easily in relationships? Do you have a hard time being okay when others aren't? Do you watch the news and often get lost in your rage about our current state of political affairs?

Join the club! So many of us are struggling with these incredibly challenging codependent/enmeshed dynamics in our personal relationships and beyond. These toxic forces can subtly and overtly disrupt our self-care and leave us feeling like we aren't worthy of caring for ourselves.

There is relief though! In this episode, I share the three self-care practices and perspectives that have helped me come into healthy relationship with the people in my life. I also offer the ways I create more internal serenity with the bigger political/societal forces at play, while not losing my focus on creating a more just, beautiful world for all. 

Understanding the connection between the personal and political is more important than ever. If you struggle with practicing self-care, it's important to understand how these damaging societal forces are inhibiting your well-being. If you are trying to make bigger change in the world, a practice of authentic self-care will ensure that you're not unconsciously furthering toxic dynamics in your activism. 

One of the most powerful ways to practice self-care is by joining a self-care community. For this, almost a year ago I created the Beautiful Life Collective, a community of amazing women practicing authentic self-care together. This is the self-care that changes lives and creates a true culture of self-care (the kind that spreads quickly to the other people in our lives and beyond!).

We are open for new members until Friday, June 21st until midnight EST! To learn more go here: https://gracy-s-school.thinkific.com/courses/thebeautifullifecollective

Please write me at gracy@selfcarewithgracy.com if you have any questions about joining! Looking forward to supporting your self-care! 

Wednesday Missive: Why Feminine Collaboration is so F-ing Hard! (And so worth it...)

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Hello Darlings,

I hope the past two weeks have gone swimmingly! Before we get into the juiciness of today’s post, I have a few exciting announcements:

I finally have enough space in my schedule for one-to-one coaching clients this summer!Working privately with me is an excellent way to experience tangible breakthroughs in your self-care and watch as every other aspect of your life gets better. (And the process is totally enjoyable!)

Here is what Nadine, a former private coaching client said about our work together:

“Working with Gracy one-on-one has been an invaluable investment in my personal growth. We covered a lot of ground together, and she opened up so much goodness and insight, and helped me establish self-care as a refuge and resource for daily life. I credit our work together for expanding my self worth enough to advocate for a 15% raise at work. And with her gentle and supportive guidance, I gave myself the space to ask some really big questions: What is my role here? What does it feel like to trust myself (and trust the universe) a little more? If, as Marianne Williamson says, a miracle is a shift in perception, then working with Gracy has led to so many miracles in my life. If you're feeling the tug, I highly recommend it!”

I’m looking for exactly three amazing clientswho are ready to invest in themselves, do the deeper work (with a lot of support from yours truly), and experience an upleveling in their self-care and lives. We will meet via video chat and phone, so you can live anywhere to work with me. Interested in hearing more? Hit “reply” to this email and I’ll send you the full details. This could change everything for the better!

Also, new podcast alerts:

  • I’m so honored to have been one of the first guests on the WOMEN don’t DO that Podcast. I talked to co-host Myrrandha Novak about getting stuck in our morning routines, the self-care of having difficult conversations, and why putting yourself first is the best way to help others. Check out our full episode here.

  • I also recorded a short podcast with my (now!) husband, Micah. In this episode, we chat about the intensity of our wedding, the realities of parenting a toddler, and how embracing the practicalities of life can be a transcendent experience. Listen to more here. 

And now, today…

You may already know that over the past few weeks, I’ve been promoting a self-care campaign called“Moving from Competition into Collaboration with the Amazing Women Around You.”In keeping with the theme, this campaign is actually a beautiful collaboration between me, Reba Thomas (sexuality educator), Lindsey Heddleston, (self-compassion guide), and Else Duré (equity warrior).

(These inspiring women are moving into leadership in the Beautiful LIfe Collective, a cooperative of amazing women who are examining the intersection of self-care and community care. Are you interested in learning more and receiving a sign-up discount when we open for new members in mid-June? Join the waitlist here and be the first to know!)

When our leadership team began brainstorming what we most wanted to share about the Collective’s work, this campaign just poured out of us.Throughout our many explorations of self-care, the electric energy of women coming together has been so powerful. Feminine collaboration has helped us heal as individuals and finally feel part of a supportive community.Further, we know that the power of this kind of collaboration is what will help us save our world during these chaotic times.

There it was! We wanted to teach women how to get through the blocks, sometimes subtle and sometimes overt, of collaborating with other women. We wanted to name the competition that has been breed into us as women and together, learn how to artfully disarm this toxic force.

We made a landing page for us, created a beautiful free collaboration guide, and planned an interactive webinar on IGTV for Saturday, June 15th from 10 to 11am ET. Women began signing up to hear more. We were in the flow state and it was feeling good!

Then, just at the peak of our excitement, my mindset began to change. First, a few doubts crept into my mind. I got a little worried about how we would share our leadership responsibilities. I was nervous about giving too much and having my generosity taken advantage of. I got afraid I would abuse my power in some way and hurt these people I care about. Mostly, I felt really scared that something would go wrong in our arrangement, the other women would get mad at me, and I would be abandoned in the process.

Looking back at my history, my fears make sense.I thought of every time I had been taken advantage of, hurt by, and excluded from other women. I also thought of the women I had taken advantage of, hurt, and excluded when I collaborated with them. Most painful of all, I remembered the couple friendships that couldn’t survive the challenges of female collaboration. I still miss them.

The scared voice in my head started shrieking that I had made a terrible mistake. I was meant to be a soloprenuer. Opening myself up was too dangerous. Staying in competition mode was the only way to be safe!

That’s when it hit me. As easy as it is to say that women should learn how to work together and the world will be saved, this shit is actually super hard.Even if a better world is shining like a beacon in the distance, the path to get to this oasis is a minefield of personal, intergenerational, and societal triggers. We have been hurt by other women and we have hurt other women and that pain needs to be recognized.

You may ask, at any point in these painful realizations did I want to give up on our new leadership team or stop sharing the path of collaboration as widely as possible? My answer is HELL NO!

This is because, despite the pain, every wonderful thing that has happened in my life has occurred because I dared to work with other women. My collaborations have helped me lead retreats as close as West Virginia and as far as Bali. Recently, I collaborated on writing a self-care book and due to the skillsets of the other women on our team, selfcarefully is more beautiful than I ever could have imagined!

More subtly, for years I collaborated with other women when I would call my dear friends crying about how much I wanted to be in a relationship. I collaborated when I received their gentle coaching and passionate belief that nothing was wrong with me. Had I thought I should keep my problems to myself, I never would have practiced the vulnerability that was necessary to actually open my heart to Micah.

More and more, I hear the heartening news of women collaborating with other women to tackle impossible-seeming social issues.Moms are uniting to stop gun violenceWomen are wearing shirts to normalize abortions. I just joined a hyperlocal women’s group in my neighborhood that focuses on mutual support and guilt-free activism.

I’m so inspired by the many effective collaborations that are keeping us all going during these trying times. To stop these creative upwellings just because we’re going to get triggered in the process doesn’t work for me. Rather, we have to learn to work together as women. Our hearts are calling for it and our world needs us to show up in our full power as women united.

And of course, I believe our individual self-care practices are an extremely important part of learning to collaborate with other women.

During those challenging moments of doubt, I was so grateful for my self-care.First, I had terminology to recognize that I was triggered and the perspective to understand that my feelings aren’t facts. I did a couple of tarot card readings that confirmed that: 1) Indeed, I was triggered; 2) Our collaboration still looked like it had a lot of fruitful energy to come. I could trust it and us.

Then, I did the brave act of reaching out to the other women in my collaboration and shared how I was feeling.As soon as I started typing my fears into the email, they seemed to lose their power. Breaking the competition-based thought loop that was running through my brain brought me back into my body and reminded me of our universal struggle in these places of fear.

Yes, I know I will not do this collaboration perfectly and I also know that I will probably get hurt and hurt others in the process. This is the eternal messiness of being in relationship. But I will also practice the self-care of learning from these hard spots and continuing to show up more tender and open-hearted and ready to engage.Because truly, collaboration is too important to put aside and too life-giving to ever think I could survive without it.

With care,
Gracy

PS - Does reading this missive validate your fears of collaborating with other women while also kindling your fire to move into deeper collaboration? Sign up for our free collaboration guide and hear our private conversations about the subject. We share so much about what has helped us collaborate in our lives. You’ll want to hear this!

Reflections on Getting Hitched with my Husband, Micah

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Woohoo, Micah and I got married! To celebrate (and process our immense wedding weekend), I invited my now-husband back on the podcast. During our conversation, we spoke about: why our wedding ceremony felt so intense, how we are practicing self-care while parenting a toddler, ways to embrace the mundane aspects of life as spiritually transcendent, and much more! Have a listen and see what self-care it sparks for you!

Learning to Live Authentically After the Age of 50 with Author Maria Leonard Olsen

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Right after turning 50, author and speaker Maria Leonard Olsen's whole life changed. She got divorced, she got sober, and she started taking self-care seriously. These important self-care shifts launched a more authentic life for Maria, one that she bravely shares with others to support their healing. 

In our conversation, we speak about the connections between self-care and social justice, how to set stronger boundaries so we can live with more purpose, and why it's important to be vulnerable and share our whole selves in order to heal. 

To learn more about Maria's work:
www.MariaLeonardOlsen.com
https://www.facebook.com/FiftyAfter50/... 
https://www.instagram.com/fiftyafter50/ 
https://twitter.com/FiftyAfter50

Wednesday Missive: The New Emotional Rulebook

Hello darlings,

The other morning, before the sun was fully up, I went into Jonah’s room. He’d been babbling for a few minutes and, armed with a hot cup of coffee, I was ready to hang out with my son. I walked in the door and was greeted by his sweetest smile. I smiled back, filled with love for this darling 20-month old human being.

Then he burst into tears.

What followed was the worst tantrum I’ve seen from him yet. He wanted to be picked up but, as soon as he was in my arms, he wanted to be put down. Then he was furious that he wasn’t in my arms again. He was sobbing so hard he couldn’t take a deep breath.

For ten minutes, as I watched my cup of coffee getting colder, Jonah completely freaked out. He screamed, repeating “NO NO NO!” over and over. Despite my best efforts, he couldn’t be consoled. All I could do was try to keep his writhing little body from hurting himself and wait for the tantrum to pass.

Experiencing this tantrum felt particularly appropriate because the night before Micah and I watched the Mr. Roger’s documentary. After watching, Micah and I discussed Mr. Roger’s profound vision. He truly saw children’s complex inner lives and gave them a much-needed space to freely express their real hopes, fears, and doubts about life.

I was struck by the simplicity of what he taught and how hard it can be to actually hold this kind of space for anyone who is suffering, especially my child, especially first thing in the morning before I’ve had my coffee.

Mr. Roger’s message also lines up with what I’ve been reading in Janet Lansbury’s books on respectful parenting and toddler discipline (we’re using one as the textbook for A Radiant Beginning, my early motherhood self-care immersion).

This passage from her particularly struck me:

“...all infants...can be trusted to grieve as an individual in a unique and perfect way. Infants demonstrate the authentic expression of their feelings when given the opportunity. If we can give them the space and time to express painful feelings instead of arresting their cries, and if we can steady ourselves to work through our own discomfort, then our children can be reassured that their true responses are accepted and appropriate.”

Both Janet Lansbury and Mr. Roger’s examples of respecting children’s emotional lives confirm what I’ve seen helping my clients with their self-care: If we are not given space to express our emotions freely when we are younger, these blocked emotions will continue to affect us and our self-care as we get older.

Our conditioned belief that our “negative” emotions are wrong can manifest in our adult lives as addictive tendencies, low self-esteem, and/or patterns of self-destructive relationships. We become convinced that because we feel these healthy, normal emotions, we are “bad” and aren’t worthy of care and respect.

From there, we may continue to engage in a lifestyle of numbing behavior (which only turns down the volume on our emotions rather than making them go away), usually choosing emotionally unavailable relationships which reflect our early learning about emotions. In these relationships, we can become terrified to say what we really mean or set boundaries of any kind, lest we become further emotionally abandoned.

(I think it’s important to say that these self-destructive tendencies can happen even when we are given other important forms of care during our childhood. Janet Lansbury’s experience of emotional denial within an otherwise healthy family is an stark example of the incredible importance of emotional self-care.)

More and more, I’m learning that self-care is about so much more than just our personal habits and routines. We can run marathons and sleep nine hours a night, but if we don’t know how to honor our emotions and set real boundaries in relationships, our self-care practices don’t truly work.

Our emotional shortages act like holes in our self-care bucket. No matter how much healthy stuff we try to fill ourselves with, the true energy of self-care always seems to seep out. Thus, a vital layer of self-care is learning how to honor our emotions and practice authenticity in our relationships.

As someone who didn’t learn a lot of emotional self-care growing up, I’ve searched far and wide to change my emotional patterns. I’m so grateful to have found teachers, traditions, and communities that affirmed the validity of my emotions and gave me the space I needed to express myself.

The following five self-care perspectives and tools have been particularly helpful for me in my self-care process. I offer them to you with the deepest hope that they might also inspire a new layer of your emotional self-care.

  1. All emotions are valid and necessary. Grief and anger are as important as peace and joy. If we deny one end of the “negative” emotional polarity, we also deny ourselves the other “positive” end. If we want to cultivate more joy in our lives, we also need to grieve more. If we want more peace, we need to unbury repressed anger. Allowing ourselves a full emotional spectrum is an immense act of self-care.

  2. Emotions carry a lot of vital energy within them. Denying my real emotions was also blocking my personal growth trajectory. By giving myself total permission to feel whatever emotions I am feeling as fully as possible, I’ve learned to harness the immense energy within them. Accepting my anger spurs me into passionate action. Accepting my sadness unlocks a new level of universal compassion. I’ve seen hundreds of clients begin allowing their authentic emotions and from there, their lives usually change very quickly. If you feel stuck in your life, consider what emotions you may be denying. If this idea is interesting to you, I highly suggest checking out the work of Michael Brown.

  3. We don’t need to act on all of our emotions or even really understand them. When we open to feeling our feelings, we’re opening to new terrain inside of ourselves. This inner landscape is rich, rugged, and fruitful. However, it’s not always logical. We may go through positive times in our life and still be struck by a deep sadness. We may get angry at someone who doesn’t seem to warrant our intense feelings. We may even sense we’re feeling feelings that aren’t quite ours. All of these reactions are just fine. As we become more comfortable with feeling our feelings, we learn that just because we feel an emotion doesn’t mean we have to act on it. (In the recovery world, it’s said: “Feelings aren’t facts.”) We can sit with our feelings for a while, see if there is any important information within the emotion which might warrant action, and move forward from there.

  4. Healthy relationships are ones in which we can express a full spectrum of emotions. I’ve spent my life tiptoeing around emotionally unavailable people, trying my hardest to be happy all the time so that I wouldn't be abandoned by them. It turns out, those dysfunctional people could never really be there for me anyway. A wise person in my life told me once that as a defenseless child, I could be abandoned by other people, emotionally or otherwise. But now, as an adult, I can’t. At this stage of life, I’m the only one who can emotionally abandon myself by sacrificing my needs to make other people happy. By choosing healthy relationships, I take care of myself.

  5. Emotions aren’t necessarily transferable. Growing up, I’d been indirectly taught that if someone around me was upset, I also had to be upset. Similarly, if I was in a bad space, I wanted the people close to me to be having a hard time. It’s taken me a while to understand that this is enmeshment. In a healthy relationship, I can be upset and my friend can be happy. We can both be okay that we’re in different spaces and still support each other as best as we can. I find this idea very simple and many times, very difficult to practice. These learned emotional patterns can run so deep! Still, I try to separate my emotions from others. These efforts feel like important self-care for me.

From this list, I invite you to take what serves you, leave the rest behind, and most importantly, find the emotional self-care that brings you the healing you desire.

***

On the morning of the tantrum, I finally remembered reading in a Janet Lansbury’s book that as parents, we should not only tolerate our children’s emotions but also encourage them. So, I said steadily to Jonah, “I’m glad you’re feeling this. It’s good for you to cry. Thank you for sharing your feelings with me.”

In that moment, his body relaxed. Still crying a bit, he pulled one of his books off the bookshelf. He leafed through the pages while sitting in my lap and seemed to calm down more. Within another minute he was talking about his favorite subject of airplanes and helicopters.

I rocked us both in the glider and exhaled the tension I had been holding. I stroked Jonah’s hair and wiped the leftover tears off his cheeks. As he flipped the pages and babbled on and generally came back to himself, I finally reached for my coffee. I sat there, loving my son and all of his emotions, and took a big sip.

I’m happy to report, it was still hot.

With care,
Gracy

Wednesday Missive: What a Self-Care Lifestyle Looks Like

Hello Darlings,

First thing: Check out my newest podcast with blogger and podcaster Myrrhanda Novak. We discuss what it means to be an integrated woman and how feminism and Christianity can fit together. Also, Myrrhanda shares the experience of losing her 16 month-old son and the self-care that helped her through this immensely difficult period. It was a profound conversation that I hope you enjoy!

Second: I’m teaching an in-person workshop on Self-Care for Overwhelmed Parents (with kids ages 0-6) at Circle Yoga in Washington, DC on Sunday, June 9th from 3 to 5pm. Learn more and sign up here!

And now, today...

For almost five years now, I’ve been writing about the many definitions and implications of self-care. At the beginning, I might have told you that I would someday run out of things to say on the subject or at least get bored in the process in trying.

However, it’s the opposite. The more I explore self-care, the more entranced I am by the subject. The deeper the rabbit hole becomes, the more fascinated I am by the journey into it.

I love how many ways we can use self-care to navigate our lives. We can use self-care to get through the hardness of heartbreak. Or, we can use it to accept our sexuality more fully. Perhaps most important of all, we can use it as a way to engage in a self-aware social justice practice (as this amazing graphic by Bobbie Harro on the Cycle of Liberation shows).

Today, as I appreciate the myriad of ways we can approach self-care, I’m getting extra macro with my lens. With the following broad swath of 80 indicators, I describe what an overall lifestyle of self-care looks like to me. I may use this as the response the next time someone asks me, “So, what exactly is self-care?” (A questions I always love to receive!)

A Lifestyle of Self-Care

Consume mindfully
Shop in your own closet
Cook your own food
Try new recipes
Eat the leftovers
Compost the leftovers of the leftovers
Bring your own container
Refuse most everything that doesn’t serve a function
Buy secondhand
Give your things away
Insist on beauty  
Question capitalism
Create art of any kind
Write
shitty first drafts
Remember that dreams never die (they just hibernate while we’re busy)
If you are able, walk around outside
Look up at the sky
Notice the miracles of the everyday
Create a morning routine
Create an evening routine
Drink room temperature water (especially in the winter)
Notice when you’re overwhelmed
Notice when you’re triggered
Notice when you’ve gone numb
Notice when you need to rest
Breathe more deeply
Dance, when possible
Get excited about the change of seasons
Have specific foods you eat at specific times of year
Touch the earth
Notice patterns
Look forward to things
Cultivate an adventurous state of mind
Plan gatherings
Create intentional warmth
Be festive
Ask questions
Tell stories
Listen to stories
Sit in more circles
See conversation as a teaching tool
Pursue intergenerational friendships
Pursue cross-cultural friendships
Get to know your neighbors
Attend community events
Chat with strangers
Pay people well (if you’re in DC,
check out this cleaning service that pays a living wage)
Be honest about what is important to you
Exercise your vulnerability
Use social media in a generative way
Go easier on yourself
Be intentional with whom you spend your time
Be willing to let go of relationships that have run their course
Learn the generative power of
occasionally fucking it all up
Give and receive feedback
Make personal growth a very high priority
Get excited about learning new things (always)
Celebrate yourself in progress
Demand an inspired life
Be thorough in everything you do
Stay in the herenowherenowherenow (notice when you wander, but don’t make it a big deal)
Feel your feelings
Experience your feelings in front of other people
Feel your grief about the past
Feel your rage at the status quo
Feel your fear about the future
Feel your powerlessness to change other people
Feel your faith and hopefulness anyway
Move forward anyway
Take risks in the name of social justice
Acknowledge your privilege, every single day
Hold people accountable, including yourself
Read books by people who don’t look or think like you
Promote women of color
Ask yourself who is not in the room who should be
Listen to those who hold less power than you in society and believe them
Take responsibility and clean up your messes
Take leadership over your life
Take leadership in our world
Inspire others to do the same

***

Thanks for reading. What resonates for you? What did I leave out? What do you disagree with? What big and small ways do you experience self-care working in your life and out in our world? How can we become more holistic in how we understand self-care?

Whatever your list, its contents are deeply important. I hope you can celebrate yourself for the self-care you’re already doing while courageously leaning into the actions that are calling to you next. Because really, we never get self-care done. It’s just not a box we just check off or something we fit into our weekends.

Truly, it’s everything. It’s our communication. It’s our relationships. It’s our politics. It’s our environment. It’s our world. Self-care is really freaking important.

Understanding this importance, we can keep moving in the direction of our beautiful selves. We can wake up with great care, do our best to live our days with great care, and put ourselves to sleep with great care.

We can surround ourselves with other amazing spirits who support us through the shaky parts of growth. Together, we can learn to truly love and value ourselves. In the process, we mature as human beings and become the role models that others look to in times of stress.

After we’ve spent a while on the path, we look up. Things have changed around us. Suddenly, miraculously, we are hit with the understanding that in our pursuit of personal growth, we’ve been shifting the world alongside us. We now have the power to become conscious change agents in our world. The personal becomes the political becomes the personal becomes the political.

This cycle of liberation is what we’re dancing around. This growth of self is why I keep coming back. This conversation reminds me that I’m so deeply grateful to be traveling alongside you.

With care,
Gracy

Podcast! What Powerful Women Do and Don't Do with Podcaster and Blogger Myrrhanda Novak

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Despite trying not to care what others think, do you still find yourself struggling with you "should" and "shouldn't" do as a woman? Underneath it all, do you limit your life out of fears of what might happen if you were to really be authentic? 

During my conversation with WOMENdon'tDOthat podcast and blog founder Myrrhanda Novak, we cover a lot of territory! We discuss what it means to be a modern, integrated woman and how live as a feminist against the backdrop of seemingly-conventional institutions, like Christianity. Also, Myrrhanda shares the experience of losing her 16 month-old son and the self-care that helped her through this immensely difficult period. 

To stay in touch with Myrrhanda and and connect to the WOMENdon'tDOthat movement, you can visit her website <https://www.womendontdothat.com and follow her on Instagram <https://www.instagram.com/myrrhanda/?hl=en>


Wednesday Missive: Self-Care for a Breakup

Hello Dears,

When I was 24, during my second year of living in Peru for the Peace Corps, I went through the worst breakup of my life. I could say a lot about this particular relationship and this particular time in my life, but for the sake of this story I want to share three specific things:

  1. I fell in love with this person in an unprecedented way. I had never before felt so attracted to and so attached to another human being. I suddenly understood all the love songs I’d ever heard.

  2. The intensity of these feelings made it very confusing for me to distinguish between the normal ups and downs of a healthy relationship and the fallout of unhealthy, codependent relationship patterns.

  3. At the time, I was from the United States living in a rural Andean village. I was in my early 20s and didn’t know that much about myself yet. Most days, I felt completely out of my comfort zone. All of this made it incredibly difficult to take care of myself.

Suffice to say, I really suffered during this breakup. We officially ended our relationship just as the rainy season began in the mountains. In the mornings, I woke up heartsick and shivering underneath my damp felt blankets. After lunch, it would really start raining. I sat in my room and watched as water seeped its way up through the cement floor. I desperately missed this person and felt terrified that my feelings of despair would never go away.

I also felt extremely isolated. Although I was surrounded by people, there were pretty strong cultural differences between me and Peruvians. I had no idea how to express what I was feeling to my host family or to the people I worked with, although I’m sure they noticed I was struggling. I lost most of my interest in food and dropped about 20 pounds without trying.

Looking back, it’s hard to say when things got better. After a month of feeling horrible, I asked the Peace Corps for help. Our doctor arranged for me to go see a therapist for a session in sunny Lima. Although one hour wasn’t enough time for me to unpack even the surface layer of my feelings, it did feel good to get out of town, and the rain, for a few days. I arrived back home with the smallest glimmer of hope that I could get through the next few months with my spirit intact.

Other aspects of this breakup would take me years to get over. It was difficult to move on in my life. Opening my heart so widely and getting badly hurt in the process made it feel almost impossible to trust other people. I noticed myself comparing new relationships to the way I felt about my ex, and no one ever seemed good enough.  

But going even deeper than that, part of me still thought that I had been the problem in our relationship. If I had been lessy needy, less demanding and less emotional, we would have been able to stay together. The sh*tty voice in my head kept telling me that I wasn’t enough to make this person truly love me back. Back then, when I was feeling this way, I didn’t have the vocabulary to know that this was shame at work in my psyche.

As I now write this message at age 37, I feel so relieved to be in a totally different place in my life. After so many more romantic relationships—both big and small—and breakups, both intense and casual, I’ve landed in a wonderful partnership where I feel valued for being my whole messy, beautiful self. Right before I met my current partner, I spent three mostly single years doing the intense inner work of recognizing how shame operates in my life and learning to override it to find real self-acceptance. My sense is that even if I hadn’t met my current partner when I did, I would still be feeling pretty good about myself right now.

Now, as I look back at my 24-year-old self, waking up shivering and heartbroken under damp blankets, I’d love to tell her a few things to try to help ease her passage through this immensely difficult moment of life.

Here is what I would tell her:

Darling, I’m so sorry you are going through this. It’s so hard. Please know that you will survive the intensity of this heartbreak and live to experience many more beautiful relationships, with yourself and with others.

To you, I want to explain the mechanics of shame. Shame is a parasite that infects us before we are conscious adults, and these underlying mechanics continue to convince us that whenever we are hurt, it’s because we are the problem. Honestly, sweetheart, even though shame is telling you that you are the most flawed human being ever, you really aren’t that special. Either all of us are tragically flawed, or none of us are. We are together in this human soup, navigating the joy and the heartbreak with as much dignity as we can.

(I wish I could give you a copy of Brené Brown’s “The Gifts of Imperfection,” where she breaks all this down so beautifully, but you’ll have to wait until 2010 when it’s published.)

I also want to tell you how a healthy relationship works. This might be confusing, because you have never experienced healthy relationship dynamics before. Loving another person is not about minimizing your honest needs and authentic imperfections so you can appear more desirable for them. A person who wants you on these terms—on the facade of you being perfect—is not comfortable with themselves and will not be able to love you back in the way you need. This is a very painful, but supremely important lesson in your life. Keep practicing self-love until these dynamics change. They will change.

You are not needy. You are not too much. You are exactly right. In a healthy relationship, both people have needs as well as a laundry list of imperfections they bring to the table. Your ability to communicate your needs to your partner, and tolerate the uncomfortable feelings of vulnerability that exposing yourself will bring up, will be a sign of your readiness to truly love. Your partner’s ability to see these vulnerabilities as a sign of strength within you, and to reciprocate in kind, will be a sign of their worthiness to be with you. Keep doing your inner work, slaying your demons as they arise, and you will figure all of this out.

With this, I’ll add how great it is that you have such big emotions, especially around a topic as important as love. These emotions are not a problem. They are deeply intelligent, which will take you far in life. Emotionally unavailable people are the problem. You are attracted to people you want to save. Unfortunately, you will not be able to save anyone. Let them all go, every last one of them, and give yourself space to grieve their unrealized potential. Save yourself. Watch as your self-esteem grows and you attract someone who is already living out their potential.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, it’s time to learn about authentic self-care. Self-care is not the rebound relationship that distracts you for a while but ultimately just confounds the pain. Self-care is not smoking pot every night so you can avoid feeling sad. Self-care is not speaking badly about your ex to anyone who will listen. These are all great examples of numbing behavior. Numbing only turns down the volume on your pain, but it will never fix the pain at the root.

Self-care will restore you at the root. Self-care means setting boundaries and practicing extra gentleness when you can’t always hold these boundaries as firmly as you’d like. It means knowing what is good for you (writing your morning pages, eating consistent meals, moving your body in the spirit of exercise, and putting yourself kindly to bed) and repeating that behavior as much as possible.

Self-care means reaching out, again and again and again, to the stable people who keep redirecting you back to yourself. These can be real-life friends, trained professionals, or beautifully written accounts from those who have endured heartbreak and survived.

(To this, I found one of the first copies of “Eat, Pray, Love,” then just published, during this breakup year. Reading about Liz Gilbert’s heartbreak and her magical journey gave me an indescribable amount of hope. So much so, that for the first time in my life, I wrote an author to thank her. To my great surprise, Liz sent me a postcard back! I still have it taped in my Peru journals.)

Mostly, self-care is giving yourself time and space to address the underlying trauma that is being triggered by your current heartbreak. Your willingness to feel is a sign of your healing, because as adrienne maree brown says, “In my experience, healing happens when a place of trauma or pain is given full attention, really listened to.” You are worthy of being listened to, but often, that listening has to start with yourself.

Again, lovely you (lovely me), this is a rough time. There is no way to minimize or sugarcoat that reality.  However, you will not only survive the tough years that are to come, but you will use them to grow in your capacity to feel compassion for all beings who are suffering. Heartbreak is perhaps our most relatable shared trait, and within it there’s a deep well of connection. It might be the place that saves our world.

Soon enough, you will realize that this compassion goes deeper than loving and being loved by another. Compassion is the bedrock of your being, the truth of your truest self. The only way to find it is to lose what you think is keeping you afloat. You will flail wildly upon letting go. However, when you hit bottom, it won’t be at all like you thought. It will feel solid to the point to of unbreakable, but it still be soft. You’ll finally find yourself in the only place that really feels like home.

With care,
Gracy

PS: While writing this missive, I’ve enjoyed using “them” and “themselves” to express a singular person. More and more, I’m discovering how much language dictates our ability to express our authentic identities. I feel inspired to expand upon the set rules to create more possibilities for us all to exist.