Happy New Year, everybody! It’s 2017!
Some of us are feeling hopeful, fistful of resolutions in hand, after the garbage fire of 2016, which led to the disastrous election of Donald Trump among other horrid things. From his anti-abortion stance to his public objectification of women, Trump’s upcoming presidential inauguration on January 20th will be a day many feminists and like-minded folk will dread for years to come.
Since the election on November 9th, 2016, the internet has been urging us to look after ourselves in ways we maybe hadn't considered before, that in order to take care of our world, we must first take care of ourselves. Now, more than ever, we have fewer opportunities to shrug and say, “Who cares?”
That’s the question Erin Klassen, editor of the new anthology You Care Too Much, and friend of TOFEMCO, has never been able to ignore. With an intuitive sensitivity, she writes in the introduction of her book, published by her company With/out Pretend: “I’ve always cared, so much, about everything.” But in dark times, Klassen asks a relevant question: “Where is the guide that will lead us to real healing, when we’re faced with the moments we need it the most?”
Learning the importance of self care – beyond surface-level tweets, posts, apps and consumerism – is at the crux of this book. At what point do we realize we need self care? Is it during our processes of loss, illness or trauma? Is it only after the fact? Will we instinctively know to put on our own oxygen mask before helping another person? How do we heal? How do we find strength in vulnerability? And how can we be authentic in the process?
From personal essays to poems and works of art, seventeen contributors consider the question of self care and how it takes shape in their own lives. There are some outstanding pieces, like Nada Alic’s Los Angeles-based story “#Softasfuck” which details how friendship and community can heal heartbreak, which stands in contrast to Adina Tarralik Duffy’s story of returning to live in her grandparents’ house after they’d passed away, in the sprawling tundra of Southampton Island, located 290 kilometres below the Arctic Circle.
Poems by Leah Horlick and Brooke Manning punctuate the book’s confessional first-person stories, while artwork by Tallulah Fontaine, Kathryn Bondy and Angela Lewis visually tell us of the many ways in which self care takes shape. Pieces by Naomi Moyer, Anabela Piersol and Mo Handahu tell us that eventually, it’s okay to be vulnerable, touching on themes of death, fragility, jealousy, coping, self esteem, escape, and ultimately, how to be present through it all.
More than anything, we learn that self care is a balancing act between caring for ourselves and caring for others. Self awareness is key in making sure we’re as calm, cool and collected as we can be when shit hits the fan. This goes beyond the Goopy, co-opted status of self care with its pedicures, warm baths, probiotics, turmeric teas, colouring books and “mindful” Instagram feeds (a term that kinda makes me cringe) – all because “we deserve it.”
And we do deserve it, but what does self care look like beyond its buzzwordy status? Self care is so much more than buying shit to make yourself feel good. It’s not an easy thing to admit that you need to help yourself. It’s confrontational and uncomfortable, particularly if you’ve spent most of your life hating yourself, or telling yourself you’re not worthy or of love, or beating yourself for not being good enough.
Sometimes, our bodies simply notify us when we’ve had enough. Throughout the book, several writers discuss how unhealed trauma turns into a physical manifestation of stress, whether it’s hair loss, recurring miscarriages, eczema, a “bad leg” or a left fist that forms into a claw. Our biology and spirit catch up to us, asking us to please slow down. That's where we find self awareness coming into play. “We’ll need to turn inward, to listen to the voices within telling us how to be our best selves,” writes Klassen.
For me, self care is about positive self talk, affirmations, knowing when to slow down, knowing when to say yes or no, breathing. It’s about talking to a friend or therapist or guide when you feel low. Sometimes it's about staying in, other times it's about being with your people. It’s about understanding that the feelings you’re feeling right now are really shitty, and accepting and moving beyond them, no matter how long it takes. Sometimes it takes hours, days, years to get over it. No one can judge. Not even yourself.
Self care means doing something nice for yourself as a reminder that you still exist. Yes, it can be as simple as painting your nails or deactivating your social media accounts. Ultimately, it’s about regular relaxation and recovery from our daily existence. It’s a way to emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually return to yourself.
Self care is different for everyone. It does not look like one single thing. It’s a non-linear path to healing and working towards becoming a better version of yourself. It’s how to preserve and protect yourself and others. It’s fluid – it changes as you do, and it’s not perfect.
I’ll leave you from this quote from Jessika Hepburn, who wrote “Care / Carry / Cure” for the anthology:
“Not caring means we have killed the very thing that makes us human.”
If there was ever a time to start caring, it's right now.
What propels you into self care? When do you know you need it the most? Is it a daily habit you’ve formed, or something you turn to when times get rough? Does your body tell you when you’re stressed? Let us know in the comments below!
Buy a copy of You Care Too Much now. Erin Klassen is in reprinting phase and will be donating $10/book to Planned Parenthood. Last year, she raised $220.
Listen to our live podcast on You Care Too Much, where we sit down with some of the book's contributors and chat. Subscribe to our podcast for more episodes, and if you like what you hear, please give us a five-star rating. Thanks!
Photos by Laurie McGregor.