I cannot stress the importance of emotional literacy enough – specifically becoming literate in the language that is you.
Some months ago, I found this simply, but very accurately, written piece on self-care and emotional literacy, that really spoke to me. And I’ve been pondering a lot about “self-care” ever since. Specifically about how much I used to want to roll my eyes at the term at one time. Because it sounded just so first-world, so extra. So unnecessary.
I’ve realised this is entirely an outcome of the definitions of the term I’ve gleaned from the Internet. I could never really relate to those cartoons about “adulting” (another term I really, really hate) and self-care that advocate things like eating many, many cupcakes, getting a manicure or massage for no reason or the like. I mean, I guess those are some forms of self-care too, maybe even for me, if I can get myself to like manicures or back to eating copious amounts of sugar. But, at the heart of it self-care is really basic and fuss-free.
It doesn’t have to be (and most often isn’t) an expensive, laborious or commodified experience. It can be fancy, if that floats your boat, but it can also be as basic as promising to give yourself the minimum hours of sleep every night, or adding a cup of your favourite hot beverage to end the day, or turning off the data on your phone at 8 pm every night — anything that you think will contribute to helping you function in a healthy manner.
For a long time, I thought self-care was just a fancy word for pampering. But it’s the second-half of the post that really struck me. Self-care is so much more than just pampering myself. I know now, it is a powerful means to get closer in tune with myself. In increasing my emotional literacy — becoming literate in the language of me, as he puts it.
Something about being deliberate, committed and focused on a handful of things makes this possible. And it really only takes a few things. The list doesn’t have to be long, in fact the shorter it is, the more likely it will turn into a sustainable practice. Over all, this has made space for a natural culling out of a lot of unnecessary things — unnecessary outings, unnecessary wastage of energy, unnecessary expenditure, unnecessary people, etc — in my life. Consequently, it’s freed up so much mind-space and spurred a spike in positivity and a feeling of abundance.
And then there is also this, which is the crux of it.
Self-care is also: addressing your own problematic behaviors and striving to be/do better; removing toxic (not just challenging) people/situations from your life; holding yourself accountable for what you do & what you say (apologizing authentically when you cause harm, hurt others/yourself); doing your own self-work (not always expecting others to sort you out) so that you can be emotionally literate and able to understand yourself.
I’m really enjoying choosing little acts of care for myself, deliberately. Salt in my bath water, afternoon naps, a whole day of reading, mangoes for dinner, breakfast with S this week. It’s usually the small, simple, most basic things. Most of which is not path-breaking or even very new to me. But the higher-than-usual joy I’m feeling, is definitely new.
Ensuring I write this a post on this blog every single day has become a serious self-care habit this year. When I did this in 2016, I was a lot busier, and many times I didn’t make the daily post. It was common for me to catch up on back log and back-date posts to make up for it all. This time around though, not only do I have the time to actually write everyday, but I also have the inclination to make this about taking the time out to note something worth remembering for every day, rather than worrying about the writing or making this an activity that needs to be so perfect I will give up before I even begin.
Fitting in a gratitude post every week has had some incredible impact on me and on my life. Having a blog to do it has ensured I will do it every week.
Since I’m riding a really high high this week, I want to remember some of the things I am deeply enjoying right now:
- Feeling really at home, all alone in my home. This is something that’s been a long time coming. Even though we’ve had a home, I literally only spent nights here — going over to my folks’ for breakfast, spending a larger part of the day there, only to return in time to make dinner and call it a day. It started with taking May off, and having VC home for more time than when he would go to work, which initially made me want to be around too. Of course that meant that along with lounging about and really making ourselves at home, we had to cook together and do a lot of the everyday homey things that make a home a home. I also managed to finish that long pending cleaning up of a massive pile of junk that occupied my guest room and somehow made me feel like my home wasn’t really “set” until that was done. Somewhere in the midst of all of that, we just settled in. Amma and anna have been in and out of Bangalore too, which means I’ve been home a lot more. All in all, I am back to really enjoying my space like I used to in Goa. That urge to scram the minute VC leaves the house in the morning has lifted. I’m really enjoying sinking into this homeliness.
- Having VC cook most of his meals. Something has switched — the angst around controlling food has melted. It’s many things, my finickiness about the kitchen as my territory where I hold fort and control the way things operate has definitely faded. My unnecessary preoccupation about what we eat has all but died. And it’s a win-win. VC gets to do something he’s been wanting to for years — cook his meals the way he wants even if it means eating eggs and bacon and chicken all day erryday — and I get to relax. And I don’t mean relax physically, I mean just let this shit (unnecessary conditioning that leads me to believe all things kitchen should be managed by me, are my responsibility, and that ignoring it is a crying shame to my domesticity) go.
- Witnessing some of my most favourite girlfriends going through a collective time of growth, transformation and coming into their own. I’m not sure if this is a global phenomenon — pop-culture would have me believe it is — or if it’s just about like attracts like (or my vibe attracts my tribe or whatever version of that idiom you prefer), but it is phenomenal and massively happy-making to watch from afar and up-close, through deep and long conversations, emails shared, moments of surprise and wonder, that somehow we’re all in this together. I can think of at least six women in my immediate circle who are all actively seeking to be better versions of themselves, own their energy and flow and come into their own. I know this from how banter and casual everyday chit-chat that once formed a major part of our conversations has made way for mostly long spans of silence that are interrupted only by very deep conversations every time one of us has a epiphany, makes a breakthrough or some sort, or has noticed a change in our lives. The shift is palpable and to be in the midst of this collective energy flow fills me up in a way I ave not known. Until recently, I was pretty preoccupied with how lonely being interested in my self-improvement often makes me feel. I still do, on the odd day. I am more aware of why it is so, but I suddenly also feel a sense of tribe and camaraderie that goes beyond the group hugs and girl’s night out kind of thing I once sought from my women friends.
- Remembering to slow down on the quiet days, when there isn’t much “work” to do, instead of trying to find ways to “make the time count.”
- Actively feeling happy pretty much all the time. I actually can’t remember the last time I have felt this uniformly happy for this long. Everyday blips come and go, but I feel a bit unshakeable right now. There is flow, there is a happiness and a sense of harmony almost ringing in my head. Waking up is a joy. Every little thing I have to do, or even the day’s I don’t have much to do, feels just right. I’m enjoying how things are pared down to the most simple, so there is far less scope to be overwhelmed by anything.
What little acts of self-care make your every day that much better?