Wellness Is Over. Now What?

Or how do I self-actualize when I can't get my nails done? 

Attention you people new to self care. You're in the presence of a master. 

  • I learned to meditate my first day of college in my intro psych class. Let's just say, it took. 
  • I got my first therapeutic massage at age 24 (ie, 1989), when I began my career as a drug counselor and I didn't want to have to talk to anybody else. 
  • I started my Kundalini yoga practice in 1993, before anybody cared about yoga, let alone Kundalini yoga (which nobody still cares about). 
  • I worked at food co-ops since Tom's of Maine was known only in New England. Tom: you're welcome. 

Over the years, I've added things to my self-care regimen. 

  • Facials, waxing, manicures, and the occasional wrap to fill out the spa package. 
  • Fresh foods as a baseline and organic when I have the money. 
  • Gym memberships when I feel frumpy. 
  • Therapy and coaching when I feel stuck. 
  • Books and crystals and aromatherapy and tarot cards, because, why not? 

I'm a little type A, and, as a psych major, I learned early to attend to my stress. It's easier on everybody. And it usually works. 

More importantly, though, I've stayed well. Fairly fit. And until I hit menopause, I looked young for my age. (Now, I look good for my age.) 

Enter COVID-19. 

All those years of taking care of myself. For what? I could still catch this thing and die. 

So what's the point again? 

Self care went out the window 

Let's break it down. Aside from my daily meditation—which is so built-in, it's like brushing my teeth—my self-care routine was upended. 

No massages. No going to the gym. No time luxuriating at a grocery store (yes, grocery shopping is a hobby of mine—or at least it was). No regular way to attend to my stress. 

Let alone the trauma of coming to grips with what was happening across the world. Plus, I had already submitted the court papers and spent the first two months of the pandemic divorcing in place. Then the relocation across the country to help my octogenarian parents ride this thing out. 

Stress? Perhaps. 

Do I feel like taking an hour on the yoga mat to open my heart chakra while I'm resetting every other aspect of my life? Or do I want to start drinking at 3 and knock myself out with a trazadone before bed? 

We all miss different things 

There are things that many Americans miss that I don't. I don't miss going out. I've worked for myself for decades, and as a writer, I'm comfortable in my own thoughts. Quietly. Alone. 

I've been struck by the role retail therapy plays in peoples' lives. And how people become bored. How they don't know what to do with themselves. Without activity. Or worry. Or anger. Or blame. 

A close friend disclosed to me that the pandemic has been really hard on her feet. She keeps getting ingrown toenails. Having never had one, I dared to ask—have you ever been taught to cut your toenails? (I remember in Girl Scouts we were taught to cut straight across.) Turns out, she's been getting pedicures since high school and hasn't managed her own feet for decades. I suspect that she's not the only person in that situation. 

Just what is self care these days? 

Now that I'm spending a little more time in the grocery store again, I've seen more special edition magazines covering self care. But it's a crock of hooey. Not only is this like closing the barn door after the horses get out, what's being touted is not self care. Our necessary response to this pandemic is not self care. 

Self care is to be able to spend time with your friends and your family. Self care is getting educated and being able to send your children to school. Self care is being able to be social in the way that humans are social. Self care is being able to go grocery shopping and stand as close or as far from someone without feeling stressed. Or like a target. Or that they're the enemy. 

I've seen a lot of headlines about mindfulness. That—like creativity—is on the higher end of Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Staying present, being able to sit with our own thoughts, is a huge ask at this moment. 

But mindfulness—as outlined in these special edition magazines—cannot be a peaceful practice. It cannot be a transcendent practice. It's a defensive practice. 

Now is not a place in history that has anything to do with self care. It has everything to do with self-preservation. 

We're all just trying to stay alive. We are being told how not to kill other people. It's not even about how to protect ourselves. It is, but the greater public health stance is about how you will not kill other people. Cuz you might. 

Common parlance is the New Normal. It's not self care. I call it Life After Wellness. 

Or Hope's LAW. 

Welcome to my newsletter. We'll be exploring the thought processes and the habits that are left when we are left with.. essentially...nothing. 

Well, nothing but our thought processes and our habits. Which, really, is quite a bit to work with. 

Postscript: What I miss 

Hugs. Granted, that's a remnant of my current marital and living situation. I'm alone here with my folks. No friends really. Not much in the way of extended family. 

I look forward to spontaneous hugging again. Cuz my generation knows how to hug. GenX are great huggers. 

#wellness #selfcare #lifeafterwellness #hopester


(originally published October 5, 2020, as an article on LinkedIn)

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