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Why Traditional Self-Care Doesn’t Meet My Needs as a Black Woman

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How am I supposed to meditate when my community is on fire and our people are dying in the streets? How I am supposed to take a warm shower or drink some calming tea when our children are going from school to jail? How am I supposed to eat a healthy meal when we are dying en masse from the novel coronavirus (COVID-19)? How am I supposed to do any of the things that are on a traditional list of self-care? Self-care involves more than a laundry list of ideas on how to cope. It implies that some self-soothing will make the world a better place and bring about healing that is not true.

Insufficient Care Strategies

When a professional or a friend gives me a chart of self-care ideas, I think you do not hear me. You put the burden of healing back on me, instead of on the source of the trauma. Now I am supposed to fix its impact on me. This does not do anything to address the real trauma.

My therapist said that it was OK for me to be angry and that I did not have to be OK. I told her I cannot afford to be angry for it would be a constant state of being for me and that is unsustainable. She recommended some standard self-care tips, but I was having none of it. I needed somehow to make her understand a little sun on my face was not going to fix it.

The cure does not fit the illness.

This current upheaval in our communities and in our nation is adding salt to an already septic wound. My mind is racked with fear and hostility. The recommendation to write down what I am grateful for does not alleviate the pain I am experiencing from racial oppression. I cannot will the oppression away. I cannot go for a walk to lift the constant pressure of racial trauma.

I am not sure what self-care looks like for the Black person. I am exhausted by all the recommendations to do yoga. How am I supposed to focus on what is within my control when nothing is? No one would want to see my vision board. How do I look forward when it looks like nothing from the past has changed? My board would be blank, unsure what a future for me looks like. I am clearly not going to find my vision in a magazine clipping.

What is this about speaking goodness into your life? I can barely breathe, let alone speak. Who do I speak this to? The white supremacist? The racist cop? The homophobic minister? Just who?

The task ahead of me

I can only live in resistance and protest daily in a way that produces safety for myself and my community. Since this nation is a long way from equality and racial justice, I must figure out how to exist and keep my sanity.

So, while you are out doing your yoga, I will be in my living room planning a revolution — putting on my body armor and steeling myself for a battle. A battle for the soul of a nation hell-bent on destroying me and my way of life. My gratitude list looks like a rallying cry for all non-Black people to stand up and be co-conspirators in the fight for racial justice for all people.

My innovation for self-care.

I have enlisted a Black therapist to help me process all that has happened and is happening around me. I have taken up writing to be able to express my feelings of sorrow without judgment. I make friends I can process with and can give and get support from. I get involved in politics that represents me. I raise my grandchildren to take pride in themselves and I protect their hearts against the cruelty of the world. My strategies for self-care are not perfect, but they are currently my only offense.

Now, I will read the comments from my fellow Mighties and we will strategize together to bring about change, and brainstorm some practical ideas for self-care.

Maya Lorde

For more on the Black Lives Matter movement, check out these articles from our community.

Photo by Kevin Turcios on Unsplash

Originally published: September 23, 2020
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