Last week was difficult for me, as I am sure it was for many of you. On Thursday, I woke up and felt incredibly hopeless, which was compounded by a numb feeling that I’ve only ever felt the day after Darren Wilson, who murdered Michael Brown, went free. I postponed my meeting with my faculty advisor, telling him I needed a few hours to gather myself. I ignored a scathing email from a different faculty member about a paper I’d submitted months ago that was very late and very bad, a paper that I could not bring myself to care about because the ethics of public health are irrelevant when there are no standard codes of ethics regarding the sanctity of black life. I stumbled through the day trying to ignore the news as much as possible, knowing that the next day I would be able to escape.
On Friday morning, I packed a carry on and boarded a flight to Hawaii to attend a wedding of one of J’s friends. Even though I didn’t realize it, I needed Waikiki Beach – with its pristine beaches, tourist-filled boardwalk, and scorching sun – to prevent myself from wallowing in what could have easily become several days of misery and depression. It was as if God knew when I booked my flight in May that I would need to unplug on the 11 hour long wifi-less Hawaiian Airlines flight sometime in July.
Since I was too many time zones away to stay current on developing events (I even missed Serena’s win for several hours!) and most of my time was spent at the wedding, trying to tan, or sleeping, Hawaii forced me to escape and to take care of myself. At first I felt bad that I was applying suntan lotion while others were protesting, but I realized that I would not be effective in making a difference in the world if I did not first take care of myself.
“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” – Audre Lorde
Here are Five Ways to Care for Yourself in the Midst of the War on Black Lives
Just go somewhere, anywhere. Drive to the mountains, book a trip to somewhere warm, or check into an AirBnB in the next town over. I just finished reading a group of books for my oral exams about the Great Migration – the mass exodus of black Southerners to the urban North from around 1910-1950 – and it is really salient how mobility is a fundamental aspect of liberty. In Warmth of Other Suns, Isabel Wilkerson refers to the Great Migration as “the first mass act of independence by a people who were in bondage in the country for far longer than they have been free.” We did not always have the right of free movement, so changing locations, even temporarily, can be an act of resistance and liberation.
Whether you pray or not, reflecting on your life can be a powerfully uplifting task. Don’t focus on the mistakes you’ve made, but rather the ways in which you have been blessed, lucky, and fortunate. Write down 15 things you are grateful for in one column, and 15 dreams you have in another column. Think on both little and big things, from your favorite pair of shoes that you scored on sale, to how your child recovered from a serious illness, to how you navigated your way out of a toxic relationship. Breathe in your accomplishments a
Book a spa treatment, a facial, or an overly priced pedicure with green tea and fish eggs and anything else that will make you feel like a queen. Or hire someone to clean your house, while you simply sit on the couch and kick your feet up. Instead of dragging your clothes to the laundromat, get the wash & fold service and go for a relaxing walk instead. Pampering yourself, whether through improving your outward beauty or just contracting out a chore to free up time, is an instant pick me up.
I am not gonna lie, if I was not in the middle of a move right now or didn’t just drop a grand to go to Hawaii, I would do some serious retail therapy and buy a new wardrobe at the Zara or Nordstrom sales. Since I’m broke AND woke (ooh I like that), I’m going to divert the few extra dollars I’ve got to a black-owned fashion businesses (Quirky Brown Love made a great list!). Investing your dollars back into the black community is one of the most powerful ways to both self-care and make an impact, you know because money talks.
One of the quickest ways I pick myself up is by writing to my sponsor child, Samuel. His family bought a cow with the money I sent him for his birthday a few months ago and I still cry every time I see the photo! When you think about ways to improve the lives of others, you can’t help but appreciate your own life more (this goes hand in hand with reflecting). Giving back is especially important within our communities, so if you can commit to a monthly mentorship program, or just a day of community service, you will be doing a small but important part in empowering those around you.
Remember that self-care is ESSENTIAL if you want to make an impact. I urge all of you to reflect on how you can best take care of yourself, because if you are not mentally, physically, and emotionally well, you cannot make as strong of an impact as we collectively need to make a difference in the world. Let’s continue to be fierce and change the world by being our best selves!