Back in my thirties when my anxiety attacks ramped up to what felt like heart attacks, I began to look into self-care. I don’t think it was even called that back then. The question I started asking myself was, what do I need to get to a baseline every day? Granted, I was setting the bar pretty low, but we have to start somewhere, right?
On The Road
At that time our family was on the road a lot. Most of the time. My then husband was playing concerts all over the country and outside of it, and I was doing a zillion things so I could be on the road too. I loved the travelling and adventures but also it was very hard. Most of the time, in addition to selling merch, managing tours, booking shows, sleeping very little, and advocating for humanitarian projects, I was also home-schooling my 3 sons. (No wonder the heart-attack shaped panic attacks.)
It was a lot. I began to wonder what I needed to survive my life. Three things emerged: I needed to read something beautiful every day. I needed to write something – anything, every day. I needed to move my body every day.
When you have small children and you teach them at home (or on tour buses, or in random venues across the country), there is very little time for relaxed reading. I needed something short and beautiful. Something wonder-invoking and inspiring. That’s when I discovered Mary Oliver, Billy Collins, Jack Gilbert, and the like. Poets. Their words and wonderings were the nourishment that fed my soul. “You do not have to be good. You do not have to walk on your knees for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.” MO . . . “It seems only yesterday I used to believe there was nothing under my skin but light, If you cut me I would shine . . . “ BC . . . “What we feel most has no name but amber, archers, cinnamon, horses and birds.” JG
I had so many things happening inside me, so much pressure building up, so many things I needed to say but couldn’t, so many questions I needed to ask. I was walking around like a time bomb. But when you live your life in public spaces with people watching you, you need to manage yourself very appropriately. This means you don’t get to yell at your kids when they’re acting like complete dummies and making you insane. You don’t get to have conflict (or the healing resolution that comes from honest interactions) with your husband. You don’t get to cry half the day because you haven’t slept in a week, and you can’t pay your bills and your kid splits his face open and may need reconstructive surgery. No. Truly, the show must go on. And I happen to be very good at projecting that everything is ok.
So writing was essential. It was the gate in the dam wall that I could open and shut instead of the whole damn thing exploding forth in destruction. It was my flow. I have dozens and dozens of poems from that time. Ones that I’m proud of. I have essays and rants and unsent resignation letters. Confessions, fantasies, bed-time stories. I was prolific! And it saved me.
On Moving My Body
Before I had cancer, it was a strange reality for me that the harder I worked and the more I buzzed around, the more excess energy I needed to get rid of. It was like all the “doing” I was up to generated a byproduct of restless, unproductive, crazy-making energy. If I could’ve, I would’ve screamed my head off from time to time to release it. But, for some reason, I have never been able to scream – not as a kiddo on the playground, not as a frantic desperate woman. Only in my dreams sometimes do I scream like I’m bat-shit crazy and even then, I’m more puzzled at myself than relieved. But if I lace up my tennies, and strike out into the world with my eyes open, there is so much to behold and be amazed at and curious about, it frees me. Sometimes I have to go hard until my breath comes in ragged gasps and other times, the slow rhythm of my feet is enough to ground me into balance.
I was in my 20’s when my friend, Kim, took me to a Yoga class and I began a practice I still do nearly every day. A fluid, flowing, movement of body and energy that is so connective for me that all of my systems – body, mind, soul – can come into agreement and experience peace. Moving my body leads me to peace.
Way back in the day when I was discovering these things about myself, it was an act of desperation. A way for me to find a steady baseline so I could continue to manage all the many many other responsibilities that were my priorities. These days, writing every day, reading something beautiful, and moving my body are my priorities. If something is neglected for too long, I swing way out of balance and the freaky moves in, along with insecurity, uncertainty, my demons get loud.
And so, as I’m bringing myself back to my practices, thank you for participating with me in the writing everyday category. If you’re a reader or want to be, let’s be friends. If you’re a writer, or want to be, let’s be friends. If you move your body for peace, or would like to, let’s be friends. Really. Let’s connect~