Last Sunday I pushed myself to get ready for my two upcoming exhibits this month. That stint involved framing three pieces (of considerable size) and mounting (gluing) story labels to quarter-inch thick white foam core and cutting them out with a large industrial X-acto blade.
All This May Not Sound Like Much. Yet, after four hours of standing, leaning over, using my hands in ways that are not the everyday, my hips were whining and my lower back wanted a date with a heating pad. Holding the body in tense anticipating of screwing things up and the shallow breathing that results, well, people, I gotta tell you this is physical labor. The idea of a hand massage almost brought tears.
A view inside Terra Kind Studio. Alas, a poor photo due to crappy lighting. Yet you can see many works have been framed and are ready for exhibiting this month! No blood was shed in the process.
Yet, everything was completed and for the most part, well done. That’s saying something as I’m not a handy person and I have no talent for working with glue. I remind myself no blood was shed.
All this is to say I started thinking about *GASP* Self-Care and all the feelings, opinions, and perspectives that “buzzword” evokes. I know it’s good for you but stay with me…
We’ve been hearing about “self-care” for quite some time now and it seems particularly directed towards women. From the beginning, I was suspicious. Was this yet another marketing campaign to drive women (a.k.a. consumer queens) to go out and buy more stuff so she can take care of herself? As if women have to be told to take care of themselves and/or have to stand up and fight for what is an enableable right.
I know I come from a place of privilege. I work for nobody but me. I have control (most of the time) over my own time. I get to do what I want to do (as long as it is fair for everyone around). And I do make a point to take care of myself. If I didn’t, I could not do the work that I do.
Self-care is about self-value, honoring your principles and what you hold dear. It’s realizing our mind and soul are contained in a needy human animal. Take good care of the animal and it does marvelous things for the mind and soul so you can go on to make great things.kristin maija peterson
Being aware of your moment of NOW slows you down. It lets you focus and see all the amazing works that nature wants you to witness. Go and find yourself a good forest to wander about in.
With that, here are a few actions I consider and do as self-care that are, for the most part, totally free.
Sleep. It’s so obvious yet undervalued in our hyper-productive society. For me, sleep is an absolute imperative. A good 8 to 9 hours of it in a quiet, dark room. White noise optional. No screen time at least an hour before bed. While I can manage one night of poor sleep, too many nights in a row and I will become depressed and yes, I easily get sick if I don’t have proper sleep.
Water. Plenty of it. It keeps the body hydrated and the mind sharp. Yes, I probably use more toilet paper than I would like because of this practice but hey, I can ward off a headache by simply drinking water.
Walking. Hell, just moving. I spend a lot of time sitting to do my work and walking, taking the stairs, stretching, parking far from the entrance, any means that I can incorporate movement into my day, the better.
Meditation. A word heard more often than self-care! Many moan at its very mention. I didn’t think I could get my squirrel brain to do it either. Argh, it’s so boring! And then again, it’s not. It did take a few years until I could sit and focus on nothing but a mantra and breathing. There are mornings when it is a mind-fuck wrestling match on my cushion. But just 10 minutes that often runs longer (because I can) is a godsend for my anxious human animal to calm down. PLUS I gleam ideas and insights as I move out of a meditative state. Now it’s completely habit, like brushing my teeth. I can’t imagine life without meditation.
If I didn’t take care of myself, my tired frazzled brain wouldn’t notice this artistic arrangement courtesy of Mother Nature.
A few things I do to take care of the artist-me:
Learn New Skills. I am a big fan of SkillShare, books, extension classes and workshops, or just going down a rabbit hole with Google because I’m curious about something. These days it’s about botany, the names of plants and who is related to who, and other plant intrigues.
Artist Dates. A lot of people have heard of The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. It’s a timeless book that serves not just artists but anyone wanting to live a creative life. I swear to god that Artist Dates are a must. I particularly love going to other artists’ studios to talk about their work and going to art festivals for the same reason. I break the rule that an Artist Date should be going to or doing something you have not gone or done before. Regardless, I get so much inspiration from other artists it makes my heart swell.
Price My Work with Integrity. I know I price my work on the high-end for a lot of people. However, I know the level of work that goes into producing it. It takes me five to six hours every weekday, sometimes more on weekends for four to six weeks to complete one large-scale watercolor or graphite drawing. I use professional-grade materials and I frame my own work. I believe in the work, and its value, and this is reflected in the price. To price lower would be settling for less than I deserve.
Finding Out About Other Women Artists. Living or dead, women artists and their stories give me a continuum, a context for finding my place in the art world and in art history. Reading about what some of these women went through for their art is both humbling and yet empowering.
Your turn. What are your feelings about self-care? What does self-care look like to you? I heard someone say that going out and protesting for a good cause is a form of self-care for them. How radical is your self-care? Please share in the comments. Namaste.