Notes on care of the body as resistance from the mind of someone who's piecing it together.
Past Stealth Care Entries
Looking for Kicks
What to Do with Stuff
Under One Roof
Getting Your Hands Dirty
On Leaving the House
When Blood Runs Cold
Putting Your Foot In
Out of Time
Everything Must Go
One Thousand Words for Skipping School
Stealth Care by Ruby Brunton
The concept of self care reached my periphery sometime late last year. Not just the notion that we should take time to do nice things for ourselves, or that we deserve to be looked after, but the much talked about idea of self care as a practice we should commit ourselves to. The thought of engaging in regular healthy activities to assure my physical and mental well-being fills me with anxiety, yet another “should” to add to the never-ending list I can never seem to follow. I can’t imagine having regular meal times or counting the vegetable content of said meals. Exercise is so much easier if I’m drunk and dancing in the club or spending a gorgeous day at the beach with a gorgeous person.
There’s something about “self care” that feels like work. It is work. It’s hours, it’s time, it’s thoughts, it’s creativity, it’s labor. Being rather work-resistant myself, by which I mean resistant to exploitative labor which pays my bills but takes time away from my creative work, I feel naturally opposed to adding further chores to my already crammed schedule. Do I want to come home and relax with a face mask on, prepare a green smoothie, and head off to the gym? Well, kinda, but I kind of want to eat a hot sandwich loaded with jalapeños and lie around watching Netflix.
Thinking about work outside of work sickens me, and following rules is something I’ve never been good at doing. I think I’m scarred from having severe insomnia for which the doctor prescribed “sleep hygiene”: a complex set of instructions that menacingly proclaim you will not sleep if you don’t follow them. I’m not into being told what to do, and I’m not into being threatened. Though, I did attempt sleep hygiene for a few ill-fated weeks. Ran myself ragged trying to remember to avoid caffeine, “stressful activities,” using my bed for anything other than sleep and sex (which meant cutting myself off from the joys of supine snacking and movie-watching), and the worst – if you’re in bed and you can’t sleep go sit in another room and read something boring like the phone book. The phone book?? It’s bad enough I can’t sleep, and now you want me to read the phone book?
Now that I’ve learned more or less to manage my insomnia with a drink, a smoke and the occasional sleeping pill, I’m like an irritating ex-carnivore trying to spread the joys of a flesh-free existence to the world. I still don’t get enough sleep and it worries me, but at least I’m not lying in bed awake night after night. I want people to be able to sleep at least a little bit, and if the only way to achieve that is to take sleeping pills for a little while, then… is it skin off anyone’s nose? Although I recommend whiskey as a great, less-addictive substitute.
This year I turned 30. As I age I am noticing that my carefree and less than enthused attitude to healthy living is becoming a problem. I can’t just eat whatever I want anymore, drink as much as I want, or stay up till 3am and feel no consequence the next day any more. My teeth hurt, my back aches, my body feels stiff most of the time, I feel more susceptible to illness but I can’t afford to go to the doctor, and my memory is shot from the insomnia, not to mention years of antidepressants. Every time I pledge to do a better job of keeping my body a smoothly running machine, I am thwarted by the constraints of capitalism: I have no time, I have no money, I have no energy. I resist turning my body into a better functioning apparatus of the state, and yet, I don’t want to succumb to my genetic predisposition to heart failure, alcoholism and suicide.
I think I need to reconfigure self care in order for it to work for me. I want to find a way of conceptualizing it so it feels less like a chore, or at least a chore that makes more sense than having to do a day job. I understand why caring for ourselves is important, I recognise we need to be as healthy as we can be to survive our current socio-political climate. I want to find a way to be aware of what I am doing to my body without the Catholic guilt (which got passed down despite a generation of atheist parents) that leads to self-flagellation every time I eat a slice of pizza for dinner. A way to take care of myself that’s in line with my resistance to bougie food and fitness fads. I want to investigate what is stopping us from taking care of ourselves in the first place and if there a way to do better. I’m not a doctor, I’m just a patient patient and I’ll be here for a while.