First of all, Happy Indigenous People’s Day!
I’m a historian of Atlantic Africa, the slave trade, and Africans in the Americas, so often that’s where my focus is. But this week I want to remember that while this nation was built by the enslaved, it was built on native land taken by force. I want to remember not to make anyone feel guilty, but to take some moments to sit in my discomfort with America’s past. White people’s attempts to avoid discomfort have caused a great deal of hurt and destruction, and change begins with the self. I will sit in discomfort, and I will help others do the same. I truly believe that it is only when we tolerate our discomfort to fully acknowledge the injustices of our shared past that we can move into an equitable future.
I still believe it is possible, even if the ideal of an equitable future feels far away sometimes. Especially this week, especially if you are a woman or a non-binary person with any history of sexual harassment, abuse, assault, or related trauma. Which is, well, all of us. We all have some experience with it, either directly, or through friends.
I’m not going to mince words. This week, most women in the US, like many other groups of people targeted by this administration, have felt that their country treats them like garbage.
That’s because right now, women (and other groups) are treated like garbage by our country. It’s the only way I have to explain what happened with Kavanaugh.
Something I want to address is how much something like this can affect the writing and productivity in general of women. Most of us are one “let’s give him the benefit of the doubt” away from either full-on screaming or bursting into tears in public. Our writing outputs are suffering.
People who are treated like garbage often begin to believe that’s what they are, and then they stop loving themselves. It’s called internalization – when the hatred directed at you becomes part of who you are. This is dangerous, and I think ultimately, what this government wants. That’s because people who don’t love themselves accept all kinds of unacceptable behavior and treatment. They stop fighting it.
Today I challenge you to treat yourself like you’re worth something, because you are.
Treat yourself as kindly as you would someone you fiercely love- a best friend, a partner, your child.
That means, make sure you eat well, without chastising yourself for either reaching for the comfort food, or avoiding eating because your stomach is in knots. Just take it slow, and eat something green and get enough protein.
It means make time for fun, whatever that looks like to you.
It means make sure you exercise in a way that helps your body and mind feel better, rather than to be punishing to yourself. Just do a little, to get the blood moving to your brain, and when you feel like stopping, give yourself permission to stop. Don’t keep track of calories burned.
It means read something for fun. Just one chapter, short story, or poem.
It means learn something you’ve always wanted to learn for yourself, not for your job.
It means wear something that is comfortable and makes you feel good, however you interpret that. It also means if you catch yourself thinking something negative about another woman’s clothing choice, forgive yourself for making a judgement, then layer a positive thought on top of that: “Good for her for wearing what she wants.” When we’re less judgemental about others’ choices, we feel more free to make the choices we really want.
Are you still reading? Go drink a class of water and stretch your legs for a second.
It means engage in some spiritual activity, and let it be entirely self-defined. Communicate with your chosen higher power however you please, however makes you feel connected to something bigger than yourself. Or allow yourself to be lacking in faith and refuse to feel bad for it.
It means SAY NO to something you don’t want or want to do. Bonus points if you do it without offering an excuse. Try it. Just say no and give a pointed look. This is your life, you don’t have to waste it doing things for others that you don’t feel like doing, especially if you could be doing something to care for yourself instead. Take the time you would have spent grudgingly doing an unwanted task for someone else to do a task you do want to do, or to do something nice for yourself instead.
It means making a call when to turn off the news. Yes, you should be calling your senators and mobilizing to protest and vote, but you’re allowed to sit one out every now and then to recharge. It helps your overall resistance be more effective, and you deserve the mental health break.
Oh, and if someone brought donuts in to work today? Take the prettiest one. Don’t leave it for someone else- you deserve the pretty one too.
If you say bad things about yourself (“god, I’m such an idiot!”), forgive yourself, then recast the narrative and repeat the affirmation.
If you do things to hurt yourself, know that most people do. You aren’t alone, you aren’t weird, and it’s totally normal to have unhealthy coping mechanisms. But try to delay it just for an hour and distract yourself with something less harmful, then see how you feel.
I want you to, literally (and I don’t use that word lightly), pretend you are your own best friend in need of some TLC, and then go out of your way to provide it to yourself. Do this even if it feels silly, even if you’re thinking “oh, I don’t need all that.”
No, maybe you don’t need it. Women writers are strong. They care for others. It’s how we do.
But try doing it anyway. I bet it will help.
Be strong, be happy, prioritize yourself and replenish your stores, then see how your writing comes back to you.