What Does “Self-Care” Look Like?

What Does “Self-Care” Look Like?


Self-care has gotten a bad rap. Bubble baths. Pedicures. Massages. But what does self-care really look like? Recently, here’s what it means for me.

My Current Experience of Self-Care

When Ed was in the hospital, self-care to me meant going home every night to sleep in our bed. The alternative was a hard, too short, not quite wide enough pull out sofa under the air conditioner ceiling duct by Ed’s hospital window. It meant buying a small, green salad from the hospital cafeteria and trying to make the salad portion larger than the macaroni and cheese portion. Self-care meant finding a long, almost empty hallway, and walking back and forth. The nurses forbade me from doing laps on the cardiac ICU ward. I needed to burn anxious energy and didn’t have time to run.

Once Ed was home, self-care meant going into the basement for 10 minutes without my phone. I only did that once. I returned upstairs to liquid food all over the floor because the feeding tube line had come unhooked while Ed was napping and Scarlet was lapping the spillage off the floor. We had to clean the recliner, Ed, Ed’s clothes, the floor, and the dog. But that ten minutes alone in the basement was nearly worth it.

Mid-pandemic, mid-revolution, mid-book launch, and now that Ed is on the mend, self-care looks like longer, slower runs, and walks with the dog after dark when the humidity and temperature have dropped enough that Scarlet can go more than half a mile. I also reach out to others even if I prefer not to talk to anyone and listen instead of giving advice. Holding space for others who are hurting helps me as much as it does them. Self-care also means blogging more often, doing more writing practice, and reading deeply.

What Does Self-Care Look Like for Others?

A friend whose mother is in a nursing home finds solace by sitting outdoors in a lawn chair outside her mother’s window where her mother can see. Her mother has dementia but smiles at the nice lady who visits her. My friend takes a long nap when she gets home.

A runner friend has embraced hard training. The long miles and intense workouts reduce her anxiety.

Some writers have started new books, while others are back to basics, filling blank notebooks with ink.

Thousands of people are taking care of themselves by protesting and pushing the edges of society in an effort to break hundreds of years of racism to smithereens. For others it’s choosing to buy books by authors of color and supporting black-owned businesses because the person is immunocompromised or lives with someone at-risk. I support them by buying from black-owned businesses and listening to any of my friends who are in a marginalized group. It’s a way to care for my heart.

And what about the people on the front lines? How does a doctor or a nurse or a restaurant worker or a janitor or a teacher or a bus driver take care right now? And how about the people with children, especially the single parents, who are trying to work while school and daycare and summer camps and vacation are all essentially cancelled? I’d bet their self-care looks a lot like that ten minute break I stole in the basement, ten minutes that resulted in more work than if I hadn’t taken it.

Internal Self-Care

But let’s not forget internal self-care: Meditation. Therapy. Mindfulness. Mantras. Affirmations.

For my inner self-care, I joined a 28-day meditation challenge. It’s free to essential workers and activists, and is offered on a sliding scale to everyone else.

And you?

What does self-care look like for you? I would love to hear from each of you.

A Circle That Cares About the World


American novelist Alice Walker reminds us:

“A writer, to be connected to the world,
should have a circle that cares about the world.
And out of that would come the writing.”

In rural Ohio where I grew up, our entire circle was white. Some people had freckles or olive skin, but they all had one thing in common: they were Caucasian.

My parents prided themselves on open-mindedness, in part because they held opposing political views on nearly everything. It was not uncommon for passersby to see the signs of rival candidates staked in our front yard.

Mom’s to the left and Dad’s to the right.

Of course, both candidates were male and white.

As I grew older, my circle widened. The 4-H band members, college floor-mates, law school club members, and colleagues at a variety of jobs I held didn’t look, sound, or act like me. I met and learned from people of different races, nationalities, sexual orientations, and creeds.

An Indonesian Muslim taught me to use chopsticks in the dorm cafeteria and told me of how proud she was to be the first woman in her family to leave the country and go to college. I typed papers for a young black man who went on to become a judge. My dorm sisters and I listened to our young Palestinian friend weep when her cousin died during an international crisis.

I made friends across borders, colors, denominations. My circle grew broad and bright.

Recently, I’m reexamining my circle.

Is it big enough, colorful enough, open-minded enough? Have I surrounded myself with a circle that cares about the world? As Walker explains, the voices I hear regularly will bleed into my writing. I want to choose with care.

What does your circle look like? Does it care about the world?

For more wisdom from authors like Alice Walker, please check out You Should Be Writing, the new writing journal from Mango Publishing by Brenda Knight and Nita Sweeney.

One White Woman’s Tiny Plan of Action

One White Woman’s Tiny Plan of Action


One White Woman’s Tiny Plan of Action – Write Now Columbus – June 2020

I’m a white, middle-aged, middle-class woman who lives in an affluent central Ohio suburb. While I was in high school, growing up in rural Ohio, the first family of “colored people” moved into our district.

They were Italian.


Despite my lifelong desire to reform racism out of myself, that lack of people of color during my formative years skewed my perspective. What I don’t know and haven’t experienced could make me dangerous to the black friends I love. I’m committed to facing my white privilege and racism. Until I own it, I can’t do anything about it.

I’m ashamed to admit it took a Facebook friend calling out we “white folks” on our silence after George Floyd’s murder for me to finally, decades too late, take more specific action. I am listening to my black friends, watching black leaders, and allowing their actions to guide my steps.

This week, an article in The Columbus Dispatch explained how business owners were signing a “Letter To Columbus City Council in Support of Resolution Declaring Racism a Public Health Crisis.” As the publisher of Write Now Columbus, I added my voice. It felt ridiculously small in the face of so many deaths, but I had to begin somewhere. Maybe it would help turn the tide.

As a runner, today I would normally celebrate Global Running Day. Instead, I consciously “exercised” my white privilege by running three miles without being killed. Sound harsh? A few weeks ago, 25 year-old Ahmaud Arbery, a black man, was chased, gunned down, and killed by several white men while he was running. Today, I ran for him, used the hashtag #irunwithmaud to bring awareness, and donated to the fund set up for his mother.

I also donated to The Bail Project. Many black and impoverished people sit in jail awaiting trial because they cannot post bail. Meanwhile the white and affluent accused go home and to their jobs.

And I thought about my writing life. While some of the individuals in Depression Hates a Moving Targetare people of color, I did not point out anyone’s race. It didn’t seem to serve the story and might have been seen as gratuitous. I worry I missed an opportunity or responsibility.

I added black-owned bookstores to my lists and pledge to read more black history and books by black authors.

When my coauthor Brenda Knight and I chose author quotes to use in our new writing journal, You Should Be Writing, we carefully gathered from authors of all races. I’m especially proud of the final chapter about the role and responsibility of the writer. Words have power. May we use them wisely.

As others protest—I choose not to because of Ed’s compromised immune system—I continue to take good notes. I record my thoughts, feelings, and sensations, all things I may forget when later I want to reflect on this time.

I will add to my tiny plan as opportunities arise.

What’s your plan?

Notice I didn’t ask if you had one. We’re way beyond that.

It’s not my job to tell you want to do. But please, figure it out.

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