The topic of this month's IndieWeb Carnival is self care. This prompt comes at an apt time. One week ago, I was considering about what I could write. I hesitated, pondering whether the subject matter would be too difficult to tackle. That very sentiment encapsulates, in a round about way, how I feel approach self care: it is complicated.
Over the last few months, I have found many occasions in which my head feels full. Times when I need to take my AirPod out of my ear and not listen to anything; when it feels like there is a cacophony of something in my head. Of sound? No. But of thoughts. Nothing in particular; everything comes all at once. My head feels tense. I know one thing will help: silence, or the sound of nature outside.
I have been thinking a lot lately how easy it is to fill time. When I wake up, I can usually find a podcast to which I can listen. I listen to Taylor Swift's albums on repeat, interspersed with other artists. I think, work, do. I get excited by intellectual tasks. Learning and making something new give me a great sense of empowerment.
I described this to a colleague two days ago as an excitement of knowing that something doesn't exist and being able to look back an hour -- a day, a week -- later and see that you made something. My colleague mentioned the feeling of accomplishment she gets when cleaning. The feeling that something was messy and now it is clean. I noted my interest in programming and the feeling of joy I get from creating something new. Indeed, that feeling of joy around creation is what fuels this website.
In amongst work, my blog, and "adulting," carving time out to explore who I am has been difficult. I like to think about the next thing. What can I do next? How can I feel that feeling I get when I look back and say "today I did this!" That feeling really is delightful. From the feeling of written a blog post to having wrote code that may be used by other people. I know, deep down, that feeling is unsustainable: one can't be creative every day. I am intimately familiar with the feeling of having nothing in particular on which to work, trying to chase an idea to make something new.
I concluded that making new things brings me joy, but only when I am sincerely enthusiastic about making things. This is most of the time; learning to accept that I don't need to create new things all the time has been a years-long journey.
I am writing this blog post from my bed. It is 9:12am on a Saturday morning. The weather has been rainy and so, for the first time in recent memory, I didn't follow my usual Saturday routine where I am usually out doing something for most of the day. Instead, I stayed home. Seeking refuge from the rain and cold. In this moment, I can feel that what I thought I had to do -- my existing routine -- does not necessarily have to be followed. I can make new routines.
I have a long and complicated history with routines. Five years ago, I would follow routines to the letter. Routines helped me stay consistent. I meditated every day for at least a year. I would wake up early. During the pandemic, I learned that I don't like having strict routines. I have never written that down before. Perhaps I am the sort of person for whom routines don't work well? I think I need some stricter routines, but routine brings about a cloud: the cloud that because something worked yesterday, it will work today.
Because something worked yesterday, will it work today? This is the question that I need to think about when I don't have music in my ear or a programming task to hand. A question that requires peace to contemplate. One that will imbue discomfort. Which is why I have likely been avoiding it for a while. New blog posts and programs are seductive. I enjoy making but my mind is used up. Then there is less energy to think about the bigger questions. There are parts of me deep down who are yearning for change.
I want to try to be a morning person again for a little bit. I wonder if a new city would bring me joy. I want to learn to rollerskate (I say as winter approaches). I would like to make more friends. The energy I get from being around people is great. I could write another blog post or computer program, but perhaps the most prudent thing is to think about one of these ideas more.
Some of these are deeply uncomfortable. Like in the case of rollerskating. I want to be able to do it but I know I am going to fall. I have already fallen when I tried them on. I am smiling right now because that sounds just like me. With everything there is an opportunity to fall and that scares me. Podcasts, music, blog posts, and that one other thing that occupy my free time are comforting, familliar. Perhaps I need to fall more. Perhaps in falling I will be caring for myself. I will be caring for the spark that gives me energy.
I put my hand to my chin and gazed out the window then realised that falling might help me overcome a fear I didn't know was so prevalent until now: the fear of change. This fear is discombobulating because I, like everyone, have gone through changes. Life is all about change. But when you spend so much time at a computer like me it is easy to be in blissful ignorance of the duality of change: the present will not sustain itself forever. I write this to try and build neural pathways that say "James, change doesn't have to be so scary." Oh, written word, how you comfort me. You help me think.
I wanted to conclude by how I take care of myself today. The way I like to relax is by watching comedies on television. Television comedies have brought me a lot of comfort over the years. Frasier and Seinfeld in particular. I have watched both shows countless times and often find myself referring to them in my daily discourse. Particularly Seinfeld, which I have watched to a greater extent recently. I like to laugh. And to a greater extent, I like to be lighthearted. I also like spending time in cafes, eating a good breakfast and drinking a cup of coffee.
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