By Maggie May Ethridge (who, truth be told, Jen has a total girl crush on.)
When life is hard, then harder, then fossilized into a shell over your skin so tight and so fragile it breaks with the smallest tapping of the new thing trying to be born, then there are things that must be done. Firstly, right yourself. Are you sleeping enough? Your mother told you. Your doctor told you. Even your Uncle Alfred who farted and belched loudly after turkey dinner told you – you must sleep enough, or simply nothing works just right. Your brain is your gateway to reality. If you close off the energy force the gateway will not work, and your entire perception of reality will be tilted, see- just so – just enough to make you slightly wonky. I’m already wonky on my own, born and bred, and need no help in that direction.
Next, are you eating healthy? Every meal should be protein, veggie, healthy carb (nothing white, but brown rice, multigrain breads). Eat in intervals that feel natural to your body. Drink water. You don’t like a shrively pruney lemon looking face, do you? Well you don’t want your brain this way either. Drink. Then there are the essential caretaking measures: shower, shave, scrub your pits. If, because of lack of hygiene, you happen to randomly and repeatedly catch a whiff of your own sour stench repeatedly during the day while trying to interact with other life forms, you might find you like yourself a little less. ‘ Anyone worthwhile, ‘ you might think ‘ would not smell like pig ass when they have a perfectly available and working shower, equipted with the latest modern miracles like razors and soap. ‘ Shower. Lather. Make large, ridiculously cheerful bubbles, and sing. I recommend singing a rap song in operetta. I do, and it makes me happy.
Also, don’t forget to wear clean clothes that fit well. Now you are fed a nutritious meal, showered and shaved, dressed and standing tall. Let’s begin by setting the mood. Music Please… and
Flowers. Pick some, buy some, just get em, anyway you can, and spread them around your places. Your places are usually work, home, maybe a lover’s apartment, or your psychotherapist- wherever you spent a lot of time. Put them there.
Also, while I’m on the subject, be Naked. Often. Get in touch with your body, as a living breathing beautiful form, not just as a clothes hanger or food hamper. Have Sex.
If you have no one to have sex with, have it with yourself. Do something
that feels good, and feel good about it. See? Your 8th grade Religious Studies
teacher was wrong about masturbation, because I have neither 1. pimples nor 2. scales on my hands.
Take every opportunity to Dance * yes dance, dance i said, not only you sexy people, all you sly muthas, just get out there and dance- Dance, I Said!* Salt and Pepa knew. So should you.
I dance in the shower ( not while soaping and singing. that might get tricky. ) I dance in the car. I dance at work, to the amusement of my co-workers ( Yes you, Stephanie and Heather ) I even hurt my right butt cheek dancing to Michael Jackson in the sun room two days ago.
Remember White Nights? How could you not want to tap and leap your way into life!
Now we are somewhat refreshed. Here is where we begin to think of how we can be of Service to one another. To the people around us. I had my son at 19, and learned one of the greatest lessons of my life in his birth: acting in behalf of another human being is one of the greatest healing actions available to us. Not the daily ‘allowances’ that we make for one another- these things that we confuse with service to our friends and family but really are only small ways to drive ourselves crazy- the constant yes when no is meant, the answering of phones at any occasion or time, the need and demand for availability ( IM, Chat, Facebook, Phone, Cell, Email), this kind of thing. To care and love in a healing way means that we keep our eyes open for the person who needs and desires it. This is stopping when a flustered, near tears elderly lady cannot find her money and paying for her coffee, taking on a mentor role in a young person’s life, volunteering an an Assisted Living Facility or Pediatric Unit at the hospital, making dinner twice a week for the family of someone undergoing cancer treatments- these and million other actions are what unite us as a people and bring peace and meaning to our lives.
Then there is the indomitable Spirit. As a writer and poet and passionate person in general, I have only once in my adult life felt disconnected from my spirit, and I fought tooth and nail to regain my whole. I believe that literally the act of holding your head up is a physical way to pull the strings of the spirit. I will NOT look down at the fucking ground. Everything we do to nourish our spirit is reflected back eventually. I am a huge believer in taking positive action even when you cannot see the results. The lack of results is a facade. Holding your head up, repeating marching orders to yourself ( you will be able to do this, yes ), reading about the particular issues you have in life, talking to friends, a therapist, service – it all becomes part of the gust of spirit that will eventually blow through you and lift you back up where you belong. So,
finding what nourishes the Spirit is an important part of growing up. Am I grown up yet?
Can I Set Free The Bears?
Next time we will discuss:
Vacationing in ill-mowed and unkept squares of green (otherwise known as my backyard)
The in-house prescription for cheer
Sticky notes of love (not what you might think)
Animals and their furry hairy magic
Children make good clowns, there for your amusement.
Maggie May Ethridge is a novelist, poet and freelance writer from the deep South who has lived most of her life in San Diego, CA. She has an Ebook coming out in January with the new publishing company Shebooks ” Atmospheric Disturbances: Scenes From A Marriage ” and is completing her second novel. She has been published in magazines both on and offline in places like Diagram, The Nervous Breakdown, Equals Record and blogs regularly at Flux Capacitor.
Jennifer Pastiloff, Beauty Hunter, is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Her work has been featured on The Rumpus, The Nervous Breakdown, Jezebel, Salon, among others. Jen’s leading one of her signature retreats to Ojai, Calif. over New Years. Check out jenniferpastiloff.com for all retreat listings and workshops to attend one in a city near you. Next up: South Dakota, NYC, Dallas, Kripalu Center For Yoga & Health, Tuscany. She is also leading a Writing + The Body Retreat with Lidia Yuknavitch Jan 30-Feb 1 in Ojai (2 spots left.) She tweets/instagrams at @jenpastiloff.
I really enjoyed reading this – three or four times!
You hit the nail on the head. When life is hard, you don’t feel like doing any of these things, and that just keeps you in the pit… it perpetuates the difficulties. But if all these things are in check, everything else gets that much easier.
I’ve recently had an epiphany about this myself – I kept thinking “I’m just not happy, I’m not happy, I’m not happy” and I finally realized that there were things I was doing that were definitely helping to keep my unhappy… stupid sleep schedules, crappy food, not enough exercise… So I kind of decided that since those were three MAJOR things that I DID have control over, I was going to take control over them and let the rest be worked out in whatever way life’s difficulties get worked out. (I also have a shower playlist… I dance around all the time when I am by myself… am I missing anything you mentioned? I think that sums it up…)
Also, I’ve never really thought about what you said about holding your head up. Not at all. I stare at the ground like it is my long-lost friend and never have given that two thoughts about it causing any kind of disconnect. Now I think I will 🙂
I love that you will hold your head up. I mean I’m smiling so big right now. You are awesome!
I constantly remind myself that in order to take care of others, I have to first take care of me. Great post, Maggie!
Great post, Maggie. I constantly need to be reminded to take care of myself. This past week I had the scariest panic attack of my life. It was a wake up call. I need to invest in me time.
I love this. What a great reminder to find the joy in this life. xoxo
yes, Yes, YES! If you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t take care of anyone else. As I see it, we are all playing in a one person ballgame, a team of just one and we are it. Whether we win, lose, or get rained out, is completely up to us.
I love your writing style.