what self care REALLY is…

 

A while back – maybe earlier this year, maybe before that – I started to notice is that there seems to be some confusion about what self care really is.

Self care includes any intentional actions you take to care for your physical, mental and emotional health.

It’s as simple as that, which means it doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive, and it doesn’t have to look a certain way.

(The paragraph above that’s in bold is a definition I came across in a pdf put out by the Student Affairs department at the University of Kentucky.)

Self-care will vary from person to person – and for any one person, it will be different at different times.

Self care can mean being mindful of your diet, getting some exercise, getting enough sleep. It can be going to a meet-up on a favorite topic or spending time at a church service.
It can be cuddling with a special person or pet, listening to music, taking a long hot shower, relaxing in a candle-lit room, dancing for a few minutes in your kitchen, going to a spa, painting your nails, getting your hands dirty in the soil.
It can be sitting on a beach, or under a tree, or on the floor of your bedroom as you read a book or color a mandala.

The list is endless. It can be any or all of those things – and so much more.

And some things for self care involve money…

But there are so many self-care practices and activities that do not.

Self-care is caring for YOU. It’s doing something that tends to you and what you need (on any/all levels – physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually).

And there’s no shame involved in caring for and tending to yourself.

No one can give from an empty well, no one can run on fumes, no one can be a constant light without burning out.

Self care doesn’t have to be hard.

It doesn’t have to be luxurious.

It doesn’t have to take loads of time.

Self care can be as simple as pausing throughout your day, relaxing your shoulders, and taking a few breaths.

Self care is anything that involves “any intentional actions you take to care for your physical, mental and emotional health.”

That’s what self care really is.


behind the scenes of writing In New Harmony…

In New Harmony is my middle-grade historical novel… but it didn’t start out as a novel.

The idea that sparked what was to become In New Harmony was a little memory my mother told me. About a time when she was young, spending the night at a relative’s farm, and she’d been scared by a noise that sounded like someone breathing just outside the open window.

I turned her memory into a children’s short story, setting the story in the 1930s, the time-frame it actually happened when my mother was a small child. The title I chose for the short story was “Night Noises” – a title to reflect the differences in the noises the main character (named Bunnie in the story) experienced during her first night on the farm, compared to the noises she was accustomed to hearing at night in her home in Atlanta.

Only a few things about “Night Noises” were true-to-life when it came to my mother. Bunnie was one of her childhood nicknames. She had been frightened – and then relieved and laughing – about the noise.

But the other details and the rest of the “Night Noises” story? All fiction.

Bunnie in “Night Noises” was several years older than my mother had been at the time of this memory. My mother didn’t have a younger sister (her sisters were both older). She never lived in Atlanta and moved from there to a farm – actually, until her early teens, she lived in rural Alabama and her own family farmed a little space of land.

I revised “Night Noises” a few times… but then I realized something.

The characters wanted to stick around. And the story wanted to become longer – and go deeper.

 

And that’s when Night Noises started to become a novel.

I kept the main character at the older age (13) but changed the time of the story to take place in the summer of 1943 – which is when my mother was 13 herself. I changed most of the characters’ names to be different than their names in “Night Noises.” Bunnie turned into Nora, and Ellen turned into June, and Uncle John turned into Uncle Lester.
World War II became integral to the storyline, and I added the important-to-the-novel detail of an older brother who had recently been killed in battle.
And although I don’t think the word depression is ever mentioned in the novel, I added the element of Nora’s mother being deeply depressed due to her son’s death. The story of Nora’s mother – and how Nora is impacted by and deals with her mother’s depression – is a central part of the story that became In New Harmony.

I did take a few of my mother’s own experiences of life on a farm, weaving them into the story at a few places. And the setting of the novel – the imaginary New Harmony in Pike County, Alabama – is a fictional version of my mother’s small hometown community of another name. (She even drew me a little map of how it had been back then!)

 

But in one way, Nora’s story is the opposite of my mother’s life.

One big reason Nora and her family move to her uncle’s farm is to help out… because hiring people to help during the summer and the harvest season had become difficult. This happened because so many were now in the Army or Navy, or had moved away to work at factories necessary for the war-time effort.

For my mother’s family, this shortage of potential farm helpers was the reason they moved away from rural Alabama. Even though their house was small and their plot of field wasn’t much (my grandparents were the opposite of wealthy farmers with lots of land), my grandfather needed extra help during certain times of the year when it came to farming. More help than what he, my grandmother, and their three daughters could do by themselves.
So, when my mother was Nora’s age – or a bit older – she and her family left farming and rural Alabama.
They didn’t move to Nora’s hometown of Atlanta, but they did move to Georgia. They settled in a town – small compared to Atlanta in 1943 – but it wasn’t a rural location, and it was a town much larger than where they’d lived.

But although my mother’s move was almost the exact opposite of Nora’s, her experience of why her family moved was a big spark for part of the storyline for In New Harmony.

Some bits of the original “Night Noises” short story can still be seen in what eventually became the middle-grade novel, In New Harmony – but In New Harmony developed into quite a different story.

A story about loss, change, discovery, and family…

And ultimately, a story about love, getting through tough times, and starting anew.

(If you’d like to read In New Harmony, it’s available at Amazon (paperback as well as kindle) here and at Barnes & Noble here.)

if you have restless creativity…

 

 

 

Sometimes I just want to create.

I might have an inner itch to write some fiction. Or it might be a nudge to pick up a paintbrush. Or to pull out some crystals and beads and craft something, anything
But I feel stalled.
Not stalled in the sense of feeling inertia.
It feels more like I’m restless.

My creativity feels restless.

The creativity is there (sometimes so close it’s just right-there) but I can’t seem to settle down, I can’t decide which project to work on, I can’t focus.

And then it’s as though I pace restlessly.

This pacing isn’t literally pacing a room, but it’s mental pacing.

My thoughts jump around as I wonder what creative project to do, or I distract myself online or on Netflix, or I tackle the laundry.

Does this ever happen to you?

This creative restless can actually be part of the creative process.

There are times, of course, when the restless feeling itself can become a way to distract yourself from creating. And there are times when the restless feeling is the signal that it’s time to stop mentally (or otherwise) pacing and get to work.
Being aware of exactly what the restlessness means – and when it might signal a shift needs to take place – is important… and the awareness comes the more you look at and understand your own process.

So how do you know the difference? And what can you do when you’re experiencing restless creativity?

 

Here are a few things to try…

Do an internal check-in with yourself. Is the restlessness really procrastination in disguise? Or is it part of your creative process that, in the big picture, moves you closer to creating what’s wanting to be birthed? Is there something that honestly needs to get taken care of (scheduling an appointment, dealing with a problematic situation, etc.) before you get to work on a creative project?

Get grounded. Take some time to ground yourself and ground your energy. Close your eyes and just breathe quietly for a few minutes. Go outside and touch the earth. Hold one or two grounding crystals (black tourmaline, smokey quartz, red jasper, garnet, and snowflake obsidian are a few). Ground and center your energy so that you feel less restless in general. And then see where your creative energy leads you.

Ask your body. If you’re trying to decide between one or more creative projects to work on, pick one of them and see how your body feels. Do you feel constricted inside, does your body feel pulled-in too much, does your heart sink a bit because you really wish you were working on “that other project over there”? If so, that can be a clue to devote your time and energy to one of the other creative ideas calling for your attention at this time. (But it’s also possible that the feeling could be a form of resistance instead of true guidance – so, again, awareness and honesty with yourself is key.)

Just start. Give yourself a mental push or physical shake, pick up your pen or paintbrush (or put fingers to the keyboard or sit down with crafting/creating supplies) and simply start doing something. You can tell yourself that you’ll this for for just 5 minutes – sometimes putting a (short) time limit on the activity can help your mind overcome the restlessness long enough to start… and then if you continue past that time, it’s icing on the cake! Sometimes starting can be the most difficult step when it comes to creating.


These are just a few things to try – the important thing is to find what works for you.