This new year, as I have for the last several, I set an intention: Radical Self Care. For me, this means putting my own well being, health, safety, happiness, and life as a whole first. This probably sounds like a selfish stance to take considering the chaos we find ourselves in politically across the globe, but I know full well that when I am not taking care of myself, I am no good to anyone else. More and more, I’ve realized that the only real control we have as individuals is how we manifest ourselves in the world. That starts within, by being our own best friend, our own cheerleader, and our own biggest fan. When we are run down, coping, holding on, and not thriving due to lack of maintenance and care, our personal and professional lives suffer, our relationships feel like burdens rather than gifts, and we often use being tired, busy, and stressed as an excuse not to be fully present and participate in our own lives at the levels we would like.
Radical self care means making sure I do all the things I need to do for myself to be as awesome as possible. But before I even got to the actions of care I would need to take, I had to unpack some lingering perfectionist self criticism that has been weighing on me. I started meditating regularly in January, and became very aware of a stream of negative and hurtful self talk that was constantly running through my mind day and night. The concept of self forgiveness is something I’ve struggled with for a long time. It wasn’t until meditation brought these thought patterns to my attention that I was able to identify this anger at myself that was coloring everything.
I’ve made some mistakes. Last year. This year. Today. Since I was born. I have had a rough few months, not because everything went according to plan, but because I decided the plan wasn’t the right one anymore and started the arduous work of creating new navigation to set me on the right course.
This was much, much harder and is taking much longer than I expected or imagined. And even now, I’m not totally sure what the destination is quite yet. For someone like me, who always needs to know where I’m going, what the future holds, what goal I am working toward, this part – the sitting in the journey, being here, living it, breathing it, accepting that I don’t have all the answers – this is some hard ass shit.
So I started saying to myself every day “Forgive yourself.” In the mirror, when I did something that felt good at the time but I knew was bad for me, or rekindled old patterns of coping that no longer serve me. I’m not perfect. Who would want that anyway? Fucking shit up builds character. Loving and losing isn’t a weakness, it’s a superpower. Saying yes to opening instead of closing is not an act of self destruction, it’s an act of self love. And I intend to keep doing it until I fall down and die.
It’s funny – life. Life isn’t about going somewhere and sitting still, arriving into a permanent state of completion. There is no solution. There is only evolution, growth, failure, learning, change, and impermanence. Happiness is not a place. It is a temporal state, only knowable by deeply knowing its opposite – its endless shades of unbeing, its spectrum of difficulty – that can truly define those fleeting moments of knowing you are, indeed, happy. I no longer seek to be happy. I seek to find meaning, to be present, to feel deeply and authentically, to say yes to experiences that will enrich me, and no to ones that will harm me. I try to cultivate a life that provides benefits from longer term, smaller actions instead of instant gratification and immediacy. Present Sinclair is looking out for Future Sinclair. I try to holograph myself into the next day or week or year – asking myself “Is this really an action that will make life easier and better tomorrow? In a hundred tomorrows?” This kind of thinking gets me on the yoga mat and in the gym, out of bad dates and relationship patterns and into good ones, and supervises what goes into my body.
Slowly but surely, that stream of consciousness negativity has disappeared. It’s been replaced with kind, gentle, loving self talk and encouragement that has seeped into my conscious mind and made me feel great about myself, even if I’m still off the rails. I can see the rails. There are rails. I’m walking with them instead of against them. And that’s something powerful. Because it’s another seed in the forest.