"Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self preservation, and that is an act of political warfare." - Audre Lorde
This quote has been making the rounds on the Internet recently, particularly in our socially-conscious, justice-oriented circles. While its original audience was primarily disenfranchised, black women of the Civil Rights Movement, it strikes a chord with an even wider audience today. In a time of deep political confusion and uncertainty, many Americans (and hopeful Americans) are feeling overwhelmed by the constant barrage of controversial laws, breaking scandals, and rash directives coming out of the capital. For those whose lives are directly affected by such actions, and for those paying attention, exhaustion comes quickly.
The anger rises. The need to say or do something is alive in our belly. One letter to a senator or call to a statesman doesn't seem enough. Day after day of oppressive news wears heavily on the psyche and exhaustion sets in. Now, we must admit as two white kids from middle-class suburbs, this feeling of social and political exhaustion is a new revelation for us. We acknowledge and point to our neighbors and friends who have been persisting through this struggle for decades, centuries. The feeling of helplessness, the lure of apathy, the impulse to throw up our hands in pure frustration...these are strong, yet unfamiliar feelings. We must look to activists, such as Audre Lorde for direction, motivation, guidance in creating a sustainable resistance. We must listen carefully and understand the struggle for justice, and then use that understanding to lift up those around us.
So what is "self care" and how does it play a role in maintaining a healthy resistance? Lorde's quote points to the fact that the term, "self care," in our society, suggests a kind of selfishness. Most people might take the term to mean giving up on the outside world, turning all thought to the self. In reality, though, it is the means by which we might have the strength and resilience to fully give of ourselves and overcome obstacles in the outside world.
At Small Feat Farm, self care means first taking care of our personal bodies and minds, developing healthy habits and ensuring our own capabilities to recover from sickness, emotional up-sets, financial set-backs, or unexpected confrontations. When we take care of ourselves, we are more whole, more stable. This wholeness allows us to be more present and giving to our neighbors in need; it protects us from being knocked into self-doubt and misery when faced with personal or social attacks - because we know we are healthy, grounded, and physically OKAY. People who practice great self care are more able to act confidently in their day-to-day life and ride the wave of socio-political uncertainty; they are also able to offer more help and honest guidance to those seeking support.
Now, this is no small task and does require constant vigilance. Brian and I started the practice of self care as a primary philosophy at the beginning of 2017. While we have already begun to see profound benefits, we know the journey stretches far into our future. Again, we must address our privilege: we understand the circumstance of being middle-class-born, white millennials makes a self-care lifestyle more easily attainable (i.e. we have greater access to obtaining and maintaining jobs, have access to a wider range of living/working/socializing opportunities, and have a larger network of social support) than it might be for people of less privilege. This circumstance gives us security and allow us more liberties with our free time. We do hope, though, that living an example of self care will make us more effective in the actions of social justice and supporting our community. And, we hope it will make us more resilient farmers in unpredictable times.
For us, self care looks like this:
- Eating primarily fresh, healthy food. Aside from the obvious goal of growing our own vegetables on the farm, we try to buy mostly raw ingredients and purchase from local vendors. We are what we eat, and we want to be fresh, diverse, nourished people! (But we'll admit kicking that sweet-salty diet is harder than it sounds!)
- Learning how to self-subsist. We've recently been experimenting with making our own peanut butter and yogurt - two highly consumed items in our home. This act of self care, in particular, will be a lifelong process of learning how to procure and produce our own resources. While self-reliance is important, we also recognize the necessity of leaning on our community and the gifts/services of others.
- Allowing time for rest and conversation; cherishing meaningful relationships. Often in our culture of "achievement," we ignore the vitality of recuperation and strong relationships. We actively try to limit time spent staring at our phone and love simply talking with each other every morning and night.
- Developing a spiritual practice and making time for it every day. For us, this has included a lot more reading, yoga, and meditating in our daily routine. This also includes seeking advice and guidance from others (mentors, therapists, teachers).
- Treating our bodies with respect and dignity. Looking at our pre-self-care life, we concluded we would benefit from exercising daily and significantly cutting back alcohol consumption. Living in a city and working in the service industry means alcohol is all around us and hard to avoid. Having "a few" every day was not only harming our health, but hindering our communication, productivity, and bank account!
- Honoring our purpose. As described in our first blog post, Small Feat Farm's first year was a bit haphazard. This year, we are committed to being focused business owners and efficient farmers every day.
In these first few months of self care practice, we already feel more emotionally stable and mentally clearer. We have more energy to devote to our business and the social causes that are important to us. Opposed to feelings of over-exertion and being pulled in a million directions, we have been experiencing focus in our daily tasks, a deeper connection with each other, and overall optimism about our community.
As previously stated, self care is a way to be more prepared, more resilient in the face of worldly confusion. It is a way to be a solid friend and neighbor when others experience turmoil. We do not claim to be experts by any means. We simply hope to live in a way that allows us more energy to resist and react, effectively, over our lifetime. We can't change anything if we are constantly exhausted, overwhelmed, or lost in a sea of bad habits.
We hope you join us in the practice of self care. Consider signing up for a CSA with us (or another farm if you live far away) to kick-start healthy eating habits and be part of a community that educates and supports itself. Respect yourself, first, and we believe you will more energetically be able to respect your neighbors and the Earth as the sustainers of your precious life.