I should be grading right now.
I should be grading, but I am not. I will grade today, but later. Instead, I need to get this blogpost written, because I have waited far too long to be open about something. This something, I suspect, is a practice in which many of us are deeply invested, and we use all sorts of Perfectly Logical Explanations not to confront (such as my need to grade). Even writing this now, I keep looking at the clock, knowing I need to be grading. But I need to write this now, so the grading can wait.
This post starts with the Instagram photo to the right, which a dear friend of mine posted last week. When I saw it, my eyes widened and my heart rate quickened. I was in my kitchen making dinner, and I took a long pull from my open beer. See, my eyes and heart were hip to something I was trying to avoid for quite a while, which was the fact that I had been using the rhetoric of "self-care" to do anything but that.
It's a familiar narrative, I suspect, for many. We turn on Netflix, order a pizza, and turn off our phones as a way to "unplug" and "unwind." We say we are doing this as a way of "caring for ourselves." This may be true in many respects; however, I would be lying if I didn't admit that part of this, for me anyway, is escaping the very self-care I say I am doing. In other words, I use pizza, Netflix, and various other forms of "self-care" as a form of getting away from taking care of myself. My version of self-care, then, is not caring for myself.
Now to be fair, I am not saying that pizza and Netflix are terrible, nor am I saying that I am always avoiding myself when I turn to these comforts. However, my friend's Insta post did act as a call to action, because I know I am guilty of twisting the logic of self-care to do the exact opposite: I use it to continue not caring about myself. And I need that to end.
Lately, I have been going to counseling. Attempting to break my habit of going to counseling for a few weeks and then ending it abruptly, I am trying very hard to make this stick. I have a great therapist, and am digging super deep. I am unearthing intensely unsettling realities and narratives, including my own collusion in various forms of internalized/socialized dominance. It's gross, and it's icky, and yet...it is so very necessary. I am starting to feel better, and I am working to recommit to myself, no matter how hard or long this recommitment will take.
I recently told my therapist that the process of going to therapy was really tough for me. He had asked me a question about a previous relationship, but I couldn't dig any deeper that day, and I just said it was a hard process, and this was the very moment when, previously, I would have stopped coming to counseling. He dealt really well with this speed bump, and we paused to talk about the process of counseling. We set a meeting for two weeks later, and I came back...thankfully. I see this as a sign that I am doing better, and am more committed...and I still have work to do.
I am still (as many of us are, I suspect) much better at deconstructing my environment and myself than I am at dreaming liberatory thoughts. I am much better breaking down how what I am thinking and doing is not (fill in the blank), rather than how I can love myself for who I am, and re-envision myself as I would like to be. In many ways, this mirrors the training I have had as an academic. I can break down a situation real quick, and tell you some of the hidden narratives that reify dominant, oppressive illogics; however, I am not as great as I want to be at affirming myself and my own worth in liberatory ways. What's more silly is that I can do this for others. I am much better at affirming others than I am at affirming myself. I say this is silly because I know how to do this, but just choose not to with myself. And all the while, I say I am finding ways to practice self-care, when really, I am just moving further and further away from taking care of myself. I am twisting the logic of "self-care" to my own ends, using it as a way to not care for myself.
I want this to end, and I need this to end. So I am going to try something different, because previous attempts haven't worked. I am going to make a public, open decision, and invite others to join me if you also struggle with some of the same stuff as I do. I am going to invest in myself by practicing, for 40 days, self-affirmation. I am going to begin believing what my nearest and dearest have been telling me for years, which is that I am worthy of love, dignity, and humanity. I am going to spend time each day, for the next 40 days, focusing on affirming myself, my talents, my body, my thoughts, my actions, and my work. I am going to divest in negative talk and putting myself down, and instead I am going to "big myself up" a bit. This will be an intervention with myself, and I am going to work hard not to hide from this by twisting notions of self-care as I have done in the past. I am going to invest in liberatory and radical self-care, and I will invest in this in public, out loud, and with community.
I will use the hashtag #40DaysOfAffirmation on Instagram and Twitter to track my progress. It won't be easy, nor may it always be fun, but I am committed to this. I am committed to myself. I am committed to imagining myself as worthy of this time, energy, and attention.
I also invite others who want to participate to do so. Together, we can "big each other up" and support each other when we feel ourselves slipping. Let's make this happen together, friends, because we are so worth it. And as great as these escape practices are, I don't want to engage in them any longer, because I want to get better...and they are inhibiting that for me.
Here's to the work. Here's to myself. Here's to #40DaysOfAffirmation
This blog is a space where I share my thoughts on trans*-related issues. I also will share my own research as it develops, including papers, presentations, and the development of my dissertation study with trans* college students.