Radical Self-Care Step Ten – Creativity

Follow the Juice of Your Curiosity

Radical Self-Care Step Ten – Creativity

What do you love to do so much that the hours go by and you hardly notice? What absorbs your imagination so completely that you forget about the 24-hour news cycle, your to-do list and the fact that you really should lose ten pounds? What is that thing that you get so wrapped up in that you are wondering what you can give up so that you can do it more?

Molly Weaving

Molly Weaving

That is your creative passion. So, tell me. How often do you do it?

In the past nine steps I have talked about various elements, which I consider to be essential for a true recharge of your body, mind and soul. Most of these are part of the first order of survival needs, such as rest, financial security, and nourishment. Others are important for emotional health, such as journaling, de-cluttering and honoring your authenticity.

This step is a little different. This is the one that really makes life worth living. This is the shine. The glitter on the forehead. The thing that makes you forget to look at the clock. Where you get so absorbed that everything else disappears.

Having a creative outlet is a very important way of channeling your energy into something that lights you up inside. When I talk about creativity, I don’t mean, necessarily being an artist, a writer, painter, sculptor or craftsperson, although there are many avenues in the arts in which to pour creative energy.

I have never been able to draw well. My drawings still look like a five year old

made them.

It’s just not where my talent lies. And my very first semester of college was at an art school! But I still can’t draw. I went there because I was fascinated with fiber and weaving and wanted to be a fiber artist. I learned how to weave and made my first loom when I was 15. A couple of years later, when I was first living on my own I discovered a weaving studio and was introduced to complex floor loom weaving. Weaving, crocheting and sewing clothes are creative outlets for me. It also helps that I hate clothes shopping, which has motivated me to make many of my own clothes.

Open Studio Show

Open Studio Show

Writing has also been a creative outlet since my earliest years. It has been second nature to pour my thoughts and feelings into poetry and essays.

I love music but have never learned to play an instrument and I cannot carry a tune to save my life. Much as I love music, it is not someplace I can pour my creative energy. I am very envious of people who have those talents because making music looks so satisfying.

We often think of creativity as applied to the arts. But there are so many other ways to express our inventiveness. Decorating your house, designing a garden, planning a party, creating a photo album, making videos, putting together music mixes. Even starting a

Open studio show

Open studio show

business is a very creative endeavor.

Cooking is a great opportunity to let your experimental energy flow. Instead of using a recipe, just experiment with ingredients that sound good. If it doesn’t work out, then try something else. I am always fooling around with new ideas in the kitchen. Some of the things I make are flops. But I don’t mind. It’s fun to play around and see what happens.

One of the important aspects of creativity is knowing that it’s

totally okay to screw up. Yes, that’s right. Embracing the fact that some of the things we make will be failures gives us the permission to experiment. Anyone who has ever made anything that you admire has had plenty of failures. That’s the whole nature of experimentation. It’s fun to play around and try things, whether or not they end up panning out. Our failures are where we learn. We learn so much from our mistakes. If you don’t have a few failures it means you’re no

Wallet detail

Wallet detail

t really reaching very far.

“What happens if I do this?” is one of my favorite questions. I am trying new things all the time and many of the things I try to do don’t work out. But a few of them do. And the thing is, I learn so much from experimenting and trying new things.

It’s really engaging.

It’s always disappointing to spend time cooking something that turns out unappetizing or writing something that my critique group politely shakes their head at, but it just inspires me to try something else. There is no shame in trying something new, whether or not it ends up working out.

I repeat: There Is No Shame In Trying Something New

This is the only reason that anything was ever invented. Somebody got an idea and decided to try it. Some things worked out. Some didn’t, but if people didn’t experiment, nothing would exist!

Green evening bag

Green evening bag

The reason that channeling your creativity is such an important part of self-care is that it makes you feel alive. Creativity is the juice of the Universe!

Think of something you’ve made that you were very proud of. Remember how, when you were figuring it all out that all of your focus was on that moment. While you were working on your project, it became your whole world for a while. Time stopped. Or it flew by. When you are caught up in a creative project time does not even exist. Only putting your ideas into productivity matters.

Another reason that this is an important part of self-care is that you don’t need anybody else to make this happen.

Leaf design hanbag

Leaf design handbag

The point of these self-care steps is that they are all things that are easily within your power. They are all ways to make your life better. Nobody else is necessary in order for you to do any of these things. When you decide to repaint your kitchen, or put in a rose garden, or whip something up to use up the leftovers in the fridge, it is your own personal inspired moment.

Just go for it. Incorporate more creativity into your life.

 

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Radical Self-Care Step Seven – Happy Finances

Mindful Money Management – Or The Zen of Budgeting

Taking care of yourself so that you are not stressing about money is the ultimate in self-care. It is number one in Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs – survival. Creative art expression, indulgences, rest…these are all secondary to making sure that your basic needs for financial security are met.

Steps on the ocean - 3D renderInterestingly, this has very little to do with how much money you make.

You can be a millionaire and still be broke because you bought too many cars, houses, or tropical islands. Or you could be an average person accumulating a slew of credit cards in lieu of actual cash in order to fund the things you want. It really doesn’t matter how much you have, but how you go about allocating it.

This principle is especially important because many people hate to think about it. I have known people in every economic bracket who don’t want to take a realistic look at their finances.

Since I have been self-employed my entire life I have never felt a certainty about how much money I could count on. Not having a set salary, I never felt I had the luxury of accumulating debt because I couldn’t count on being able to pay it back. So rather than rely on credit cards and loans, I have mainly lived on a cash basis.

The guiding principle: Keep your irreducible expenses low. Here are some tips I have developed over the years.

There are many ways to live comfortably while still keeping your outflow at a minimum. I happen to live in a part of the country where housing is quite expensive, but I have managed to find inexpensive solutions. I’ve found places on the outskirts of town that had small inexpensive rentals on rural property where the housing itself was very basic but in the midst of beautiful surroundings. I once even lived in a converted chicken coop. Outfitting and decorating a simple home to appear beautiful and exotic can be very creative and fun. Other options include living in a shared community house with a group. Once I got my massage business launched and stable I was able to buy a house in a sweet older neighborhood, but it is fun to remember my early roots.

Beyond housing, which is generally our biggest expense, there are a wide array of options regarding transportation, food, clothes and everything else. My father used to have a saying that went, “Scrimp on necessities so you can splurge on luxuries.” As I write this I am thinking that perhaps this is where I adopted this attitude at a very young age, because in a sense, that is exactly what I do.

For instance, for the past year I have been taking 3-4 days each month to drive off to a little cabin on the coast where I find the quiet ocean setting very peaceful and relaxing. Friends have said they wish they could afford to do this. However, these same people spend money on eating out and purchasing coffees whereas I almost always prepare my own food from scratch and am not a coffee drinker. I figure the cost of a take-out sandwich and a beverage 5 days a week is the same as the amount I spend on my getaways. It’s all a matter of tradeoffs.

I have one friend who lives on a fixed disability income and she is an expert at all the free entertainment we have in our community as well as how to live well very cheaply. She turned me on to the publication Freecycle, where people post things they want to get rid of and are giving away. You can sign up for the edition in your locality.

Budgeting can be very creative. Sometimes it involves more time, such as harvesting seeds from plants to grow new ones, instead of making a trip to a nursery, or making your own food instead of getting take-out, but there is also a great pleasure in taking charge of these things and not feeling helplessly at the mercy of high costs. There is a great sense of peace that comes from spending less than you earn and having a sense of plenty and abundance.

One of my tricks is that I have a number of savings accounts, all for different purposes. One is for taxes, one is where I save for getaways and I have an envelope where I tuck bits of cash to save up to get massages. In addition, I have an emergency account for whatever crazy unexpected thing comes up.

The point is, regardless of your income, if you spend as much or more than you are bringing in, you will always feel strapped and little problems start to become big problems. But if you work at ways to keep your costs down reserving enough to occasionally splurge on pleasure you will feel abundant. This is key in truly taking good care of yourself.

What is Radical Self-Care?

Part of the secret to radical self-care is knowing exactly what the right recipe is for your unique, particular needs. If you think of your life as a dish at a fabulous culinary feast, what are the ingredients that make it as delectable as possible? What spices and seasonings are going to make it taste both delicious and satisfying.

Someone asked me the other day, “Why ‘Radical Self-Care?” “What do you mean by the worwoman relaxing on grassd ‘radical’?” The word ‘radical’ means extreme. And I choose to call it radical self-care because sometimes it really takes an extremely big effort to take good care of yourself. Particularly if you are in a profession or play a role in your life where you are taking care of others, it can be almost wrenching to stop giving, step back, take a breath and figure out what it is that YOU need in order to recharge. And the next step is to set aside the time to do something just for you. It is very easy to get burned out when you are giving all the time and even though intellectually we know this, it still remains a challenge. So how do we do this?

I’m sharing with you what I have learned on this wild trip through life. Please take everything I say with a grain of salt (pink Himalayan sea salt, of course) and tweak it so that it works for you! Know that your life may require different ingredients but what I hope you get from these posts is the importance of knowing what your unique flavors (needs) are. And that it’s really essential to give that to yourself. This may sound simple on the surface, but we spend a lot of time doing what is expected of us. And we can get caught up thinking that our entire value has to do with living up to everyone elses expectations. This can be so deeply ingrained that we don’t even realize it.

After quite a few decades of working very hard to please others – clients, partners, friends, family, you name it, I started realizing that I had to take control of my own well-being. Because no matter how much I did it never felt like enough. I had goals that were difficult to attain and even when I did they didn’t satisfy me like I thought they would. Basically I had bought into our very driven culture, even though I had carved out a professional niche in the field of relaxation. Ironic, isn’t it?

I began making a point of doing simple things to slow down, disconnect from my own self-imposed hamster wheel and started treating myself with the same quality of care that I have given to others. And here in these posts I have broken it down into steps.

Hey, I write these posts as much to remind myself as I do to remind you.

Please come along with me and use these posts to jump-start your own loving practice of radical self-care. Let these thoughts be the catalyst to give yourself the life you deserve. In essence it is very simple. And this means that true inner contentment is totally within your power.

Radical Self-Care Step Four – Authenticity

“Be Yourself. Everyone else is already taken.” Oscar Wilde

Our world is like a department store. There are so many choices, so many different aisles we can walk down, we hardly know which way to turn. And there is such a wide variety of items we can buy. So how do we choose? Which way do we go? We usually have more possibilities than we often realize.

tea party grrlOne of the hardest things we face can be making the choice to be different. By this I mean following a path that radically diverges from the one that is expected of us. For instance, we might go to school and get a degree in something and then decide after a great deal of work that it’s not the right career for us after all.

I once had a friend who was an MD who used to refer a lot of patients to me for massage. She told me she was looking for another doctor to share her office. A month later she said she had found someone she really liked but just when the lease was about to be signed the doctor told my friend that she changed her mind and was leaving medicine to study with her spiritual teacher. I was quite surprised by that. You can do that, I thought? When I considered the time and expense of going to medical school and becoming a doctor, giving that up seemed like an awfully big decision. But It also sounded incredibly brave for someone to change their course because of a deep longing for something else. To choose self-discovery rather than a safe, solid career was an act of pure courage. It made me curious. What does it take to be that confident?

I have been studying self-development for a long time. Since, as a massage therapist and hypnotherapist, I am in the relaxation business, understanding what makes people feel good (or not) has been of special interest to me.

This same doctor friend told me that if I became a psychotherapist she would fill my practice, since she was looking for good therapists to refer patients to. She even told me what school I should attend to get my Masters. I followed her advice and enrolled in a Transpersonal Psychology MA program. About two years in, due to an opportunity I couldn’t pass up, I left the graduate program and moved my massage practice into a shopping center and turned it into a day spa. I made a very similar choice as that aforementioned Doctor. I suspended my education, where I had spent a lot of time and incurred considerable debt to pursue a different career path. The circumstances to do this made sense even though it was a difficult decision and one that many people might not understand.

Sometimes when I’m faced with a tough choice, I imagine myself on my death bed, looking back on my life and I ask myself, what do I wish I had done?

It takes me away from the immediate situation and the expectations of my peers, my family, and our cultural paradigm. I ask myself, what choice would really make my soul feel good? What is the memory I want to have when I look back on my life?

It really helps.

There are so many expectations and pressures we carry from our upbringing, our friends and teachers, that it can be extremely challenging to even know what our hearts want to do. What would we do if there was no one else we had to please? Sometimes it can be a challenge to even dare to consider a path that would greatly diverge from what would be considered, by many, the logical next step.

And yet, it is this very way of thinking that honors our most authentic self. Sometimes this can be the beginning of a most amazing life journey.

Authentic choices don’t only involve major life decisions. It’s a way of thinking that affects choices you make every day in both small and large ways. What you decide to eat, where you shop, how you spend your day off are all opportunities to make authentic choices. Ask yourself what you would do, if you could have total freedom to do anything you want. What makes your whole being want to say “Yes”?

Living as closely as possible to this ideal is honoring your truest self, an important practice of Radical Self-Care. The more you can live like this, the more you will see your life transform. You’ll find that you’ll attract different people and different opportunities.

You will also notice that regardless of anything else, you will be a lot happier, because a great weight of trying to fit into the wrong shaped spot will be lifted from you. And this will not only transform your energy, but it will change the entire way you experience your life.

Radical Self-Care Step Three – Indulge Yourself

Life is Short. Buy the Shoes.

We are basically puppies and we need our treats. Right? We crave rewards for our efforts and who knows better how hard we are working than we do? We need soothing from something really wonderful every now and then to bring us back to that “life is good” moment. In fact, we need these spritzes of positive energy pretty darned often.

Radical self-care is being your own best friend and making sure you get what you need. Indulging yourself in what will help restore you is good medicine for the soul.

The enraptured face of a woman close-up while she is having a massage.

Giving yourself small gifts of pleasure does not need to be expensive or fattening. It can be a candlelit bath, a drive to a beach, a park or the woods.

It can also certainly be a splurge, because sometimes that’s exactly what you need. We have a culinary school near our house and every once in a while I treat myself to something from their bakery. My favorite items they make are their savory pastries. Last time I went there they had galettes made of puff pastry filled with caramelized onions, goat cheese and butternut squash. I can still remember that buttery taste and the texture of the flaky dough.

The other morning I gave myself the gift of reading in bed in my pajamas, getting up for breakfast and then crawling back into bed for another hour of reading. It felt very indulgent. Maybe you do this all the time, but for me it was a special treat. My day usually begins by consulting my to-do list or getting ready for my scheduled appointments.

I rarely eat out, but instead I save up for getaways on the coast. These recharge me more than anything in a myriad of ways. I figure, a month of not buying lunch or fancy coffees covers a night at my favorite beachside cabin. We are always making choices, so make wise ones.

More than anyone else you know what restores you and helps you find your center again. The more you pamper yourself, the better you can be to others.

My greyhound, Maggie, teaches me about this every day. A walk through the neighborhood is her treat. I try toMaggie with afghan indulge her as much as possible. It’s also a time for us to bond so that’s a reward for us both. After the walk she calms down and will curl up on her favorite cushion for a nap, no longer bouncy and overly energetic, as getting her walk puts her at peace. Maggie is one of my happiness gurus.

It’s important not to put treats off to the point where we are hardly ever getting them. When we do that our lives become drudges that consist of mainly dealing with our responsibilities. It can make us pretty grumpy and give us bad attitudes. Think of this as giving yourself frequent joy blessings. Think of it as medicine. Think of it however you need to. I think of it as Radical Self-Care.

The other day I was walking past a small boutique that had a sign outside which read, “Life is short. Buy the shoes.” Yes, I smiled to myself, eyeing the stylish collection as I strolled by the open door to the shop. Exactly!

What are some of your indulgences?

Radical Self-Care Step One – Journaling

“Tell me Everything” She Said. And I Did.

One of the tools I have used for as long as I can remember is journal writing. From the very earliest age in high school when the entries were more like poems of coming of age torment, I clung to my tiny notebook. It was as though it were part of my body, clutched tightly underneath my arm. Certainly, it was part of my soul.

As time evolved, so did the journal. Julia Cameron, in “The Artist’s Way” recommends that we write three pages every morning. She even suggests that they be pages we don’t ever read again, so rather than try to do a beautiful piece of writing, she advises us to let every bit of icky goop just pour out, so that, in essence, we could be free of it. It was from her encouragement that my journal became my “free therapist.”

Now my journal writing has become a session for transformation. After writing, I am never the same. It is the place to pour out the swirl of contradictions that do their gyrating dance inside me. Thoughts of desire, hope and angst are released into those pages, clearing my head, opening my heart.

JournalBut there’s something else that happens when I write in my journal. Thoughts and ideas that completely surprise me come up. Just like in a person-to-person therapy session, when you are speaking and suddenly you have insights that surprise you, because for the first time you are actually verbalizing a feeling, the same sorts of light bulbs go off when journal writing.

For a couple of years I was in college, training for a completely different profession that did not at all suit me. I was doing this because the economy was crashing and I was terrified that I would not be able to survive as a massage therapist. They were the hardest 2 years of my life. So tough, that when it was over the only way to cope with the craziness was to write a book about it, which I will someday publish. The way I managed the stress was with a journal writing routine. Every Sunday morning I went to a local café bakery, got a cup of tea and a cinnamon walnut croissant and wrote in my journal. It was a holy ritual where I wrote about my tough week. I ranted about the things I was hating. I voiced my fears. I wailed about my absolute total misery.

Each session ended with a list of things I was grateful for and a list of prayers for the coming week. It kept me sane. Because, you see, even though I was in an environment where I did not fit at all, each time I wrote I came back to myself. The journal helped remind me who I was. And even in the midst of recalling the worst weeks, I remembered the parts of myself that I loved. In fact, writing in that journal was a pure act of self-love. Some part of me was saying, “Here, let me take care of you. Have a nice cup of tea and a croissant and tell me everything.”

And that, dear friends, is the way we use the “Free Therapist” journal to heal. Do you journal?

P.S. I love to hear your comments and please add where you are from. Thanks!