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 Nine – Nourishment

A Hedonist’s Guide to Healthy Eating

Are you Hungry? What sounds good?

Feeding ourselves well is an essential part of self-care. How could it not be? Eating is primal! Among our most basic needs.

I am a massage therapist, which translates to a pleasure-seeking hedonist! Therefore, my relationship to food is all about pleasure. Well, pleasure and health. Part of what makes me enjoy my food is knowing that the things I eat are enhancing my physical well-being. I love foods that are rich with vibrant colors, delectable textures and fresh flavors.

Everything you eat, if possible, should consist of foods you love. This way you are feeding more than your stomach. You are providing a feast to all of your senses. Choose foods that have bright colors, artistically presented, with fresh, rich intense flavors.

Tomato, cheese, crackers

Tomato, cheese, crackers

Here are some tips for making your meals as restorative as possible.

Your favorite foods will likely be different from mine, so as I describe the way I play with these concepts, know that you will create your own way of eating mindfully and joyfully, but the main thing I want you to take away from this is about quality, not quantity.

My very favorite foods are fruits. Mangos, raspberries, crisp apples, strawberries, grace my meals every day. I love foods that look beautiful, taste divine and feel like they are benefiting my health with every chew and swallow.

I try to eat about half my food intake in the form of fruits and vegetables. They are healthy and they are beautiful. They come in a rich variety of colors and have intense flavors. You can arrange fruits and vegetables so that a plate looks like a work of art, making it all the more appetizing. When I was in Italy, a country well known for its epicurean delights, I was struck by how simple and delicious much of the food preparation was. Vegetables were grilled or pan-fried and embellished with a drizzle of olive oil, a squeeze of lemon, some chopped garlic and that’s it. Simple and delicious. Play with garnishes. That’s what students learn in culinary academies. The art of garnishing. It’s fun, it’s creative, it’s tasty and you can make healthy food very appetizing that way. Take some broccoli, steam it, drizzle with olive oil that has had some garlic sautéed in it and then decorate it with a tablespoon of chopped, toasted walnuts. Yum.

Experiment.

Root vegetables

Root vegetables

cooked root vegetables

cooked root vegetables

Try different fresh herbs as a garnish. Some chopped fresh basil, perhaps, or parsley. Or try grating some fresh lemon or orange zest. I became quite an aficionado of zesting and began collecting a variety of zesters. It really adds great flavor, texture and color to all sorts of dishes. And it is chocked full of powerful antioxidants, the substance that fights cancer in your body.

Making good food can be very easy. One of my favorite summer dinners is steamed vegetables topped with a poached egg and a sprinkle of fresh parmesan cheese. This is particularly good on asparagus, summer squash, broccoli or green beans. As the egg yolk breaks and soaks into the vegetable it is rather luxurious! I try to get the freshest eggs I can find, buying them at the farmer’s market whenever possible. The green vegetables, topped by the egg, with its bright orange yolk, create a beautiful presentation! Get in the habit of treating yourself like an honored guest, creating food presentations like you would for company or that you might receive in a fine restaurant.

Hummus platter

Hummus platter

Preparing gorgeous, appetizing food is a form of self-love. It’s nourishing way beyond nutrition. I know a lot of people who think if they don’t have someone else to cook for it’s not worth bothering. These people eat very poorly when they are by themselves. I’m talking about watching TV mindlessly gobbling potato chips, frozen pizza, or some quickly micro-waved frozen dinner. Please treat yourself better than this.

I promise you, that if you start caring for yourself the way you would treat good company your life will change. For one thing, you will become a happier person if little pleasures become part of your daily life, no matter where you are, whom you are with or what you are doing. As you become happier you will radiate positive energy and people will become attracted to that energy and will want to be around you and will automatically be good to you and treat you to things.

When I go out of town on a solo getaway, which is what I like to do in order to recharge and write, I want to keep my costs down so I bring food with me to minimize the expense of eating out. I’ll bring a ripe avocado, mash it with lemon juice, garlic powder and sea salt, making a delicious guacamole. I’ll take a carrot and slice it into slivers for dipping. I may also cut up a red bell pepper and chop up some tomatoes. With a little cheese and crackers it makes a beautiful, healthy meal that I can put together in a hotel room.

I pack fruit, graham crackers, peanut butter and goat cheese for breakfast, cups of instant hot soup that only required boiling water from an electric hot pot I bring with me. I add chopped peanuts to garnish the Thai noodle soup that comes in one of those “just add water” cups and voila! A tasty and beautiful meal. I carry a couple of plates and a nice bowl for my food so I can transfer everything to my pretty dishes. It’s easy, delicious and beautifully presented. And healthy, as well. Most importantly, eating this way, with care to presentation and quality, simple ingredients makes me feel incredibly good.

Ratatouille tart

Ratatouille tart

What would your meals be like if every serving were in some sense a work of art? We see pictures of food in magazines, on websites, in TV commercials, in restaurant ads, foods that have been carefully arranged by a food stylist to make them appear appetizing. What if you did that for yourself? Every time you eat?

You don’t need a lot of money to live well. You just need to make the most of the little things. Food is a pleasure you can use to treat yourself multiple times throughout the day, every day.

This is a way to care yourself physically, emotionally and can become a habit of yummy creativity.

Feed your eyes.

Phyllo mushroom pizza

Phyllo mushroom pizza

Feed your taste buds.

Feed your stomach.

Feed your heart.

Feed your creativity.

Feed your soul.

 

 

 

Radical Self-Care Step Eight – Balance

Finding the Balance or Managing the Feel-Good Meter

On one of my trips out of town, I was overcome with the feeling that helping others is what life’s all about. In big ways. In small ways. Offering to give a hand to a friend whom you know is struggling. Tipping the person who prepares your coffee. Helping a confused person find their way. Being friendly to strangers when you’re out running your errands. Being helpful whenever you can. Meeting a person’s eye and smiling. Or just holding their gaze for a moment so they know they have been seen. There are a thousand ways big and small to help other people.

Society Hotel, Portland. The lobby cafe

Society Hotel, Portland. The lobby cafe

Thinking about things like gratitude practices, I wanted to promote the practice of kindness and helping others. Whether it’s doing something practical like helping someone get something done or doing something that lifts a person’s spirits, spreading helpfulness is one of the most powerful spiritual practices we can do.

Giving doesn’t only make the other person feel good but it makes your own heart feel good.

I went to Portland a few months ago for a writing retreat and every place I went I encountered helpful, friendly people who made me feel good to be alive and happy about humanity. I met many strangers who were extremely kind to me and helped me with directions, when I was walking through the city, because I’m terrible at finding my way in new places. I’m famous among my friends for getting lost or taking the wrong turn. They took the time to explain to me where things were, and how the city was laid out (numerically and alphabetically) so I could figure out how to find the address I was looking for.

Society Hotel, Portland. Lobby fireplace.

Society Hotel, Portland. Lobby fireplace.

The women at the writing workshop shared their fears and vulnerabilities in words and tears and exquisite pieces of writing that made me feel less alone and not so different. I went to this writing retreat hoping to become a better writer but really, what it did was open my heart. I saw so many ways that people were doing what they could to help other people. The presenters gave us all books from writers they knew, whom they were supporting by sharing their books. They said they take a percentage of what they bring in from the workshop to help upcoming writers. A beautiful practice of Helping.

At the hostel-like Society Hotel, where I was staying, the staff were very friendly and chatty. They greeted me with smiles every time I entered the lobby/lounge/café area. They had a little take-out bar where they made healthy breakfasts and lunches and they remembered each day that I wanted yogurt with their homemade granola and a fresh orange for breakfast.

The people at the front desk were patient in explaining how to find places in town and how to navigate the neighborhood. And in order to get a good night’s sleep they gave me a quiet room on a top floor away from the street noise.

I was so overcome by the openness and friendliness of the people I was meeting in this city, where I arrived alone, discovering the fresh, artistic nature of Portland. My heart was blasted open.

On the flight home, as I reflected on my four-day excursion I thought about how delightful it was to go to a place where the people were so forthcoming and inviting. Life is all about helping each other and being good to one another, I decided.

But then I had another thought. Being an open, giving person is all very well, but we need to take care of ourselves, too. We need to have a balance between giving and receiving. When we talk about balance between giving and receiving, how much is too much?

One of the reasons we are here – or if I want to get all pompous about it – one of the meanings of life, is to find the balance between helping others and taking care of ourselves. When people go too far to the extreme in either direction, devastating things can happen.

Society Hotel, Portland. Coffee bar.

Society Hotel, Portland. Coffee bar.

When taking care of oneself obliterates everything else it turns to greed, which can become meanness or even war, at the extreme level. And giving too much of oneself, without taking time to recharge, can result in a state of severe depletion, or become an addiction to being needed at its worst.

Finding that balance between helping others and helping oneself is a tricky dance. Like any balancing act it is easy to tip to one side or the other. It feels so good to do something for someone else where you can immediately see that your action is making a difference. It also feels good to unplug, slow down, and indulge in some self-care. When tackling anything big, the best thing to do is take small bites. Go back and forth. Find the comfort zone between manageable acts of kindness and bite sized treats of self-care.

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.

Radical Self-Care Step Six – De-Clutter

Get Rid of What You Don’t Want to Make Room for What You Do Want

Are you full yet?

yard sale declutterExcess stuff is like having clogged arteries of the soul. Having to sift through accumulated clutter to find what we’re actually looking for takes up our limited time and space. It can keep you from having the environment and the life that you want.

I’m not just talking about clothes you no longer wear and things from 12 years ago sitting in the garage that you don’t use anymore. I’m also talking about people who bring you down or don’t give you joy. I’m including things you do out of habit that no longer give you pleasure and take up your time. Everything and everyone that no longer serves the person you are or the person you want to be is something unnecessary that you need to get rid of.

It can be scary to let things go because we become so deeply attached to the things we acquire. Look at it this way. What if you narrowed your belongings down to just the things that you really love. How would that change your life?

When was the last time you cleaned out a drawer, a closet, your garage or your filing cabinet? It is way too easy for us to accumulate stuff. And yes, it can be incredibly tedious and boring to pore through it and discard things that are no longer necessary. But boy, it can make such a difference! And wow, does it feel good to turn a messy room into a tidy, organized space! An excess of stuff can really weigh you down.

There’s a reason that the book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo has become a bestseller.

De-cluttering is about creating space of all kinds. And the thing is, that once you make some room in your life, you then have an opening for something new, something better. For example, if there are activities you are doing that you no longer enjoy, such as things you promised to do, or getting together with people that you no longer feel a connection with, giving those things up makes room for something more satisfying. De-cluttering can be about time as well as space.

I was helping a friend who was selling her house. She was moving to a much smaller place and she knew she had to get rid of a lot of stuff. She also knew that she couldn’t do it alone. She got lost in the memories that her things evoked or felt guilt about getting rid of something that had once been a gift from a dear friend. The thing was, she had a lot of dear friends. And when she added up all the birthdays, holidays and other important occasions from her childhood all the way to the present she agreed that it was ridiculous to assume she could hang onto everything that had ever meant something to her. She had certainly tried, and owning property with room for storage sheds and an attic definitely enabled her to pile it up. But now she had to take a really good look at limiting her belongings to the few things she really loved that she’d have in her new place.

We made piles. There was a pile of things to donate, one pile of things to throw away and a small one of things to keep. There were times when it was wrenching for her to let something go, but it also became obvious how silly it was to hang on to toys she’d had when she was five years old because a beloved cousin gave them to her. It helped that we planned to donate these items to places where they could do a lot more good than clogging up her storage bins. And it felt so good to finally have some nice, clean emptiness.

Let there be a void.

This is the truly magical part of letting things go. When you have empty space in your home, or blocks of unscheduled time, first of all, just enjoy the rest and the emptiness because that in itself is a pretty rare thing. Beyond that, you now have room for something new and wonderful to come into your life.

Try it. Clear something out. Make some room. And then see what happens.

 

 

Radical Self-Care Step Five – Rest

Is It Nap Time Yet?

This is the hardest self-care step for me because it means that I have to stop my usual frenzy of activity and really slow down. I talk a good game but in reality I am always in motion. Between all the things I have to do and the things I want to do it’s really quite a challenge for me to stop and just be still.

But, oh my goodness, it is so necessary.

Watercolor Molly & Grace

We are like bees buzzing around an endless array of flowers, getting caught up in the colors and aromas and we can get lost there, always buzzing, never resting.

And yet, magical things come from rest.

To do nothing is a powerful act. To be, to rest, to let go. Letting the swirl of energy that is constantly driving us come to a halt. Taking some time to stop and evaluate what we’re doing gives us a chance to prioritize what’s really important. It also gives us time to recharge our batteries and it strengthens our immune systems.

One of my New Year’s resolutions this year was to take one day a week just for rest. No goals. No chores. Not even scheduling a fun activity with a friend. A day for true rest. Reading, gardening, taking a nice long walk, even curling up on the couch and watching a movie. For me, rest requires not engaging, which is why I don’t make plans with anyone on my rest day. But your mileage may vary. The important thing is to give yourself a true break, where you aren’t “on” and nothing at all is needed from you. It’s quite a luxury.

A day of rest gives you a chance to just be yourself. You aren’t playing a role (parent, spouse, friend or whatever you do for a living). You aren’t responding to anyone. It’s a day to truly nurture yourself, to allow yourself to be 100% okay just as you are. Nothing else required.

When I was in my 20’s I went on a long trip for several months to Southeast Asia. I happened to arrive in Bali the day before what they call “quiet day.” On that day everything on the island is shut down. No cars or buses run. No restaurants are open. No fires are lit. It’s a day where the entire island hits the “off” switch. All food has been prepared in advance because no cooking is done. A local person explained to me that they do this so malevolent spirits will think everyone has left the island and they will move on. I thought it was wonderful that this whole culture observed a day when absolutely everything and everyone came to a halt and rested.

Even the bible talks about having a day of rest each week. Many spiritual traditions honor a day of rest. Clearly, there is something to this.

Think of it as a way to re-boot. You know that when you re-boot things they work better. As the deeply down-to-earth writer Anne Lamott says, “Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.”

This is what I’m talking about. We all need some time to unplug. When we can’t screw up because nothing is required of us. I don’t know about you, but to me that sounds delicious.

 

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.