Thursday, August 11, 2016

Self-Care, Don't Care

I have no idea where the summer went. None. I am back in the thick of training for my fellowship with Residential Life at WashU and soon enough I will be back in the classroom for one last year of classes before you can call me Abby MacDonald, Master of Social Work!

Yesterday, we had one of many tough conversations surrounding racial justice: how to discuss the negative racial narratives in today's society and share counter-narratives to influence social change. During a time when many people feel uncomfortable discussing race and how it impacts the way an individual moves through life, Res Life has been clear about the need to have tough conversations. The talk yesterday shined a light on a lot, and while we didn't solve all the world's problems, or come up with a solution for institutional racism (which I think would solve MANY of the world's problems), it got everyone at the table thinking.

I've written about the need for self-care on this blog before and last night, I listened to my own advice.  I lit a lavender (supposedly calming?) candle and got back on my yoga mat. Normally I watch a video at home as a guide, but this time I just did what felt right. I realized I am not at all ready to lead a class, but I listened to what my body needed which was a lot more difficult than anticipated.

I love the fact that I can do yoga at home for many reasons: 1. It's free. 2. I can do it in my sports bra and underwear should I choose to (sorry if that was too much information). 3. If I want to do some yoga at 2:30 in the morning, I can. I haven't ever done that, but should I find the need, I can. 4. When I make a mistake, or take a risk and fall on my face, no one is there to laugh. Today, though, I put some pants on and went to a yoga class at the local YMCA. I love my Y because I am usually the youngest person in the room so I don't feel intimidated or judged. Nor do I feel the need to compare myself to the 70 year old man wearing khakis on a treadmill.*

Getting on the yoga mat has always been both a challenge and a blessing for me. It forces me to concentrate on my breathing, an intention, and on balance. I often look at yoga as a connection to my faith. Many of my intentions are just prayers to God. It is where I can be fully present and contemplate what His plans are for me. Today, as I packed my mat and waterbottle for a class, I realized that not only is my personal time with yoga a reflection of my faith, but going to a class with a teacher is comparable to heading to church.

I love going to church with my parents and family each week. I'll admit there are more days where I choose sleep over church, but each time I return I am reminded why it is worth going. As a good Augustinian alum, I go for the community. I know that my faith is my own journey and the church is a reflection of a man-made religion, but I discovered during my volunteer year that immersing oneself in a community directed towards the same end goal-to be closer to God, can strengthen faith.

I went into this class today pretty confident. I knew how to do the balance poses, I could touch the ground with straight legs, and I could anticipate the next pose the teacher would ask of us. Toward the end, I didn't really feel like I was pushed very much. I thought I would just go home and work on some other poses. Then a funny thing happened. As I was rolling up my mat, post-namaste, I realized my legs felt well stretched, my body was calm and my arms felt a little noodle-y. The class had an impact on me, even though I thought I was above it.

All this work I do on my own, be it on the mat or for my faith, can only take me so far. I eventually need to find a class or a church to find inspiration or comfort in the community. Even if I think I'm better than my classmates or stronger in my faith than those around me, I am learning. I am improving as long as I push myself to do so. It takes an effort on my end to go to that class or get out of my pjs on Sunday and go to church, but I am reminded time and time again, that I still have plenty of work to do.

I am writing this out so that everyone reading can hold me accountable. I am ashamed of how little I blogged last year, especially since it is one of my favorite self-care activities. My goal for this year is to post once a month. I have put a reminder on my calendar for the 25th of every month to write. Feel free to publicly humiliate me if you do not see any posts for more than a month at a time.

*Sorry if you're a 70 year old man wearing khakis at the gym. I applaud your determination to stay fit, just not your outfit choice.