You may wonder about the notion of three pandemics, so right off the bat, I will name the obvious: COVID-19 pandemic. The one we were already in and not naming as a pandemic and therefore not taking as seriously was and is also killing people world-wide – climate change. Finally, there is the pandemic of racial injustice and White Supremacy, which has been around since the founding of this country and has killed, quickly and slowly, many people of color, primarily Black and secondarily Indigenous. Self-care for many writers is staying alive and staying safe.
As for my journey of self-care as a writer, it ramped up on Tuesday, March 17th. I have worked and written in my homes for 25 years and have been single for many years, spending 75% of my time alone. Within a few weeks, I had all the signs telling me that 100% solitude was more than my extroverted heart could bear. I became anxious and depressed despite being the queen of self-care. As a former social worker, I am very keen about these signs – loss of pleasure in activities I used to love like writing, yoga, and reading. I also had strong urges for comfort food or I didn’t have an appetite. I often work on my couch, but I felt molded into it, afraid nothing I could do would soothe me. This would alternate with anxious thoughts about my self-employment and how to generate the creative, disciplined energy to edit and publish my second book when so much felt so much more important.
As a creative writer, life coach, and transformative consultant, I am considered “non-essential” in this society…
As a creative writer, life coach, and transformative consultant, I am considered “non-essential” in this society. All of the organizations and people I have dedicated my life to working with to dismantle white supremacy and structural inequities were needing support to survive and postponing our work. I had signed up for a number of book festivals to promote my memoir The Cost of our Lives and these were rescheduled and finally canceled.
Moving to Los Angeles to Shelter in Place with my sister and her family was Plan C. After three weeks of sheltering alone, it flipped into being Plan A. At first I thought it might be necessary for financial reasons, but I ultimately relocated for the well-being of my mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being. My decision coincided with a friend leaving an unpleasant situation so she sublet while I was gone for 2.5 months. Everything was “for the time being.” Especially after the BLM movement surged with news of more killings and no actual systemic change. As I enter my fifth month of Sheltering in Place amid the 401st year since Africans were forced into slavery, this remains even more true.
As a Buddhist who integrates indigenous spiritual practices, my primary tenets for many years have been that life is uncertain and that everything is impermanent. That means the essence of self-care for me as a person, writer, and life coach is staying in the present moment. The more that I can be in whatever is happening now, and then now, and then the next now is the more that I am able to perceive the care I need. Self-care is ineffable, changing as we and the world change. This means I “stay” with the unpleasant twists in my gut, breathing deeply and not trying to “fix” myself or talk myself out of my despair and grief. No sucking it up or leaning in; instead, I work on being upright so I can view the bigger picture, which included publishing my book and finishing two quilts for my 25-year-old twins with squares from their old clothing I had dragged around for years.
It also means there is no blame or shame for deciding all my self-care is sometimes not enough to lift the low-grade depression and anxiety that swirl around my heart. Seeking more support is an act of courage and vulnerability, as is the act of writing, especially for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color), who represent only single-digit representation in most aspects of publishing, from authors to editors to staff.
As a life coach, many of my conversations during these pandemics has been to invite my clients into their “now”, which is different than mine.
As a life coach, many of my conversations during these pandemics has been to invite my clients into their “now”, which is different than mine. The present moment is where all of our wisdom and capacity to make thoughtful, loving decisions lie about our self-care and where writing fits into living through these times. It is also where all of our fears and anxiety lie. If you questioned your right to write before, it is likely at red alert. If you find yourself distracted and “unproductive,” know this is appropriate and you are not alone. Rumi’s poem The Guest House was shared with me by another writer many years ago and is resplendently appropriate during these times:
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
Our fear and joy are not opposed to each other as the multiple pandemics assert. They only make sense together, hand in hand, having a cafecito together and sharing their perspectives with us—now more than ever. If we push the depression away, it only becomes stronger. We can be both blessed to have writing as our passion and broken-hearted at the daily inequities more clearly exposed that have us staring at a blank page with no words. This is when I turn to and invite others to do 10-minute free writes with any prompt your heart decides. No stopping the pen until the alarm sounds. Try it.
This moment is complex when it comes to self-care. Much of what we relied on for social and emotional support to keep us on our path as writers is not available, while all the challenges we had before are still present.
This moment is complex when it comes to self-care. Much of what we relied on for social and emotional support to keep us on our path as writers is not available, while all the challenges we had before are still present. We are figuring out new ways to engage and act. I slowed down and recalibrated my personal, writing, and work expectations. I still make adjustments on a daily basis because my heart and spirit flag at the COVID-19 statistics, including the prison, reservation, and detention center deaths. I stare at traffic and know we let the chance to shift climate change dissolve into the “old” reality.
Self-care has to be a conscious daily approach, not a “one size fits all” decision.
Self-care has to be a conscious daily approach, not a “one size fits all” decision. As I tell myself and others: We are living with multiple pandemics and no end date!
I tell myself and my clients to assess each day what aspect of life is pulsing with panic and which has some space for possibility and hope in the financial, physical, emotional, social, and spiritual realms. Your mind is likely exhausted with trying to cope and minimize the situation’s impact on your energy. Because of this, old emotional wounds will “bust a stitch” and you have the opportunity to heal these more fully. Birthdays, graduations, and anniversaries are days where our hearts will be most tender. You will forget calls and misplace things. I finally found my air pods but haven’t yet located the charging case. Give yourself permission to “skip a beat” and practice this compassion for others. Honor your inner wisdom and let it guide you.
Stop focusing on short-term coping mechanisms and buy several cloth masks if you haven’t already. Do not sit on shore waiting for the ship of the old “normal” to save us. I am grateful that the ship has sailed. That was a slave ship; that was a ship that benefitted the one percent, that was a ship that said we could not stop climate change. I urge us all to build a new “normal” where the disproportionate burden of illness and death among BIPOC ends.
For me, self-care meant applying for any and everything available from the government; it is our money and we are owed. I thought through finances for a year. While I have never lived through such a time as this, I have lived through personal and world events that have given me the skills to apply now, and so have you. Personal examples may include forced or chosen immigration, work changes, births, deaths, unions and divorces, accidents, injuries, and illnesses. World events can include 9/11; Hurricanes Katrina and Maria; wildfires; earthquakes, wars, and assassinations.
Here are core self-care practices to create the space to keep my self-care and writing essential:
- Focus each day on what is healing and wholesome in an explicitly uncertain moment (life is always uncertain)
- Forgive yourself every day for not knowing – NO ONE knows
- You are the most important emotional/social connection to nurture, and your writing is where you connect most deeply with yourself
- Re-assess people, groups, activities and habits based on your values – commit to the mutually supportive ones; the ones for which Black Lives Matter is more than a slogan
- Share honestly with your people how you are really doing and what you need
- Carry forth the good of your old “normal” at your own pace
- Practice Zoom care: Only use when a call won’t work; turn off video or use small screen so you don’t see yourself; close eyes and/or look away from screen regularly to rest eyes
We have always been interconnected and all our efforts toward self-care and our writing supports everyone. Accept the ebb and flow of this tide – sometimes you will feel squeezed in and sometimes your heart will be spacious and able to give. More than anything, give your judgment and comparing thoughts a big hug and send them on their way to keep making room for compassion & love.
About the Author
Linda González lives a #bouquetlife with many different passions that include writing, self-care, coaching, and tennis. She has a thriving practice as a life coach, assisting clients to discover and reach their precious goals while taking into account the impact of biases still present in society. Her coaching book Breaking through your Own Glass Ceiling was recently published. This book offers simple, proven prosperity practices too address power dynamics faced by BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) and other underrepresented communities so we can truly embrace a full-hearted life.
Linda is also a storyteller, published author, and solo performer. Her book The Cost of Our Lives is an award-winning memoir.
You can discover more about her equity-based coaching and purchase her books at lindagonzalez.net.