Friday, March 24, 2017

Impermanence

Raspberry sorbet with chocolate shell (housemade, coconut oil based)
from Frite & Scoop in Aurora, OR.

When oranges pop up in seasonally minded grocery stores, spring is near.

This past Sunday I woke up & split a large cara cara orange with my partner for breakfast, juicy & sweet. I scrubbed our clawfoot tub for the first time in too long & switched out the soiled shower curtain liners for their replacements squeaky clean out of the package. The red & beige fabric shower curtain was recently washed so I hung it up while inhaling that familiar laundry detergent scent. I lit tea candles perched atop the toilet tank. Rihanna's ANTI blared from my iPhone. I dutifully massaged my skin with a cup o' coffee face mask, covered the drain, began filling the tub with too hot water, & unearthed a floating island bath melt from the top shelf of the medicine cabinet. As my body slowly adjusted to the water temperature, I soaked in what was my first bath of 2017.

This is stereotypical self-care: candles, face masks, scented baths. However, as I sometimes have to repeat to myself: just because it's stereotypical or popular doesn't mean it can't be effective.

When I fall deep into the worst of the winter blues, my first instinct is to ignore my body's needs. I keep my thoughts & creative impulses stifled by noise. I eat too many deep-fried foods & not enough fresh produce. I drink too much coffee & alcohol & not enough water. I numb myself with stories I personally have nothing to do with. I pretend bad things aren't happening, that if I lay in bed long enough listening to podcasts or watching every single episode of Mad Men maybe it might all go away. 

Taking the time to nurture my body, pointedly soaking it in natural oils & vanilla bean, can sometimes, somehow, boost me back up to neutral. Taking the time to trim my bangs, shave my legs, paint my nails, soak up some sun - these 'extra' tasks that a full-time-working-person may wish to do but can't allocate time for because other priorities take precedence - can make a noticeable difference. 

I tend to ignore my body because it is my own to ignore; when I am sad, I admittedly don't like myself very much & my body takes the brunt of that. When I was unemployed & recovering from surgeries for some months in 2010-2011 & 2012-2013, I was given the luxury of time to take care of my body. I did yoga & pilates several times a week. I walked my father's dog every day, sometimes twice a day. I had time to think through every meal & nourish myself with mindfulness. I read a lot & felt more connected to the world & other people. I got enough sleep & drank enough water. I felt the most clear-headed I ever have in my life. It was an unexpected gift to uncover myself in that way - to find some semblance of peace amidst the rubble of the unfortunate fact that my face had been crushed & my life interrupted. 

Sometimes, on lazy Sundays, I get to peek in on that contented version of myself again. I find her in those holy moments when I can turn off my intensely active, anxiety-prone thoughts & just exist for the sake of existing.

Weekend breakfast: coffee with soy creamer, seitan bacon, buttered sourdough,
tofu scramble with whatever was on hand, blood orange segments.

I call my ovarian cyst Marlow. Marlow approaches me in the middle of the night about once a month & inflicts intense physical pain until sunrise. If my cyst were a woman, she would be lounging comfortably on my bed telling me horrific stories that make us both cry. She would show me scars from cigarette burns & resemble what I imagine to be Lana Del Rey's unkempt older sister. She would smell like a campfire. Marlow makes me feel rattled & uncertain.

My most recent visit from Marlow occurred the night before last at 2:45am. My partner rubbed my sticky-sweaty back & I rhythmically pet my cat for some small distraction from the pain. I missed two days of work this week because of Marlow. I don't remember feeling this fatigued since I was first released from a month-long hospital stay in 2010. My only means of comparing the two are due to just how depleted I feel after using up my energy to shower.

Disruptions in personal health have led me to contemplate the idea that everything is temporary & thus impermanent. Something as presumably fixed as the shape of my nose was proven to be impermanent; a car accident crushed my facial bones & surgeries only pieced together a shadow of what once existed. The stress of writing a paper for a college class is also fleeting as that stress falls away when the paper is returned a few days later with a passing grade. Seasons change, people come & go in our working lives & social circles, you move to a new town, pets & loved ones die. I am mostly comforted by the notion that most things in my day-to-day life are bound to shift - depression passing to light, winter turning to spring - but obviously happiness & warm weather are not cemented in stone. Perhaps this is how I come to learn the importance of preparing myself for future mental struggles? Maybe this is how I come to know, yet again, the power of mindful living?

I can only try my best to be more mindful - but, as we know, nothing is promised.

Triple layer cake I made at work: banana cake, peanut buttercream,
chocolate ganache, peanut butter cookie crumble.

Sometimes we need that quiet self-care, those baths or moments spent with animals or lazy Sunday breakfasts or time staring at nature, to readjust ourselves to our surroundings. What seems to be chaos when you're stressed out of your mind may not be chaotic at all when you take the time to organize your thoughts. This is seemingly basic, but also something I have to remind myself of time & time again. I will not always be stuck in pain related to my cyst; one day my doctor & I will figure out what treatment is best for me & my body. In that same vein, I will never be this young again. I don't want to be caught up in worry or sadness over things out of my control when I live in a city full of possibilities & endless choices & general opportunity for whatever interest I wish to pursue. Time heals, time changes, our lives shift & our minds must adjust with them if we want to thrive. 

Take care of yourselves.

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