Self-Love Series Day 5: Chelsea
“In the morning when thou rises unwillingly, let this thought be present – I am rising to do the work of a human being. Why then am I dissatisfied if I am going to do the things for which I exist and for which I was brought into the world? Or I have been made for this, to lie in the bedclothes and keep myself warm.” –Marcus Aurelius
I collect quotes. On abandoned sheets of notebook paper, my Notes app, note cards, Google Drive – it’s all a vast string of 26 letters that managed to engage my head and my heart.
To say I was miserable a year and a half ago would be an understatement. I lost my sense of home, lost motivation, lost God, but most importantly (at the time), I lost my partner. No, they didn’t die, but they did break up with me (pour one out for the lingering teen angst). When everything else in my life seemed so out of place – my job, the city I lived in, new friendships – this relationship had been my security and sense of self-control. A control that was taken away from me without my permission.
With my newfound time that came with abrupt singleness and desire to be alone, I found myself reading Meditations by Marcus Aurelius when I came across the quote above.
No. I was not made to stay in my pajamas and keep warm; that is mere survival. The human being – one of billions of species on this planet – holds the immense privilege of transcending survival. No other animal on this planet gets the choice to get up in the morning, go to a job (even if you hate it), have non-familial relationships (even if you dislike them), to exercise (even if it hurts), and eat food that both nourishes us AND tastes good. I do not have to worry about a predator chasing me each time I step outside. This is a very primal understanding of survival, I know.
Gloriously complex humans with their racist, sexist, patriarchal mess of oppressive systems. For many who do not fall into the dominant identity of these systems, everyday can feel like survival.
In the same text, Aurelius states that “God has not willed in order that my unhappiness may not depend on another.” In other words, another human being should not be the sole cause of your unhappiness. It’s hard, I know. Day by day, our civil liberties are being stripped from us by other human beings, pushing us closer to survival mode.
I implore you to RESIST.
“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” –Audre Lorde
What a time to be alive – in Marcus Aurelius’ world that is – where their best rulers removed themselves from petty politics and citizens need not worry about survival. That is how it should be. However, we now find ourselves in a primal state pushed to primitive means of survival despite having the privilege of doing the work of human beings.
Resist with self-care.
Resist by maintaining your humanness. Get your paycheck. Love hard. Allow yourself to be selfishly human. It is, after all, self-preservation, an act of warfare against the systemic forces pushing us away from that.
Do not let another take away your control.
“Everything you do is both necessary and not enough.” – Brittany Packnett
- I journal. A lot. And like my collection of quotes, I get it done in a variety of different ways. Sometime, I do the classic “Dear Diary”; sometimes, I write in the collective journal I share with my best friends; sometimes it’s a prompted journal; and sometimes, I note that I do not know if cats’ stomachs can growl. Journaling in any way, shape or form forces you to sit with your own thoughts an acknowledge them.
- I’m a health person. I buy organic food, eat kale and brussel sprouts willingly, and (mostly) eat three homecooked meals a day. Sometimes, going to the gym means getting up before the sun, or missing a documentary screening with my friends to catch a barre class. Most people don’t know that I have chronic migraines that can be triggered by missing a meal or too many added chemicals. Or that my family has a strong history of early death via heart disease. At this point in time, as a Black woman in America, I cannot afford to let circumstances in my control now, out of my control later.
- Enthusiastically say YES, and No, Thanks. Anytime I have to muster of extroversion, I ask myself, “Is it worth it?” Sometimes that means missing happy hour at your favorite bar to save money for the roasting pan on your Amazon Wish List (just me?); sometimes it’s DDing until 3:00am and thanking God you love to go dancing sober. It’s accepting that hangover because your friend bought you sweet potato pancakes after the bar closed. Whatever your YES and No, thanks is, make sure you can enthusiastically say yes and politely say no without justifying your decision to prioritize you.