how about a beginning of self-determined care?

my friend b loewe wrote this blog an end to self-care, and i was moved to respond.

hi lovely b :)

thank you so much for putting this out there, i feel the energy of it. and as a community-supported self-care queen on day 8 of a juice cleanse, i have to engage.

my negative feelings on self-care kept me in a state of not caring for myself for years, delaying me in getting what i needed, keeping me in unhealthy movement spaces, feeling powerless and tired.

my community had to intervene. they generated the resources to send me off to take care of myself. if they hadn’t done that, i don’t know if i would be here at all.

once they had intervened, i still had to go through an internal process to get to a place where i determined that i needed this healing, that i wanted to be able to give to movement from a healthier place.

so…i love the idea of community care…but what is that, if not community supporting each other in our self-determined efforts to care for ourselves and our families?

there’s that relationship wisdom, “you can’t change someone else.” i feel that – i know it’s true for me, when people try to change me i root my feet down into the soil of what is.

grace boggs speaks it into movement, echoing gandhi, “we must transform ourselves to transform the world.”

for me this includes self-care. or perhaps more precisely, self-determined care. because the messages we receive are that our lives don’t matter, that we don’t deserve love, or even to exist. to choose instead to value ourselves, our health, and the health of our communities – all as one, not at odds with each other, is radical, it’s self-determination.

and i love the idea you put out that “movement work is healing work” – it absolutely should be, and sometimes it is. and when it is, it’s amazing.

but so much of the movement work we do these days is not structured in ways that promote sleep, much less healing. there are some beautiful flows of intense work, but more often than not, in my work as a facilitator, organizational development lover and coach, what i see over and over again are isolated, exhausted and overworking organizers in endless loops of tasks, conflicts and fundraising. i observe work done in a state of urgency that often leads us to not have time to cook for each other, care for each others’ kids, or even to pursue that “political clarity” which maria speaks of.

when movement is full of individuals with scarce energy and health, that scarcity flows in every direction – it leads to us competing with each other for resources. that’s what this capitalist system wants us to do, compete with each other for what we are told is enough. the shift towards grassroots fundraising is a beautiful response to this – that we generate abundance within ourselves, so our movement work can be self-determined.

that is the same thing we need to seek as individuals – abundance that allows our lives and work to be self-determined, community-determined.

i think that burn-out happens when life is not lived with intention. when we are mindful and intentional, we can begin to experience abundance, not in the material sense, but from the joy of living our lives on purpose.

its a privilege for us to even have this conversation, i recognize that. but there are some people, people with less time and resources than either of us have, who are just beginning to get a tiny little bit of encouragement to take care of themselves, and i would hate to see your words take away from that, or make people feel guilty for that.

i think it matters that we value and love ourselves and each other. and to me, that looks like affirming the radical act of love however it comes, without judgment, whether it’s through a movement retreat, or a yoga class, or knitting, or a protest, or a garden.

so yes, let’s get specific about community care – how does it look to do this so that people are able to do for themselves what they need? some people thrive working long hours with very little alone time…others thrive with two hours of meditation every day, or physical activity.

how do we create communities where everyone can self-determine and ask for what they need, offer what they have to give, where the result is abundance?

long blog short, i don’t think this is either/or. i think this is yes: more health, more care, everywhere. getting more people in more communities talking about what a healthy caring life looks like, how they are already living and caring for themselves and each other, and how we all support each other. and not just how generations from now people might live a healthy live, but how we are and can be practicing health, well-being, joy and justice in the here and now.

because from experience, the healthier i am, the more authentic love and contribution i am able to give to movement, to the next generation in my life. the more i prioritize caring for myself, caring for my community and accepting care from my community, the better and brighter spark in the movement flame i can be.

11 Responses to “how about a beginning of self-determined care?”


  1. 1 jidan

    Thank you for the response! And the quote from Audre Lorde – that says it all. As a child in a family that came out of the culture of previous movements… the idea that you can be sustainable, be a contributing part of your family, be present as a partner and a community member WITHOUT caring for oneself has proven (in my life experience) to be false and without deep, lasting consequences. I don’t mean go to a yoga retreat (although that’s great!)… I mean going to the doctor if you are sick, sleeping, listening to what your spirit says, eating healthy, simply breathing without thinking that you must struggle in order to have a worthy life. I don’t want to be part of a movement where I can’t ask “how are you doing?” without feeling guilty for not picking up a picket sign or signing up for childcare. Of course we all do what we can (!); and there are limits to everything. I felt politically clear when I was 25 – but I also thought in black and white and I had simple answers. Now – I feel more open, I feel more depth to my commitment after weathering burn out and having a child, I feel less Certain about anything. Do I wish I meditated more? Yes! But I don’t judge folks or look disapprovingly if people don’t. That judgment – who is better than whom – is exactly what meditative practice is about getting out of. I think we have shallow understandings of what meditation, “self-care”, or spiritual practices are for. We can make them into just another way to make ourselves and other people feel guilty, not good enough, re-enforce the differences in power and privilege. For me, self-determined care is about bringing my best self in inter-being with the community and the movement; to contribute more effectively. Its about being able to sustain over the long haul and also not neglect my family.

  2. 2 B

    Adrienne,

    Thank you for writing such a thoughtful response and so quickly. The short response-response is “Yes yes and yes!” Absolutely everything yes. it adds, it corrects, it clarifies.

    I’m going to marinate on it more to see what else may percolate out but for now my deep appreciation for you, your words, your thoughts, and for stirring up this crucial conversation.

  3. 3 Nora

    Thank you for this, Adrienne. I find the idea of “self-determined care” very helpful.

  4. 4 jonah aline daniel

    thank you. thank you. thank you.
    love,
    jonah

  5. 5 Pidgeon

    thank you for this piece. Makes me wanna get my self care on and not feel guilty about it :) although, like you said, guilt and shame for indulging in self care can prohibit peeps all too often (at least it does for me). But it’s blogs like yours and people like you, Leah, and even you B that make it okay for people to see the work that you do, aspire to do the same, and feel okay about it when you stop to take a bath. <3

  6. 6 noa grayevsky

    Many times:

    Thank you.

    Truly,
    Noa

  7. 7 Jun-Fung

    Thank you so much for this response. So grateful for bloggers who can clearly articulate what so many of us feel. We deserve our own love. I’ve seen the lack of self-care play out in damaging ways… And how we model burnout to young people.

    In communities where all the messages we get (from media, family, etc.) are that we are not worth loving, self-care is indeed an act of survival.

    Self-care is not selfish. It is a path to healing from childhood, adulthood, daily, and inherited traumas. It is remembering that healing our selves creates healthier communities.

    <3 JF

  8. 8 Christy

    Adrienne,
    Thank you for this. As a healer, yoga teacher, bodyworker, etc., seeing widespread burnout and lack of self care in my political community was a big part of my inspiration in choosing this path. I have been having this conversation in my brain for quite some time.
    How do I, in my role, create supportive offerings that will facilitate long-term, community-wide, holistic self-determined care? (I *love* that phrase.) How do we shift the conversation toward a long-term approach to healing (rather than the band-aid approach)? How do we see the care and healing we offer ourselves (and each other) as a part of the larger healing work that we do as a movement?
    After taking time to consider what is necessary and supportive for me, I am happily doing my movement work alongside my healing arts practice in a way that feels balanced and rightful. I see no separation between these and, in fact, they deepen my capacities in each.
    Thank you for this writing. It is so important. I am grateful from the bottom of my heart.

  9. 9 Savannah Logsdon-Breakstone

    Yes.

  10. 10 MkT

    of course we should do our best to take care of ourselves in the ways that we need and what makes sense of us, especially as we struggle against various systems that tell us that we are worthless and undeserving of very basic things like housing and food.

    i guess where i struggle with the discourse around self-care is that there seems (at least from my perspective) an assumption that everyone’s abilities are the same. what about those of us who can’t practice self-care, even if in a self-determined way, because we struggle with illnesses and disabilities? i so often feel left out of these discussions about self-care because there are things that i have not been able to do for myself because i was too sick.

    while communities can come into play in these situations, i find that the idea of collective responsibility is hard to turn into practice. despite our best intentions, we conveniently forget about people in our communities. they’ve gotten ill or depressed or are incarcerated, and they’re not at activist events anymore. we forget those people who have become socially isolated. so i’m not even sure if “community care” is enough when this idea privileges those who are able to be a visible part of the community.

  11. 11 Adrienne

    peace monica
    to me the idea of self-determined care comes into play precisely because everyone has such different abilities and needs. so what seems like self-care to one person might be physically, financially, emotionally or mentally impossible to another, or simply not what they want or need. beyond the basic things like drinking water and going to the bathroom, almost every other need adjusts for each person. i find ability and self-care for each person also changes with time – we are not static creatures. what makes it possible for community care to be possible in the spaces where i have seen glimpses of success is that everyone is able to articulate their needs. so the focus isn’t on charitably taking care of one sick person, but on deeply valuing the contributions of everyone in the community, including those who are chronically ill, differently abled, financially tight – and acting from that valuing instead of from obligation, pity. i agree, it is easy to forget each other when we get sick, our society is all about paying attention to who shows up, not who is absent. but the more we learn to be vulnerable with each other about our real needs, to say them out loud, the more possible communities of care become. i am practicing this on a small scale with my family and a few close friends, saying “i need help” instead of suffering alone and building the story of my loneliness. i will continue to be transparent about the experiment, but so far its been transformative. thanks for being in conversation on this!

  1. 1 Join the conversation about self and community care!! | Sage Community Health Collective
  2. 2 Privilege, reparations, and communities of care | bodies of story
  3. 3 LGBT Elders, Disability, and Community Care: Call to Support Queer Brown Activist, Aurora Levins Morales | QWOC Media Wire
  4. 4 Mad and Sad… they rhyme | Fertile Grounded
  5. 5 » A Round-up and Re-frame of the Community Care Conversation The Rank-and-Filer
  6. 6 learning to respond to the world as a non-organizer at adrienne maree, the luscious satyagraha

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