Just before I boarded my flight to England three weeks ago, I called my cousin-friend. It’s a ritual for me to call 7 people before I travel- my cousin-friend is one of them.
We talked for a bit and just before we cut the call, she said “See you soon babes! Take care of yourself.” I shuddered a bit and almost choking with emotion I said, “Yes, I will. See you soon.”
Her words made me reflect – do I really take care of myself? What does that even mean? Outgrowing this cocoon of mine has meant that I’ve acquired the independence and agency over my own life- how am I using it?
Her words reminded me of my duty to myself. My little holiday retreat where I enjoy chasing my Dad every night (it’s a game we play called Kunet- all my tupchet will know what I mean), eating my Mom’s delightful food and catching matatu’s with my sisters was now over. I’m grown now. I have grown people things to attend to.
I’m not equating studying abroad with growing up. They are two separate things. But in my case, and for many others, the two have a symbiotic relationship. They feed into each other. I’ve found that growing up has been amplified because I live abroad. And similarly my experience living abroad has been influenced by the fact that I am currently defining myself. Doing and undoing. Becoming and unbecoming.
This past couple of weeks I’ve really been conscious of what it means to take care of myself. So I wrote a list of things that mark my mental, physical, spiritual and emotional wellbeing.
mental In the past couple of years, the one principle that has marked my growth mentally, is speaking my mind. It’s come to the point where I feel a heaviness when I am silent about something that I feel strongly about. Even for something as small as my hairdresser blow-drying my hair too much. I can no longer sacrifice my mental stability because of the fear of offence. Who cares what the hairdresser feels about how my hair looks? It’s my hair, after all, and I’m paying for a service.
“If you are silent about your pain, they will kill you and say you enjoyed it” – Zora Neale Hurston
emotional I have learnt to be responsible with my emotions- especially towards myself. We are often so generous to others but utterly reckless towards ourselves. I’ve been the girl who has blamed herself for break-ups, fall-outs and misunderstandings. There has to be fault- it’s either mine or yours. And if it was mine, I would completely self-destruct. I had no understanding of the fact that sometimes life just is. And that you can’t depend on people to be your world. I’ve learnt that you can give your all in situations and sometimes they still. won’t. workout. Because that’s life! I know better now. I am kindest to myself first, because I know that is the source of my kindness to everyone and anyone else. I have learnt to embrace my emotions- I am open about when a close friend has uset me. I tell those I love that I love them. I appreciate when I should. I give of myself freely but cautiously. My heart has learnt how to balance the two. But sometimes we get it wrong. In those situations, I allow approximately 6 hours of wallowing in a puddle of my own tears and then it’s over. We get up, take a shower and face the world. Emotionally responsible.
“I find comfort in knowing that anything meant for me has not missed me. It knows me by name. And when the time comes, it will knock on my door and I will wonder where this missing part of me has been all my life.” – T
physical Doing my eyebrows or not. Working out or not. Dressing to the nines or not. Wearing make-up or not. The beauty (pun intended- wait, do people still say that?!) of growing up is that you choose. The decisions had always been made for me- either by parents, other people or media. Not anymore. I do what feels good for me. I understand what I need, when and how. And despite the popular narrative that my self-care is for the pleasure of others- I defy. I resist.
“My body. My dress. My choice.” – T
spiritual I nurture my spirituality by questioning. Why, why and why?! I have a friend who articulates my thoughts and questions so accurately. I won’t mention his name here but if he reads this he will know. I talk to God. A lot. About things other than my questions. But I have a feeling I should probably address them directly with Him. I like this stage, but I am also wary of going too far off the edge. Hold me tight, Lord.
“I will say of the LORD, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust” – Psalm 91:2
backdrop to my thoughts | Arthur’s Seat, Edinburgh (taken using my trusty iPhone)
Taking care of yourself is a learning process. There will be ups. There will be downs. My only request is that you be intentional about it. Think about it. Mediate on it. Learn yourself to the level where no-one can tell you about you.
© Tessy Maritim