Often when I hear the phrase ‘self-care,’ my eyes roll back in my head. I instantly envision Instagram hashtags and thinkpiece headlines that equate to little more than the aesthetics of self-indulgence; fancy baths, yoga with baby animals and an endless stream of consumable products that promise to improve the quality of my life.
Here’s the problem. Quality of life is a luxury that many of us were never meant to have. As a Black, queer, woman, I see that evidenced at every turn.
Black women laughed on a wine train in Napa, only to find out the joke was on them. Ahmaud went for a jog and it became his final walk. Sandra was driving on her way to a new beginning and was pulled over to meet her end. Tamla was at a party with friends only to wind up at a funeral. Breonna Taylor went to sleep in her own home and never woke up again.
Despite these Black individuals’ commitment to self-care, there was no escaping a world that doesn’t care for them. So, it turns out I’m not really annoyed by bubble baths, I’m just overwhelmed by living in a society that wants me to drown in mine. Morbid, right? I thought so too.
Self-preservation has always been an afterthought for me. In the words of Audre Lorde, “Life is very short. What we have to do must be done in the now.” Younger versions of me would have taken that quote and run with it (or gotten it tattooed). However, unlike white people quoting Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., I won’t quote Audre out of context to justify my behavior.
You see, the same brilliant woman is also quoted saying, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence. It is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”
The first part of this quote is so necessary for those of us who have been conditioned by a history, deeply rooted in survival. It is a gentle reminder that helps quiet the voice of guilt that tries to convince us that self-love is selfish. By giving herself permission, she empowers us to do the same.
Next, she makes a significant clarification about self-care; it is essential for the sustainability of our existence. If you’re anything like me, you’re probably still learning this lesson the hard way. Just like my momma watered down our juice and milk to make it last, many of us consistently do the same with our activism. Problem is, a diluted version of ourselves is NOT gonna change the world. (Also, we deserve full-flavored dranks!)
The last phrase is my favorite because it reminds me that my self-care is part of something bigger. We cannot be truly committed to the resistance of oppression, if we do not prioritize ourselves. Since this country has yet to give us the grace of rest, taking it by any means necessary is an act of revolution.
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