I ate a bánh mì for lunch yesterday. The first time I ate one, I was in my mid-twenties, and I instantly fell in love. A sausage bánh mì was the last thing I ate before the Poissonnier was born. Few foods make me feel as happy to be alive. At noon yesterday, taking a walk across campus to the food cart that sells them seemed like a good idea, so I invited a colleague along. We chatted as we walked — our conversation wandered across & back around his childhood experiences in a Hmong refugee camp in Thailand and our shared love of food. Given the news that broke early in the afternoon, I'm glad I had that bánh mì & conversation to sustain me.
There's plenty of evidence all around us to support the observation that resilience is a crucial, but very fragile, personal resource. It can erode in an hour under the wrong conditions, and it can often be tempting to allocate the time needed to maintain resilience to other activities & duties that seem more pressing. And yet, it’s a horrible thing to be caught without when you most need it.
Over the last year, I've tried to be more mindful of my resilience. I'm not always successful. But I also realized last year that I needed to make changes, and that I needed to accept a certain amount of failure as part of maintaining my resilience.
That has meant doing some things differently. Without cutting myself off from the world, I am progressively placing greater limits on my daily exposure to certain kinds of input. I'm trying to cultivate a few habits intended to help me find a more empathetic, thoughtful way to navigate the world. I'm learning to exercise more patience; a two year old can be a very effective workout buddy some days.
At the same time, I’m not approaching this effort as one of self-improvement. I’m not claiming I’m perfect, mind you — instead, I’m trying not to get hung up on the imperfections I’m all too aware of already. Dealing with my shortcomings through a judgmental deficit model, rather than one that is more focused around care & healing, was simply creating more negative judgment, anxiety, and discontent. Piling all my personal shortcomings up beneath the pressures of family and professional life, and then dumping all the anger & resentment I feel about the direction my state, the country, & society is going, meant my reactions were becoming progressively more unhealthy and self-compounding. I’d been doing that since 2011, and it just wasn’t working anymore. Looking at the Poissonnier, I knew I didn’t want to wind up taking any of that out on her one day.
I’ll specify some of the things I’m trying in a LTE below. That’s a more appropriate place for me to contribute to that part of the conversation. What you’ve been reading is simply the best way I could think of to initiate that conversation. Over the years it’s been expressed often enough — and by plenty of us — that this place is a refuge for folks. I suspect that, for a lot of us, what happens at the WGOM is partially social, and partially (since we're all interacting at a physical remove) partially self-care.
If you feel able to share today, what are you doing for self-care? How do you know when you're doing enough, or the right way? What do you wish you could do, or do differently? Have you been able to model your efforts to attend to your self-care for others who might benefit from seeing you give yourself that attention, whether at home or in your other spheres of life?