I remember when Steve Clark, guitarist for Def Leppard, died of alcohol poisoning in 1991. His bandmates were saddened, of course, but not particularly surprised. One of them said it was like when your grandmother died: “You knew she was sick, you knew she was old, you knew she was going to die– but you never think it’s going to be today.”
That was the way it felt when Chris Farley died. It was horrible, but not shocking.
I heard the news on the radio driving to work. When I got there there was one girl with tears streaming down her face. Another coworker, a hard man who had served time in prison, was putting up a brave front but was obviously affected.
It was an amazing thing. Farley had a sweetness and charm that people loved him for, without ever having met him.
And they mourned him.
This essay by Brianna Wiest points out that escaping from a miserable life should not be a substitute for changing it, that self-indulgence and self-care are not synonymous:
Self-care is often a very unbeautiful thing.
It is making a spreadsheet of your debt and enforcing a morning routine and cooking yourself healthy meals and no longer just running from your problems and calling the distraction a solution.
It is often doing the ugliest thing that you have to do, like sweat through another workout or tell a toxic friend you don’t want to see them anymore or get a second job so you can have a savings account or figure out a way to accept yourself so that you’re not constantly exhausted from trying to be everything, all the time and then needing to take deliberate, mandated breaks from living to do basic things like drop some oil into a bath and read Marie Claire and turn your phone off for the day.
A world in which self-care has to be such a trendy topic is a world that is sick. Self-care should not be something we resort to because we are so absolutely exhausted that we need some reprieve from our own relentless internal pressure.
True self-care is not salt baths and chocolate cake, it is making the choice to build a life you don’t need to regularly escape from.
And that often takes doing the thing you least want to do.
It often means looking your failures and disappointments square in the eye and re-strategizing. It is not satiating your immediate desires. It is letting go. It is choosing new. It is disappointing some people. It is making sacrifices for others. It is living a way that other people won’t, so maybe you can live in a way that other people can’t.
It is letting yourself be normal. Regular. Unexceptional. It is sometimes having a dirty kitchen and deciding your ultimate goal in life isn’t going to be having abs and keeping up with your fake friends. It is deciding how much of your anxiety comes from not actualizing your latent potential, and how much comes from the way you were being trained to think before you even knew what was happening.
If you find yourself having to regularly indulge in consumer self-care, it’s because you are disconnected from actual self-care, which has very little to do with “treating yourself” and a whole lot do with parenting yourself and making choices for your long-term wellness.
It is no longer using your hectic and unreasonable life as justification for self-sabotage in the form of liquor and procrastination. It is learning how to stop trying to “fix yourself” and start trying to take care of yourself… and maybe finding that taking care lovingly attends to a lot of the problems you were trying to fix in the first place.
It means being the hero of your life, not the victim. It means rewiring what you have until your everyday life isn’t something you need therapy to recover from. It is no longer choosing a life that looks good over a life that feels good. It is giving the hell up on some goals so you can care about others. It is being honest even if that means you aren’t universally liked. It is meeting your own needs so you aren’t anxious and dependent on other people.
It is becoming the person you know you want and are meant to be. Someone who knows that salt baths and chocolate cake are ways to enjoy life– not escape from it.
Roger Ebert once said that you shouldn’t remake the good movies, you should remake the bad ones, and I agree with him for the most part.
But I would still love to see what Wes Anderson could do with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
Excerpted from The Seventh Child: A Lucky Life by Freddie Mae Baxter, edited by Gloria Bley Miller, ©1999:
My mother was only forty-nine years old when she died. She wasn’t sick before she died– like you say somebody was sick a long time– unless she was hiding it. She wasn’t in bed where you had to take care of her. I don’t know the cause of her death. She pained like everybody else pained, you know, like, stomachache or headache or backache or whatever. But nobody did say why she passed. She just died suddenly.
Momma died at home. There were no hospitals in my town at that time; the closest one was in Charleston or Columbia. Everybody was in the house but Willie, the oldest, who was living with his wife and family. Henry was there, Maggie, Julius, and myself. Henry could see that she wasn’t responding and so he told me and Maggie to go over to Willie’s house and tell him to come over there. You had to walk but it wasn’t too far. (When you’re in the South, a mile is just a little walk; we walked everywhere.) Willie got there real fast.
That was one of the worst days of my life. I was sixteen and I was so scared. She died on the 3rd of January, 1940. I’ll never forget that date as long as I live. Every year, I mark that date on the calendar: so-and-so many years since Momma died. And every year that goes by, there’s another year. Nobody talks about my mother but me. Now if I bring it up, they’ll say some things that they remember about her but nobody don’t make the first move.
I just wish my mother could’ve lived to get older. I thought I would never get over it. Time helps but I still think about her and she’s been dead almost sixty years. One day, I’m gonna meet her. You watch what I tell you. I’m gonna meet my mother because I loved her.
What makes the autobiography of Freddie Mae Baxter interesting is that she wasn’t someone famous, not a politician or actress. She was a housekeeper.
Gloria Miller met her, liked her, interviewed her, and helped her tell her story.
I can’t embed this, so you’ll just have to trust me that it’ll make you smile and is worth a click: Cats by Zhaobangni
It’s silly, but fun.
A guy who loves to take care of others learns that he needs to take care of himself, too.
Film by Eleonora Stella Hariyono Oei
Music by Alia Martin
I love seeing old friends enjoying each other’s company.
I like the idea that stepping back saves not only yourself, but everyone in line after you as well.
(I wish I could give credit to the person who made this, but like so many things on the internet the credit was lost in a sea of reposts.)
I was trying to think of a way to teach history other than chronologically, and the only other way I could come up with was by topic.
The problem is, politically at least, there are only two topics: “How can I acquire more things?” and “How can I re-create these people, in my own image and likeness?”
The answer to the first question is usually “Kill people and take their stuff,” and the answer to the second is usually “You can’t, so kill them.”
I don’t think I want to think about history any more.
It’s too depressing.