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Last week, someone told me that self-care can be anything that “makes you feel more like yourself.” I loved the visual of women knitting, or running, or meditating, or birding, or painting their ways back into their own skin. I often find, especially during weeks dense with social engagements, that I am a few percentage points from my true self — not performing, exactly, but sort of vibrating outside of my own lines, like one of those early Disney cartoons, where you can see the faint sketch-marks carrying over between frames: fuzzy and out of focus, smudged around the edges. It takes just a few hours writing at my chipped white desk, or a morning run in autumn air, or an evening spent curled around a book, to come back into myself. Mr. Magpie, who played baseball when he was younger, once told me: “There’s nothing like hitting a ball from the sweet spot.” There are technical specifications for “the sweet spot” on a baseball bat, and the angle at which a ball must be hit in order to maximize its distance, and the ideal rotation of the batter’s wrists, and the optimal transmission of energy from bat to ball, but when Mr. Magpie talked about it, he simply meant that, physically, it felt right. It sounded good, it felt natural, it was a near-spiritual thing. Musicians have a similar expression — “playing in the pocket” — when they are in a good groove, and everything is flowing naturally and expressively. This, I think, should be the goal of self-care. Walking your way into the pocket. Hitting from the sweet spot. Looking for moments where you are aligned with yourself, and you feel not only comfortable but limber, apogeic.
I think for a long time, conditioned by the ads for Dove chocolate and Calgon I blithely absorbed as a child, I thought of “self-care” as escape, or distraction. But maybe caring well for ourselves has nothing to do with absconding from the world’s throttling pace and occasional abuse and everything to do with settling into ourselves. Not a running away, but a turning toward. Asking “what do I need more of?”
In response to my essay on how piano taught me to read nuance and “the finer-grained ways in which we communicate,” an old friend reached out and shared the loveliest thing:
“More of a teenage lesson, but it’s OK for a talent to just be your own private source of joy. My family always taught me that gifts, like musical talent, should be shared with the world. I had severe anxiety over piano (throwing up for days before every concert) until a teacher advised me to quit performing. Suddenly playing became a place of peace and happiness.”
Somewhere in these byroads of related thought, there is a lantern swinging. And I think it is signaling that I should write because it makes me feel like myself. “Between my finger and my thumb / the squat pen rests,” wrote Heaney, in a poem that reads like an apology-turned-reckoning about the fact that, unlike the generations of men that preceded him, he is not a potato farmer, but a poet.
What I mean to say is:
What makes you feel most like yourself?
Walk towards it.
+Self expression, being weird, and people pleasing.
+One of the most attractive things about my husband: his openness to joy.
+What are you in the middle of?
+Fun Gap puffer. Such good colors! Love the fit, too.
+Two Target finds you need to know about: these wildly chic $28 pants (the utility colored ones remind me of my Veronica Beard Crosby trousers!) and this scalloped tree skirt. Judging by how many of you bought these tree toppers from Elizabeth Harbour last week, it’s not too early to be talking about the holiday season…
+And so, have to share these minimalist/Scandi-chic stockings for your hearth.
+Cute kids tumblers.
+Love all of the inspo on Afloral for styling their botanicals! Eyeing these. I have a few dried / faux branches in our front foyer and they’re such a good way to fill space and add dimension / earthiness.
+How gorgeous are these limited edition Diptyque candles?! Such a beautiful gift.
+Obsessed with this little marbleized tray for containing little trinkets, pens, jewelry, etc.
+Fab embellished cardigan.
+Cannot stop thinking about these Guccis.
+Another great Toteme jacket.
+Your NYE outfit plans, sorted.
+Love these pretty scalloped hair clips.