Self-care and moving forward.

With the inauguration of a man who is not my president, who does not and will never stand for me or any of the communities I belong to, right around the corner and drawing nearer, I think it’s important to talk for a minute about self-care. To talk about taking care of ourselves so that we can get through this, so that we can survive this, so that we can resist.

I know that many of my friends and other people I talk to on Twitter are talking about feeling hopeless.

Feeling anxious.

Feeling angry.

And at the same time, our daily lives don’t stop. We still have to go to work, we have to interact with other people, and we cannot just curl into an introspective ball. The policies that are threatened are too real for that.

What we can do, though, is take care of ourselves and be gentle with ourselves when we need it most. This can take many forms, which have been documented time and time again on the internet, but I thought I’d throw a few of them out here for everyone to take with you into your day. (If none of my suggestions strike a chord, do a Google search for self-care! There are a billion and one lists out there and one of them is bound to have something. Plus, the time spent looking at it is a few minutes spent not actively beating ourselves up.)

Curl up with a blanket and a hot drink. The comfort factor is real. A blanket (or two or three or four depending upon), and a warm cup of your favourite tea can help bring you into the moment and be grounded.

Take a bath or a hot shower. Wash away at least the current moment’s worries, and a hot bath or shower also helps to relax some of the tension that settles into our bodies and can cause physical pain.

Walk, hike, get outdoors. I know that this one isn’t possible for everyone due to varying physical health, but sometimes what helps most is a slight change of scenery and some fresh air. Anything from going outside to your porch, to going on a five hour or five day hike through nature. Our planet is important, and I use it as a reminder that we belong to the Earth and we are obligated to fight for her in whatever way that we can.

Do something on your to-do list. It sounds somewhat counterintuitive, but if I’m struggling with something else, I often find that I can take some pride and accomplishment in getting a lurking task from my to-do list done. Sometimes this is the dishes, or the laundry, sometimes it’s just putting something out to be mailed the next day. Whatever that task I get done, though, it’s no longer hanging over my head and adding to the black cloud of worry.

Ask for help. While it can be really very tempting to tough it out alone, we are stronger together.

It’s okay to ask for help, whether that means reaching out to your social media networks and asking for people to say some nice things to you, or whether that means calling a counselor or therapist or clergy member and setting up a time to sit down and talk. None of this invalidates the struggle that you are going through, nor does it make you weak.

And finally,

Be gentle to yourself, if you can. The negative voices are real, and they significant, and they are hard to deal with. And saying “be gentle to yourself” doesn’t magically make anxiety or depression go away or be less horrible. But find the little thing that makes a big difference to you, and do it.

Self-care and moving forward.

A note on mortality.

Content note: this post talks about car accidents, and about death.

Every so often, something happens during my day job that is important enough that I want to talk about it.

Today, nearing the end of my second bus run, at what was supposed to be my next stop, there was a car accident. I was running a little bit late, as often happens by the end of the route, and there was traffic backed up a few blocks. Then we heard sirens, and as I got over the bridge I was able to see why. The street was blocked off with police cars, emergency vehicles everywhere, and to describe it as initial chaos would not have been inaccurate.

One brief detour later as I was starting my last bus run of the day, I found out from passengers who were getting on the bus that a minivan had sideswiped another car, and run up onto the curb, ending up between the bus benches and the building. I found out that he had hit a person, although I didn’t find out the specific details until the end of the day when I was able to search for it and find the news article linked to above.

The bus benches he ended up at were the benches of the stop I mentioned, where most people get off of the bus. Quite likely, the only reason that I was not there when it happened was because I was running late. If I had been running on time. Well, it’s the sort of speculation that you can get lost in, the sort that is not good for a person.

Most of the passengers I picked up at my first stop had seen the accident. They were shaken. Many of them got off their previous buses at that stop, or walked by it minutes before the accident happened. Hell, I was shaken.

But part of the job driving the bus is to be able to project the air of calm and reassurance that is necessary in times like this. It took me a bit to manage. It’s the first time where I’ve had to be the adult in the room, so to speak, and in and of itself that is a difficult thing to do. To reassure people that they were going to get home safely. To reassure them that it was going to be alright— whether or not I necessarily believed it at the moment. And something that one of my passengers said stuck with me.

He reminded everyone on the bus to hug their loved ones when they got home.

It’s a message that seems only appropriate and more than just appropriate but necessary to pass along. Hug your loved ones (and that can mean your family members, or your friends, or anyone you care about) tonight, or in the morning. If hugs aren’t your thing, tell someone you care about them, and reach out; anything at all to make that connection. Don’t put it off because you never know what might happen tomorrow. It sounds trite most of the time, but then an accident like this happens and it suddenly becomes real.

Los Angeles is a big city, with a lot of traffic accidents and a lot of fatalities every year*. It’s easy to continually view it in the abstract of statistics and numbers on a page, things that you hear about on the news. It is entirely different when these things happen right in front of you and become part of the fabric of daily life.

For me, writing this is my way of coping with what happened. Plus, I have tomorrow (I guess at this point, tomorrow is now today) off of work in order to relax. Then on Sunday, it will be back to driving the bus.

*I looked up some statistics while I was writing this post in order to try and get a better grip on how much ‘a lot’ is, most of which you can find here (for California) if you are so interested.

A note on mortality.

Existing in public.

So I was talking to my father this morning. We talked about account privacy and social media and such while we drank our morning coffee, for probably thirty or more minutes.

For me and my father, this is a pretty long conversation. Even more remarkable was that despite our disagreements the conversation remained civil for the entire time.

Social media is ubiquitous in today’s world. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+… Instagram, Snapchat, Vine… there are so many platforms. It’s easy for them to be overwhelming, and it can be hard to figure out where to establish a presence, or how much of a presence to actually establish.

I’ve typically approached this by keeping two Twitter accounts. (I have a Facebook as well, but only because there are some people I know who are only on Facebook.) One is private, one is public. The public one I use to interact with hashtags and big issues, and as my own personal miniature soapbox. The private one I use to talk to close friends, coordinate dinner plans, talk about work and other things which I just don’t want to be in the public eye. And then in between that, I have an Instagram account (which was what started the entire conversation, in fact). I used to put pictures either just on web space, or on Twitter, but this didn’t solve the problem of being able to share the pictures with other people who aren’t on that account. So I made an Instagram account, left it public, and it’s served me pretty well so far.

My father joined Instagram recently as well, and while I’ve gotten to the point where I’m rather blasé about all the public sharing, he really… isn’t. His account isn’t public, and it probably never will be, and I respect that. The idea that I have pictures out there with location tags freaks him out a little bit, and he just doesn’t understand why I would leave the photos out there for the world to see. But at this point, I exist in public.

When I’m at work (driving a city bus), I’m existing in public. It’s not too much of a stretch from that for me, to having pictures where anyone can access them. I’m still careful with what I share on the internet and where I share it— I heard too many cautionary tales when I was a teenager to not be careful. But if someone was going to stalk me, there’s a lot better ways to go about it than using my Instagram account.

Existing in public.