Respect, empathy, and determination are probably the traits you've cultivated to become a Bush Fellow. So many times we use these gifts as the tools we use to do our work but we often don't take a moment to really understand how to apply those things to ourselves.
I am at the six month mark of my fellowship and I have gone into it with an awareness of trying to apply the same passion and empathy to my own well being. At the orientation meeting so many of us clearly heard that self care is a big part of engaging in this fellowship. It's the time to do self care that we often never schedule because of lack of money, lack of time, lack of awareness. So I left the orientation meeting thinking to myself that I will do better, that I honestly have permission and encouragement to do the things that I need to care for my body, mind, and spirit.
But with years of putting my work, my community, my duties first, it's actually been a struggle to drastically shift how I take care of myself. It took me a moment to realize that I could begin to spend these funds on things to help my body and spirit. However, my attitude toward work still is a challenge. When I have to choose myself or it, work always seemed to win out.
When my back is hurting from 12 to 18 hour days, I remind myself that I can go get a massage ---once the work is done. I suddenly have an opportunity to criticize myself for not taking care of me, I begin to take an inventory of what I should have done. Then suddenly I realize its an inventory of what I believe others think I should do, what they think constitutes self care.
This summer I had an opportunity to take an inventory that really came from my own needs and desires. I discovered that being with my family is a way to care for myself. I learned that being immersed in my family history and cultural background gives me a strength I had not blatantly identified. Since June, I've been able to see my family in New Mexico four times. In the past, I had gone up to two years without a visit due to financial and times restrictions. My grandmother is 94 and my father is 67 and my nephew is 8. I ask myself, if not now, when?
Being with my family has helped me to name the very things in my life that have been vague wonderings and questions. And being with my grandmother and my aunts and uncles, cousins and their children, I really began to understand what it is that I value. And I gave myself permission to hold those values. For so long my work was the place holder for personal goals that had not been realized. I thought, as long as I'm making a difference for others, I must be on the right track ---for others. Somehow down the road, I would be doing that for myself. But that day really had never come.
My best advice to you is to find out what you need to revitalize yourself. Ask the obvious question and make the obvious choice. We can busy ourselves with the minutia of the world and give ourselves the salves of the moment, but without assessing your long term needs, the things that your DNA needs to be soothed and function, you will continue to follow a cycle built around the current structure of your life, which may actually need to be reinvented.
I now structure my thinking rather than my work to give myself time to visit family. I make sure that the season I've planned at my theatre company has not only a humane bent to its content, but in how I am expected to carry it out. Ongoing programming with no break for myself to revitalize with the people I love is a thing of the past. I've put my work for community ahead of my family so many times and believed that was the exact right way to be, it seemed like that's what a good servant to the community would do. But it's this year that I discovered that as a single person without children or a husband, my family in New Mexico is the root of my connection to community. And it must be nurtured in the same respectful, determined way. I hope that when you get this opportunity to be a Bush Fellow that you take the time to go deeper than you may expect to in evaluating your best practices for caring for yourself.