When I imagine a woman who practices ‘self-care’, she is everything I’m not. I conjure her up as such: her head rising from fresh linen of a morning. It is early, because of course it is. When she yawns widely, it is revealed that she wears a retainer to bed, the same style of retainer I definitely did not forget to use the minute I got my braces off in Year 8 (yes, I am a 27-year-old woman with a gap the size of a small Tic-Tac mint smack-bang between my front teeth due to neglecting to keep up with my orthodontic duties, much to my mother’s disdain). She is wearing pyjamas! That’s right, she actually owns pyjamas and doesn’t just escape from her bra of an evening like some kind of lazy Houdini, unraveling each arm before peeling her pants off, only to fall asleep in a sweaty tee and whatever undies she happens to be wearing that day. Given it’s me we’re talking about, I’d say… likely a K-mart thong, an old pair of briefs, or period panties. This self-care deity’s bathroom sports an impressive assortment of various serums, whereas I’m #blessed to remember to clean my tired face with a cheap make-up wipe from Neutrogena every now and again. Oh, and she cooks. Every meal. For fun. Don’t even get me started on that one.
Photo by Bruce Mars on Unsplash.
There’s nothing particularly… cultivated about the way I live, and this is important. I don’t emanate an image of #self-care in the ways perhaps you think I should, and this—too—is important. Frankly, spending money I don’t have on a prickly but delightful exfoliant cedar wood soap-bar when a dollop of shampoo underneath my pits shall suffice (look, I’m just being real here), doesn’t seem to be the sort of thing I’d do to ‘care’ for myself. In the vast discourse of self-care that exists both IRL and… URL, we often forget about exactly that: the ‘self.’ My self-care rituals look different because—shock horror!—I am different. Each of us are. This year, as we emerge from the belly-of-the-beast of a long and isolating pandemic, it’s important to look closely at the unique tools each of us use to feel better.
Photo by Bookblock on Unsplash.
Everywhere I go, I carry a navy blue moleskine journal around with me, as well as my trusted ballpoint pen. The pen is black—strictly black—which means each page carries a sense of uniformity with it, aside from the time I reluctantly borrowed a blue pen from a kind bartender one evening (I had lost my trusted black-inked secret conveyer) as I sat alone in the courtyard of The Alderman and tried to excavate my deepest, darkest thoughts. There are no rules as to how, or what I write about… or why. I don’t edit or refine my confessions. I just ensure that they get onto the page, and hope for the best. It’s incredibly cathartic, and there are no rules: sometimes, I write every day, other times I’ll forget to for weeks on end. It’s all the same, in that I write when I need to, and find solace in my want to do so.
2. Fill my home with flowers
Madison with her current flowers.
This is a new one for me, but it really helps me feel grounded to the outside world during Victoria’s strenuous lockdowns. Every time I go grocery shopping, I pick up a small, brightly-coloured bouquet, or—if I’m walking my dog (another self-care routine, might I add), I’ll sneakily harvest a collection of mismatched roses through the back streets of Brunswick East, and tuck them into my tote. There’s a really nice ritual in coming home, trimming the edges, finding a vase and watching the flowers unfurl and change throughout their brief stint in my home. They, like us, just need a little bit of water, sunlight and their own allocated space to unwind in.
3. Walk my dog along the Merri Creek
Madison with her dog Fil.
I heard a rumour once that exercise is good for you. You’ve probably heard it too. But I’m not particularly fond of exercising-for-the-sake-of-exercising. It’s really difficult for me to move my body without any immediate incentive, so unless I’m quite literally… running for my life or versing my father in an unnecessarily competitive game of squash, only one of which I’ve done, you’ll very rarely see me moving. That is, of course, until I got Fil: a long-legged, delightfully enthusiastic Scottish Deerhound who needs at least two solid walks a day. It’s brilliant, because—with Fil—I can allocate an hour at least out of my day to stretch my legs, call a friend, listen to a podcast, make small-talk with other sauntering dog owners, and put a smile on Fil’s face. My only solace during lockdown has been slowly noticing the change in the seasons with my daily walk. The smells in the air change, the sun sets at different times, and everybody is just trying to stay well. It’s a great way to remind yourself that you exist, outside of endless press-conferences and tireless curfews.
There’s ample of us out there who laud the benefits of rubbing those little, cold rocks over their faces. Go for it—in fact, I own a Jade roller and it feels really nice every now and then to smooth my silly, little skin as if kneading bread. But hey, this is an honest and simple three-part self-care routine, in a bid to encourage you to think outside of the box when it comes to polishing your own.
Madison Griffiths is a writer, artist and poet whose work has been published in VICE, SBS and Overland, amongst others. She is also an online editor at Voiceworks and the co-host of pedestrian.tv’s newest mental health podcast, No Chill. She is currently producing, creating and hosting her latest podcast Tender: a thoughtful podcast series about what happens when women leave abusive relationships. In March of 2018, she was the Victorian Women’s Trust resident writer.
Find out more about Madison and her work here.