This is an occasional series on things I am doing in my 40th year of life

Self care is a way to overused term especially by people way younger than 30s who sometimes use self care to mean nurse a hangover when you know you had work the next day or some other shit.

And before peeps start going off on me, I have called out of work plenty of times when I was hungover, or because I wanted to fuck my lover instead of tackle my work/life to do list but I sure as hell didn’t call it self care.

Ok vieja rant over.

Pero there is something to taking care of yourself. There is something to talking some deep breaths or not working 60 hours a week. And to be clear, by work I mean not just what we put on our timesheets, I mean the emotional labor of activism, mamihood, being in a relationship with someone – you know the constant give give give that we mujeres (especially Latin@s) fall into sometimes without even realizing it. We always feel like we have to prove that we are not lazy. We are not the stereotypes we see/hear/feel all around us even when no one who really matters thinks that.

Within the last year. Within a few weeks I got bronchitis – twice. One was borderline pneumonia. The year before I spent a good 6 month period breaking out in full body hives. I would go to the doctor. The specialists. Got allergy testing. And the diagnosis was that I was just stressed the fuck out. I was working 6 – 7 days a week. Never really unplugging. Constantly answering calls, emails, texts from work because it all felt urgent and well I was the “new” inexperienced Executive Director. I needed to prove myself to my work team that I was all in. I needed to prove to my new peers that I was the real deal. My life became my work. I stopped hanging out with friends. I stopped doing things that were just for me. It was all for the org.

When I hit my two year work anniversary, sick physically and mentally, I was also going to turn 40 in a month and I knew I couldn’t keep going.

Now for the record – because peeps who know me and read this will say to themselves – carajo Mala we told you to slow down. Yes mom, yes pareja, yes poroto, yes workmates – you all did and this stubborn Taurus brushed it off because I felt I had something to prove.

Pero a quien? No one – not even myself on a bad day – was saying I wasn’t working hard enough or not doing a good job. In fact most people said I was doing a lot, so much and kind of well.

In a leadership development program I am going through there was another Executive Director – at least 10 years younger than me who had bell’s palsy because of stress. Yeah I needed to do some things differently.

Enter Self-Care.

Enter manicures and pedicures that I could also justify because rich donors actually look at your nails when they want to give you money. Enter finding a hair stylist in Los Angeles (because I was getting hair cut at the same place I used to get it cut as a kid and that’s in New York and I haven’t lived in NY in almost 5 years). Enter recommitting to writing – starting with my paper journal in the morning and returning to this blog practice and eventually that book I’ve been talking about for 20 years. I started working on some of these issues through therapy. I’m reading for pleasure. Listening to audiobooks (corny as fuck I know) and even meditating (again – it had been years). I am going out with friends – hiking, meals. Going on dates with my pareja. Going out with my kids.

A lot of self care feels like bougie ass bullshit and quizas a lot of it is but no siempre tiene que ser. We can do good, important work with real results and take care of ourselves and one another without being martyrs or sacrificing our health in order to prove how down we are.

I’m still figuring out what feels right for me but it includes some basics like eating and drinking water (things I have gone without for entire days in order to plow through work). That isn’t good for any job, any movement.

3/40 – Take better care of myself so I can take better care of others and keep fighting. Try not to feel guilty about it.

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