My last blog was about my nostalgia for the warmth and comfort of community. The familiarity of gathering around that old Philips TV set, sharing in laughter when S’dumo was up to his rent-ducking antics, in waterworks when Thoko and Bheka did not end up together in Ubambo Lwami…all of that warm and fuzzy stuff. I lamented on how organic community made it easier to handle negativity because we shared it. On how lacking that shared experience now – that community – the question of taking care of yourself is pertinent otherwise the world will drive you crazy.
Self care became a thing only a couple of years ago. At least that’s when I discovered it. I never called it that. I just called it, ‘ukuzishayisa ngomoya.’ (Allowing oneself a whiff of fresh air). Then as I woke, and learnt the new language in which things have names, it made sense that ‘ukuzishayisa ngomoya’ was my way of self caring – of nourishing my body and brain and zoning out and escaping if only for a moment. Beyond that, there is a feeling of community when I indulge in self care because I know I am part of a community, virtual as it is, of individuals for whom self care is key to their sanity. So how do I do it when things get a bit much? I have a bag of tricks I reach into and pick and choose what I need to escape and recuperate…
I listen to music, very specific music
I listen to music most of the time but when I am self preserving, the way I listen to music is different. I have a vinyl player and a selection of old vinyls I have collected from vinyl shops, charity shops and music stores. For me, the deliberate act of selecting vinyl to play, turning them over periodically – that experience is different from listening to music while in the car, or working out or cooking. It’s a deliberate activity of zoning out into the worlds of Nina Simone, Bessie Smith, Shirley Bassey, Caiphus Semenya, Lena Horne, Bill Withers, Mango Groove, Lovemore Majaivana, Earth Wind & Fire, to mention a few. It’s always music that harks to a certain era, evokes certain emotion and has meaning. Therein lies the escape.
I do gardening
Being a child of nostalgia, certain things bring me the warmth of the happy times of my childhood. I hated them then, but now, I look back with longing. Gardening is one of those things. When I was a kid I thought only poor families had to have a garden because they couldn’t afford to buy vegetables. Ask me this again. Because I know now that gardening is the privilege of physical space, and time. It’s a fortune I am reminded of, and one that I am always grateful for. Gardening reminds me of my grandmother; full-figured and assertive with green fingers that could grow anything! It is also the simple idea of communing with nature that I love. It grounds me. I zone out and for that moment, all that matters are those beautiful plants I am tending to. That’s escape.
I throw a party and hang out with my squad
A friend of mine asserts, “find your tribe and love them madly.” I have a squad and I love them. Fiercely. Having them around me always grounds me, and reminds me that the world is not so bad after all. We talk, we eat, we drink, we listen to music and dance – we commune. Either at one of our homes or at place we love, like Gemelli.
I groom and pamper myself
The politics of the body have long defined how we relate to each other and one of my most political acts is taking care of my body. To preserve it, nurture it and keep it alive, healthy and fresh in the glaring face of this white-supremacist-capitalist-cis-heternomative-patriarchal world is a political act. It is also an act of self care. So I indulge my body, groom and pamper it beyond the daily acts of personal hygiene. This one has been interesting because I have had to search for products that are inclusively designed for my skin and hair within the myriad health and beauty products available, I found a couple:
Philips Bodygroomer Series 1000: I already have an affinity to the Philips brand. It’s familiar and was part of my growing up so imagine my excitement when I encountered this baby! It’s a razor-cuts-free-guaranteed body groomer and it works perfectly well with my kinky hair. It has a skin protector that allows you to cut really close to the skin without hurting yourself and has a ‘comb’ which gives you the options of a more tuftier cut. It’s affordable and available at leading pharmacies.
Clay mask: After shaving and manscapping, I apply a clay mask that uses clay from the Dead Sea. I have oily skin so this mask absorbs all the excess sebum, leaving my skin tight and taut. I bought some of the clay from those guys who used to set up stalls at Sandton City selling various products made from minerals from the Dead Sea. I then asked an Israeli friend to bring some on a trip to Joburg and he brought copious amounts at very minimal cost. So I am stocked for another two years!
Foot Scrub: Every black kid will tell you about the bathing stone, which I later learnt is called the pumice stone. When I was a kid, the bathing stone was used to clean feet, remove dead skin to avoid cracked heels. Cracked heels were a sign that you didn’t do you body justice in the bathroom. If your caregiver was intense, she would probably use the bathing stone on your body too. As an act of self care, I clean my feet. I love it. I used to use a pumice stone until I discovered a nifty little gadget from Scholl, the electric foot file. So it was ‘goodbye’ to the trauma of the bathing stone and hello to the convenience of Scholl. Clean feet make me feel good. Very.
I lose myself to a book
After discovering fiction – I used to consider fiction to be non-serious and therefore not important – I never looked back. Losing myself to a book is one way of taking care of myself. It nourishes my mental faculties in a way I cannot explain. It’s a really beautiful escape. I read everyday, but reading as an act of self care is different. I completely lose myself in a book. I discovered this shut-the-world-out reading when I read The Book of Phoenix in just one weekend and I love it. I have gone through Jumps Lahiri’s The Namesake, Zadie Smith’s White Teeth, Chimamanda Ngozi-Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun, and Panashe Chigumadzi’s Sweet Medicine. I have gone through some of my favourite titles that way since, and I have escape.
I start a DIY project
I find making ‘things’ therapeutic. Although I cannot control the big bad world, in making stuff I have room to control things. I have made a coffee table out of wooden pallets. It took longer than I imagined but whenever I worked on the project, I got lost in the work and it helped me zone out. While taking care of myself, I ended up with something tangible, a piece of furniture. I also like the idea of taking old furniture and restoring it, breathing new life into it. I scour charity shops for interesting pieces and give them a fresh new perspective. The world may be bad and that is out of my control, but the DIY project isn’t, and that helps.
Self care is about taking time off from the hustle and bustle of the world, from the negativity, and zoning out, escaping, to take care of myself. We all need it, otherwise this world will drive you crazy!