My granma often said “don’t put off for tomorrow what you can do today.” Being the chronic procrastinator that I am, it was almost like she knew that was the quote I needed to get me through life. The gentle and not so gentle reminders are everywhere. Every time I tell my sisters that I’m going to do something “tomorrow” they say "remember what granma said."
I live by that quote for errands. For example, the other night I went out with friends until 1 am. As I was driving up to my block, I noticed that I had three miles left in my gas tank. I had a decision to make; get gas in the morning or get gas at 1 am. Hearing granma's voice in my head, I decided to go get gas. The next day, I woke up late and was rushing to an event and I did not have time to get gas. Once again granma's saying proved useful.
The idea of self-preservation is the one area that I have not consistently put into practice granma's saying.
What do I mean by self-preservation? I started purposefully using the term self-preservation after my friend, shared that she uses the term. She lovingly reminds me to take care of myself and often refers me back to an article on Black women doing too much. She introduced me to Audre Lorde's poetry on survival and quotes by Lorde such as "caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare." This idea of self-preservation is about protecting a state of mind, body, and soul so that generations to come can benefit.
One of most radical acts that I could take on any given day is to prioritize my well-being. To preserve myself. How many leaders have died at a young age because of heart disease and a host of other ailments? How many reach their 60s and can barely walk? What about those brewing with anxiety and passing on intergenerational trauma to their children and society?
Do I want to be like that?
There was a point in my life, I was heading down the path of self-destruction. It took obstacles and support to realize that I needed to course correct; albeit a slow and steady course correction.
There are aspects of self-preservation that I live for and thrive for: meditation (check), journaling (check), therapy (double check). However, there are other areas I could improve upon, self-criticism (hmm,could do better), exercising (hmm, what’s that?), trust (hmm, getting there).
Why the disconnect?
Why when it comes to some areas I do the work and other areas I forget they exist? These are things I am still figuring out.
Up until two weeks ago I hadn’t walked more than 1 mile in months. The pounds slowly piled back on. The lethargic energy came back. There were times I stepped outside and my eyes had to adjust because I hadn’t left my house in days
I could blame it on depression or stress but no, I just put it off for tomorrow.
I felt that nourishing my soul and mind and having respect for nature were enough to survive. Another friend recently reminded me that the body-mind have a connection and one needs the other. To survive and fully preserve myself, I need to protect myself.
So I made a decision to move. That’s it. Move at least six times a week. That decision has done wonders. But I still wonder why when it comes to preserving my body, that I put it off for tomorrow? To self-preserve, I have to radically change my decisions.
Now, I dedicate the first two to three hours of the day to me.
And I don’t feel guilty about it anymore.
I feel great.
I still slip up some days. I was carrying a heavy load and it is taking time to remove the things that will make my journey lighter.
The decision to survive in a world that would rather I did not exist is a radical choice.
In that radical choice, I took inventory of what self-preservation looks like to me. I envision it being a bookshelf. This bookshelf currently has four levels: me, family, mentoring, and work.
Within each shelf there are a variety of things that I need to do. Right now the hierarchy of my shelf is that the top shelf represents me and the second shelf represents family. All the shelves are important, but my priorities vary between the shelves. Just like in a bookshelf, the actual order of things on the individual shelves vary. Some people organize their bookshelves by color, by size, by topic, or have no order. When I think of my "me" shelf, the order is gratitude, journaling, meditation, movement, pampering, nourishment, and learning. This order, habit, routine, whatever you would like to call it centers me and gives me the tools needed to survive and preserve.
May is mental health awareness month. Over the years, I have learned that more people than we care to acknowledge are experiencing mental health related experiences. I think the stigma is slowly lifting, but often times because of the invisible nature of most experiences, things get overlooked.
For those that like to be in control, the introduction of intrusive thoughts or emotions is overwhelming. It can feel that something else is in control and that something is often the mind. Does our mind control us or do we control our mind? I like to think that we have agency and that we control our minds. But it takes practice, awareness, and vulnerability. Vulnerability can be difficult in a society that can feel unwelcoming and dangerous. There is an internal conflict to trust while acknowledging the messiness. How do we survive personal anguish when it seems like we are alone? That answer varies from person to person, but I think whatever it is; it is radical for that person.
For me, fortifying my well-being was a radical decision based on this idea of self-preservation. My lessons are based on the social elements of life. Learning and understanding the interplay between my social position, my social distance, and my social interactions. This lesson is what I see as key to my personal growth and contributions to the advancement of our society and planet.
I like the term awareness when thinking about mental health. Awareness is the responsibility of all parties involved. Awareness is a starting point for healing. Awareness is a starting point for self-preservation. Awareness is a starting point for radical decisions. Awareness begins with conversations.
I hope as you enter May, you think about your own preservation practice and take it upon yourself to learn one new thing about mental health.
- Find a mental health first aid training
- Know the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (for yourself or others) -- 1-800-273-8255 (TALK)
- Familiarize yourself with suicide prevention resources
- Journal your emotions
- Schedule a therapy appointment
- Support or learn about the National Alliance on Mental Illness
- Follow hashtags:
I hope that this post encourages you to make a radical choice today that helps you improve your well-being.