The world as we knew it

I am now, more than I used to, looking around me, and I have this feeling that the world, as we used to know it, is coming to an end. A rough, yet unexpected ending. This pandemic context made me aware of one thing in particular, and this is our tendency to taking everything we’ve had until now for granted.  It is not the end in a biblical way, but rather the ending of a way of living, understanding what happens around us, and reevaluating the ways we cope with everything what happens around us daily. In times like this, the real challenge is to remain calm and sane when everything is shaking.

I see a lot of things happening around, people trying their best to manage this situation they have never experienced before. Some try to follow their old routine as much as they can Some are drowning in anxiety and confusion, being unable to adapt to the new way of doing things. If I can say something about this, it would be that this global issue has put every one of us in front of our friends from the closet. Because we’re only human, after all, and every crisis has the potential to bring up to the table the unsolved issues we’ve been successfully avoiding for so long.

It happened to me as well. I’ve been pushed to revisit and reconsider the way I’ve been placing myself on certain topics. One of them was my homeland. Coming from a small village surrounded by hills, I’ve always wanted to get out of here and never come back. Somehow, this whole thing caught me here, due to some things out of my control, and it took me a few days to understand that this was not a bad thing at all.

Even so, adjusting was hard, as I’ve seen, once again, that all my plans were blown away. This forced me to sit and ask myself Who were you before wanting to have it all at once? and everything became slightly more clear. I’ve seen that there are still things I can do, such as reading outside, in the sunlight. That there are still little joys left.  That slowing down for more than I’ve initially hoped I will have to will, eventually, help me know myself more.

I’ve understood that this is not some form of punishment, but a road meant to reconnect me with the pieces of the puzzle that I’ve lost in my rush. That I can have a taste of the things that used to make my childhood here, in the countryside, pretty. But it also made me aware of the fact that our ultimate survival tool remains gratitude.  It made me understand that I should be grateful for having enough space, living in the countryside, to move freely. That I still have my mother and cats around me. That there are still things to be done here, as the nature doesn’t really care about our whining.

I’ve begun to discover the old ways of doing the things, and that every ending has a little door left open. I understand that there are still little things that can be done, and that no bad shall last forever. Also, I’ve got to understand how important is the way we look at the things we live. Our perspective is a big part of what we’re actually living and what we understand from it.

Only by being grateful and trying to see more in-depth this brutal shift of our daily lives, we can get out of it sane. Because this is the perfect moment to look behind us. To see all the Mondays we didn’t do anything but ask Is it Friday already? and all the times we procrastinated just for the sake of it. Change is hard, is painful, is bringing up to surface all our well-hidden anxieties, but it is, at the same time, so necessary.

We need to get through all this process to finally understand how privileged we have been, and for how long. We have to change the way we live, work and dream so that we will be able to appreciate what used to be our taken for granted normality. We have to dream new dreams and discover new ways of making things work and, above all, we have to understand that slowing down is not a crime.

Because we’ve rushed for too long. We’ve been greedy and ungrateful for too long. And now we’re being forced to unlearn as much as we can these things. We are put in front of a whole new context, and this brings up to me an old phrase from a psychology handbook, saying that Intelligence is the individual’s capacity of adapting to new situations. This means, above anything else, to be able to let go. To reinvent our routines in ways that make life bearable. To keep from our old ways of doing things only the bits that were genuinely bringing us joy as they were also functional. And, last but not least, to relearn how to use technology to connect with the ones we care about, and not only for showing off our personas.

This, too, shall pass, but it doesn’t mean that the world will remain how we used to know it because it won’t. But it means that we have to learn how to be selective in a constructive way. It is the moment when we have to admit, to ourselves in the first place, that individualism won’t bring us any good in the nearby future. To rebuild our communities, to share more openly what brings us joy and what we feel that could be done better.

To spend more time doing things we love, even if it’s reading, listening to music, or calling our loved ones to chit-chat. Now is the later where we’ve stored all our projects, plans and dreams. We can either get intoxicated with fear and uncertainty or try to rip out pieces of what we’ve been postponing for so long and take everything step by step.

Yes, this is a hard time for all of us, and harder times are expected to come. But this is no excuse to let ourselves down once again or to allow ourselves to drown into anxiety and fear. We can do that, but we can, as well, start and accomplish everything we’ve been postponing for some undefined later. Not if we want to get out of this sane and mentally prepared for the good that is to come. Because, yes, things are bad, but this doesn’t mean that there’s nothing good to be expected.

So go and put some water to boil, have some tea, listen to some music. Maybe you will watch a movie, or read a book. You can call your best friend, or your mom, or that person you’re always saying that you’re going to catch up with, but you never do. Or maybe don’t do any of these, and just go to sleep. It doesn’t matter that much. What matters, instead, is how good you’re managing to hold up and stay collected, because now, more than ever, we can see how contagious our emotions are. So let’s just try and be our most responsible, patient, caring and rational selves, at least for a while. This might be the only way out from what tends to feel like a trap for most of us even if it is, ironically, only putting a mirror in front of who we are.

Flipping the coin: life between self-care and self-sabotage

As the conversation about mental health gets more personal and spreads wider, another topic makes room into our lives and talks. Self-care. Understood as a set of practices and rituals that help enhancing one’s well-being, self-care is praised, talked about, and made look like something pretty, pink, comfy and glowy.

And, even if, at times, it really is comfy, pretty, glowy and pink, it rather isn’t. Because the first thing about self-care routines that should be understood is that any routine of this kind responds to a state of need. There is no self-care if there is no need for it. And it can be anytime. Self-care ain’t as pretty as social media makes it appear, because there’s more about that particular routine than the cozy surface. There are issues that one tries to manage behind every self-care routine shared. 

And self-care is not always about bubbly baths, cozy sweaters, or hot chocolate and cheesy movies. It also is about anxiety, emotional pain, about hanging on and diminishing the damages. It  is also about uncomfortable but necessary life choices, like learning how to properly manage one’s money, taking that medical exam you keep avoiding, or getting into therapy.

It is  also about long, sleepless nights when you just sit with yourself, and revisit milestones of your life, trying to figure out what went wrong. What could’ve been done better. About admitting that, no matter how dear, some people around us are toxic, and we need to distance ourselves from them.

But, above all of these, self-care starts on the very moment when someone understands that self-sabotage will lead nowhere. Because a lot of the problems which require self-care routines for minimizing their effects, are the consequences of past self-sabotaging acts. And from compulsive shopping, to hanging on the wrong people repeatedly and for too long, everything can, at some point, turn into a self-sabotaging act.

No one thinks about little kind gestures done for themselves in the good days as self-care. But, whenever the bad times hit, the little coffee dates we’re taking ourselves to, the long baths, or any other thing that used to bring us a good vibe and we keep doing even if we feel like drowning, suddenly gets labeled as self-care. Actually, it is just about being persistent, and not giving up on who you are. 

Because self-care and self-sabotage are the faces of the same coin. As mental health is not constant, is something fluctuating, depending on a lot of factors, and not as much that can be under our control as we’d like to be, same is this continuum. 

There is a personal dynamic in every story of self-sabotage, as well as in every routine of self-care. Even if social media tries to say so, not every kind of self-care routine works in every situation, for every individual. As the journey unfolds, the needs to be met change, and there are all kind of needs and days.

There are days when cleaning the house while listening to my favorite gangsta rap tracks is as close as seeing a therapist as one could get. There are days when all I have to do is to cook something both tasty and healthy, while chatting with mom. There are days when I need a long bath, some blues and getting my nails done in order to calm down my anxiety and feel better about myself. There are days when I cry myself to sleep, in order to let the grief and the hurt release themselves. Days when I’d do all of  this at once, or not at all, none of it. 

But there are also days when all I need is sitting with the cats and listening to some blues. Or when all it takes is a good chat with my favorite people and a memes exchange. Or maybe a short shopping session. As well as the days that require me  to make big decisions for what will come next. 

These are all forms of self-care. As well as procrastinating, hanging out with the wrong people, eating your feelings or letting yourself get devoured by anxiety are forms of self-sabotage. Basically any action taken, aware or unaware of it, that has the potential of endangering our well-being, even if we talk about immediate, mid-term or even long-term well-being, counts as self-sabotage.

Of course, life will always be a mix between these two, and this should not scare us. I know, it seems to be easier said than done, but fictional expectations will never lead to real progress. And there’s nothing that did more harm than the idea that the journey to recovery should be smooth, linear and predictable. Neither the recovery journey, our mental health needs, or the self-care routines are. And this is absolutely great, as it was never supposed to, in the first place.

Because they’re so intimately linked to someone’s life history and personality that you’ll never see two of them to be the same. Might seem alike, but that’s only a superficial feeling about a façade. Self-care is, somehow, the bright side of the story, the one that brings us joy as we practice our ritual, and as we tell the others about. The side that tells the others we know in the same kind of situation that good days can still happen, despite of all struggle. 

But there are the self-sabotaging moments the ones who really get to shape us into different persons. The moments that make us take deep breaths, while asking the eternal question: How on earth did this happen, why I’ve got to this point?. Those moments when we feel like quitting. Like taking a nap for the next…few years, until every problem we have will be solved. The moments when, even if we feel like giving up, we keep going. And, especially, the moments of enlightment, when we finally understand what are we doing wrong.

Of course, it ain’t easy to talk about these moments, that would mean the healing is easy. And everyone knows it ain’t at all. Healing is a beautifully dramatic story, with ups, downs, and even stops. How one approaches this, though, is a whole different thing, a thing shaped by their personality and values, while changing the person’s personality, values and beliefs. Getting the courage to actually sit, even with a single other person, and tell the stories of those moments, is a great thing. It is the main sign of the pain starting to fade away. 

At the end of the day, the only thing that should be let to sink in is the fact that self-care is not just a label we mindlessly attach on random practices. 

Self-care is a whole category of small gestures of kindness directed to one’s person, that allow us to function during the tough times. This is why it matters to openly talk about self-care, even to share our favorite self-care routines, and perhaps even their stories, or what they’re good for, and this is also why, when somebody tells us about a thing that it functions as a self-care routine for them, we don’t get to tell them that they don’t. 

Because the only person entitled to label a thing or other as a self-care act, is the person practicing it, with the good, the bad, the pretty and the ugly sides of their journey.

”Ai grija de tine!”


E o formulare pe care o auzim pe toate drumurile, marcand, de obicei, un final al discutiei cu o persoana de care ne pasa. La cat de intens e folosita, ai putea chiar crede ca, in societatea noastra contemporana, grija e o valoare fundamentala. Ceea ce este si nu este real.

Este o afirmatie reala, si grija chiar este o valoare fundamentala, atunci cand vorbim despre grija fata de exteriorul imediat apropiat, de oamenii dragi. Este o afirmatie falsa, atunci cand raportarea se face la grija fata de propria persoana, acolo unde exista in mod evident lacune serioase. Asta se poate intampla si pentru ca nimeni, sau aproape nimeni, nu pare sa stie cum anume se traduce, in comportamente si actiuni concrete, a avea grija de tine. E ca si cum asteptam, cuminti, sa vina cineva si sa ne arate: ”Uite, ba, neispravitilor, asa se face!”. Sa ne dea reteta magica si noi sa trecem la treaba. Adaug aici si vechea, foarte vechea prejudecata ce facea din grija fata de propria persoana o forma indezirabila de egoism, si iata-ne ajunsi…unde-am ajuns.

Adica in pragul colapsului mental, in diferite grade si forme de manifestare, cei mai multi dintre noi, dar…suntem acolo. Si asta e, sau ar trebui sa fie, alarmant. Mai ales cand grija asta de sine, sau mai bine spus, reteta ei e, de fapt, ataaat de simpla. Si incepe, ca orice reteta buna, cu intelegerea.

Avem de inteles, inainte de orice, cateva treburi elementare. Si prin intelegere, ma refer si la acceptarea lor ca fapte, nu doar la aprobarea pasiva a existentei lor. Primul ar fi ca viata nu-i neaparat roz. Sau doar roz. Ca nu suntem toooot timpul bine dispusi, energici, productivi, cu chef de viata. Avem si zile cand nu vrem nimic de la nimeni, decat sa fim lasati in pace, sa nu facem nimic, sa ne izolam. Si e in regula ca ele exista, fiindca aduc un strop de echilibru. Unde s-ar ajunge daca am fi niste oameni pusi pe treaba tot timpul?

Al doilea, ar fi ca grija de sine e semn al respectului de sine, nu al egoismului. E in regula sa vrei sa ajuti, sa aduci ceva bun comunitatii, dar pentru asta trebuie sa fii in stare buna tu intai. Si asta inseamna ca nu exista nimeni care sa te invete cum sa ai grija de tine, e ceva ce descoperi personal, prin incercari multiple. Aparent, bunicii nostri stiau asta mai bine decat noi. O parte din segmentul asta al igienei mentale denumit grija de sine e constituit, zic eu, din mici placeri. Din tabieturi formate si respectate. Aici pot spune cu sinceritate ca imi respect bunica- are 84 de ani, o poveste de viata impresionanta, ca mai toti bunicii nostri, si, cu toate astea, are inca tabieturile sale de care nu se lipseste. Fie ca vorbim despre somn dupa-amiaza, citit, sau plimbari pe jos, inca le mai respecta, in masura in care fizicul o ajuta. Cred ca e cazul ca si noi sa adoptam genul asta de atitudine atunci cand vine vorba despre relatia cu noi insine.

Pentru ca grija de sine nu inseamna neaparat ca te duci la spa, la salon si la shopping. Evident, poate insemna si asta, si nu-i rau deloc, dar grija de sine, in esenta ei, se ocupa cu tot ce poate sa aduca o stare de bine si de liniste. Poate fi ziua in care te-ai uitat pentru a zecea oara la un film (si, evident, ai plans iar), sau o seara in care te pui sa dormi devreme, la fel cum poate fi ceaiul preferat baut din cea mai frumoasa cana, cu albumul tau de suflet ca fundal sonor, cartea aia pe care tot ziceai c-o citesti si fotoliul comod sau patul. Poate fi ziua din saptamana pe care ai desemnat-o ca fiind ziua ta, si-n care te ocupi linistit de toate chestiile pe care in mod normal esti prea aglomerat sa le faci- poate desenezi, poate iesi in parc sa te plimbi, poate gatesti cu prietenii sau, pur si simplu, dormi si nu faci nimic. Sau poate iti iei rucsacul si pleci o zi, doua, pe undeva. La fel de bine cum poate sa fie momentul tau cu tine de fiecare zi, si ziua aia pe care iti place sa ti-o aloci in intregime.

Toate astea sunt forme de grija fata de propria persoana, si, poate, cele mai eficiente moduri de a te dezvolta in mod real ca om. O sa sune nelalocul lui, dar pana si plansul poate fi o forma de grija fata de propria persoana, in conditiile in care ramane, din experientele mele, cea mai eficienta metoda de eliminare a surplusului emotional existenta pana in prezent. Deci e in regula, si chiar indicat, sa plangi atunci cand simti nevoia, cat timp o simti.

Grija fata de propria persoana mai implica, insa, si oameni. Si renuntare. Renuntare la acei oameni a caror prezenta in preajma noastra aduce ingrijorari, tristete, devalorizare in proprii ochi. Sau, pur si simplu, la acei oameni cu care pastram o relatie buna doar din inertie, fiindca “nu se face” sa nu mai vorbim cu ei. Cu care nu mai simtim ca am avea ceva comun. A caror prezenta in vietile noastre nu mai e aducatoare de bucurie, de calm, de bine. Sau, in cazurile extreme, dar tot mai dese, care s-au dovedit a fi toxici. Fiindca oricat de cinic suna, si legaturile umane au date de expirare. Nescrise, e adevarat, dar ele exista, si atunci cand sunt atinse, cea mai mare dovada de intelepciune, dar si de grija si respect fata de cine suntem, este sa renuntam la ele.

Iar al treilea lucru ce trebuie amintit acum si inteles, e ca exista atatea retete ale grijii fata de propria persoana, cati oameni pe lume. Ca nu exista forme superioare si inferioare ale grijii de sine. Exista, in schimb, forme reale, autentice, si surogate. Ca, uneori, diferenta intre autentic si surogat e facuta de cantitate, de grad, nu de comportament in sine. Iar atunci trebuie cautata, ca intotdeauna, cauza generatoare de dezechilibru. Pentru ca sigur exista si la fel de sigur e bine pitita pe undeva.

Singurul lucru ce ramane de spus e ca primul pas spre o lume, o societate mai buna, e un numar mai mare de oameni ce se ingrijesc sa le fie bine- fizic si psihic. O societate in care indivizii inteleg ca timpul in care nu fac nimic productiv, sau in care nu dau la fel de mult randament, e la fel de important in echilibrul macro al propriilor sisteme existentiale ca cel in care functioneaza la capacitate maxima. Ca diferenta intre un om cu tabieturi si unul care alearga de zor sa ii ajute pe toti poate ca nu se vede acum, dar se va vedea, cu siguranta, peste zece ani. Si ca trebuie sa ne preocupe binele nostru de azi in egala masura in care ne preocupa contributia la binele celor ce vor veni dupa noi. Altfel e doar o minciuna, una in spatele careia vom sti mereu ca se ascunde adevarul unei propozitii scurte: nu e, de fapt, bine pentru nimeni. Asa ca hai sa avem, fiecare, grija de noi insine, o grija reala de noi insine si, poate, atunci vom fi indreptatiti sa speram ca o sa fie bine pentru toti.