how we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. ~annie dillard

i woke up this morning at 3:35, thanks to some ill-advised coffee drinking late last night. i lay in bed for over an hour, drifting in the luxury that is my mattress, listening to the cat purrpurrpurring away. (we have got into a neat little habit of spooning together; i’m so glad bean’s outgrown his tantrum-filled ‘adolescence’, when i knew what a cuddly cat he’d be, but he was having none of it.)

i rose some time around 5, thinking that i could easily write the essay i have to, and made some more coffee. i ate some pie for breakfast. (in the past few days, i must say, i’ve been revelling in the fact that no-one lives with me to comment on what, or when i should eat what i want to. it’s pure bliss.) i checked some blogs, and read some email, did some more research, and started my paper. it’s nowhere near being done, but i’m satisfied that i’m actually working at it, instead of just sitting staring at a blank screen.

i’m more interested in taking care of myself lately than hurrying up to get things done.

i don’t mean ‘taking care of myself’ in the sense of ‘eat 5-10 servings of fruit per day; brush your teeth; sweep your floor’; although i try to do those things anyway – i’m the type of person who can make a ‘rule’ for myself and then watch helplessly as the ‘rule’ becomes stricter and stricter, choking me off. an example: okay, bee, your apartment is clean. you’re going to do your dishes now after every meal and sweep the floor twice a day, until you die.

i mean, really.

so i’m finding that right now, taking care of myself means relaxing my ‘standards’ a little. it means giving gifts to that part of myself that feels a little neglected. suzie talks at length about this in her wonderful posts about indulgence and pleasure, as part of the true balance project; you can read her thoughts here and here.

i do a lot of chakra healing, mostly on myself, but with an eye to heal others in the future. i’ve combined what i know about reiki with crystal therapy, and have been ‘teaching’ (although this really means feeling out instinctively) myself how to project colour, in order to open chakra centres that may be out of balance. i still have so much to learn, but what i’m sloooooowly starting to get is that taking care of myself is so much more than ‘healing’ every couple of days. healing has to be lived.

i work at a job where i am literally sometimes asked to clean vegetable sludge out of floor drains. in the past month and a half, i have been elbow-deep in compost; i have burned my skin with bleach; i have lugged 50-pound bags of potatoes up and down flights of stairs; i have had accidents with a knife cutting up parsnips. i wear jeans and tie my hair back, and nobody notices if i wear the same thing 3 days running.

there’s the country hippie girl part of me that loves this. this part of me loves the fact that her finger nails are nibbled down to the quick, that she has bruises on her legs and scratches on her arms. she loves coming home smelling like the earth, and finding bits of it clinging to her hair.

then there’s the girly-girl part of me, the part i neglect often.

in my life, with my personality (daydreaming all day, running around last minute to get things done), being the country hippie girl is more practical – give her a shower and zip some jeans on her and she’s good to go.what about the part that likes wearing dresses, who wishes she could walk confidently in a pair of heels, and who likes smelling and looking ‘pretty’, whatever ‘pretty’ happens to be that day?

all this to say, i’m indulging myself today and getting myself a pedicure – i was trying to reason my way out of it, saying it wouldn’t last for long, why would i spend the money – but there’s this small voice in me that pipes up, insistently, but i want one, whenever i say no. i’m incredibly, incredibly excited for some reason.

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it’s funny. i’m in a creative writing program in university, and yet one of the thoughts that occurred to me recently is that i’m not being independently creative enough.i think that might be a reason why i’m feeling a bit drained (well, that, and the fact that protein has essentially disappeared from my diet). there’s too many times when i don’t do something creative, choosing instead to be languid for a few hours.

i used to take pictures. all the time. i took my camera with me everywhere, and then it broke and i got another one, but it never was the same. then, all of a sudden the digital craze caught on, and i got a blog, and now all i want to do is get a digital camera, even though my computer’s so old it doesn’t have a usb port.

i’ve decided this is no longer the excuse i’m going to use.

at wish jar journal, a blog i am just starting to explore, keri has a list of things you can do if you’re feeling lost for ideas. (okay, i just went to find what i was talking about and i can’t find it anymore. i swear, i read on her site “draw a tree” but now i can’t find it. so you’re going to have to trust me, because i don’t think i came up with this idea on my own.) when i saw her suggestion for drawing a tree (which now i can’t find) i thought: perfect! i drew a tree on myself not long ago! and i haven’t posted the picture, or told the story yet!
i’ve thought a lot about my reasons behind my tattooing since i started getting them (10 – jesus) years ago. i think, subconsciously, it started as me wanting to reclaim space in a body, in a skin, that often didn’t do what i wanted it to. whatever the reason, i’ve always inked myself at symbolically-charged times in my life.

the story behind this one starts with my mother, and ends with toni morrison.

when my mother was sick from her chemo, she started getting insomnia, and once she shared with banane and me her favourite visualization for falling asleep. she would simply picture herself in a large field, with one tree in it, and slowly climb the tree, imagining herself suffused with warmth. she’d lie on a branch and let the tree cradle and rock her to sleep.

it was what i told her to do in the last moments of her life, when she was in so much pain and yet struggling so much to hold on.

after this, when i started getting insomnia, i borrowed this visualization from her. the funny thing was is that, in my mind’s eye, i pictured a tree i had never seen before. call it the collective unconscious or whatever, but i found that tree four years later, standing in the main square of san jose, costa rica.

then last year i was taking a feminist literature class, and part of our syllabus was toni morrison’s “beloved“. i’d read it before; one of the parts of the novel that echoed within me when a pregnant sethe is whipped by the slave-owner. she escapes the plantation and falls ill, and is subsequently helped by another runaway. amy, the runaway, makes the comment that sethe’s wounds look like a chokecherry tree.
that image buried itself inside of me as both symbolic of what havoc prejudice can wreak, and how healing can come in unexpected places.

these three events combined in me in a very powerful way, to create the image i etched on my skin, and the stories behind it.

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