Take Care

A couple weeks ago, on a phone call with my editor, I expressed my struggle with feeling creative, with wanting to talk about superfluous, creative things (IOW, promote this book) while it felt like the world was burning outside my very own window. Okay, so I leaned on the side of melodrama, but in my defense, it was the first week or so of Trump’s “leadership.” A burning world certainly seemed like a strong possibility.

And, for those of us who are inclined to keep up with current events, who feel like, as a human being, we have a stake in this new war rising against other fellow human beings, the world we’d come to think was actually heading in the right direction has crashed into something we have never seen before.

It’s discouraging. It’s disenfranchising. It’s eye-opening, especially for those of us who have lived in a bubble of privilege and were blind to how bad, how greedy and racist and hateful our neighbors actually are. It’s enough to make you want to pack your bags and move elsewhere, except… maybe we should stay and fight.

So we do, and it’s a lot. It’s constant and downright exhausting. In the midst of my whine, my lovely editor and friend said, “Use that. Talk about escapism. Self-care. How do we refuel?” And anyone here reading this knows, a great way to refuel is art. Books, for example. I have one of those coming out a week from today! How convenient!

So, I’ll start with a question: What do you do when it gets to be too much? How do you escape? How do you stop the circus and put yourself first for a hot second?

In the evenings, I’ve been trying to walk away from my computer and not stare at my phone to watch my twitter feed blow up at the latest cabinet appointment or congress misstep. I’m not succeeding all the time, but I’m trying. I started taking yoga a couple weeks ago and am already so enjoying it that I’m finding videos on amazon and doing yoga here at home a few more times a week. I’m sitting with my daughter–who will most likely lose her job and definitely her short-term disability from a long-term/impossible-to-diagnose arm injury, and thus lose her insurance–and watching ridiculously fun and sweet and weird anime. (It’s weird, right? Anime? Their extreme reactions to things? The jilted animation? Still, I’m addicted–gay ice skaters, man. Who knew it could be so engaging?) I’m shopping. Which… probably should be curtailed a bit. Probably. Maybe.

And then there are the characters I created in Beneath the Stars. While their world is separate from the political climate we’re in now–because for the love of god, I could have never imagined anything like this when I started this thing over five years ago–the characters are mired in stress, both of outside and inside causes.

Sid is my calm in the storm–until his calm snaps and he cries into a bottle of rum and kicks hell out of soccer balls once he’s back home and sober. But normally, he’s a mill pond in a life that is chaotic on good days. How does he keep himself level? He disappears into his studio and creates for himself–not for his business. He beats hell out of soccer balls instead of the person who has upset him. He drinks chai like it’s going out of style, and he sits with someone he loves, looks to the night sky and grabs perspective by the balls and faces a new day. Sid is the king of self-care, of taking a moment, of lighting a stick of incense and finding strength in the scent, the quiet, the memories that buoy him forward.

Even Adrian, at five years old, has methods to find calm, to sort out all of the things that confuse him, that frighten him, that make him question if the adults in his life really know what the hell they’re doing. Spoiler alert: they don’t, but they sure try hard. Adrian pulls out blank paper and crayons and gets to work. He builds on paper, he destroys on paper, and he rearranges good and bad, right and wrong on paper.

Anna, Sid’s sister, goes out with her friends; Lou, even in his dementia-riddled state, sits with Sid out under the stars, and his mind becomes clear; Eddie struggles with quiet, with caring for himself because his whole identity revolves around caring for others, but even he learns to take time, to enjoy movies with his son, to appreciate the succulence of a perfectly ripened peach.

Take time for you. We need to be strong for what’s ahead of us. Read a good book (too heavy-handed?), take a walk, color a page or two of that coloring book you got for the holidays, soak up a story in the music of a new-to-you Broadway musical.

What do you do to take care of yourself? Tweet at me, comment here, talk to me on facebook–let’s strengthen each other.

Beneath the Stars, releases on Feb. 16, 2017, and is available for pre-order. Enter now to win a free e-book bundle and a $25 gift certificate to my publisher, Interlude Press.

You can win a free print copy by entering the giveaway at goodreads.

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