This past weekend, I had a staycation in Detroit while house sitting for a friend. I brought my computer, books I hadn’t got around to reading yet, and clothes I had no intention of wearing. I picked up snacks, ingredients for smoothies, and far too much La Croix. My morning alarms were shut off and I spent the next four and a bit days writing, taking baths, stretching, snacking, and napping. I still did work but I did so on my terms. In short, I let myself live well.
On the first day, I took a midday bath. Afterwards, I lit some palo santo and stretched for 30 minutes. My friend’s house is beautiful with its many windows and plants, old hardwood floors, eclectic art, and colourful textiles. While I moved slowly and inhaled sweet smoke I wondered if I should have gone to a yoga class instead. Only I didn’t want to. I knew exactly what my body needed stretch-wise and time-wise.
This got me thinking about the ways that capitalism has co-opted self-care. When I am doing what I love, I need so little and I don’t spend as much money simply because there’s no need to. What’s more, I am content to do less and give more time and attention to the things that truly matter to me. The muchness of our world feels less overwhelming and the inside of my head becomes so much quieter.
It’s a privilege to know what it means for me to live well. I spent the better part of a decade exploring this. From attending art school to living abroad, I iterated myself and my lifestyle until I found something that felt right for me. This is not a grace that everyone has easy access to. Which is why those of us who do have the option of exploring what it means to live well need to do so as a priority.
So often taking care of ourselves is seen as a luxury, especially when there is money involved. In response to the shame we have been taught to feel around investing in our wellbeing, we hide or tone down our deeply personal self-care needs. As a result, taking care of ourselves feels perpetually edged in guilt. Which means we can’t fully enjoy living well. What’s more, capitalism continues to profit off our need for permission to do so.
In this way, it is a radical act to live well. Radical because for so many of us, the things we’re hungry for are simple. Good food, people who love and respect us, time to relax, the feeling that we’re spending our time in meaningful ways and contributing something worthwhile to this earth. And as I am learning, living well allows me to spend more time doing the creative work that matters to me. Which is all I’ve ever wanted.
So, what does living well look and feel like for you right now?