Survival Skills

So, survival. Is it about stockpiling water filters and number 10 cans? MREs and ammo? Or is it about saving ourselves, emotionally, from the onslaught of the world which seeks to beat us to death, emotionally, figuratively, to block our flow and steal our heart?

Not to be all freaking overdramatic here but I am about to move BACK to the city, back to the middle of the damn city which I love, where I’m from, which I miss terribly and which nearly killed me.

Mixed feelings much?

So I am making myself a special box to take out when I am in need. A self-care box, an emotional first-aid kit. I am old enough now to recognize that it takes work to be well amongst the rust and rubble, to stay well as a supersensitive kind of person amongst the screeches and wails, the pavement and the traffic. Work to nourish the organism, to build resilience and to value the inner self over the latest social activity.

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And you MIGHT wonder, perhaps, what is in this box? What does a grown-ass woman need to survive the city life?

Of course I am about to make a list. Cause otherwise all this buildup would just be weird, right? So here goes:

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-Mantras. I am a huge dork for mantras. I am a person who struggles with my lack of a Mother figure and have finally decided to just Mother myself. I am currently really loving Kirsten Hale’s mantra “I did such a good job of surviving!”  and yes, I am still obsessed with “What if there is no problem?”

I firmly believe that our own self-talk sets us up for the day, for the night, giving us the juice we need to get shit done–or the opposite.

So mantras are in my box o’ love.

-Movement   Of all the things we (able-bodied) humans can do to feel better, just moving around is the most obvious, cheapest, easiest and last-chosen option. Just go for a damn walk. A run. a stretch session. Sweat.  Lift something heavy. It really really works.

-Mindfulness Meditation, whether sitting or moving, has officially proven to actually change your brain for the better. Start small, people. And just make the idea that you can take time for your brain to just chill your own narrative.

-and a little stone to hold OK, OK, so I don’t believe in the miraculous vibration of crystals but I’ll be darned if holding a stone while meditating, or any object of focus, a bone, a root, whatever, doesn’t really help me get into the practice.

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-Wild things It’s about noticing. I was concerned about leaving the bird noises, the insects and the plant diversity I love here in the country. But then I remembered that time I saw a skunk trotting down Broadway. Oh, and the crabs that hang out downtown in the river. And the seagulls. And crows. And pigeons, I love pigeons. And the Mugwort. And the Leopard Slugs in my yard. And and and and…nature is everywhere. Note to self: Don’t put nature into that rural box. Go find it, anywhere, everywhere, all the time.

-and the Actual Wild. Super straightforward: time spent outside of the city. Camping, hiking, swimming, walking dogs, hitting things with a stick.

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-Sleep I remember the intensity of the desire to get a good night’s sleep when I lived in the city, and the relief of sleeping in total darkness here. But there are tools to help urban dwellers get good rest, and these are going into my box– great dark curtains which block light and muffle sound. Smushy mattresses, relaxing herbs, great snuggles and doing enough physical activity to feel physically tired.

-Community A big part of why I want to be in the city again, anyway. Socializing with people I find interesting and who are interested in me is a great survival strategy. It sounds obvious now, but I know how easy it is to withdraw when one should really be reaching out and asking for support.

-Plants, inside and out This should come as no surprise to plant lovers, but just having plants around increases my personal well-being by like a thousand.

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-Symbolic nature OK, stay with me here. It’s a little abstract– But in my experience, bringing elements of nature into my home helps me to stay grounded in what is important to me, what I love and need. A dried flower? A feather? A bone, a drawing or photo, a stone? Maybe it is just the visual, maybe it is the reminder that nature is a force I love, but it helps.

-Actively seek out inspiration A reminder to myself to actually open up this literal and figurative box and feed myself.

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-Notebook I love to have an outlet to record my thoughts and ideas, to make sketches and process scenes from the day which may be disturbing or inspiring or just confusing. A real pen and a real paper, more so than a notes app, helps me to unspool that day and let go. It is the build-up of one after another of indignities, of weird shit that I have to ignore, of other people’s energy that I’ve had a hard time letting go of in the past, and which I choose to deal with better now.

-Herbs I guess, since I am an herbalist with a fabulous apothecary, that I shouldn’t leave out herbs. I do leave it for last though, as I love them but cringe at the idea of herbs as our first line of defense against the world. It is not about suppressing our tension but about managing it, and there are some plant medicines that I find helpful for this. For example, there is Scullcap, which is my #1 let-it-go herb. A blend of Milky Oats, Rose, Tulsi and Hawthorne which is an every- evening  cooldown for me, a way to nourish my nervous system.  And there is Blue Vervain, my precious tension diffuser for the clenching, teeth-gritting, can’t stand it kind of mood.

Plus bitters, Sweet Birch rub and Black Haw….

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My main goals are to stay grounded, stay connected to that which keeps me going. I don’t really believe in ____ makes me happy, I think happy is overrated and even a bit boring. I want to be OK, I want to be creating, I want to be curious. That is my version of “happy”.

It is so easy to think we can just buy something, just get an object or make a consumer choice to solve the abyss of angst that comes from living in the world, that is just a byproduct of cities and media and too much information, things which I love but which also cause me harm. But I feel like the tension I feel in a city isn’t just my bad consumer choices. It isn’t the feeling that I lack the right crystal. It’s normal, it’s reasonable to sometimes get overwhelmed by this complex life.

So what I am excited about here is a long-tern strategy for self-management in the face of that structure  which doesn’t give a shit about our humanity. In the face of a system, a design that was not built to maximize human delight but to sell things or move goods or create the best real estate.

And I just want to share that we DO have the tools, we DO have the means to support ourselves through these changes and struggles–make the time when we feel good to put these systems in place and they will be there for us when we feel in need.

Find your little pleasures, friends. Find your moments of bliss, steal your quiet time and forge your own sacred space.

Concrete can’t really block the flow.

*ps yeah, it’s not really a box.

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