The Art of Self-Care and Not Losing Your Sh*t

Despite the fact that the title of this post could apply to all aspects of my parenting for the last 10 years (TEN years?!?), this is less to do with keeping things together for the sake of the little ones and more to do with the barrage of information, opinions, facts, Science, Experts, rules, laws and legislation that is bombarding our lives every flippin hour right now.

Social media has always been a bit of a double-edged sword, providing connection and community at its very best, and spiteful, hate-fuelled trolling at its worst. OK, not its worst, probably just at its average. But lately, social media feels a lot more like (judgemental arrogant) foe than friend. I used to happily scroll through the humble-brags, the not-so-humble-just plain-bragging-brags, arty creations, and make-up-and-life-advice posts on Facebook every day, knowing politics and opinion was served in a very small, easily digestible helping, passed-by or laughed off with a helpful emoji. Twitter was always a very different beast, and many times I would physically brace myself before hitting that little blue icon, but usually only around the time of big news like a general election, or a national referendum, or a Bake Off final. Often I would just marvel at the amount of twenty-somethings that post the most insightful and astute 140-character synopses of the state of the world right now, while wondering how I managed to form a complete sentence during my own booze-fuelled twenties. Instagram was a rabbit hole I very consciously chose not to fall down.

But right now? Fuck me. Every single day there is something for someone to express an opinion about, or scream FACTS in your face or name call anyone who says something a little bit different to the thing they just said, or just, SCIENCE. There’s Brexit which is still refusing to be as oven-ready as we were promised, there’s the government in general, the government “advisors” who a few years back were totally unknown and who really shouldn’t be The News but increasingly are, The Virus, masks/anti-masks, vax/anti-vax, test-track-trace-travel 400 miles cock-up, lock-down and all the indecipherable clauses that went with that, refugees, the fascist right, the loony left, Trump, Biden, Black Lives Matter/ALL LIVES MATTER #imnotracistbut…… I’m left with a pain in my chest and a slump in my shoulders most days.

It’s almost as if everyone has to be all or nothing in order to make sense now. Like, if you happen to be a little sceptical about the speed and ferocity with which a Covid vaccine is being developed, despite not being anti-vaccines, anti-science, or anti-modern medicine, then ANTI-VAXXER!!!! YOU HAVE NO RIGHT TO EVER USE THE SERVICES OF THE NHS EVER AGAIN!!!! CONSPIRACY THEORIST!!!!!!!! Or if you voted for Brexit despite not being a racist bigot or a follower of Farage, Robinson, Golding or any other fascist half-wits, then RACIST!!!!!!! NAZI!!!!!!! HOMOPHOBIC, NATIONALIST, RIGHT WING BIGOT!!!!!!!!! GAMMMMMOOOOOOOONNNNNNN!!!!!!! Voted for Jeremy Corbyn? COMMUNIST SCUUUUUMMMMMMMM!!!!!! TERRORIST SUPPORTER!!!!!!!! LOONY LEFT SNOWFLAKE WANKER!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Following the rules laid out by this (incompetent, corrupt, evil, shambolic) government? WAKE UP, SHEEPLE!!!!!!!!!! You get the picture.* **

*The opinions and responses listed here are not an indication of my own opinions, but merely an illustration of how the expressing of an opinion of one topic can lead to the blanket labelling of an entire person,

**The opinions and / or responses may actually be an indication of my own opinions, but I’m not telling.

And it’s not just those outside of our own accepted and recognised little tribes who are keen to define us and keep us within those narrow confines and at a safe distance from their own clan. Those inside are often the worst rule-keepers, ticking off items on a list until you reach the number at which you are accepted into the magic circle. In this case, despite having said earlier that this isn’t to do with parenting, parents can often be the absolute worst. Breast-feeding and cloth-bumming? Ooh, do come in!! Oh, you don’t make your own beetroot crisps, or forest – school your older children or bake your own placenta capsules? Oops, sorry, off you fuck! Your kids attend main-stream school, eat school lunches and you own a games console? Great!! Oh, you don’t do time-outs, you co-sleep and you actually listen to your child’s opinions?! HIPPY WEIRDO!!

I think what I am trying to say is I often don’t feel like I fit in. Anywhere. I take the bits from ideals that speak to me, and leave the bits that don’t, and people don’t always like that. Maybe people are more complex and nuanced than a set of arbitrary definitions, and that not every belief or opinion or idea is mutually exclusive. Like, you could be a breast-feeding, co-sleeping, gentle-parenting, Christian Louboutin-wearing CEO, or a Tory-voting, car-driving, veg-growing ecologist, or a remain-voting racist. Not everything is so clearly defined and neatly compartmentalised. (Although I have never understood the Tory-voting public-sector workers, but who am I to judge? I’m sure they have their own reasons for choosing to have their own professions under-funded.)

I am feeling increasingly more anxious and increasingly more stupid with every article and post I read. I am trying to educate myself on The Virus, being in the health service and all it’s probably important to do so, but I just get lost in it all. Statistics are open to interpretation, authors have their own agenda, the government have proven they absolutely cannot be trusted with anything slightly responsible, and science is never that straightforward. Trying to consider the sources and follow the funding is a bit like a full-time job, which I honestly don’t have the time for.

So as someone who spends most days feeling like an outcast, a decidedly average non-committer, being bombarded by very loud messages from very decisive and clever people who know everything about everything, and feeling like a general failure, I would like to just share this. At this moment in time, if you are feeling a bit like me – overwhelmed, over-informed, with no idea of which actual “science” to follow because there’s always more than one way of looking at things – maybe this will help.

This weekend I spent Sunday morning, after reading one too many angry, name-calling, vitriolic social media comments, curled up on the sofa with my little boy watching Into The Spiderverse. Actually watching it, not half watching half looking at my phone, but fully engaging. It was wonderful. Then I ironed for about 3 hours. I did some crochet. I cuddled the cat. I wrote a 3 page answer to my daughter’s question in Our Book*. And then I started to write this post. And by bedtime, I felt better. I focused on the things that are important to me, right here and now. My family, my home, being creative. It’s a similar strategy I try to adopt when I can feel the depression looming, before it gets too much. Home in, focus small, take things slowly. Also drink wine and find a good counsellor, or just a good listener. It’s important to vent and to talk and feel able to express yourself clearly, just don’t be the person to vent and express yourself by judging and deriding and name-calling others on a social media post, eh?

*Our Book is a place where my daughter and I can both write to each other either with a question or a statement about how we feel, or just random musings, and the other person answers. It’s a private space for just us two, and she knows whatever is written in there is never shared unless she gives her permission.

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