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Tiny Revolutions №10: Welcome to Yin Season
beats decorative gourd season by a mile
I really worked myself over this Thanksgiving. Which kinda surprised me, because I didn’t really feel like it would be that bad. Being an expat from my hometown, I’ve spent all of my adult life making these kamikaze missions home for the holidays, where I’ll cram in family and friends and excursions with the kiddos and trips to the park and shopping and too much food and a zillion drinks and on and on and on. As I’ve gotten older I’ve made sure to always fit in exercise too because it’s so much worse when I don’t. But even still, this particular trip about killed me. I didn’t take any days off work, which was a mistake, although necessary. I thought I could do it! I thought I could power through!
I actually did power through. I didn’t take a single fucking nap, and I woke up every morning with the *toddlers*. I caught a cold mid-week, but still I kept going. No rest for Aunt Sara. I left on an early morning flight on the Saturday after Thanksgiving patting myself on the back for making it through the onslaught. I went out on a date that night.
And then Sunday arrived. And I was gone. Like OH SHIT, SHE GONE. What does gone look like for you? For me it’s like I’ve had a slow leak in the tire of my existence and only realized it after I’d been riding on the rims for a few days. Ouch. I’m not really one to stay in bed all the time. My love of naps aside, I’ve never been that great at chillin’. Too wired. So I just keep going and going. Getting up early, working, going to the gym or whatever. Keeping the lights on with nobody home.
So I’d say conservatively it took me a week of being back in LA to feel like I was back to normal. It wasn’t just the physical toll of the travel and the events — it was that combined with the emotional toll of being in close quarters with my batshit family. (It was a great week, but I still got in two full-fledged shouting matches. Sigh.)
I’m bringing this up because I got all in a snit the other day about how fucked up and annoying the popular notion of “self-care” has become.
When you think of self-care, what comes to mind? Is it a massage? A spa weekend? A snuggly new cashmere sweater and a mani-pedi? Ugh. I fear that’s what has happened to the concept — it’s been hijacked by the marketers of luxury goods and services to mean something you have to spend a lot of money on. A friend in my ladies chat group mentioned that she saw a question in the comments section of Jezebel where someone was like, “what are some good self-care suggestions for people who are short on time and money?” And that just made me sad.
You know what’s a good self-care practice? Doing nothing. Not always possible, of course, but when you’re exhausted, there’s nothing else like it. You don’t need CBD oil or a jade roller. You can just exist and maybe throw on a bad movie in the background. It’s fine. You have permission. When was the last time you did proper fuck all?
Speaking of doing fuck all, I keep thinking about this newsletter Russell Brown, an acupuncturist here in Los Angeles, wrote last year about Yin season, and how it should be required reading at the beginning of every winter.
Yin is yours and you deserve it. Take your winter. The balance of your entire life, if not all of existence, is entirely dependent on it.
You should feel as rewarded and celebrated for doing nothing as you are for doing everything else. Slow down and do so with kindness, tenderness and patience. This is the correction for life’s hardness, not “hot yoga three times a week.”
See through the spell of “I have too much to do to slow down.” To repeat that to yourself means that the advertising of a deranged world has worked on you, too.
That’s just a snippet. Read it, really. It’s so wise but it’s also a beautiful piece of writing.
I’ve always felt smell was an underrated sense, and ridiculously expensive perfume is one of my many interests that I can in no way afford, so one of my favorite discoveries of the past few years is perfume samples. Did you know that you can get small vials to try out for cheap or for free before you commit to a $100+ bottle? You can read more about how — and get some great suggestions for some unusual fragrances to give as gifts — in The Dry Down. (My favorite perfume this year is Deux by Cire Trudon, btw, and I highly recommend it if you have any interest in smelling like an enchanted forest.)
Came across this project called Friends with Secrets that consists of transcripts of three different peoples’ text exchanges with their therapists. Some of it’s interesting, some of it’s eye rolling, all of it’s pretty raw. It’s amazing how brave these people are to put this stuff out there. It’s also amazing how much easier it is to spot someone else’s damage and fucked up ways of thinking than it is to spot your own.
Have you listened to the sound of the winds blowing on Mars?
I’ve recently been indoctrinated into the cult of Esther Perel, a Belgian psychotherapist who is doing truly fascinating work on the dynamics of relationships. This interview in the New Yorker is a good intro.
We come from a model where relationships, in our village lives, in our communal structures, were very clear. The community gave you your sense of identity. You knew who you were. You knew what was expected of you, and you knew how to behave. You had a lot of certainty, a lot of belonging, zero freedom.
And we have urbanized, and we have moved, and we have taken on radical individualism and aspirational materialism, and all of those things have created a playing field in which relationships are undergoing rapid changes. We have no idea how to handle them. Rules have been replaced by choices. But at the same time we have massive uncertainty and massive self-doubt. Every second book about relationships these days is about belonging and loneliness.
I’ll just close out with this, the most Yin season-iest — and most beautiful — song I discovered this year: Jessica Pratt’s “This Time Around”.
What’s new with you?
p.s. I’d love it if you’d share this newsletter with someone who might appreciate it. They can subscribe here.