audio book earphones

spring cleaning | self-care / self care

The next few posts in our Spring Cleaning series are going to be about cleaning up your self care—because I have a new obsession.

I’m a huge fan of audiobooks, which in my attempt to avoid Amazon whenever possible, I get through a platform called (Full disclosure: if you click this link rather than typing in the URL, I earn a free audiobook.)

Besides charging a reasonable monthly membership fee, Libro supports an indie bookstore of my choice with every purchase. Reading has always been a political act; Libro takes it to another level.

I listen to audiobooks the way I listen to podcasts. You’ll usually find me listening: in the car, on my walks, while I cook, while I clean….

When I listen to nonfiction books, I sometimes pause to make a voice memo about a point I want to remember. And my most recent “read” is one of those books that I end up having to buy in hard copy. There are just so many times you can pause, switch apps, take a memo, switch back, hit play….

And I guarantee that this hard copy is going to have LOTS of highlighting and notes scribbled in the margin.

What is this magical book? It’s Pooja Lakshmin’s Real Self-Care: A Transformative Program for Redefining Wellness (Crystals, Cleanses, and Bubble Baths Not Included). Haha, yes. You know the snarky subtitle caught my eye. (Full disclosure: I do not benefit in any way from you purchasing this book.)

self-care? self care?

First, let’s talk about how this word is spelled. Because I’m a language geek, that’s why. Feel free to skip this section if you’re not.

I was taught that a noun is generally not hyphenated: I practice self care. An adjective made from a two-word noun is hyphenated: I have a self-care routine.

Apparently, this rule goes out the window when using the word self? Self-compassion, self-judgment, self-love, self-care…. And inquiring minds want to know why! So if you know, please, please tell me.

Until I have a good reason, I’m going to be obnoxiously obstinate about it.

real self care vs. faux self care

I have a saying related to self care. It speaks to how real self care is internally invited—not externally motivated. Meaning: stop listening to your BFF, your cousin, your colleague, the guru du jour, the celebrity-turned-wellness-expert.

The saying is (and I know I could get sued for this): Self care is what Cosmo says you should be doing. SOUL care is what the Cosmos is inviting you to do.

Self care is the crystal, the cleanse, the bubble bath. Or what I call the latest diet or detox, supplement or smoothie, workout or woo practice. When done correctly, there’s nothing wrong with those activities except that they are all temporary fixes.

And they tend to add items to an already packed to-do list that can never be to-done.

There’s a certain amount of irony in Lakshmin making the same point even as she writes about “real self-care.” She is kind taking on the role of a doctor-turned-guru. And we’re going to waive that point. Because rather than telling us to “just” buy a crystal, do a cleanse, or have a bubble bath, she’s giving us a framework within which to figure out our own methods.

green-eyed monster

I will freely admit that I started to listen to Lakshmin’s book with a fair amount of jealousy: 75–80% of what she writes in the introductory chapters of the book are concepts that I’ve been using in my practice for the past nine years. (Happy 9th Anniversary to Simply: Health Coaching this month!)

I did come to appreciate her articulation of these concepts. Her writing gave me new language about these concepts and also clarified the places where our opinions diverge.

My favorite point in the book is that self care is a radical political act that not only acknowledges the screwed-up systems women live in but shows us a path to creating institutional/systemic change. Amen to that.

So that green-eyed monster, jealousy, has been subdued a bit if not tamed.

make the connection

You’ll be hearing a lot from me about Lakshmin’s book as I finish it up! 

As for its relationship to our Spring Cleaning theme, I invite you to spend this week taking a close look at your self-care practices/routines.

  • Do you keep a checklist—mental or physical—of the activities?
  • Do you tick the activities off daily/weekly?
  • How often do you check them all off on their assigned timeline?
  • Why do you do the ones you do?
  • How do you feel when you start them? when you end them?
  • How do you feel about yourself when you do them? when you don’t do them?

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be exploring what practices we might want to keep and which ones we might want to jettison.