One of my favorite Bones in my basket is the muskrat. I love when the muskrat appears in a reading, because it’s a reminder that self-care, survival and doing what you need to do for you and no one else is absolutely essential for your well-being. One of the hallmarks of muskrat energy is that its survival instinct is unapologetic. Muskrats need no permission to do what they feel is best for them and their families, and feel no guilt afterward. Judgments bounce soundly off their oily coat, and they do what they know is right for themselves without remorse or even a second thought. A few of the other Bones nod toward different aspects of self-care (abalone shell, Gaia, turquoise, lamb and a few others), but muskrat is the badass of well-being. Because it makes decisions with no regrets, no excuses, no self-recriminations – muskrat just does what’s best for muskrat. And therefore not only survives, but thrives. It’s similar to the airline reminder to place your oxygen mask on your own face before helping others. If you’re suffocating, you’re no use to anyone who needs you.
When did taking care of one’s physical, mental and Spiritual needs get a bad rep? At what point in our history did we start judging others (and ourselves) for caring for our personal well-being? When did self-care become seen as selfish?
As I was writing this blog, I searched Google for a synonym for self-care (my word processing program thesaurus didn’t have one). I found something really interesting. One thesaurus website touted a list of 26 synonyms for self-care. A few got at the thought I was trying to convey – “Personal Care,” “Thinking of Oneself,” “Care of Oneself/Themselves.” But most of them were actually synonyms for other ideas – “self-governance,” “self-reliance,” “self-management,” “self-handlers.” Not sure what that last one is about, but the others are more about policing oneself or rugged individualism rather than caring for one’s wellness and inner peace. I realized that this idea is so seldom invoked outside of the “wellness industry” and women’s magazines that we don’t even have words for it.
I began writing this post in early December, since I knew that I may not have a chance to do so during the end-of-year holiday season. I have recovered from a breakthrough bout of Covid-19, and then had surgery a few days after Christmas. The fatigue I’ve been feeling has me stressed out – not because of the toll the healing process has been and will soon again be taking on my body – but because I am worried I won’t get to things I feel will need to be done before and after my surgery. I don’t have time to be sick. Sound familiar?
When I was a child in school, we watched filmstrips about the “marvels of modern invention,” and all the ways that things like automatic washing machines, dishwashers, coffee makers, hand-held calculators and the like have enhanced our lives and freed up time we would have spent in “drudgery” to pursue more leisurely activities. Then came microwave ovens that made cooking a breeze (although most folks did and still do use them only for reheating leftovers), and eventually the lightning-fast computers (or so we thought at the time, listening to the ear-piercing noise of our phone lines connecting to servers and watching the little hourglass spinning around and around) and the personal, portable cell phone that eventually took over our lives. Not to mention the medical advances, including the ability to replace damaged joints like mine and allow people to function better than before after the surgery, and to develop a vaccine that will save many lives on a global scale (if only more people would agree to take one).
Yes, without a doubt our lives were improved in many ways by the technological advances of the last half of the twentieth century, and continue to be enhanced by those that take place at a breakneck pace now. But do we really enjoy more free time for relaxing and taking care of our own needs?
There are many individual differences that may account for how we spend our time. For example, some women were taught as girls that they are responsible for the happiness of others, and that their purpose – especially during the holiday season or other special days for their family – is to make sure that others are satisfied and have a good time. There are entire magazines, television shows and even networks geared toward women that focus on how to decorate, cook, interact, dress, etc. in a way that others will find pleasing. Also, there tends to be a cultural and economic status gap when it comes to taking time for oneself. Wealthy people often use the time they save using technological advances for leisure activities, while the less fortunate use it to work extra jobs. In blue-collar America, “hard work” is to be rewarded, and taking time off or staying home when sick (if that’s even an option with your job) is often seen as weak. The “push through,” “walk it off,” “sleep when you’re dead” mentality is seen as virtuous, especially among men, but is truly toxic to our mental, physical and Spiritual health and well-being. People who struggle to make ends meet financially, or feel an obligation to show how strong they are, or truly enjoy filling up every moment of the day with activity or work are too busy to take care of themselves. It becomes a slow path to an early death for some – who never really get a chance to live in health and happiness.
So in a season of resolving to improve our lives, I have some suggestions for some Muskrat ways to live this coming year to your greatest health and well-being:
- Caring for your body: We are truly Spiritual beings, but we are contained in this lifetime in a physical body. Keeping that body healthy and strong makes a difference in so many ways. This means staying hydrated with plain, clean water; eating healthy food, including vegetables, fruits and lean proteins, and replacing nutrient-poor foods and drinks with those that nourish and improve our bodies. It’s also getting 6-8 hours of sleep every night; exercising to the best of your body’s ability; and creating time to relax. My favorite way to relax is a hot bath (with jets, if I can find them), glass of wine, candles, soothing music and just letting my body enjoy the moment without letting stressful thoughts intrude on my quiet time. My own personal in-home spa. I also get massages when I’m able.
- Caring for your mind: Our “Monkey Minds” keep us in constant motion, even when we’re standing still. Many of our thoughts, unfortunately, are focused on negative aspects of our environment. When it seems like all news is bad news, and we feel isolated and alone, it’s easy to fall prey to thoughts of doom and gloom. Often what’s needed is an occasional self-imposed news blackout. This means refraining from the use of electronics (yes, even the cellphone and TV), newspapers and magazines, and, maybe especially, social media, for as long as you can before anxiety kicks in. We’re often so attached to our electronic friends that we feel a profound loss when we take time away from them, even for a short time. Reading something uplifting and listening to music that makes you sing along also engages your mind in positive activity. Another strategy is to release toxicity – toxic thoughts, relationships, habits… maybe even our jobs or living situation if necessary. Peace starts close to home. Finally, developing a sadhana to calm your mind, including beginning a meditation practice, an affirmation journal, “mirror work” (looking in the mirror every morning to give yourself some love), and other ways of cleaning your thoughts. This may be aided by reaching out for help, such as therapy and other methods to heal old wounds and allow you to leave unpleasant thoughts and memories behind you.
- Caring for your future: I’m a strong believer in planning your future in a way you want it to look. The use of vision boards, journaling, affirmations and other blueprints of the future you want to make for yourself and your loved ones goes a long way toward drawing what you desire to you. Remember to always affirm the future using positive words that are rooted in the present. For example, say “I am living in the home of my dreams,” rather than “I won’t be living in the slums anymore.” Or to restate Scarlett O’Hara in a way to draw fortune toward her, “I will live with an abundance of all I need,” rather than “With God as my witness, I’ll never go hungry again!” The Universe hears what you want – and if you keep dwelling on the negatives that you want to release, you will keep finding that in your life. Think about a future where you’re happy, healthy and abundantly blessed, and take every step in furtherance of your goals.
- Caring for your Spirit: Develop habits that nurture your Spiritual being. Meditation, a Yoga practice, creative pursuits, connection with the Earth, and living within the elements are all helpful ways to bathe your Spirit in the love it craves and deserves. And – let your inner Muskrat take over and say “No” when you mean it. Release the need to please others, let go of caring what others think about you and embrace the concept that you are here to further your purpose and to learn in a way that makes a difference in your generation and your family line. Leave the past where it is – forgive yourself and others for what has happened and go forward with a clean slate and hopeful outlook. And, just as important as spending some time in solitary, meditative thought and relaxation is to spend time with those who feed your Soul – those kindred Spirits who fill up your heart and make it sing with joy. Someone with whom you feel comfortable and comforted. We’re not in this alone.
One of my least favorite songs is “Muskrat Love.” If you haven’t heard it before and are curious, there are a few different versions of it out there (I was introduced to it by Captain and Tennille and America). It’s inexplicably bad, but I have a bit more tolerance for it now that I understand muskrat energy – apology-free self-care that will allow us, paradoxically, to love others in our understanding of what we need for survival here. Floating like the heavens above… looks like muskrat love…