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Eleanor Roosevelt may have said, “Do one thing every day that scares you,” but when taking courage you also need to take care. Not of others. Of your self. It’s a bit like the oxygen mask on a flight — if you can’t breathe how can you help others?
This week writers explored what self-care looks like. With varying perspectives, this collection offers a mélange of ideas. Read and take care!
The following are based on the November 30, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes self-care.
Blue Moon by Juliet Nubel
She never knew which one to choose. She owned dozens, all lined up in neat, colourful rows inside a shiny, purple box.
Their names were so extravagant – Mayfair Lane, Undercover Show, Pussycat was Here.
She settled for Misty Jade, a colour from the depths of the Caribbean sea.
Slowly stroking the brush onto her short, brittle nails, she dreamt of an island, with warmer climes, where she wouldn’t have to work so hard.
A place where she could paint her nails, lie back and idly watch them dry, every single day. Not just once in a pale blue moon.
Caring for Himself by Michael
The last time I picked my older brother up out of the gutter he was in the worst condition I’d seen him in. Drunk, unable to stand and as incoherent as always. I bundled him into the car and took him home. The next morning, I told him it was now time for him to start caring for himself.
I wasn’t going to pick him up anymore as my family needed me too.
I dropped him off and watched him reluctantly enter the facility. With fingers crossed I lived in hope. He lasted a week. The rest is history.
Flash Fiction by Pensitivity
We all cope to the best of our ability, but just one little thing can throw us over the edge into the abyss of depression.
Enter ME TIME, a must for everyone at some time or another, the secret is to recognise When before things spin out of control.
Some write, some walk, some cook, some eat.
Music is my safety valve, and my Dad always knew when something was on my mind.
Each piece I play has a significance, but Dad would listen as it wasn’t what I played, but the way I played it that spoke volumes.
Free by FloridaBorne
June stood at the kitchen door, eyeing the knife next to her mother’s cutting board.
“I talked to my social worker. I’m moving out.”
“I’m your legal guardian,” her mother frowned. “I told her, ’absolutely NOT.’”
“I can take care of myself!” June insisted.
“That’s not a nice word, Leslie.”
“Why can’t you call me mom?”
“You act like a prison guard!”
Mom scoffed, opening the fridge, her ample body covering the door. June grabbed the knife, plunging it into Leslie’s rib cage.
She stared into her mother’s startled eyes and whispered, “Now I can be free.”
Guidance by Jordan Corley
“Brogan, what are you doing here? Have you been admitted again? The other nurses told me you were doing well.”
“No, no, it’s nothing like that. I just-”
Suddenly Sarah’s door flung open and she came wobbling out, carefully pulling her IV pole behind her.
“Hi Brogan!,” Sarah squeaked, “I can’t believe it’s been a week already! It feels like you were just here.”
“Well I wrote a new song I’ve just been dying to sing with someone. And look, I brought Elf and popcorn! I thought we could have a movie night this time.”
Meditation/Medication (Jane Doe Flash Fiction) by Deborah Lee
“I wish you’d seen the doctor, gotten some Valium or something.”
Torrey edges up the security line, pulling her wheelie, Lesley moving beside her on the other side of the rubber stanchion. “Don’t worry about it, Lesley. I’ll be fine once I get up to the concourse. It’s like a great big mall up there.”
“Oh! That reminds me! I heard there’s a new place you can get a pre-flight massage, aromatherapy…self-care, soothing. Meditate your anxiety away.”
Torrey barks a shaky laugh. “Or there’s booze, because flying sucks. The world’s most sincere drinking is done in airport bars.”
Party of One by Chelsea Owens
Don’t be afraid of you. Others want to know you. She glanced up; scanned the oblivious guests.
“Excuse me,” a sexy voice said. She turned, her finger marking the text. “I need to get to the bathroom,” he nodded, beyond her.
“Oh,” she said, embarrassed. She moved. He went past.
She opened to another, dog-eared entry. The surest way to make friends is to listen. She moved near a chattering group.
“Excuse me?!” A woman asked angrily. “This is a private conversation!”
“Sorry,” she mumbled.
This was hopeless. Before exiting, she carefully tucked Surefire Social Success! into the garbage.
The Joy of Giving by Parinitha
I am a 75-year-old beggar who lives by the banks of the Ganges. On days I am too ill to beg alms, my wife and I sleep hungry. I try to make my absence inconspicuous, but one day, she tracks me down. “This is ridiculous”, she yells. Every day, I share my food with a homeless crippled man from across the street. The joy of being on the other side of the plate is priceless. It makes me forget my misery momentarily. Isn’t the ability to Give a luxury? Is my therapy of self-care is so bad after all?
Socks for Self-Care (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills
“Dr. Danni Gordon! Good to see you!”
Danni unloaded her ruck sack and hugged Carly. “Thank you for making homeless vets your beneficiary this year.”
“Anything to help our military.”
Danni had sent Carly a list to broadcast: socks, toothbrushes, blankets. Spread out on a long table, women organized the items before packing into backpacks for the homeless in Spokane. Danni added Army surplus socks to the pile.
“What an ugly green,” said one woman.
Danni explained. “It’s a familiar color and texture to these men. Sometimes familiarity is the path to self-care for those who’ve lost their way.”
Rest. In. Peace. by Norah Colvin
“You really should take a break,” they suggested.
“I can’t. Too much to do.”
“You need time off,” they said.
“I know. Soon.”
Eventually, “I’m taking a break,” she said.
The afternoon sun warmed as the sand caressed her aching body. Her eyes closed. Only an occasional seagull’s squawk interrupted the repetitive swoo-oosh of the waves that jumbled with the office cacophony looping incessantly.
“What? What happened?” they asked.
He scrolled quickly, searching for details.
“Sleeping. On beach. Seagull – ha!– dropped a baby turtle – landed on her head – died instantly.”
“And we thought work would kill her!”
The Accident by Kate Spencer
“So tell me what happened,” asked Granny knitting by the roaring fireplace.
“It was surreal,” whispered Carrie, lying stretched out on the chesterfield with a heating pad around her neck. “One minute I was making a left-hand turn out of the parking lot and the next minute I felt as if I was sitting there watching the accident unfold in a slow-motion movie.”
“Sweetie, you had what is known as a shock induced out-of-body experience. I like to think of it as the Universe’s way of protecting us.”
“Cool. ‘Know what Granny?”
“You’re exactly what I need tonight.”
Another Lesson in Self-Care by Sarrah J Woods
It’s Sunday morning and I’m overwhelmed. The bright sun outside only aggravates me more; I long to be lounging in it. But I’ve got dishes, laundry, and more to do, and not much longer before the babies wake up.
My husband, tired as I am, sits unbudging in front of the TV while I clean—and grumble—around him.
Finally, exasperated, I stalk outside. The air is warm and quiet.
Then I realize: he’s expecting me to do what I need.
And how can he help if I don’t leave room?
I lie down in the grass and breathe.
The Choice by Colleen Chesebro
Painful sobs wracked her body while anguished cries escaped from her throat with an unrecognized resonance. She finally understood that death in its malevolence took what it desired leaving an emptiness in its wake. She knew she needed to survive by moving forward or she’d perish.
Nearby, the crystals beckoned to her emitting an ethereal glow. Meditate, they whispered. Align your chakras and feel your healing life force restored. She sat, quieting her breath, slipping into a meditative state. Her breath inhaled the restorative energy while exhaling the grief and loss.
Revitalized by love, she accepted a new path.
Changing Colors by Reena Saxena
I picked up a cheap perfume from the counter, and was floating on a cloud after using it. My conservative husband found it too strong for his staid sensibilities.
“Why do you need to use this? You own better stuff.”
“Sure. But this makes me feel young again. I could afford only this brand at eighteen, with my meagre pocket money, but managed to attract attention,” I grinned.
“Aaahh! What are the other brands which you used then? It makes me see you in a new light.”
Our world was changing from a formal gray to an exuberant yellow.
Back Up by Sherri Matthews
The receptionist was as chirpy as Mandy remembered her.
‘I would like to make an appointment for a check-up please…’ Mandy heard the waver in her own voice.
The pain from the last visit had long gone, but the fear-filled memory of it lingered for years. She had stopped going altogether after that, and then everything fell away.
Years later, Mandy began her slow, uphill climb with a visit to the hairdresser. An office party she dreaded but could no longer avoid. It had meant a new outfit too.
Then Mandy called the dentist for a long-overdue check up.
Control What You Can by Susan Sleggs
“In the past three weeks, we had to move into our new house before the painters and rug layers were done, there were two deaths in my wife’s family and our daughter was in a car wreck and can’t go back to work.”
“How are you coping with such trials?”
“I’m a patient man, but I want answers. I’m praying a lot.”
“How about your wife?”
“I helped her unpack the quilting room and I cut fabric for her to sew, then sent her to lunch with her friends. She felt better after accomplishing something and receiving healing hugs.”
Flash Fiction by Heather Gonzalez
Joe was known for a special brand of self-care which always ended at the bottom of his favorite bottle of whiskey. After the war was over, many soldiers went on to lead healthy productive lives, but Joe was not one of them.
The war had consumed his personality and left him a hollow shell. As much as he wanted to be almost normal, he knew that he was forever changed by what he saw. The small innocent face that appeared in the window as he burned down the village always brings him back to the bottom of the bottle.
Self-Care by Sarah Brentyn
She looked in the mirror at the woman she swore she would never become.
A soft, almost-youthful face with fine lines.
A handful of grey hairs hiding beneath dark blonde strands.
A pudgy middle pushing the waistband of her favorite pair of jeans.
The image irritated her. Angered her.
How had she become this…thing? This wife of a man who created her with perfectly weaved words of manipulation and cruelty then cheated on her for becoming his creation.
Time for some self-care.
She grabbed the prescription bottle, smiling for the first time in months, and dumped her husband’s heart medication.
The Alien Planet by Anuragbakhshi
My spaceship crashed, and as I struggled to somehow extricate myself from the debris, I thought about the importance of my mission- It was not every day that a new inhabited planet was discovered, and a senior diplomat like me sent there to make contact with the aliens.
The twisted metal and broken wires were impeding any movement, and I had nothing but my own strength and ingenuity to depend upon. Remembering my objective, I used all my resourcefulness and finally managed to free myself. I could now proceed on my mission to conquer this backward planet called Earth.
Inkless Blots by Jules Paige
“Life” used to be captured with a pen in a notebook. The
daily writing routine morphed; using a keyboard, unlocking
keys of alphabet letters and sentencing them to sensible
words scripting daily insights into blog; feeding an electronic
community where static electricity was controlled, by the
bribery of imagination and miscellaneous musings.
Cheaper than paying a therapist or a life coach – getting
encouraged by other writers who walked the same crooked
path. June marched, occasionally dancing when someone
liked or showed the slightest interest in her inkless blots.
Slowly gaining confidence that she actually could call herself…
There’s No Writer Wrong by Bill Engleson
“He’s been at it for days. I’m getting quite worried.”
“He’s an adult Joanie. It’s his decision.”
“But…he’s a writer, for heaven sakes. He doesn’t live in the real world. He spends most of his time in a messy little nook in his head. He’s always going off on a tangent.”
“And now he’s trying to take care of himself. Look at him. He’s become a scrunched-up pretzel of a man, hunched over in a writing frenzy.”
“That’s what I mean. I don’t think solo Kama Sutra Yoga and a forty-ounce jug of red wine ought to be mixed.”
I Made a Mountain by Anne Goodwin
I made a mountain. They could not knock it down. But they did not join me on the zigzag path through meadow, woods and moorland to the craggy top. Instead, they dragged me to molehill, had me admire its contours, the texture of its soil. They bathed it in sunshine, cloaked my hill in mist. The only mountains they’d acknowledge were the Everests that pierced the cloud.
I fought through fog to find my mountain, and walked alone along its trails. Birds sang, flowers bloomed, rock glistened in the damp air. I made a mountain. I made it mine.
Self-Care Through Word Salad by Liz Husebye Hartmann
Impression management. Measured words. Think before you write. Intentionality, thought-FULL-ness is all. Be politically correct, especially if that’s not your usual inclination. Diagram your structure, have your measurable outcome in sight.
This ain’t no disco. This ain’t no party. This ain’t no foolin’ around!
Stop making sense. Put pen to paper, fingers to keyboard. Slop a little coffee over that mess, but avoid the hard drive.
Don’t stop. Believin’. Let out all those feelings.
Your job right now is to get your foot off the muse’s tail and let it gallop around the room.
I love a morning write.
New Mum SOS by Ritu Bhathal
The crying was relentless, but who else was going to do anything?
He was at work all day, he needed his sleep.
She was exhausted.
“It’s okay,” they all said, “just sleep when the baby does. You’ll be fine!”
What world did they live in? Self-care with a newborn…? Impossible.
When was she meant to do the housework, the laundry, the cooking, if not when the little mite was taking his precious naps?
But after thirteen weeks of sleepless nights and little support from anyone, she was ready to muffle the cries with the pillow currently covering her head…
Ladies First by Chesea Owens
“I’ve got to shop for pants today,”
She told the stingy traffic lights.
She told the grocer and the pump;
And then, the quickly-coming night.
“I’d love to try this recipe,”
She said, as they drew near to home;
With only time for Mac ‘N Cheese,
‘Midst whining, falsely-crying tones.
“A bath would be a lovely break
Whilst reading Lover’s Passioned Call.”
Alas, the heated water drained,
Whilst splashing children took it all.
The lights were off; he found her there,
Her loving, all-day-working man.
“I thought you wanted time alone.”
She sniffed; she said, “And, here I am.”
Mom’s Me Time by Kerry E. B. Black
Moms don’t usually get “me time,” so when the opportunity presented itself, Kaylee almost did not recognize it. Her husband and her in-laws took the kids to a matinee. Kaylee stripped the beds and threw in a load of laundry before it dawned on her. She had the house to herself. She could operate the television remote control without hearing groans. A bubble bath surrounded by scented candles could be hers. When she set the kettle on, she ignored the dishes in the sink and steeped a cup of tea and enjoyed an uninterrupted date with a long-neglected book
Santa Self-Care by Frank Hubeny
Mark loudly rang his own doorbell. “Thank you, Santa!” He heard Julie’s feet pitter-patter as she rushed to the door. “Have a nice day, Santa, in your snowy fairy glen at the North Pole.”
Julie looked outside. “Where’s Santa?”
“Sorry, Julie. Santa’s gone. He left gifts for you.”
Eventually someone would have to tell his daughter about Santa, but Mark couldn’t do it. She’ll have to cure herself even if she breaks her own heart.
Later that day Julie answered the door. “Santa! Back so soon?”
“Who was that?”
“Sorry, Dad. Santa’s gone, but he left you this present.”
The Care Bearing Of The Spotlessly Declined by Geoff Le Pard
‘Why so glum?’
‘Mrs Twistelton says I don’t care enough to be in the orchestra.’
Mary stopped writing. ‘Do you?’
‘You hardly practice.’
‘Everyone is in the Orchestra.’
‘Maisie, and the girls.’
‘Ah! Maisie. I hear her name a lot.’
‘Once I wanted to be a cleaner – I know, me – because Daisy Fullerton had a cleaning job that paid for her cool clothes. Hated it. I learnt.’
‘I needed to care about myself and what I really wanted.’
‘It’s different now.’ Penny wandered off.
‘Really?’ Mary said to the space vacated by her daughter.
Flash Fiction by Pete Fanning
At home, Mom’s been busy. Swabs of cotton on the floor, the kind from a pill bottle. It looks like she shook her purse out all over the kitchen. A pungent smell leads me to a box of hair dye by the sink…scissors…chunks of hair…
I hit the steps with stuttered breaths, my throat closing. What I’d give for just one boring, uneventful day. To come home without holding my breath. Lately I’ve been thinking about taking off, just being done with it all.
But I can’t leave.
Because what if she fell?
Or worse, what if she jumped?
Self-Care by Irene Waters
Prue’s mother was proving difficult. “Mum, self-care is the most appropriate place for you.”
“I’ll stay here if I have to self-care. I want help.”
“But Mum in self-care you get help. Meals are provided, cleaning done, bed linen changed and washed plus you can opt for more services.”
“Then why call it self-care. More like aided living.”
“Self -care is because you remain independent. You don’t need nursing. Aided living is a nursing home.”
“Send me to a nursing home. I’ve had looking after myself.”
“I know Mum. How about going to ‘Care… for the Self?”
Ranch Yarn by D. Avery
“Hey Pal, you oughtta join my self-heppin’-advocatin’-together group- S.H.A.T.”
“Ain’t bein’ no part a yer SHAT group. What the shat you on about anyway?”
“What Shorty said. Self-hep.”
“Shorty said self-care, so I reckon it’s S.C.A.T., an’ I’m hopin’ ya do.”
“Testy… You need a stage coach.”
“Yeah, stage coach. Ta hep ya git through all yer rough stages in life. Talk ya through the prickly patches.”
“I swear, Kid, sometimes I’d like ta put you on a stage, send ya back where ever ya come from.”
“All the world’s a stage, Pal, ya oughtta try’n play nice.”
Monday tips for writers is more personal today. I’m not yet ready to write about my revision process, although I’ve made great strides using the storyboard, comparative inner/outer story timelines and a checklist of edits. I remain in the thick of final edits, a boggy area ripe with self-doubt, panic and snarling wolves.
Writing is not easy. And I’m not talking about the mechanics of writing or the craft; I’m talking about the inner strength and the tough skin you need to be a writer. Some days are a glorious dance in the daisies, but most days are spent fleeing from the wolves.
We each have our own wolves, nipping at our heals. My wolves find me vulnerable when I feel that my value is tanking. Value to me has to do with this buckaroo ideal of “hard work.” To be valued, you have to work hard, get your hands dirty, calloused. Have something to show for your hard work.
This weekend the horse-owner showed up. Immediately I felt embarrassed because my garden is in disarray with neglect. Something I made a conscious choice to do, but how do I explain to “hard-working” folk that I’m sitting on my backside, writing instead. It’s also unseasonably hot and dry so my yard is crisp and gasping despite the weeding and watering I’ve been doing. He doesn’t say anything, but I think he’s displeased with how we are keeping the place.
My wolves are those negative thoughts that can chase me to despairing depths. Really, I can’t give you a logical explanation for when the wolves give chase other than I’m feeling vulnerable. And I find that I feel vulnerable more as a writer than at anything else I’ve ever done. I feel like I don’t have anything of value to show for my hard work.
I’m not alone in this vulnerability. Tonight, my heart broke a little as I read a post from one of my favorite online writers. She said she was a crappy blogger. Immediately my wolves joined hers and they wanted to hunt me down for being a crappy blogger, too because I could totally relate to everything she was expressing. After all, I didn’t even log in on my blog for two entire days. I didn’t post or read all the #MondayBlogs.
Instead, I commented with something I learned from dog mushers. That if you’re going to panic, panic forward. It reminded me that we all feel vulnerable, lacking and afraid we aren’t posting, writing or revising up to snuff. We aren’t working hard enough at it.
Today, comedic actor Robin Williams apparently committed suicide. That breaks my heart even more. It also sends me in full blown panic: For the love of camp-coffee, if a successful creative still feels chased down by the wolves of negative thinking, what hope is there for me? Those wolves are vicious.
Thus we come to the importance of writer-care. It’s a little like self-care. Instead of beating myself up for not having obvious outcomes for the hard work, I’m challenging myself to rethink, to take care of my writer-self.
I’m working on my own masters. I’m learning an entire industry–actually two if you recognize that traditional publishing is different from Indie publishing. No one cracks the whip or sets the bar. I’m self-motivated to write, disciplined to learn and caring enough to share in the process with others. I don’t have to prove anything to anyone.
I’m trying to recognize the wolves before they get too close. It doesn’t matter who you are, negative thinking or wrong-headedness creates a downward spiral. Challenge each other to notice what each is good at and don’t dwell on what we aren’t. Let’s tackle our weaknesses with the enthusiasm of learning.
And please, oh please…if you ever get so low in your despair, reach out of the mire! Talk to someone, have a list of people that you can call at any time and find something to get you out of the wolves’ den. If you go too far, there is help:
- Suicide Prevention Lifeline in the USA & Canada (1-800-273-8255)
- Lifeline Crisis Support Suicide Prevention AU (13 11 14)
- Samaritans Ireland (116 123) or Northern Ireland (08457 90 90 90)
- Samaritans Wales (08457 90 90 90)
- Samaritans Scotland (08457 90 90 90)
- Papyrus Prevention of Young Suicide UK (0800 068 41 41)
You matter. Your writing matters. Your creativity matters.
None of this, of course, is going to make writing any easier. Just commit to keeping check on the wolves from time to time. If you need a break, take one. If you let something go unattended to do something else, acknowledge the choice and don’t feel that you have to explain yourself to some cowboy who will never understand what it is to write anyways.
Remember this line from Song of Myself by Walt Whitman:
“I do not trouble my spirit to vindicate itself or be understood”
And I leave you with this fabulous bit of truth about writing not being easy by Sarah Brentyn.
So be kind to those who create; lift up and do not tear down; take a break without guilt; write with abandon and don’t ever let anyone rob you of your value as a writer. You are enough. Make the best of your gift.
And Rest in Peace, Robin Williams. May we follow in your light and learn from your darkness.