Words enter the public discourse as if they have always been there. And young people especially, use them as if they have been and are self-evident. After all, they have no idea of what has gone before; in addition to youth, they are also largely bereft of history education.
"Self-care" is one such phrase. It rung true but awkward when I first heard it, from our 2014 Campaign Coordinator. We were talking about service providers and burn-out and a host of other work-related issues. "Mental health" holidays are similar; I knew people in the US who took them. I write this, putting one word after another, feeling desperately in need of both self-care and a mental health holiday. Both are elusive in my world.
I think about the women who attended last week's consultation on women and work, and how many--if any--of them have the luxury of self-care. I see them waking up early and running through the day, meeting one set of obligations after another. We ask about hobbies in the ice-breaker round and many of us mention sleep. No one remarks about this because it does not surprise us that we are all so tired.
But when we talk about work conditions, exhaustion, burn-out and self-care do not figure. We talk a great deal about toilets, about sexual harassment and about workplace equality. We do not talk about being tired.
Some of the women in the room are extroverts. At the end of the day, they say they like to spend an hour chatting with neighbours. I recoil at the thought. I wonder, yet again, if things are just easier for extroverts? Are they simply less tired because they are energised by all that human interaction?
I think about my work and how it seems to never really end. How can I rationalise my workload while meeting all my responsibilities? I have tried zoning by day, by hour. I work hard and I am actually very efficient, too, if you look at how much and how many different things I do in a day. But it's never enough. And self-care feels like work.
Someone at the consultation talked about self-actualisation. I am very privileged but even I feel like that is a distant goal when I think of my daily task lists. 'Getting through' seems like the most ambitious goal I can set. Between the ten thousand things that need doing--drafting, formatting, listing, chatting, encouraging, web update, this, that and some days, most days, I want to put smiling on that list--there is no time to do the things that would replenish one's energy--painting, reading, music, daydreaming--leave alone to self-actualisation.
I start to say, when will other structural issues be resolved so we can think about this. And then I realise, if we don't think about this now, we will not be around to enjoy those gains!