This article is part of the Mercury's 2020 all-digital Queer Week coverage.
Portland, you’ve been doing a lot lately. You’ve been protesting. You’ve been donating. You’ve been researching. You’ve been having uncomfortable conversations about racism and white supremacy. You’ve been fighting the coronavirus. You’ve been social distancing. You’ve been overwhelmed by information—new and old—on social media.
While the coronavirus pandemic and the racism pandemic both require an urgent response, remember that it’ll be a long road to freedom for all Black people, especially Black queer and Black trans people. I encourage white folk (including those in the LGBTQ+ community) to make self-care part of their resistance effort, and to remember that self care is work—self work. It should not be used to excuse yourself from anti-racism activism or education. Instead, look at it as an opportunity to refuel your anti-racist efforts. (For more on that, please read Anna Borges’ recent piece in SELF: “White People, We Need to Talk About Self Care.")
As a Black, mixed-race pansexual femme who’s also a card-carrying empath, here are six things that continue to feed my soul during these uncertain, terrifying, yet strangely inspiring times.
Supporting Black or POC-Owned Self Care Businesses
To combat the gentrification of the phrase and concept of “self care,” and the perceived predominant whiteness of the health and wellness industry, supporting a Black- or Indigenous-owned business in this sector could be healing for more than just you. Check out the Mercatus Collective, where you can find an exhaustive list of POC-owned local businesses to patronize. You can search by community or industry, and find a plethora of yogis, botanical skincare lines, naturopathic practitioners, and so much more.
A few years ago, I decided to start making my home into my sanctuary. Despite the fact that I’m a renter, I was sick of waiting to turn my domicile into a place of peace, love, and joy. I began collecting female Buddha statues because of the calmness her image inspires. I have continued adding to my houseplant collection over the last five years (and creating new plants/decorations via water propagation). Most recently, I purchased a tabletop fountain from LampsPlus.com, so that now my house sounds as serene as a dermatologist’s office. With shelter-at-home orders in full effect until at least June 19, all those investments into my sacred space are paying off.
Yoga and Meditation
During the stay-at-home order, many (including myself) have committed themselves to practicing yoga daily. My personal jam has been choosing from one of the many free videos from Yoga with Adriene on YouTube. Whether you need courage for protesting, a mood elevator, guided meditation, healing for targeted physical pain, or a heart-opening practice, I assure you Adriene has a free video for the occasion. After practicing breathwork and spinal alignment day after day, these yoga methods also come in handy even when you’re away from the mat—for calming anxiety, stress, and much more.
Help Something Grow
When you zhuzh up your front yard and/or garden, it adds value to your neighborhood ecosystem, and your daily walk. In addition to making your space smell and look better, gardening creates a sense of internal peace, accomplishment, and self-sufficiency.
The industrial agriculture industry would like you to think that growing your own food is much harder than it is, when in fact growing food, herbs, and medicinal plants from seed is instinctual. Alternately, head on over to the Portland Nursery—which, thank goodness, is considered an essential business—to grab some vegetable starts, or a new houseplant to nurture. Turning your apartment/house into an urban jungle could be the thing that saves your sanity while social distancing.
While nothing gets me fired up to act like a hard-hitting documentary, it’s good to also have an arsenal of media that centers minorities with humanity, encourages vulnerability, and helps you process your own experiences with lightness and humor.
If you can’t afford therapy, I highly recommend watching Rebecca Sugar’s Steven Universe (Hulu, HBO Max, Cartoon Network), perhaps the most thoughtful, progressive, and touching cartoon ever made. Steven is half human and half gem—a powerful alien species from another planet. Each gem form is named after precious stones and socially stratified by the powers that be: the Diamonds. The animated coming-of-age story follows its titular character as he discovers his family history and learns how to yield his magic powers while repeatedly helping to save his friends, Beach City, and Planet Earth from destruction.
The show is funny, emotionally poignant, and uniquely portrays a beautiful array of femme, nonbinary, and transgender identities, in addition to diverse body types and family structures. Not to mention, the music is feel-good fantastic!
Other shows that encourage self-work and self-care: Queer Eye (Netflix), Dog Whisperer with Cesar Millan (Disney+), and Jada Pinkett-Smith’s Red Table Talk (Facebook Watch), to name a few. Also, listen to Prince’s albums. Listen to Janelle Monae. Listen to Blossom. Listen to KayelaJ. Listen to Maarquii. Listen to Dodgr.
Whenever I’m feeling exceedingly annoyed or emotional (which is quite often nowadays), whining about my feelings via pen on paper—even when I don’t understand what my feelings are—always seems to help me feel centered and better equipped to deal with the current state of affairs. It also helps me to not project my angst onto my partner, roommate, or pets.