Wow, I haven’t updated this blog in a long time. I’ll spare you a catch up and will just say that I’m Samantha, I’m now 36, and I’m a self-employed musicologist, private music and yoga teacher, and an adjunct music professor at universities in the NYC metro area. I live in Brooklyn with my spouse, Eric—a graphic designer and artist—and our menagerie of pets: Jules, pitbull mix; Chloe, Zoe, and Val, kittehs; Hummus & Falafel, rabbits; Staccato, Betta fish. My dream is to publish my novel and some day have one day off a week.

My academic work focuses on music and cultural studies, especially music, disability, and gender in the early modern era, particularly in England. I’m an advocate for disabled academics and a devout feminist and Episcopalian. I use she/her pronouns and I prefer to be called Samantha—unless you’re a dear friend, and then it’s Sammee. I don’t like being called Samm but if you insist, at least spell it with 2 Ms; yes, I know that’s inconsistent with how my full name is spelled, and no, I don’t care. I don’t have kids and I think it’s rude when people ask. I can’t function properly without daily morning meditation, coffee, kombucha, and yoga—in that order. 

Okay, down to the subject at hand: SELF CARE.

As a yoga teacher and former yoga studio owner, I have heard this expression thrown around a lot. I have a host of texts and emails from former employees at my yoga studio—other yoga teachers who were working for me—who used this as an excuse to cancel their regularly-scheduled classes, sometimes only a few hours in advance. In academia, my first foray into the professional world, and my primary professional identify, cancellations don’t happen—I have taught while sick many times, for fear of losing my job (not that I approve of this, but just saying). I don’t think shirking your responsibilities is self care. I can’t imagine writing to my private music and yoga clients, or to my undergraduates or my department chairperson, to tell them I wouldn’t be coming to work for reasons of self care. Ludicrous! 

So after reading all of these communications and hearing the words “self care” tossed around casually in conversation for decades, I started to wonder, WHAT IS SELF CARE?! I couldn’t figure it out. Yes, you need to put yourself first to take care of others. But surely, part of a good self care practice is knowing proper professional boundaries and making sure to agree to only do the work that you know you can perform excellently to completion. (This last one is a lesson I'm still learning; long ago, my mother told me I could do anything and I believed her, both to my credit and detriment.)

So to put a long story short, I spent the last 2 years basically working 10–16 hrs/day to keep a failing yoga studio going, closed it this past July 1st, then went on 10-day “vacation” of sorts for some time off and a conference. It was at this conference that I had a rude awakening to the reality of self care: whatever it was, I had been neglecting mine own in order to support the failing business and make ends meet. I needed to figure out how to practice self care so I could be fully present and show up for the people and work that I care about: my family and friends, furry and otherwise, my beloved private music lesson and yoga clients, my undergraduate students, my colleagues, my church, my community.

Here’s the self-care practice I’ve developed. I’m sharing it in case it helps someone else, and because it helps me to put it all down:

  1. Meditation, yoga, Pilates, walking, massage. I need a regular physical practice: it’s absolutely crucial for my physical, emotional, and spiritual well being. I’ve started every day since early July with a 5–10 min meditation and breathing practice, and I am attending yoga or Pilates classes or walking 3x’s a week. As someone prone to excess and burnout, I’m not forcing nor even encouraging myself to practice yoga in class daily. But I am doing those meditations coupled with pranayama, usually ending with alternate-nostril breathing. This really helps with my anxiety and dealing with uncomfortable feelings, stress, and worry.
  2. Therapy: I’m currently auditioning therapists to help me with working through the lingering effects of both PTSD and trauma from our apartment fire, and also childhood, teen, and early adult trauma I experienced as a bulimia and anorexia survivor. If you experience feelings of worthlessness connected to your weight and desire to control food, I highly recommend both CBT and finding a sympathetic and also motivating therapist to help you work through your issues with food and drink. 
  3. Church: I’m a member of a wonderful, progressive Episcopal church in my neighbourhood. I stopped going to church after the end of a very destructive relationship in my late 20s, but I started back up again after Trump was elected and it’s been very important for me. My new goal is to refuse to teach any clients on Sunday mornings so I’m free to go to church or take on gigs as an organist.
  4. Music practice: since opening the yoga studio, I stopped practicing as much as usual and stopped taking on church organ gigs. I’m back to all of that now--it’s wonderful.
  5. Boundaries: I have a history of people pleasing, especially surrounding work. I’ve had a policy for my private music studio since 2004, but rarely enforce it. This year, I’m purchasing scheduling software and insisting upon enforcing my policies and keeping boundaries around my working and not working hours. Mainly, I’m focusing on not teaching on Sunday mornings and not agreeing to last-minute rescheduling. 
  6. Health and wellness: I always visit my rheumatologist to receive treatment for my autoimmune diseases, but since 2016 I’ve let other wellness go, like dentist appointments, acupuncture, and massage. I really need these things to manage my anxiety and chronic pain, and I’m pledging to schedule them monthly.
  7. Daily schedule and goal setting: I bought myself another bullet journal and a gratitude journal and I’m using those to manage my daily life and goals instead of apps.
  8. Social media: I’ve resisted Facebook since early July and deleted the app from my phone. It’s been hard because I really miss that social interaction, but it helps to not be distracted and to not judge myself nor focus on FOMO nor rely too much on others for emotional support. 
  9. Fellowship: I’m trying to see friends more. I made some yoga dates with a friend and I have reached out to others via text.
  10. Internalising anxiety or externalising it productively: I’m working on sitting with comfortable feelings rather than externalising them on social media. 
All in all, it’s only been about a month, but already I’ve had an increase in happiness and decrease in anxiety and worry. I’ve even stopped dwelling on the summer slump in income and focused on productive ways to grow my self employment and avoid financial stress next summer. The true test will be putting this all into practice during the busy school year, but I’m hopeful that I’ll find a great therapist to help me with any future obstacles. 

The last piece I’m exploring is how to be truly professional in my liminal space as an adjunct professor and small business owner. I find this really difficult because I get emotionally involved in my work, since so much of what I do is teaching, which has such a pastoral component. I also know I use work and keeping busy to distract myself from anxiety and uncomfortable feelings, and that I locate most of my self worth in my work. This is something I’d like to explore and improve upon in the future.

Namaste and thanks for reading,

Samantha. Xo 


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