For the most part, my allegiance to "self-care" is somewhat akin to my childhood commitment to vegetarianism: nonexistent-until-convenient. The theme is contingency.
Consider my wellness methodology: In bouts of work-related anxiety, I’ll remember to exfoliate for the first time in months, before plastering my face with single-use sheet masks. When particularly frantic about the potential extinction of bees, I’ll clean my room, purging my drawers of their least desirable contents before schlepping duffel bags of discarded goods to local thrift stores. To you, these may sound like evasion tactics. And perhaps they are. But for me, however impractical, they act as a balm — a way of draining impurities. They’re efficient — they rinse me out. I like the neatness of it.
While traditional Instagram-verified #wellness comes tinted pink and swaddled in generically feminine “girl boss” tissue paper, Jake, my partner of 3 years, is often better at what we call “self-care.” For him, it’s less about K-beauty serums and more about his capacity to listen to his own body (I struggle with this, due to the very rude, vocal peanut gallery loitering in my brain).
So to assuage my editor — and also my mother, who would like me to sleep more — I vowed to spend five days living according to his principles of self-care in the hopes of bettering myself — or rather, becoming #well.
Health & Fitness
Often, frequent exercisers are relegated to one of two categories: those who run and those who do not. I happen to fall in the former category. While I’d rather die than set foot inside of a spin class (don’t ask me about Pilates), there are few things I find more cathartic than running. I’m at my most calm whilst in motion.
That said, as it gets colder, my devotion to morning runs dwindles. By November, even while bundled, running across Brooklyn at 7 a.m. typically means that I will not feel my fingers until 45 minutes after I’ve returned (which, as you can imagine, can be quite the hinderance). At the same time, forgoing my morning run often makes me feel simultaneously sleepier and more frantic.
Enter: Jake. I am genuinely unsure that he has ever been inside of a gym. That said, his job demands that he be active constantly. As a camera operator on film sets, he spends the vast majority of his days on his feet, guiding a (heavy) camera from location to location. Rather than rely on regimented exercise, he spends 12-hour periods with his body actively engaged. When he’s not on sets, he edits footage standing up (I mean it), he makes time for frequent walks (wild, right?), and he maintains that being outside — and thus steering clear of, however briefly, the blue-lit toxins permeating through our screens — is essential.
In service of adopting Jake’s approach to so-called “fitness,” I swapped my standard office shell for a set of Far-Infrared Cuddl Duds layers, promising myself at least two outdoor walks during the day and another before dinner time.
In spite of the fact that I am an unabashed weenie about the cold, I still seem to be incapable of dressing appropriately for the weather. While in motion, however, dressed properly for the seasonal conditions, I found these walks to be strangely soothing (the Cuddl Duds site explains that the base layers are built of magic ceramic fibers designed to help enhance circulation...so I could still feel my feet at the end of the walk). To be honest, vitamin D is a miracle drug — even in short bursts. Wandering outdoors between the end of the workday and an evening meal served as a book end — a way of helping my brain to exit its more efficient, professional state in favor of a steadier, off-duty cadence.
That’s one point for Jake’s anti-fitness fitness routine.
Gently put, I'm not an amazing cook. This is not a disclaimer posited to allow me to sidestep the responsibility of cooking, but rather, a truth. You see, I tend to believe I know better than most recipes — that more salt, or less onion, and just a bit more tomato sauce will certainly elevate whatever fare I’ve committed myself to concocting (what an extraordinary palate I have!). But as it turns out, that's not how cooking works. And thus, time and produce are once again wasted.
On the contrary, I love kitchens. I love to be in kitchens, in particular, when other people are cooking. In fact, I relish my proximity to someone like Jake in large part for both his commitment and his deftness in matters of the culinary arts. Much like early evening walks, he finds the rote acts of chopping and seasoning to be, well, healing. Not in the $58-guided-meditation-to-the-drone-of-whale-speak kind of way, but more so, in the way a sitcom can soothe at the end of a frenzied afternoon. It’s something to do — a motion — that allows him to switch his brain to a steadier circuit.
For his sake, I am, fortunately, a halfway decent sous chef (this task does not offer me the freedom to creative direct). But when we’re not together, I’m a pretty complacent cereal-for-dinner kind of girl. So — per the demands of this assignment — I attempted a Sunday meal prep, which involved cooking a massive quantity of salmon in salt, lemon, and butter, setting a portion aside for lunchtime salads to be distributed amongst food storage containers, and saving the remainder for two night’s worth of dinner: one with couscous and sautéed zucchini and the other with rice, cucumbers, and a miso glaze.
In the interest of teaching a new dog old tricks (I’m the new dog; the old trick is culinary self-sustenance), I vowed to actually follow the recipes — before determining that nobody who writes recipes uses enough salt. The following Monday (and Tuesday), I left my lunch at home, and on Wednesday, my container spilled open, lining the bottom of a tote bag I will not soon be using as it has now been marinated in salmon juice. On the one day I managed to actually transport my lunch all the way to work, pizza was served at an editorial meeting.
In short, I continue to admire Jake’s commitment to culinary creativity — and I actively enjoy reaping the benefits — but I find the act of doing dishes far more cathartic than that of preparing food. And for this reason, we complement each other. Best that we leave it at that.
Naturally, Jake and I do not share beauty routines. I shower in the morning and he at night. I spend a fairly committed amount of time selecting each day’s outfit, while often, departing at the crack of dawn for early film call times, he dresses in the dark. I generally wash my face and cake on moisturizer, while he opts for the occasional beard oil come winter when dry skin is manifold. I wear full-fledged, button-up pajama sets to bed (for the novelty), while he skews toward briefs and T-shirts. I realize this genders us in a very boring, established way, but I truly love pajama sets.
Let it be known: Sleeping in briefs is definitively comfortable, but they will not soon dethrone my standard nighttime ensembles. Beyond that, I tried showering at night, which, while enjoyable, did not do my hair any services. As for the beard oil — I decided to try it, in place of a moisturizer, in the hopes that it might cause me to grow scales or a horn (either would guarantee that this story go viral). Much to my dismay, nothing happened. My face was abnormally shiny. Would not do again.
Mind & Spirituality
I wouldn’t describe either one of us as Zen, per se. But in terms of our mental well-being, Jake and I have different M.O.s. While I suffer from diagnosed insomnia, Jake sleeps well — and hard. In place of prescriptions, he relies on CBD and the occasional late-night whiskey cocktail — both for stress and for sleep. To unwind, I read, while he believes movies to be the ultimate release (as well as the premiere form of storytelling).
For editorial purposes, I determined to be a good sport. So at the end of the week, following a requisite walk, we agreed to watch a movie — I layered in a Cuddl Duds set and he in the mohair sweater that he insists on wearing every time we leave the house, come winter. I made old-fashioneds — followed the recipe even. I didn’t check my phone or talk over the narration when I felt I had quippy commentary to share (as I usually do). And admittedly, I enjoyed the movie. Or rather, “film.”
No, I didn’t sleep all the way through the night — but nevertheless, I felt a newfound measure of calm.