have you read the five love languages? it was all the rage when it first came out. i read the book but i recently retook the profile quiz to refresh my memory on what my love languages are. in case you aren’t familiar, the five languages identified in the book are acts of service, physical touch, quality time, receiving gifts, and words of affirmation. my top love languages are acts of service, quality time, and words of affirmation. they are a seriously close tie. i doubt that would be a surprise to anyone in close relationship with me.
why am i talking about love languages in a post about sacred self care? because you have to understand certain things about yourself in order to know what you need to care for yourself. when i think about the ways i show my love and appreciation for the people in my life, it boils down to me being with them, doing things that make their lives easier, and reminding them how awesome and amazing they are on a regular basis. by definition, this is also how i like to be loved. it warms my heart when people affirm me, make time to hang out even when we aren’t doing anything special, and recognize when i need a hand to tackle some of the things on my plate. talk about swoon!
as you can imagine, my expressions of love can be draining. all expressions of love can be draining because they require you to give of yourself to others. think of your favorite coffee or tea cup and imagine it being full of love. and then imagine all the ways you pour that love out on others throughout the course of the day, week, month, or year. that’s a lot of love being poured out. what happens when that cup is empty?
practicing sacred self care helps you keep that cup of love filled to overflowing so it never runs out. it’s not magic. in fact, it’s actually work to care for yourself. but it’s the most self-less act of love you can express. i know that goes against the image of love we have adopted in our culture. love means sacrificing yourself completely to those in your life. in many instances, it equates to making yourself a martyr so everyone knows how deeply you love those around you. listen, no one asked you to be a martyr. in fact, it’s far more harmful for those in your life than you realize.
i was raised by a single mom and i saw her sacrifice everything for us to have what we needed. we were her life. she was solely responsible for sheltering, feeding, clothing, and educating the three of us. and because she was a great mom, she wanted us to also experience some semblance of a normal childhood. that meant activities. if she wasn’t running us here or there, she was arranging for us to be run here or there. i don’t recall too many times i saw her do things just for herself. and without knowing it, i adopted much of that behavior.
for black women, it’s kind of par for the course. we are supposed to be strong black women who can do it all and bare the weight of our community on our shoulders. the older i get, the more i want that lie exposed. we cannot be all things to all people. ain’t nobody got time for that. and it doesn’t endear you to anyone. what most likely happens, is you resent the people you sacrificed so much for because they can’t show enough appreciation to you for doing it. but, guess what? they never asked you to do it in the first place. do you see how jacked up that is? and yet, we actively encourage a love that says i do for you because i love you so you should be grateful to me because i sacrificed so much for you out of love. gah! my head is spinning.
there is so much to unlearn. there is so much damage to repair. there is so much healing that needs to take place. the best place to start is with yourself. so, recognizing how you both like to show and receive love is important. feel free to take the five love languages quiz if you’re curious about your top love language. this is where sacred self care enters the equation. it is a radical doctrine that says you must be a good steward of the temple you’ve been given. i want you to know that like sway, i ain’t got the answers. i can only tell you what works for me. i can share my process in hopes that it helps you unlock what you need to best care for yourself, your soul, so you can keep your cup filled to overflowing.
i have only recently (like within the last two years) really identified what feeds my soul. many of these things i’ve been doing my entire life because they refresh me. i just didn’t know the value of them. some of these things are entirely new to me and i continue to explore new ways of caring for myself. this is not a destination. it’s a journey. and like all journeys, it begins with a simple yes to getting started. depending on where you are in life, giving yourself permission to even say yes to loving yourself might be radical. but i have faith in you. i know you can do it. and you’re more than worth it. so let’s do this together! here is a look at my personal sacred self care toolkit.
words mean things
i am a journaler. it started back in childhood with a diary that i poured my heart into. i still have many of them. they were filled with terrible love poems, middle school shenanigans, disappointments, angry manifestos, master plans for success, and confessions of teen angst. you know, the usual. no matter what i was feeling, it was safe to write it out in my journal. i still follow this practice. i buy new journals all the time and fill their pages with everything that floods my thoughts. somethings are so private i hope they never see the light of day. other things are openly shared in person, here on this blog, or in other forms of communication. the practice of journaling allows me to speak without judgment, self-editing, or the need to get it right. in my journals, i just am. there is freedom to express myself in ways i never can otherwise. words mean things and for me, journaling is both a way to release pain and frustration and speak life over myself.
dancing in the rain
dance is one of those artistic expressions that circumvents the brain and connects directly to the heart and soul. it allows you to express things and feel things that go beyond the power of words. as a writer, it’s hard to think of times when words don’t suffice. and yet, there are some days when the only thing i can do is dance it out. you’ve probably heard the expression, dance like no one is watching. for me, there is a level of freedom that i experience through dance that allows me to leave everything behind and just be. my body has a mind of its own and i don’t have to think or plan, i just move. sometimes that movement makes sense, sometimes it doesn’t. sometimes it looks poetic, sometimes it doesn’t. but it is always freeing. when i’m feeling completely overwhelmed by life, i can put on some music and dance it out. many times, before i can even speak to the storms in my life, i have to dance in the rain.
the voice of god walked through the garden in the cool of the day
the most famous garden of all time is the garden of eden. i’ve often imagined what it must have looked like. seriously, what kind of fruit do you bear when god is your master gardener? i’m a life-long gardener. i started as a child under the tutelage of my great-grandmother florida. we called her granny. you should know that granny was my absolute favorite person in the world. she scared the crap out of me sometimes because she was a healer and that didn’t align with our southern baptist sensibilities. but i overloved her. she taught me the art of growing food and connecting with nature. her entire backyard was a garden and we spent many hours during the summer working the garden together. when i wasn’t gardening, i was LARPing indiana jones with my brothers. the garden is a place where i connect with the spirit of earth, commune with god and recharge my creativity. nature is an expression of god’s love for us and his creative power. when i’m feeling drained of my creativity, or blocked in any way, i make my way to the garden. there is something about studying plants – the colors, structures of the leaves, symmetry of the fruit, and even the cycle of growth – that reminds me i’m not an accident. my life is not without purpose. and there are no limits to what i can do or dream.
take me to the water
most people express some kind of religious-like connection to water. there are many reasons for this i’m sure. i think the fact that we’re made of 70 percent water might be a big piece of this. i could be wrong. i know, it’s rare, but it does happen. either way, water is magic for me. whether i’m sitting by the banks of a river, lake, or even at the ocean’s shore, the cadence of the waves rising and falling, crashing into each other before rolling away puts my mind at ease. when in close proximity to water, i am lulled into a meditative state that allows me to be still and hear from god. lately, i’ve been enjoying this same state in my home through the incorporation of mineral baths. three times a week, i start my morning with a mineral bubble bath, incense, sacred playlist, and quiet time with god. i cannot tell you how rich that time has been. i encounter the holy spirit there and she gives me all these juicy downloads for my life, family, and friends. and each time i exit the bath, i feel as though i’ve left behind something that needed to be shed. the playlist changes based on what has been calling out to me that week and i use minerals and oils that address the areas that i’m confronting during that time. it’s been an amazing time of connecting with spirit and self so my feminine energy flourishes in my very male-dominant world.
the sisterhood force is strong with this one
sisterhood is one of those words that gets a very bad rep. so much of pop culture furthers the false narrative that women can’t be supportive friends. to hear hollyweird tell it, we’re jealous and envious of each other, we sabotage each other every chance we get, and we can’t get along to save our lives. none of this is true of course, but that doesn’t stop the movies and tv shows from finding their way to our screens. enough is enough. i am blessed to have some wonderful friendships with truly amazing women. and i’m a better person because of it. i’m grateful for my sisterhood from each stage of my life. my childhood sisters hold me down and lift me up. i couldn’t imagine my life without my college sisters. i belong to the largest and greatest sisterhood in the entire universe (oo-oop) and can call some of the most powerful and accomplished women in history my sorors. i have been mentored by dynamic women who push me to be my best. i mentor some dynamic women who continue to impress me with their drive and accomplishments. i have the privilege of being ministered to by four outstanding women pastors regularly. i was adopted by the best big sisters who offer advice and council when i need it. i was loved by a sister-in-law who made me feel like i was a blood relative. my community of sisters near and far is unmatched by any as far as i’m concerned. in these spaces, i am both affirmed and empowered. i am celebrated and challenged. cultivating space for sisterhood to thrive has been one of the most important practices during this season of my life. i love my male friends and family and they are invaluable in my life. but there is nothing like the power of sisterhood.
so, this is the anatomy of my sacred self-care toolkit. each of these components has allowed me to find rest when i feel beaten down by life. i break them out when i need to check in with what the holy spirit is saying to me, need help to wrestle with decisions i need to make, require time to be away from everyone and everything, or just need to be loved on because stuff sucks. but when i actively use the tools in my kit, i keep my cup overflowing with love and i’m able to give out of a place of abundance rather than lack. i would love to hear what you include in your sacred self care toolkit. leave it in the comments!