(broad)ject self #5: Self-Care When...You've Lost Yourself

Wednesday afternoon saw me slumped in my desk chair, struggling mightily to focus on the task at hand. Monday night’s election results (as well as Monday night’s workout, thanks NTC Stress Slammer) really took it out of me and I was still dragging. A meeting started up in the conference room behind me and I could hear well enough that it was distracting, so in went the earphones. I’m a happy Rdio customer, so I booted up a playlist and got back to work. A few songs in, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ ‘Downtown’ started and I contemplated skipping it, as I usually did in the past, but for whatever reason I let it play on. I had heard the song before, but for some reason I really heard it this time. There’s this moment at 1:52 of the song where the hook crescendos for the first time and my heart just burst with joy. I listened to the song on repeat. Then I watched the music video. Then I watched the live performance from this year’s MTV VMAs. Then I bought the song on iTunes.

Part of the reason the song filled me with so much joy was that it brought back this really specific memory from when I was a kid. It was after school, my parents and brother and I were all in the living room, and we were listening to ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ on repeat (or as repeat as you can with an LP) while my brother and I danced around and sang along. The guest artist on ‘Downtown’ who performs the amazing hook is Eric Nally of a band named Foxy Shazam, and he’s known for his Freddie Mercury like pipes and antics, so it was no surprise my brain made the connection.

Here’s something even my closest friends may not know about me: if I could be anything in the world when I grow up, it would be a professional lip synch-er. There is nothing that makes me happier than jamming around my house or in the car, lip synching to my favourite tunes with gusto. I’ve always been involved in music. Violin, piano, voice, and theory lessons. Choirs. Musical theatre camps. Various musical endeavors in high school including our yearly ‘Rock Show’ and musicals. But I was never going to be a professional musician, or singer, and as the years wore on it stopped being a part of me.

I never purposely gave up my love for listening to pop hits and musical theatre shows on 11 and “singing” alone, I just stopped having the chance to do it. Musical tastes aren’t something David and I share, although one of the early special moments in our relationship was his insisting I perform computer karaoke to Taylor Swift’s ‘Love Story’ and him thinking I was great. Unfortunately, life gets in the way, what with work and living arrangements and being conscious of noise and neighbours. David and I moved in together, and years later we moved in with his mother, and suddenly I can count the number of times I have been alone in my own home over the last year on one hand. I also can’t multi-task with music that has vocals, so I can’t have it on in the background while I read or work.

After I listened to ‘Downtown’ a few times on the train home, I started queueing up other songs that brought me similar joy. A little Queen, some Meatloaf, some Celine Dion. I got home energized and feeling myself in a way that I hadn’t felt in a long time. And all it had cost me was an hour of potentially embarrassing myself by lip synching on the GO train. Last week I talked about using my ‘fringe hour’s on the GO train better and I think listening to music that brings me joy is going to go on that list of important tasks. Also, I need to make more time for karaoke.

We’ve all given up things that bring us childlike joy for all kinds of reasons. Maybe we don’t have time. Maybe we’re embarrassed. Or maybe we just forgot how that thing made us feel. But an essential part of self-care has to be allowing ourselves to feel that pure joy as often as humanly possible. What if you don’t know what brings you joy? Well, I think looking back to childhood moments of pure happiness is a good place to start. It could also be when you had freedom for the first time, whether that was in university or as a young adult.

That moment on Wednesday was like rediscovering a part of myself that I hadn’t realized I’d lost. I feel more myself this week than I have in a long time. And that feeling is going to help me be more successful at work, more motivated to get shit done at home, and a better fiancée, daughter, and friend.

I think you know what your homework this week is. What brings you pure joy? When was the last time you did that thing that makes you feel it? And how can you make time this week to feel that way as much as possible? Do it, feel it, and then tell me all about it, pretty please.

Self-caringly yours,