My Guide to Personal Self Care and Inner Revolution

Nursing Baby Vee 

Nursing Baby Vee 

1:43am Sun Sept 13th 2015 - Let me get right to it - I haven’t been taking care of myself. I find myself rushing more and more and the aches in my back are returning. I still get in my daily shower but it’s been almost a week since I’ve had a Spa Shower and took my sweet, precious time. I find myself Stress Cleaning + Tidying rather than drawing, painting, writing or darning. If I’m going to be up at 3am after a night feeding, I’d rather make art than clean, though cleaning (i.e. putting things away and sweeping) is extremely satisfying for some part of my brain. I see now how easy it is to not take care of myself. Self care is already challenging and even more so when you have a small mammal creature dressed in human baby clothes to care for - but why? Because they are both work. Work can be fun, work can be a lot of things but it is still work. In the midst of one of my late night/early morning Tidying Sessions, I started this: My Guide to My Personal Self Care and Inner Revolution:

Morning exercises to Journey's "Don't Stop Believing!" 

Morning exercises to Journey's "Don't Stop Believing!" 

1. In order to maintain my sanity, do my self care and put the work into unconditionally loving myself every single day, I must take my Daily Shower. This is about being immersed in hot water. I get on my hands and knees and become that laboring animal again.

2. When I get out, I use the large orange towel with suns on it, gifted to me by DK. This is the one I labored on in the tub channeling the whales, cats, orangutans and rats and birthing people throughout time, remembering that they're always with me, and reminded each time that they are my only religion.

3. When I wake up and before I go to bed, I do my 3 minute floor exercise (lying on my body pillow with my arms bent and raised at my sides) to strengthen my chest cavity whilst singing along to Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” and petting the cat-baby. I quickly learned that raising a baby is all about creative multitasking. At night, however, I prefer to listen to whale sounds.

Gratitude Postcard for Aijung, Watercolor on cardboard, 4" x 5.5"

Gratitude Postcard for Aijung, Watercolor on cardboard, 4" x 5.5"

4. Put D’Angelo’s “Untitled (How Does it Feel)” on repeat and write, write, WRITE. Best to write after I’ve been healed by a Spa Shower so the words can flow out though it doesn’t always work that way. My friend, B, coined my style as “Soul Writing” which sounds more complimentary than how I think of it - Mind Vomit.

5. When Vee nurses, paint.

6. When Vee nurses, write.

7. Before dinner, when Vee nurses, COLOR in a coloring book. No thought required.

8. Remember to pee, poop, listen to my body, do not put off having to go to the bathroom when I'm at home especially when I'm feeding Vee or he needs me.

9. Fluids, liquids - drink them!! Especially coconut water and eating watermelon - electrolytes are real and are important!! But don’t ask me what they actually are.

10. Food and eating are important!!

11. No electronics while eating meals together with D.

12. NO (more) STRESS CLEANING. I don't do that shit any more because there are other ways to dismantle my anxiety and give myself the feeling that I have control in my life. I ask myself all the time now Is this a need or a want? Wants, though also important, can wait and only you can do you!

13. Feeding my friendships and relationships through social media, texting, phone calls, emails, postcards, letters, handmade gifts and HANGING OUT IN PERSON.

My local swimming pool.

My local swimming pool.

14. SWIMMING. Lakes are ideal and so is the ocean. I will, however, accept a pool. As of Wednesday, I'm astronautical again. The weightlessness of swimming in water reminds me of space, outer space. A pregnant space traveler not entirely certain of the future. There's excitement and fear. The Fear of the Unknown is powerful but now I know what it can mean to labor and birth. It’s not pleasant though it’s not supposed to be. It's a rite of passage for me, for many women and human beings and creatures of this earth, and out of the fire we step a warrior mother, a parenting warrior survivor.

15. NATURE. We’re going to sit in it today.  

16. Express gratitude through personally written, empathetic responses to people's messages to me, painting Gratitude Postcards (and mailing them) and small paintings on cardboard.

17. Breathing, deep breathing. If pregnancy is a marathon, what is life? Pace yourself! And breathe.

Goddess shrine and Little Lentil's memory box. 

Goddess shrine and Little Lentil's memory box. 

18. Cuddling baby, cuddling D and cuddling our cat-baby - sometimes all at the same time!  

19. FORGIVE MYSELF. Forgive myself every day, all throughout the day. Your mind is powerful. Repeat, “Forgiveness is coming to me easily and effortlessly.” (Creative Visualization by Shakti Gawain) Eventually, it will. I can also say Compassion is coming to me easily and effortlessly and I do.    

20. RELEASE GUILT through Daily Showers, writing, drawing, painting, ceramics, exercising - whatever feels healing is Releasing Guilt.

Our cat-baby knows how to sleep! 

Our cat-baby knows how to sleep! 

21. Go to SLEEP at 9:30 or 10:30pm with the baby and then...

22. Get up at 6 or 6:30am!  

Sex and masturbation, while vital to happy and contented living, is not on this list. I’m ok and not ok with that. I’m not doing the vast majority of the things on this list though I’m trying. I’m also quite happy with not being pregnant so if Vee acts as some kind of natural birth control I’M OK WITH THAT.

One last thing! I’m in love with this paragraph from Natural Health after Birth: The Complete Guide to Postpartum Wellness by Aviva Jill Romm: “This chapter is for your pleasure. Your pleasure and peace are the root, rock, and center of what you bring to your family. When you feel rested and replenished, you glow from the core of your being, and this glow spreads warmth and comfort to those around you. When you feel nourished, you are better able to nourish those around you. When your cup is empty, you have little to share; when your cup is full, it runs over to fill those around you. Why nurture yourself? Jennifer Louden puts it well in her guide to women’s nurturing, The Woman's Comfort Book: ‘Because self-nurturing is survival. Women take care of others every day. But how often do we turn our wonderful nurturing ability toward ourselves?...When we nurture others from a place of fullness, we feel renewed instead of taken advantage of. And they feel renewed, too, instead of guilty. We have something precious to give others when we have been comforting and caring for ourselves and building up self-love.’ And as Rabbi Hillel once said, ‘You have a solemn obligation to take care of yourself because you never know when the world will need you.’“ (P.213) 

And now…on to my day/night of Unconditional Self Love and Celebration!

(Editor's note: The writing, editing and posting of this took over a week because PARENTHOOD.) 

It Takes a Village: The Courage to Ask for Help

My 13th bowling birthday party: Me, Tak & Jazzy J (June 1995)

My 13th bowling birthday party: Me, Tak & Jazzy J (June 1995)

August 17, 2015 - I was raised by a village. When I was 6 years old, my dad moved back to Trinidad and my mom raised me as a single parent. That was the same year we joined The Community Church of New York, a Unitarian Universalist congregation. Previously we attended The Riverside Church where I was also baptized. To explain what UU is...it’s basically the everything bagel of religions. We have Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Wiccans, Atheists, Agnostics - everyone is welcome. Each UU congregation is different - some are more traditionally religious than others. Mine was very liberal and progressive but I wouldn’t describe it as radical. Located in Murray Hill, it’s still a great, diverse place to raise your kids. The main Hall of Worship is very traditional with cushioned seats bolted to the floor in set pews with a stage at the front where ministers make announcements and preach and are flanked by busts of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Margaret Sanger, Albert Schweitzer and Mahatma Ghandi as well as banners representing major religions from around the world. 

Wearing my UU chalice in the Spring of 1996

Wearing my UU chalice in the Spring of 1996

When I was 13, it was time for me to go through my Coming-Of-Age ceremony. Although I had attended church school (and other activities and outings) regularly from the age of 6, I was the only 13-year-old at my church so I went up to Fourth Unitarian Universalist Society, near Central Park. I knew about this “Society” because I was in middle school with one of member’s sons, J, who was also good friends with my mom. Later we discovered a photo of us at around age 3 or 4 at church school at Riverside Church before our moms had met. At Fourth UU, the pews were moveable and often placed in a circle for worship. It was a smaller congregation and had a homier vibe. Other non-UU kids were excited to be able to play basketball there and other fun things not typically associated with church.

My graduation from 8th grade: Grampy + Rev. Marjorie Bowens-Wheatley, my mentor (June 1996)

My graduation from 8th grade: Grampy + Rev. Marjorie Bowens-Wheatley, my mentor (June 1996)

Our Coming-Of-Age group had 2, sometimes 3 girls and 3 boys. We had two group leaders, and every Sunday we would all meet to talk about our belief system and other religions and white privilege and all the sorts of things a “hippie church” would have you discuss as you enter “adulthood.” Sometimes we met at Fourth UU, sometimes at All Souls (a really God-centric, traditional, large and diverse UU church even further uptown). Throughout the year we went on "Cons," mini sleep-away conferences for Teen UUs in NJ and Upstate NY. Typically everyone smoked cigarettes except for those kids from NYC. We also each had a personal mentor we met with to discuss our belief system/credo. Mine was Rev. Marjorie Bowens-Wheatley who became my friend and even gave me her bible from seminary which I have yet to read. At the end of the year, the boys and girls were split up for our rite of passage ceremonies. These were created by us, our mentors and our families. The boys stayed at Fourth UU and did things like get their feet washed by their mentors. The girls, on the other hand, had what felt like a real adventure.

Maine, Summer 1996

Maine, Summer 1996

We went Upstate (or somewhere in "the country"), and it was beautiful. It was me and E, our mothers, her mentor (mine couldn’t make it) as well as one of the boy’s moms who was going to lead us in a Wiccan ceremony. It was so green and lovely and there was a wandering cow roaming about. At night, we all sat around a fire and made clay sculptures of our fears and later went to the pond and symbolically and literally threw them away. We also danced around a fire to the moon and the goddess. The moon was so big that night. In our separate tents, E and I were to write our feelings, hopes and dreams. I wrote, "When I am faced with a problem, I either react in two different ways. Depending on the challenge, I may prove that I am fearless and dispose of the problem. Other times I will look for someone else (my mother) to get rid of the problem." (My Coming-Of-Age Journal, 6/1/96) I was by myself a good long while until I found a tick and got my mom to get rid of it. When we got back to the city, there was a party, full of women, at the boy’s mom’s apartment where we were given gifts and were celebrated. I remember always wishing that I had gotten the “Clueless” DVD gift instead of “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure.” Later on we each wrote up and read our Credos to our congregations during a special church service. 

There are many other instances of my UU community village raising me on overnight nature retreats, Special Friend Sundays, marches, parties, church school activities and play dates outside of church. They are actually too numerous to list!

Little Lentil Landscapes II: The Shame of Womanhood, Watercolor, 12" x 16"  May 2014

After I had the miscarriage last April, although at first I was ashamed, at the first sight of the blood, that D and I had told over 100 people we were pregnant at 8 weeks and then lost the baby at 10 weeks, I was relieved. From the email I sent out, people wrote back their condolences. For those that wrote those 7 key words - Let me know how I can help - I wrote back. We sat a radical Shiva for the next two weeks. Friends brought groceries and dinner and sat with me in groups, one on one. I shared variations of my radical miscarriage story and they in turn would share theirs, if they had one. Some had many. Others knew they just wanted to feel with me and be with me even if they couldn’t personally relate to having a pregnancy loss. Friends appreciated being told how they could help and that there was something they could actually do to provide the support that I wanted. The months that followed, when the visits stopped, were particularly difficult as I fell into a postpartum depression until the end of November when I found out I was pregnant with V. Even though I was pregnant with our Rainbow Baby, feelings and emotions are complicated.

Little Landscape I, Watercolor, 11" x 14" May 2014

I knew with this birth/labor/postpartum I would need help. I made an announcement at rehearsal, my radical community village, which I’m so blessed to have and be apart of, requesting help. I started to make a list of people who I felt comfortable with coming and helping out as well as the kinds of food I’d like to eat. The three godparents, D, A & J went above and beyond! Not only did they help us to purge and make this into a home and me, to finally feel like a human being at home, they organized and hosted the baby shower. After D (the papa bear), they were the first ones to arrive and help me labor, feed me, give me sips of coconut water and then take care of all three of us after the birth by making us meals, washing the dishes, sweeping, cleaning up the kitchen and eating areas, shopping for groceries, doing the laundry, and folding the laundry besides entertaining us with songs, music and friendship. D (papa bear) was also doing so many of these things and was in charge of my placenta smoothies (which I miss so much). They stayed from Thursday when I went into the "early" labor until Monday morning (V was born Friday morning).

Little Lentil Landscapes III, Watercolor, 12" x 16" May 2014

A has been in charge of a (short) list of some friends to help us out and created a schedule for visits, food drop offs, etc. The last few days (and week) have made me see that I need to tap into my Courage Reserves and put this Big Ask out there: Hello Village, will you please help us? Someday we will need babysitters but right now, if you live in NYC and are willing and available, are you able to: drop a meal off, do a load of laundry or pick up some light groceries? If you can do one or more things either one time or on a weekly or monthly basis, please send me an email and let me know (I’ll also put you in touch with A. to add you to the roster of helpers). If you’d rather buy us something, our registry is going to be open indefinitely with things that we need and would be so appreciated.

dawn@dslookkin.com

THANK YOU SO MUCH.

xo

New Old Friends

I thought it was time to dedicate a post to all the new friends I've been meeting and making in the past four days (and some longer than that). To new friends everywhere - remember, a friend is first a stranger.

Thank you to:

Steven, who owns + runs an antique vintage art glass + Scandinavian ceramics neighborhood shop/installation on Hudson that's been there for 17 years (!), his shop that I've walked past many times, but this time I went in, who, after talking about my love of elephants and inquiring about them (investments someday to be mine!), gave me this tiny, heavy elephant which I now carry in my pocket every day. 

my little friend

my little friend

Sarah, who recently joined the choir, with whom I've begun an email-pen-pal-writing-adventure before even having spoken in person, and then only speaking for less than two minutes a week or so ago, who herself is an incredibly creative, brave + talented writer + person and inspires me with her writing and thoughts and feelings.

Succulent has a new home with new friends!

Succulent has a new home with new friends!

Nicole the artist (+ baker + florist), at the flower shop on Hudson (near Perry) who, whilst I was checking out the succulent air plants (and subsequently purchased one), gave me some flowers after I told her my story which I then gave to Rita whose birthday we were celebrating later that day.

Ranger Bob who was sprinkling seeds on a square of grass + tree, "thumbelina park", on 25th St & 8th Ave as I was bicycling by, one of those divider green squares, who, after I asked what he was doing and showed an interest, appointed me on the spot to Ranger Dawn by us holding up our right hands and repeating "I do solemnly swear to do whatever the hell I can to make this into a park".

           subway elephante

           subway elephante

(Another) Steven, the photographer, on the subway ride home from Boozy Birthday Brooklyn with Louise + Ali (+ Brook!), who asked what I was painting (photo at right) and with whom I had a swift ride home due to pleasant + friendly conversation.

Amy, who I met possibly one or even two years ago at The Brooklyn Free Store, and met again at a party on Saturday night and she remembered me and thought it was serendipitous we should meet again because after I told her my story, told me that she is curating her first art show (which is extremely interesting!!!) and has some elements of focusing on pain and invited me to submit my work now or in the future.

Ruth, who I've known a while through Community, gave me gifts of laughter on the retreat last weekend, and who last night gave me one of her handmade journals (which will be my next Dream Journal, I told her).

Ruth Miller's handmade notebook pour moi.

Ruth Miller's handmade notebook pour moi.

Is it serendipity? Is it synchronicity? Is it fate? Or is it just life? Is it about being open to life and everyone and everything in it? Is it about believing in the impossible or in limitless possibility? Is it about being open to change? Is change inevitable? Is it about a deep unknown need for human/life connection? Or is it about love?

love love love love love yes yes yes yes yes yes love love love love love yes yes yes yes yes
— Rita DeCassia, Healer + Multi Linguist

p.s. joy comes in all sizes.

meow!

meow!