When does self-care turn into self-indulgence?

In this last post from the BUST diaries (as I think of this series of postings), I wrote about the balancing act of self-care and serving the collective. I’ve continued to think a lot about this theme. Sometimes don’t we have to put the needs of the community over our own? Is it really such a clear this or that type choice? When does self-care turn into self-indulgence?

I have had a few conversations with different BUST participants and teachers about what it means to show up. One Monday, I wanted to pick up my housemate from the shuttle stop here in town. The timing worked out that I could go during the evening session’s break time, perhaps missing a bit of the aerial work that was after break. Due to delays, missed texts and the like, the picking up of housemate took longer than anticipated. However, I still could have ended up back at the Wise Fool studio and participate in the aerial practice session.

But I didn’t do that. I didn’t go back that evening. Why? Because I had made a choice to avoid aerial work all together. I have had a strong sense that my back isn’t up to it. Two days later, I oped out of that evening’s aerial work. With gentle nudging from fellow BUSTer, I stuck around to take pictures of people. In that way, I wasn’t doing what everyone else was doing, but I was participating and being supportive.

Another aerial practice, I stayed for a little bit and then just left. Yes, I had something to work on, but I could have stayed and pulled a late night. Instead, I chose to opt out all together. I allowed BUST  to turn into ‘choose when I want to participate and feel free to opt out’ experience.

A fellow BUSTer who is experienced with being in performances, pointed out that people coming and going according to their own needs can be demoralizing to everyone else.  A few people – as said, myself included – opted out in a few different sessions. Sometimes people didn’t turn up because they were too tired. A teacher suggested to me that when that happens, they would prefer that people turn up and flop out on the sidelines of the practice. The point is: you show up in solidarity with your community.

Another thing that has happened is  people turning up but then leaving because they felt overwhelmed by their emotions. We don’t do that in other spaces in our lives, do we? We don’t just think “I’m feeling overwhelmed, I’m leaving.” Is this a thing that has to do with people having so-called artistic temperaments? Is this because unlike other environments, in this kind of workshop no one has a role of demanding that we stay. We are all grown ups who chose to make a commitment to this particular workshop; we are being asked and expected to manage ourselves accordingly.

I’m not writing this to criticize anyone. Rather, I’m writing this to ponder out loud. I am wondering what I am being shown and what I can learn about consciously being in and striving to do best for the collective. I’m wondering – as said earlier in this post – when does giving attention to self cross over from being self-care to self-indulgence? I am wondering how often I cross boundary. How often have I crossed it in BUST? How often do I cross it in other parts of my life?

At the same time, all these questions about showing up have me wondering about the ways in which we physically show up but are still absent. We are focused on the thoughts running through our heads, the emotions moving through our bodies. In our most recent session together – as a full group – we did an exercise where we reviewed a list we each had done on the first day. These lists set out how we show up in the world when we are at our best. We were asked to find a word to capture the different elements on our lists. I remember at the time feeling a bit odd by what kept coming up for me: present. When I am at my best, I am present.

This doesn’t seem like a particularly vibrant word to encompass me at my best.

Turns out, I wasn’t the only one who landed on present. First, a person across the room shared that word. Then the person next to me brought her present into the circle. I felt encouraged by this and choose to go with it.

What’s my point? I think I’m wanting to say that  another way of describing the balancing act of self-care and caring for the collective is to say that the task at hand is to be present with what is alive within ourselves and be present with the world around us. Striking this balance, I imagine, requires being in a deep state of awareness.

And I’m thinking this is a particular type of awareness. It is, for example, about being aware that I’m feeling angry without latching onto the anger and following it wherever it wants to take me physically and mentally.

Perhaps you have read to this point and feel like you’ve been taken here and there and all over the place. I wouldn’t be surprised if that is the case – I’m feeling bit befuddled by the terrains through which I’ve been traveling this past week in BUST.

What are your reflections on these balancing acts that are part of being in service to collective and caring for self? How do you assess when self-care has crossed over into self-indulgence? What one word would you use to describe how and how you are when you are bringing your best self forward?



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