A confession: When I begin writing one of these self-care pieces for you, I often think first of something I hope will offer you comfort, joy or strength. Something “good and sturdy,” as the artist Shari Elf says. And next, almost immediately, I begin thinking of its justification.
But do comfort, joy and strength, and the sharing of them—or at least ideas for them—really need a raison d’être? I hope not. I’m 60 years old this year and I’m still trying to shed the idea that any attention to the self at all is selfish and must be justified with a greater good. I try to think of this attitude as an error. One that I can take action to undermine.
In that vein, my idea for self-care this month involves Doing New Things, for fun. No other reason. I’m thinking of it as “Rumspringa for a Day.”
You may know Rumspringa as a sort of coming-of-age gap year for young people in some Amish and Mennonite communities. I’m not an authority on Rumspringa, or Amish culture in general, but casual reading suggests that there is no single common practice. The popular idea of an extended spring break—all bets off and no library fines will accrue!—is by no means universal.
One resonant fact I read is that Rumspringa comes from the German “to jump about.” (Not, as reality TV might make us think, “our year of living dangerously and utterly without boundaries.”) Jumping about carries the meaning of trying things without expectation of committing to a linear path. A trial period.
Rumspringa can also simply mean “adolescence.” And as far as I can tell, among those communities with a coming-of-age practice, no adolescent has to earn their Rumspringa. It’s for everyone. These meanings start getting at what I’d like to make more room for.
So I’m planning to deliberately set aside time to jump about and explore. I want to make room for dead ends and blind alleys—destinations that lead nowhere and activities that don’t have to justify themselves by repaying my investment. This is unlike a sabbatical, which as a young person I was shocked—shocked—to find out was not a year off that one was freely given, but in fact it had to be retroactively earned by spending most of it working on something publishable. (Thus ended my youthful dream of an academic career.)
I’m also not thinking of anything like a Beach Day, which is all about passivity. Beach Day needs no actual beach (especially if quarantined); it just requires being warm, supine and mainlining a stack of books that take me nowhere very elevated. (My most recent beach reads were Steph Cha’s noir-esque Juniper Song series. Recommend!) (Also, we should definitely talk about Beach Days soon.)
Anyway, the crucial thing for—let’s call it a “Minispringa,” provisionally—is exploration. But importantly I’m conceiving it as a chance to actively explore, not merely study.
So here are some of my ideas for my Minispringa this month:
- Teach myself something more about block printing. Supplies are easily found online! Block Shop also has a kit that hopefully will come back in stock.
- Have a zero-presh sewing day when my Hilary Top pattern gets here. Play is very important for me with machine sewing; I have a terrible and mysterious anxiety about it. Obviously, pressure kills exploration!
- Get some sticky rice flour, clear the counters, and make Mandy Lee’s Flakey Pastry Stuffed with Mochi and Chocolate (and bring it around to various neighbors when done)
- Stage a home yoga retreat, quarantine style. I have not one but two video series waiting for me from Jessamyn Stanley of Underbelly Yoga and Madeleine Lohman of Madyoga. FYI: these are very affordable, compared to many such offerings.
- Also—second confession here—I’ve always kinda wanted to go to Klingon immersion camp. Surely there is some safe-at-home alternative?
Klingon actually might be the ideal Minispringa project, because learning Klingon can never repay my investment in the form of an Etsy shop or the like. Nor will it clean sinks, tubs and tiles. And speaking Klingon—poorly—won’t make me a virtuous or admirable person; it would more make me a punchline. In other words, the Klingon idea is a total cul-de-sac. A cabinet of curiosities. And another way to not always be working.
If you already make a practice of this kind of active-yet-idle exploration, I would love to hear about your experiments. Or if there are things you’ve always wanted to try, even if they lead nowhere, tell us below in the comments. And have fun!
Underbelly Yoga taught by Jessamyn Stanley
Calm Anxiety yoga series taught by Madeleine Lohman
Block Shop Textiles block printing kit (currently not in stock but good for supply ideas)
Mandy Lee’s Flakey Pastry Stuffed with Mochi and Chocolate
Image: Musei Wormiani Historia, frontispiece from the Museum Wormianum depicting Ole Worm’s cabinet of curiosities. Wellcome Collection gallery
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