Happy New Year. Have you napped yet this year?
I hope you snuck one in, sometime between Christmas and when you pick up this article, but if not, let’s pause for just a moment and take in a large, slow breath. Hold it briefly and intentionally. Slowly release. Pause with empty lungs before taking in another large, slow breath. Close your eyes for a few seconds as you continue bringing your attention to your breath. Give yourself this little gift. Feel the relief that is within grasp at all times.
While there has been growing talk about self-care and slowing down – including lots and lots of content out there about mindfulness and breathing meditation – we still live in, to quote the late bell hooks, “an imperialist white-supremacist capitalist patriarchy”, where our value as people is fully dependent on the labor we are extracted for in order to make someone else more money. In other words, we’re always exhausted. That’s the game we find ourselves in.
That analysis alone may be enough to make us want to burn it all down, but we’ll save that for another time and place. Whether you accept this brutal truth or not, the fact remains that the only way to ever really “beat the game” is to truly value yourself and your life (more than any occupation or job will do for you) shedding what you’ve been told about what you’re worth.
You have to get yourself right.
During the height of the pandemic, I had a deep talk with a Japanese American elder who has committed her entire career to social justice work. She said, “Brandon, even though we are fighting hard for liberation, for equity, the real marker that we’ve ‘won’ is that we can rest. Yes, we need to take care of each other and remove barriers, but ultimately, each of us has a responsibility to ourselves.”
Fast-forward a few years later, I find myself in a healing circle being taught about the Native Hawaiian concept of pono, which translates to “right relationship”. We often think about relationship as a bond between two entities – a person and another person, for instance – but the concept of pono also extends to one’s relationship to oneself. Are you dragging yourself along in life, or are you regularly checking in with yourself, assessing what you need, and extending the proper care?
Learning this concept has invited me to set an intention for 2023 that I am sure will lead to lasting changes in my life – for the better.
To get myself “right”, I need to reclaim myself.
What does it mean?
First, it means taking responsibility for my life. For a while now, ever since the pandemic began, I’ve been on a train of inebriation and distraction. Endless hours of mindless screen time. Screen time at the computer, on the couch, laying in bed. I was scrolling, hopefully, for an escape from isolation that became a deeply seated depression. The depression eroded some of the best habits I had developed for myself – waking up with purpose, exercising, being social, reading, writing, dancing.
Of course, I’ve realized this, but I’ve been riding waves of ups and downs with re-developing my positive habits and cutting through the negative ones. It has precisely been a rollercoaster ride – one that is more exhausting and more disappointing than staying in the trenches, perhaps. Being able to see the edge of the hole that you’ve found yourself in only to drop back down to the bottom over and over again… is there anything more demoralizing?
But learning this concept, all the forward momentum that comes with a new year, and this cultural tradition of leaving all the trash of last year behind gives me great hope that I really can define what getting myself right means.
Here are some ideas for getting myself right this year:
Getting myself right means prioritizing feeling stable. A nighttime routine, good sleep, a morning routine. A nice walk before and after work. Eating food that I have prepared.
Sometimes, stable feels boring, so getting myself right means not feeling obligated to fill every second with consuming something (media, food, boba). Getting myself right doesn’t mean that ups and downs won’t come, but that I can regulate how high or low those moments feel. Perhaps tempering my expectations of those moments, too, so that I don’t get pulled in either direction too far.
Getting myself right means nurturing and protecting my precious connections. In my solitude which at times turns into loneliness, I forget that as social beings, we can and do regulate each other. A sense of community comes from what you cultivate and who you claim.
That means we have to seek each other out, intentionally, at times. If you’re having trouble getting yourself right, I’m here to listen. Tell me what’s been going on by sending a letter to email address and I’ll respond to one in the next piece.
Until then, may you discover what it means to get yourself right, friend.
Brandon Hadi is a second-generation Indonesian-Thai American born in California’s Central Valley and raised in Seattle. Due to his spiritual and multicultural upbringing, he is deeply curious about the world we live in and the world that has been created by people. He was awakened to his purpose after his best friend died by suicide, transforming him into a fierce advocate for equitable mental health care and systems change. Inspired by prolific healers and writers such as adrienne maree brown, bell hooks, Bruce Lee, and Thich Nhat Hanh, Brandon approaches writing with an invitation for all of us to heal. Brandon received a M.Sc. in Social Work from Columbia University and a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Washington. He is easily bribed by boba and easily grounded by yoga and poetry.