679: Self-Care

679: Self-Care

679: Self-Care


I’m Ada Limón and this is The Slowdown.

I have known a lot of genuine healers in my life. People who have helped me with the pain I have from my curved spine, people who have helped me with the pain I have from life. I have a doctor who literally tells me to go to the ocean and swim in the salt water. For the most part, I listen to those healers, but every once in a while I’ll get hooked by some ad or even some dear friend who swears by a certain product. Listen, if you’re in pain, if you’re looking for answers, you’ll try anything.

I’ve sworn off gluten and sometimes dairy. I’ve worn the crystals and I drank the lavender tea. I’ve tried all the supplements there are to buy and then some. I’ve done all the deep breathing and body work. I’ve cut out coffee and sugar. I’ve eaten only vegetables and grain. I’ve eaten only meat and vegetables and no grains at all. I’ve been told to drink only a certain kind of water, and I’ve been told to not drink anything but water. I’ve been told to try things that people on the internet suggest and I’ve been told to avoid the internet. I’ve also been told to not take it all so seriously. But if you have mysterious symptoms that can’t always be solved even by the most caring of doctors, any sort of snake oil sounds miraculous. My kingdom for a healing. My kingdom for even the placebo effect.

I try my best to remain skeptical and yet I try my best to remain open to new forms of healing. What if forgiveness helps ease my headaches or what if getting a tooth pulled will solve all my health problems. But I always want to be aware of the trap of capitalism when it comes to healing. I know I’ve said this before, but as soon as it costs money, I’m suspicious. I should probably move to Canada. Or find some other realm where healers are paid in poems and good graces.

Today’s poem talks about the enticement of the self-care industry and how even the best intentions can lead to an obsession with what one can purchase, in order to be healed.

by Solmaz Sharif

Have you tried
rose hydrosol? Smoky quartz
in a steel bottle

of glacial water? Tincture
drawn from the stamens
of daylilies grown
on the western sides

of two-story homes?
Pancreas of toad?
Deodorant paste?

Have you removed
your metal fillings? Made peace
with your mother? With all
the mothers you can? Or tried

car exhaust? Holding your face
to the steaming kettle?
Primal screamed into

a down-alternative pillow
in a wood while tree-bathing?
Have you finally stopped
shoulding all over yourself?

Has your copay increased?
Right hip stiffened?
Has the shore risen

as you closed up the shop?
And have you put your weight
behind its glass door to keep
the ocean out? All of it?

Rang the singing bowl
next to the sloping toilet?
Mainlined lithium?

Colored in another mandala?
Have you looked
yourself in the mirror
and found the blessed halo

of a ring light in each iris?
Have you been content enough
being this content? Whose

shop was it?

Solmaz Sharif, “Self-Care” from CUSTOMS. Copyright © 2022 by Solmaz Sharif. Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Graywolf Press, www.graywolfpress.org.