I was on the acupuncture table recently, thinking of the scarred battlefield that is my body after cancer. I had just finished circling and notating different aches and pains on a piece of paper with outlines of a body, front, back, sides. It looked like a kindergartener’s scribble when I was done.
Once the needles were in, the doctor left the room. I had 35 minutes to relax while the needles worked their magic. I began to think about how much this was costing, and how I had to use savings to pay for it, and it’s Christmas and should I be spending this money on something other than myself?
Then I thought about a friend who recently told me that her partner patted her on the back when she was coughing. She told me about it like it was such a big deal that her partner had done that. And I thought, “Damn. She sure is happy with a tiny crumb.”
I have decided not to settle for crumbs. I don’t need to create a sense of scarcity out of misplaced guilt, or the idea that I can’t give myself loving, needed attention. I know other women who can relate to this lack of self-care on a deep level.
We are used to accepting crumbs, aren’t we? Not only do we accept them when it comes to self-care and relationships, we accept them at work, in school, in politics, and in culture at large. We negotiate our own selves on the regular just to get a crumb of what we want because that is how life works for women. We can work outside the home, but we still have the burden of more than half of child care and house care. We can wear something that makes us feel confident, but we have to watch that it doesn’t excite boys. Crumbs. Crumbs. Crumbs.
Sometimes I realize that I accept crumbs so that my kids can have more stuff. Phones and lessons and cool clothes. Then I feel resentful because I am the one who is working so hard to keep my household together. When I realize I feel scarcity because I am providing the moon to my kids, I pull back.
Crumbs are no longer enough. That’s why we are all coming out of our own skins. Our collective hair is on fire, and our tongues, too. We need self care, and partnerships, and we need to put ourselves first, not last. We don’t need to accept crumbs, or the leftover crusts, or the burned toast. We want the whole fucking cake.
Once I decided not to settle for crumbs, I fell into a deep sleep on the acupuncture table. I think I woke up changed. And hungry for cake.