self care

Self Care Saturday

Self acre is newish word for something that’s been a subset of “self help” for a long time. But self help seems to have been co-opted by a certain kind of book and talk-show host. By contrast, self care feels more modern, a way for women (or mostly woman) to value the practice as much as they value working hard, working out and doing shit for other people (hey, I’ve just described my life).

Here’s how an Atlantic article rationalizes (and in my mind elevates, because it’s in the Atlantic) the need for self care: “…there’s little about modern society that prioritizes, encourages, or facilitates caring for yourself or treating yourself well. It’s all, ‘Buy more things!’ ‘Work harder and at any hour of the day!’ ‘Click back and forth uselessly between the same five websites and call it leisure!'” (And, hey, that kind of describes my life, too.)

I had a week, let’s just say. A return from Cuba (more to say about Cuba), a 24-hour bout of NoroVirus (the less said about this the better), a farewell to Oliver, whose off to Asia for another year (more on that, too), and a  9-course Southern Food dinner last night. And now it’s Saturday morning and I’ve been to the gym and am sitting by the fire, feeling not at all obligated to go outside again today (it’s 20 degrees). Can’t imagine a better setting for my Self Care Saturday, which, thus far, has included:

  • That gym workout
  • Shopping at Whole Foods which, unto itself, makes me feel virtuous, more so today because I bought Argan Oil for my dry, dry face; coconut oil for my dry and peeling skin; Savannah Bee lotion as a gift for the Southern-Food chef from last night; kale; slaw; honey crisp apples
  • A thorough application of these oils before getting into the bath — which is something I should do all winter long, along with a vigorous loofah scrub
  • That bath
  • More oils to skin
  • This outfit: Madewell’s fancy grey sweatpants, a grey cashmere Grandpa cardigan, a slightly ratty pink camisole, slippers
  • Steve playing something he calls spa music: non-melodic, tonal sounds that wouldn’t be at all out of place in a yoga classself-care

I might have even achieved hygge, an even more modish state of being. We’ll turn to The New Yorker — because we’re all about elevating the act of sitting around the house in sweatpants — for this one. And, by the way, let’s call our sweatpants hyggebukser, shall we, defined by “that shlubby pair of pants you would never wear in public but secretly treasure.”

Like many of the best things from Scandinavia, hygge might seem, to some Americans, to come with a whiff of smugness. The term is often mentioned in the same paragraph that reminds us that Danes (or, depending on the year, Norwegians and Swedes) are the happiest people in the world. Perhaps Scandinavians are better able to appreciate the small, hygge things in life because they already have all the big ones nailed down: free university education, social security, universal health care, efficient infrastructure, paid family leave, and at least a month of vacation a year. With those necessities secured, Danes are free to become “aware of the decoupling between wealth and wellbeing.” 

happiness what i'm reading

The Year of Living Danishly

Denmark is prides itself on being one of the happiest places to live in the world. But I bet it’s a quiet pride that doesn’t disparage other people and their ways and I bet they celebrate it by being together, cozily, in their well-designed living spaces.

These are my bets because I just learned the word hygge, by way of a book called “The Year of Living Danishly: Uncovering the Secrets of the World’s Happiest Country.”

Writes author Helen Russell, “Hygge seems to me to be about being kind to yourself – indulging, having a nice time, not punishing or denying yourself anything. There isn’t so much enforced deprivation in Denmark. Instead you’re kinder to yourselves and so each other.”


It’s seductive to think you could just move and be happier. But I guess people have always done this with mixed results: The Pilgrims, the Donners, me.