Day three’s healing circle was about self-care, the things–big and small–that give us pleasure, make us feel at peace and ease. QUWA headquarters is filled every day with world-running women, women who direct multiple branches of schools for Syrian refugees in Turkey, young women who work 8am-6pm at factories every day while teaching themselves Turkish and applying to Turkish universities, women who complete their studies while also looking after their communities, families, parents, siblings, friends, and children. So today we focused on how we can center ourselves and take a step back from all the to-do lists and responsibilities to fulfill the ultimate responsibility we have to take care of ourselves, to nourish and sustain ourselves and preserve our vital strengths.
We talked for a bit about why it’s important to practice self-care, but one khalto in the circle wisely said it best: و إن لبدنك عليك حقا “And verily, your body has rights over you”(Hadith). At the end of the day, if we’re not well–emotionally, physically, mentally–we won’t be able to achieve anything else.
Since self-care is supposed to be about pleasure and the activities or time spent for inner peace, we wanted to gift ourselves some self-love. First, we named the things that bring us relief. We asked ourselves, what are the things far removed from work, or family, or school or activism, that we simply enjoy doing? What do we love to do (or not do)? In my small group, I heard some fantastic responses: Rawann** said she likes to take walks alone and spend time enjoying the beauty of Allah’s creation and remembering Him through his signs; Sarah**loves the beach and being by the water; Noora**doodles drawings and designs in her journal, and writes short stories from her own imagination; Ghada**, a microbiologist and one of the most gentle, caring souls I’ve ever met, said she loves to take care of insects, having raised a butterfly from caterpillar to cocoon to its beautiful wings. (Ghada is a 27 year-old powerhouse–she is also learning Turkish, teaching at a school in Istanbul, applying to MA programs in microbiology, and in her free time, she experiments with homemade, all-natural face masks and skincare, and does organic cooking). My personal favorite though, was Ayah** who said that when she’s feeling a lot of pressure, she goes somewhere completely empty and secluded, and just YELLS at the top of her lungs.
Taking time for self-care is easier said than done. As one woman said, most of the time, we start to feel guilty if we take a “break” for ourselves when there’s still so much to do–to the point that we don’t end up relaxing at all! So to wrap up the day, we each gave ourselves a “license to live” (or more than one), a small written IOU that we could use at any time to take a dance break, to go out to the ocean, to do nothing, to read a book for fun. The best thing about this license? It never expires and can be used indefinitely.
In our one-word checkout, one woman chose the word “sisterhood”. It’s true. Self-care, it turns out, is infinitely sweeter when your sister survivors are behind you, encouraging you to put yourself first.