Take care. Give each other care. Self-care. Be careful. Practice care. The sheer repetition of the word care slowly seeps its meaning from its form. The phrase becomes distorted, a lifeless shell of a sentiment so fundamental to life. In a global pandemic, the sentiment is well intended, yet as a greeting, a valediction, and as the body something is lost. The meaning of care becomes increasingly abstracted. I want to say thank you, but how? How do we give ourselves, each other care, when the world spirals and moves the lives of those around us with it?
Intuitively, I know it has everything to do with love, but the various forms of care are often inexpressible and take invisible, felt forms. This issue of The Indicator literary magazine explores the responses of our writers, editors, and artists to these prevailing questions. What are the webs of care we weave around ourselves during our most difficult times? How do we show ourselves and each other such care? What does it look like, feel like, smell like, sound like, taste like?
Upon first google of this word, I was immediately confronted with an article that prescribed nearly thirty self-care products for my apparently “on edge” body. I was faced with a shower wineglass holder, three different “clarifying” skin masks, a 90’s inspired candle, a satin sleep mask, a book to help you realize your goals, an under-eye mask, a bathrobe, nail polish, bath soothing salts, a foot massager, a wellness planner, house slippers, aromatherapy diffuser, and a box of “Zen” green tea. What does self-care look like?
The commodification of care not only distorts our understanding of all that it can be, but also limits our own imaginations about how to strive for it. That is not to say I haven’t enjoyed the occasional house slipper myself, but in what ways can we work to define it outside of capitalistic constructions? The harsh reality is that many individuals struggle to give themselves care in a world that does not care for them. This is a world that recognizes that the real self-care we reach for and need at times, exists outside the highly visible forms. Thus, care feels all the more ephemeral.
Reaching for self-care, in any form, is worthwhile. We must be gentle with our physical, spiritual, and emotional bodies. Care to me evokes a slowness, a tenderness, a smile, so much more than that which can be sold to us. I remind myself that existing is enough, even in a world that tells us that our value is in what we produce. Sometimes we give the most to the world when we notice the small intricacies of a flower, or sit with a friend in compassion, or take the chance to breathe.
And in the end, these ecologies of care are deeply personal and often undefinable. Yet it is always worthwhile to imagine these webs for ourselves. To imagine the ripples of compassion, of such love, outward into a world of healing.
What are the webs of care we weave around ourselves and each other every single day?
My answer is still changing.
Your Editor in Chief,
Kiera Alventosa Class of 2021