I moved to New York City 23+ years ago. It was in America that I was finally seen as me, and not in the context of my position in society and family. I was Sweta, not just someone’s wife, daughter, daughter-in-law, or sister. My value wasn’t evaluated based on how well I cooked, took care of others, or wore a sari—well, you get my drift. It was in NYC where I no longer felt stifled. I was valued as a woman, person, human, writer, friend, and much more. My opinions mattered and I wasn’t labeled as “battameez,” for speaking up. Because in India (and many parts of the world), manipulative women are accepted with open arms but straight shooters who don’t mince their words are branded “ill-mannered.”
In NYC, I didn’t have to depend on the men in my life to get me from point A to B. Sure, I was independent in Mumbai and Pune. But the minute I reached New Delhi, I always had trustworthy men accompany me to meetings and wait for me in the car. I belonged in NYC. I felt safe in America. More than 23 years ago, I felt it a privilege to be in a city and a country where others didn’t dictate my life. I took the subway at the wee hours of the night and never once worried about making it home unhurt. I tasted freedom, and I liked it.
We are in shock after the Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973), a landmark decision in which the court had earlier ruled that the constitution of the United States generally protects a pregnant woman’s liberty to choose to have an abortion. According to NPR, this decision means, “abortion rights will be rolled back in nearly half of the states immediately, with more restrictions likely to follow. For all practical purposes, abortion will not be available in large swaths of the country.”
With what’s happening in America, many of us are in shock. We might be feeling heavy in the heart and hopeless overall. My body has been feeling tight, and my head hurts. Like many of you, I am triggered. It’s not just because of politicians telling women what they can or cannot do with their bodies. I feel like I am back to being that 20-year-old Sweta all over again taking directions from everyone – about how to live my life. “Wear this, can’t date this one, eat that, don’t eat this, marry a Hindu, go here, don’t do that, your blouse should be longer, your dress can be shorter, keep a job but don’t compromise on cooking….”
It feels as though my personal freedom and that of all of us women are under attack all over again. I am transported back to those days where — like a large majority of Indian women from my generation — I felt like a mute puppet while others curated my life.
Between the news, the social media posts, and constant conversations about the court ruling, how do you find peace, in America or otherwise? How do you not let fear and anxiety take over you? How do you keep your head cool and not give into angry arguments? How do you find the motivation to not be consumed by hopelessness? Within two days of declaration of this decision, I am already seeing the effect of this ruling on people’s long-term decisions. One of my husband’s colleagues has decided against sending his daughter to UT Austin this fall because of the ruling. I know of people who are thinking of relocating to Canada. Can you imagine the impact of these horrid times on our mental, physical, and emotional wellbeing?
Now is the time to step up self-care. You can’t fight the fight or make rational decisions about you or your family if your mind is cluttered, your heart is angry, and your body isn’t rested. This is the time to turn to your tribe. We could all use some healing but not everyone is prepared for it. That’s OK. Be unapologetic about your path and self-care choices. To find your balance in these imbalanced times, may I suggest you rely heavily on self-care.
- Take a yoga class or go for a walk in nature.
- Disconnect from social media and give your nervous system some rest.
- It’s OK to not answer every message or email if it’s not urgent.
- Honor that you might need comforting, community, and connection.
- Talk to those who get why what’s happening is upsetting you instead of explaining to people who make you feel less about feeling achy and nauseous.
- Eat nourishing meals as your body needs you now more than ever.
- Make time for what brings you joy.
- Don’t give up hope as our thoughts are the only thing we have any control over.
- Be mindful of how much alcohol/caffeine/sugar you consume. They seem helpful at first but end up creating more issues.
- Get rest because there is work to be done and healing to be achieved.
“Self-care is how you take your power back.” ~ Lalah Delia