Voices: The Part Weed Plays in My Self-Care

I need more than an apple a day to keep the doctor away.

A perfect afternoon involves a tiny bit of weed, a good book and a patch of sun that comes through my bedroom window and hits me right on the legs as I sit on my bed. I’ve always smoked pot, in the casual way that any teen smokes pot, accepting it at parties when proffered, and never turning it down. Dedication to the craft came with disposable income, and New York’s bounty of delivery services has made acquiring it easier than doing my own laundry. When opportunity presents itself in a tidy, neat package, wouldn’t you take it?

Weed doesn’t make me a better person, it doesn’t make me more myself, it just softens the edges.

Drinking, in all its sloppy glory, is becoming less appealing. Hangovers stretch from morning to afternoon to night, starting low and slow and blossoming a few hours later in a throbbing headache that won’t leave, despite Advil and water consumed in rapid succession. Depression sets in. Anxieties, long buried under the daily work of keeping them in their compartment, emerge. Hangovers are for the young, for those who can bounce back from a night that ended with Fireball and a Miller High Life at 4:00 a.m. and wake up refreshed enough to put on some pants, go to the store and buy an orange juice. Weed—easy, benign, pleasantly fuzzy—has replaced the muddled regret that alcohol brings. My life has been better for it. 

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I discuss weed strains with friends over Gchat and text, augmenting my limited knowledge with online research, undertaken with the kind of dedication usually reserved for researching brunch spots or vacuum cleaners. We are not young, but not terribly old either.

Something about easing into this period of our lives with something other than a glass of wine feels right. Owning up to our mistakes through the strangely-sharp lens of a joint feels right. Understanding what you need and how to meet your needs yourself, without the assistance of another person feels like progress, a crucial step in the process of moving through life hyperaware of the things that make you a better person. Weed doesn’t make me a better person, it doesn’t make me more myself, it just softens the edges.

Anxiety has clouded so much of my personal and professional life, like a weird shadow that skulks around corners and pops its head out at the most inopportune of times. I’m a social person who begrudgingly admits that I like talking to other people. Strangers make me nervous; small talk is not my strong suit.

When at a party in a group of people that I don’t know, I spend time drinking quickly and staring at my phone. Drinking doesn’t make me any more charming than I already am. Weed takes the edge off my anxiety. I can enter strange lands of house parties and weird professional gatherings in which I might want to speak to someone and not sound like a screechy teen. Feeling the grip loosen on the edges of my stomach is worth it.

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Self-care is simply the act of taking care of yourself, however it is that you see fit.

Taking care of yourself is arduous emotional labor. It requires a mental acuity and the ability to step back and assess what you really, actually need. Do you want friends? Do you want a relationship? Do you want money? Do you want all three of those things, on your own terms?

Do you want to leave your desk every day for lunch and walk farther than the deli on the corner? Do you want to learn how to make bread from scratch, kneading dough in a kitchen that looks remarkably like your own, but slightly cleaner and much more photogenic? Do you want to figure out why you can’t say yes to some regular man on Tinder and let him buy you a beer?

These are the mental roadblocks to taking care of yourself. Answering these questions and breaking them down, picking them apart for their tiny bones—this is the work. This is the emotional labor. It’s not easy. It’s fiddly, fussy, complicated work. It’s the most necessary work you will do. 

The best kind of self-care—the stuff that really works—isn’t soft. It’s not a ritualistic act, performed in specific conditions, when the moon is right, and the tide in an ocean far away is high. Self-care is simply the act of taking care of yourself, however it is that you see fit.

It could mean walking in slow circles around the same block, listening to podcasts and drinking an iced coffee with a joint tucked in among your cigarettes, letting one fog lift from your head so another, different, more purposeful fog slowly settles in. It could mean an hour dedicated only to researching lipstick and Stan Smiths on your phone while you linger in the bathroom longer than is necessary.

It’s journaling. It’s talking to a friend. It’s watering your plants and spending a Sunday afternoon, right before the sun sets, rearranging them on your windowsill, making incremental changes that eventually add up to something that looks different, even if it’s only to you.

Self-soothing is a strange phrase, one that calls to mind a baby gumming a rubber giraffe, or rubbing the soft polyester edge of their favorite blanket until they fall into fitful sleep. But, at the end of the day, all you’re really doing is taking care of yourself, however you see fit.