Welcome to Wellness Weekly coming to you every week. This is a weekly series, sort of like a Letter from the Editors, that will rotate between Lara and Luigi, along with other members of Team Smudge and with the occasional guest. We’ll hold space on the Dirt to check in on our Sixth Sense: the term we use to refer to our spirit, intuition, and inner power. And because while we exist in the world alongside our other Five Senses, we’ll do a check-in of those, too.
This week I am thinking a lot about mental health through the lens of gratitude — and also a necessity. At the end of September, a thought-provoking post popped up on my Instagram feed from author and activist Osheta Moore. It was a photograph of her daughter and the post explained her parenting policy of permitting her children to take one “mental health day” away from school per month. There are rules (they need to ask in advance and have to use the day to do “one thing to care for their body and one thing for their soul”) and exceptions (no mental health days when there is an exam). But the idea is simple and important: to normalize and prioritize the mental health of her kids and to give it the same grace and respect we would any other physical ailment. What a gift and lesson to give our children.
It is an idea that I hope takes greater hold in our country where kids are more anxious than ever. In January, public school students in Illinois will be given up to five mental health days per year, with professional help services available for those who need some extra care. Other states already have similar laws on the books (lucky kids who live in Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Nevada, Oregon, and Virginia!). Let’s hope more follow suit.
In my house, we don’t yet have a formal policy about mental health days. But if last week is any indication, we appear to have an informal policy for such a thing that involves using the word “stomach ache” when my kids have reached a breaking point. Osheta Moore’s post is a call to action for me to bring this issue to our next family dinner as an explicit, intentional conversation about our respective mental health needs. To make caring for our minds and spirit as much of a priority as we do the other aspects of our health. To be grateful for the chance to honor ourselves, and to acknowledge that doing so is not a want, but a valid, wholly reasonable need.
Here’s a quick-take on what’s going on with my other senses this week…
In-person dance performances are back and I couldn’t be happier. My ten-year-old is part of a dance company that is prepping for its holiday show and watching her rehearse for the last few weeks brings me great joy and relief. I can’t wait to watch the big show right after Thanksgiving. Added bonus? My parents, who live in Florida and are making their first trip west since the pandemic started, will be there to cheer her on as she makes her debut as a snowflake ballerina, a hip hop elf, and an enchanted window display mannequin. Bravo!
My recent attendance at Outside Lands, San Francisco’s biggest music festival, reminded me not just of how much I love live music, but being there with my 14-year-old also made me massively nostalgic for my first festival experience at the same age. Way back in 1991, I was at the very first Lollapalooza wearing an outfit that looked pretty much what everybody was wearing this year (Doc Martens never go out of style!), and dancing my heart out to Jane’s Addiction, Living Colour, and the Nine Inch Nails. Listening to Yve’s Tumor in Golden Gate Park this year reminded me of the same intense energy of those bands, with an enthusiastic crowd to match. I’ve been listening to my old favorites all week (side question: why do our brains store 30-year-old song lyrics, but not the appointment I missed this week?). My heart breaks this week for those impacted by last week’s festival tragedy in Houston. Watching live music should not ever feel unsafe. My heart is with the families and friends of those affected — the loss is unfathomable.
This Wellness Weekly is sponsored by my kid’s leftover Halloween candy! Sometimes I am the vision of health and other times? It’s a vision of Nerds, Lemonheads, Sweetarts, and Skittles — in that order and that order only.