Motherhood Literature + Art

Ten Self-Care Tips by Mariahadessa Ekere Tallie

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Ten Self-Care Tips

It was cold and dark when I left, but I had no choice. If I was going to hear even a whisper of my own thoughts, let solitude massage my attitude, and feel my shoulders release while I finally got to let go of what I’d been holding in, worrying over, if I was going to celebrate, give thanks and laugh on paper, if I was going to walk my path with clarity, I needed space. I needed to leave my husband and three daughters at home and get to my favorite place to write. This was a necessary act of self-care. I grabbed my backpack, muttered good-bye, and left.

It’s often this way. My daughters are 11,9, and 16 months. Right now we depend on the money my husband earns as a freelance photographer to support us. We don’t know what our days are going to look like. They lack rhythm or routine. There are three small people with very different schedules and many different needs to care for. My need for silence often gets lost in the midst of our lives. And you must understand, I need silence. I need solitude. Otherwise I feel as if my entire self is contracting. In that stolen silence of the dark cold night and the quiet restaurant where I can –and did–write for hours, these self-care tips, which I’d felt faint rumblings of for days, finally made themselves clear.

It was almost a month after the election results and I was angry. Really angry. I’ve learned to welcome my anger, sit with it, and let it instruct me. These self-care tips were born as a way to make sure we thrive even while we’re angry and doing the work we must to live. They were my offering to friends and comrades under siege. It would be weeks before I’d find time to share them. First I shared them on Twitter but posting there feels like yelling into a canyon. I wasnt sure anyone heard. One night after everyone in the house was asleep, I sat by a table covered with photos of my relatives and it became clear to me that I should write the tips again to share them on Facebook. The funny thing was that I saw myself writing them in crayon.  Joy-Shanti, my 9-year-old daughter, is a gifted thinker and visual artist. She tends to sit quietly with her books and tune out the world. I asked her to illustrate the tips half thinking she’d say “no.” Instead she said yes and jumped to it. I loved watching her interpret the tips in surprising ways. On December 21st, Winter Solstice, I posted the tips. My Facebook family was so enthusiastic that someone asked me to create a poster of them.

Ok, let’s do it! I said.

The design of the poster turned out to be the first challenge. I had two consultations with friends about our first two proofs and they sent me back to the drawing board. It took six  versions and almost two months to finally get to what I had in mind. But once we were on the path, things fell into place. The perfect printer even seemed to appear by magic. He works in our neighborhood and has built his life and his business around meditation and peace.

But then we had to figure out a budget and how much to sell the poster for. That turned out to be a most intense exercise in self-care.

I have tended to underprice things or give them away for free.  I recently met an amazing woman named Kara Stevens who does money coaching for Black Women. I gave her a copy of my booklet Mother Nature. She went into her purse asking me how much it was. I said “Oh, just take it. It’s free.” Kara looked at me like I was insane. She advised me to honor the worth of my creativity and ideas. I told her I wanted to share what I was learning and in the same breath I told her we were flat broke. Our conversation brought home the fact that sharing is great but if I kept doing things the way I had been, my family and I might not have food on our table for much longer.  I thought about the free workshops I’ve conducted, the booklets and chapbooks where I never broke even,the hundreds of readings I have done for free. I thought about my gigs as a teaching artist and my low paying work as an adjunct. Was I paying dues, doing what I thought the community needed, undervaluing what I had to share or all of the above? I don’t know but my conversation with Kara was the beginning of a serious quest to change my habit of giving it all away at the expense of my own well-being.

This poster is about self-care in more ways than 10. It taught me to listen more deeply to my intuition and to really consider ways to ensure that what is an asset to me spiritually and emotionally is not a liability financially. I hope that people get as much out of the poster as I got out of the process.

Mariahadessa Ekere Tallie is the author of Karma’s Footsteps and Dear Continuum: Letters to a Poet Crafting Liberation. She is the poetry editor of African Voices magazine. For information about her work or to order the self-care poster you can visit her website at

Joy-Shanti Sindayiganza is a 9 year old visual artist and bibliophile. When she takes her eyes off of books, she has a sparkling sense ofhumor.

Photos by Dominique Sindayiganza.


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