Dear Mary Oliver, What about our wild and presh basic needs?

All the ways I ignore my body when I shouldn’t.

Photo by Kinga Cichewicz on Unsplash

I don’t think this is new news, but it bears repeating, or at least — reviewing. These human bodies we are in? They don’t last forever. That’s not a thing, yet I find it so difficult to remember. Bodies require care. Numerous fields of spirituality, religion, science, marketing, and assorted patriarchy associated sorcery exist solely to define and enforce parameters on how ‘best’ to do this ‘living human’ thing. I find the innate distraction of life and and self imposed impediments and habits prevent me from taking care of my body in the most basic and often free ways. Optimally. Regularly.


Goddamnit. It’s so simple.



Drink the goddamn water. Headache?

Water. Dry lips? Water.

Constipated? Water.

Diarrhea? Water.

Zits? Water.

Tired? You got it! Water. WATER. water. Always, water. Not the 8th thing you “try” to feel better, the very first. Duh.

Why do I even have to write it in a list?

Because periodically I believe that my body is more highly evolved than other folks, and I do wholeheartedly feel confident that I can survive on coffee and Coke Zero (cherry, preferably) alone, which always ends the with the same big discovery — I can’t.


Yeah. I know. Another stupidly simple concept that proves impossibly hard to attain and sustain. In the land and age of anxiety and insomnia and all manner of trauma, drama and sleep disturbances, sleep is still the same. Sleep remains this most basic of needs, and one that nearly everyone could improve upon — in terms of duration, quality, depth, immune system modulation, you know- all that. And a bag of chips.

Anyway, I know that if I don’t sleep much or well, I’ll probably feel like shittake mushrooms all dang day. And I’ll probably show it.

When the bod is tired — rest it. Just fucking stop and rest. I know. Anyone who knows me is like BITCH YOU HYPOCRITE. YOU NEVER REST AND ARE ALWAYS MULTITASKING THE SHIT OUT A million things. All of that is true And though this concept of actually taking time and simply resting when one is tired or feels like they need or want a rest — is entirely counterintuitive to everything I have ever learned to be true. Even at the ripe old age of 46, I still rage against this rule. I can recognize that I am tired, get in bed, and then force myself to stay awake to listen/read/watch something, when I really just need to GTF to sleep.

Why tho?

Ugh. So predictable.

If you do a quick medium search on sleep hygeine and sleep optimization I bet you could read all day about sleep: Hacks, tweaks, DIY room updates to improve your sleep experience, white noise machines, sleep stories, aromatherapy, blue light blockers, blackout curtains, pillow toppers, eco friendly cooling sheets, masks, face tape to get your partner to STFU instead of mouth breathe or snore…. really. I mean, I didn’t actually do this particular medium search, but seriously — I bet my predictions are on point.


Gah. The physical bod needs it.

I stupidly tried to avoid doing this very thing I needed to do, for about 36 hours. I finally did as I required this morning. I stretched. The whole thing. Yoga mat, long slow stretches, in all the parts that hurt (spoiler alert — all of the parts hurt), until they were warm and loose and aha! No longer painful.

I am pleased with my response time of 36 hours, but my goal is to be able to respond faster. Like immediately.

Does that make me sound crazy?


JK it’s me.

In this example —

I knew I would be sore yesterday, because I painted our pool the day prior. Duh. I should have just stretched in the morning (like I did today) but I didn’t. Why?

No good reason.

I just didn’t do it.

I hobbled around all day, feeling like an old sack of spoon splints and aluminum foil scraps. Gross.

And then, I stretched first thing this morning.

It feels so good, to get into those really sticky tight muscles, and lean in with that stretch. Yanno? All of the muscles that are usually tight all of the time in an anxious queer in the wilds of suburban living? When any part of my muscular carapace relaxes, it brings an immediate feeling of relief which gives rise to fleeting bliss.

I’m walking around, daily, in pain, with the ability to feel this good at any moment of my choosing — just by intentionally relaxing and stretching my taut musculature, and I usually don’t. But I should. More. Working on that. WIP.

Stretching is just one easy example of physical — like if you’re sore — stretch. Duh.

But if I feel x, y, or z, then maybe I need a, b, or c. This is really basic shit. Like, I’m an adult, who parents four tween/teenagers, and the amount of conversations I’ve had about basic body, mind, emotional regulation and care (let’s say — more than your average bear ) but I still find that I don’t follow even half of the advice that I preach at/to my kids. So I’m trying to do better. If I’m angry or dysregulated — a run in the woods can be as helpful as listening to music in my room with noise cancelling headphones on (because I am basically also an elderly teenager, emotionally). These things make sense, but sometimes I put off doing them — even though I know they will make me feel better. Why tho?

Maintenance rituals

Oral Hygeine: Teeth → Brushing, flossing. It’s not just cosmetic and fear of fetid breath, it’s for fucking health. Imma go brush my teeth right now. Right. Cardiovascular disease? ok. You have heard of it? Yes. OK. Now go brush your fucking teeth, ok?

I somehow grew up and maintained a once a day, morning, tooth brushing routine. Jesus. And I haven’t even confessed that to lesbian therapist yet. Jesus.

Toothbrushing: Morning only. Not nights. If anyone ever saw me doing that, like during an adolescent or an adult sleepover situation, it was because I was pretending to be a normal person. That’s not my true nature or routine. I wish it was, but it’s not. Gasp!

So what would Mary Oliver say? Well — something prosaic and genius, obvi. but also something so simple and so true:

To pay attention, this is our endless
and proper work.

Let’s revise for the purposes of this post: To pay attention — to uhhh, your body’s most basic needs, this is our endless and proper work.

I feel like if I can get these first three basic needs addressed in a timely fashion — but trusting and listening to what my body is telling me, I stand a chance of growing up to be a real functional healthy adult someday.

Here’s to hoping!



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Emily Roawr

Emily Roawr

Career veterinarian pivoting. I write about animals, queers, adoption, alcohol free life, and art. Inquiries may be directed to