A few years ago I started a new job and during my first staff meeting, I was asked to share one unusual thing about myself.
Without hesitation I shared with my new coworkers my love of Suzanne Somers.
Now, to the unenlightened, Suzanne Somers is best known as the actress who played the loveable, “ditzy” blonde “Chrissy Snow” on the 70s sitcom Three’s Company. But, to those of us in the know, Suzanne Somers is a mentor for how to do life your own way and how to grow old smartly.
After leaving Three’s Company, Suzanne could have believed the cultural narrative about her – that she was a B-rated actress, a one-hit wonder, a post-prime female joke – and quietly faded away into Hollywood obscurity. As I explained to my new coworkers, Suzanne simply decided she was not going to believe that narrative. She said (and this is my interpretation), “fuck that shit.” She started her own wildly successful lifestyle company and, despite often being the object of derision for folks uncomfortable with aging women talking about aging, there has never since been anything quiet or faded about Suzanne.
“Fuck that shit” are my favorite words of encouragement. Those words have seen me out of dark places and moments of uncertainty. Those words bring me back to my center, just as I imagined they brought Suzanne back to hers.
That staff meeting ended in awkward silence. It seemed that my new coworkers did not share my enthusiasm for Suzanne Somers. Fools.
Next month I will be 46 years old and I share that story with you not to shed light on one of my more disappointing professional moments, or to turn you into a Suzanne Somers fan (although you should really look into her), but instead because I have finally figured out what my key takeaway is from the SHE RECOVERS LA event: I am going to follow through on some long-standing Suzanne Somers’ advice and …. go get a baseline hormone test.
That’s right. I am going to arm myself with information that can help me navigate perimenopause. This is utter craziness, right? There’s no cool new outfit, no adventurous trip, not even a good soundtrack. Just me and my hormones, getting to know one another.
Radical self-care can look deceptively boring, even downright housewife. But this, my friends, this is “fuck that shit” in action.
When I came home from LA, I was full of big intentions. I could hear Mack Phillips telling us, “I don’t need to know what happened. I just need to know what you’re going to do about it.” I could see Ester Nicholson in her pretty yellow dress saying, “Don’t hold onto something you’ve become too big for.” I replayed Tara Mohr’s question in my head asking, “What value or service do you want to live out?”
I had plans to write more, be more civically engaged, be more present with my family. It was all so exciting (so more!) and I couldn’t wait to begin. Except that apparently I could, because I did not actually do anything more. Instead, I got really quiet and asked myself what it was that I needed to do next.
I have to tell you that when I got the message to go get a blood test, it was a bit of a letdown.
I am a woman of action, so I was looking for some action. I like big moves, mind-blowing proclamations, moments of reckoning. I love a project, I love a fight. Or at least, I used to love projects and fights. Or even, I used to think I loved projects and fights.
David Sedaris once wrote a story in which he described two birds being kept in a cage way too small for them. “Unlike parakeets,” he wrote, “which will eventually settle down, the magpies are constantly searching for a way out, and move as if they were on fire—darting from one end of the cage to the other and banging their heads against the wire ceiling. Their desperation is contagious, and watching them causes my pulse to quicken. Being locked up is one thing, but to have no concept of confinement, to be ignorant of its terms, and never understand that struggle is useless—that’s what Hell must be like.”
When I think about my life before I stopped drinking – before I decided to say fuck that shit, and before I learned how to be quiet, and before I relearned how to trust myself – this is the image that comes to mind. Me, constantly searching, darting, moving as if I was on fire.
I loved LA and I loved the speakers and their messages of encouragement. The writing and the civic engagement and the family time are happening. But these things are secondary actions; they are byproducts of my self-care. The things we are called to do – the values and services we give to the world – can only happen if we go get our blood tests, and we take time to exercise and eat well, and we learn to put appropriate boundaries around our energies and time
A woman once described to me how she entered recovery: “I treated myself like a house plant,” she said. “I gave myself some water and a bit of light and eventually, I felt well again.
Tara Mohr says that we women are on the transition team. There is a lot of work to be done, she says, and the world needs us to do our part. And as we dig into that work, as we gather at our very first staff meeting, we need to turn to one another and ask: “What bit of light have you given yourself today? How are you caring for yourself? Are you treating yourself well?
And if the answers to those questions are not some variation of self-love and self-care, then please, fuck that shit. Go home, rest and come back again.
Erin Wickersham is the managing editor and lead writer for the She Recovers blog. She lives in Virginia where she has been working on and blogging about recovery since 2013. After years of trying to do recovery alone, she discovered the beauty of connection and friendship through She Recovers in 2017. You can find her here and on IG @ewickersham.