Connie here. Today we're taking a break from our usual stuff-chatter and extending an invitation, instead, to hit the pause button. We're turning the newsletter over to our friend Alexandra Elle. If you're not one of the 834k people who follow her on Instagram, let me catch you up to speed: Alex is a storyteller, poet, facilitator & wellness consultant living in the Washington, DC area, with her husband, Ryan, and three daughters. She's the author of Neon Soul and other books, and the host of the hey,girl podcast, which I popped onto last fall. Her fourth book, After the Rain, is available for pre-order here.
Self-care isn't a buzzword for Alex–it's a necessary tool for growing and maintaining self-love. A foundation for radical healing. An indispensable practice for being in right relationship with your children, your lovers, your community, your self.
Alex walks through her world so differently than I do mine—which is why I pay such close attention to her and see her as a teacher. Hers is a world of earnest-striving. Hers is forgiveness as a tool for self-preservation. Hers is an internal barometer—fine-tuned from practice—that tells her when to stop, take stock, reflect, write, rewrite, act. She's an embodiment of sincerity—one of our core values at East Fork—speaking her truth so thoughtfully and always opening the door for others to speak theirs.
Today, it's an honor to share this digital space with Alex, where she reflects on joy, ease, gratitude, grief, and cake.
Rituals Rooted in Ease by Alex Elle
On July 25th, I turned thirty-one years old. Having a quarantine birthday was like every other day in quarantine except with cake and my dearest friend coming over with Jamaican food and said cake (that she baked from scratch), her mask on and ready to spend time together. We prepared for this. She self-isolated for two weeks to ensure she'd be set to visit the kids and me. That act of love brought tears to my eyes, and does now, as I type this. It was a good evening, one I've needed for so long—energy I've been deeply missing.
Like many families, my husband and I have been home with our three daughters—ages 12, 2.5, and 10 months—since the onset of the pandemic. We've all been doing our best. There's been a lot of change, and dare I say, grief, that's come along with being at home week after week with little to no variation in the day. But we've been trying to find moments of joy, ease, and gratitude even on the hardest days. We're doing what we can to be creative with the monotony. For the kids, birthday cake and company from their honorary auntie was the highlight of the month. For my husband and me, it felt so good to have another adult around to talk to. The little things, I've noticed, have all I've been longing for lately. Chats over wine. Laughs over dinner. A house filled with more and more love. Her company was necessary.
The next day, I woke up with a heaviness in my chest, like my heart filled with tears and was dropping to my feet. I was caught in limbo of reaching for gratitude and being devastatingly sad about the state of the world, about the state of life as we know it now. From the Uprisings to the pandemic, from missing my friends deeply, I just felt sad. It's in moments like this when I feel the entirety of my humanness. When I am reminded that I do not have to be okay, I can be grateful to be alive and heartbroken for what is no longer. Finding peace in the duality of life has been my soul work lately. So I've been leaning in, allowing myself to be a hot mess and making room for joy when it shows up again. Because it always does, and it's always necessary.
As an author, most days, I find my center through writing practice. The emotional ebb and flow of my birthday sent me searching for calm and self-celebration. So I opened my journal and explored the questions below.
This week, I am creating a ritual rooted in ease and self-soothing. I will be answering these questions as a point of reflection, and I encourage you to do the same. Something that reigns true, always, is that we are never alone in our struggles, our pain, or our fear. Let us commit to being with our whole selves more often, the good the challenging, and the unpretty. Because even on our worst days, we can find our way home. And as we embark on that voyage, joy will find us, and tag along.
1. What deserves your attention and celebration today?
Doing my best at home, mothering, and working deserves my attention & celebration. This feels hard lately, but I am trying my best, and that counts for something. I will do better at not overlooking this.
2. List 3 things that make you resilient.
Choosing to grow through adversity, being open to love after loss, acknowledging my grief & celebrating my joy (I can do both).
3. Finish this sentence: I am worthy of...
- Authentic Friendship
- Sacred + Overflowing Love
- The Truth
- Safe Conversations with Room for Disagreement & Understanding
- My Own Time
- Rest & Moments of Pause
- Room to Grieve
- Space to Grow
- Peace of Mind
- Being Fully Present in My Body
- Healing While Black (both myself and others)
- Taking Good Care of Myself (self-care as community care)
4. How can you self-celebrate today?
Picking up a paintbrush and my watercolors. You haven't done that in a while, make room for it.
5. Who do you need to forgive?
Myself. I am deserving of self-forgiveness when I don't get it right.
Your Turn: Grab a journal and explore these questions for yourself—we welcome you to share any and all answers below in the comments.
About Alex Elle:
Alexandra Elle is an author & wellness consultant living in the Washington, DC metro area with her husband and children. Writing came into her life by way of therapy and the exploration of healing through journaling. Quarterly, Alex teaches workshops and retreats centered around assisting others in finding their voices through storytelling, poetry, and narrative writing rooted in truth without shame. Her mission is to build community & self-care practices through literature & language. She is currently an author at Chronicle Books.
Alex is the author of multiple books and journals, most recently After the Rain, Neon Soul, and Today I Affirm: A Journal That Nurtures Self-Care.
She also hosts the hey, girl. podcast.