Self-Care For Poor Folks: Why It's Good To Have A Partner Of Some Kind

We’re not talking Oppression Olympics -- we’re talking solidarity across a range of experiences and levels of poverty.
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Shannon Barber
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We’re not talking Oppression Olympics -- we’re talking solidarity across a range of experiences and levels of poverty.

Me and my partner.

Me and my partner.

Welcome back. 

Today I want to talk teamwork. Through this whole series, I've said teamwork a lot because I believe that we don’t have to learn this stuff, engage in it, or process it alone. We don’t have to learn to navigate self-care or create our own methods of engaging in it all by ourselves. 

As we have already seen in these articles, a lot of y’all in the comments are teamworking stuff out. You share recipes, resources, and ideas in a way that I think is awesome.

So, let's talk about leveling up -- and integrating teamwork into our self-care both online and off.

One of my favorite things about the Internet is finding my people. What I mean by "my people" is that we can share interests, we can share needs, and we can talk about stuff that is sometimes easier to talk about online than it is face to face. I have made many amazing friends on these intertubes, and we have done some really awesome stuff. Because being in a group is more powerful.

Another good reason to find people who share a hobby with you or who are also poor is so that you can do group orders. You need one person who is highly organized, is trustworthy, and who has some spare time to go with their attention to detail. I was introduced to this idea way back on Livejournal -- and I have bought everything from perfumes to skirts to makeup when I could not have afforded an order on my own. 

A few tips about engaging in a group buy:

  • Make sure it's something you really want -- and unless it's an emergency, don’t cancel. That ruins it for everyone.
  • If you are the organizer, order mail supplies from the post office prior to getting the stuff you need to send out.
  • Don’t get into or organize a group buy during, say, finals or any other time when you have everything in the world going on.  
  • Keep communication lines open.
  • Use Google Docs or some other cloud service so everyone can see the documentation. It keeps things nice and transparent.

 You can extend the idea of the group buy beyond online, especially when you talk food. If you have a friend or two with transportation and a membership to a warehouse-type store (where you can buy in bulk, like at Costco), get a group to go together.

Keep it organized with a spreadsheet if you're doing a group buy.

Keep it organized with a spreadsheet if you're doing a group buy.

Make a list of perishables you can split. If you need printer paper or meat or whatever, you can go in half with each other. If you can't go yourself, ask someone to pick you up a gigantic box of pads. Or the big bag of cat litter. Work together so everyone has what what on their list.

We all have needs, and if we can fulfill those needs (and maybe even some wants) together, it is less stressful. Less stress is great for everyone. As a bonus, maybe you save a few bucks to have a coffee or tea with your friend and talk about cats or books or whatever you like in a way that makes you feel good.

The real key, both online and off, is being vulnerable enough to talk to other folks in similar situations. Remember -- even if their experiences aren’t the same as your experiences, your experiences are still valid and real. We’re not talking Oppression Olympics -- we’re talking solidarity across a range of experiences and levels of poverty.

This part of engaging in the type of self-care we’ve been talking about can be daunting. It’s hard to be vulnerable, especially when it comes to needing help with something that might seem stupid, silly, frivolous -- or that is potentially embarrassing.

Here’s the thing.

Some people are going to be buttholes about this sort of thing no matter what because it’s not their personal experience to feel shame or guilt about self-care. So they roll their eyes like shame and guilt about self-care don't exist.

These things do exist and they're hard to get through for those of us who experience them. I am here to remind the eyerollers that just because it’s not their experience, that doesn’t mean it’s not a valid experience.

How you teamwork self-care is up to you.

If you need -- as I sometimes need -- someone who will pat you on the proverbial or actual butt and say, "Yes, you can have something pretty," it is OK. That is how you can teamwork.

If you only have a few dollars for something fancy, teamwork it out with a friend who likes or wants the same kind of fancy. Split the cost or make another plan to get you both what you want inside your budget.

Some other ways you can have some fun with folks you like that are free and easy:

  • Watch stuff together and talk about it while watching it. You can do this at home -- or you can watch stuff online in any number of places and talk on the phone or via IM or texts. My best friend and I have been doing this for a decade. It’s always fun and always makes us feel closer -- and it's stress free.
  • Play games together. Find some folks that like stuff you like, find a free or very cheap game, and play. Talk about it; make fun of it; do whatever you do. I am a big lover of casual games that don’t take a whole lot of skill because I love gaming but I’m bad at it. 
  • Take advantage of technology. Whatever you have access to, use it to interact with the people you enjoy.

If what you need is more intimate support and you have a partner or someone else very close, ask them. You don’t have to give them a huge history of your life -- sometimes it is enough to say, "I am having trouble with this thing and could use your support."

For me that looks like this: My partner does most of our budgeting because doing it stresses me out. Because of stuff I am still learning to get through, my budgeting method tends towards fear of future scarcity even if that is not really a problem. I’m working on it but it's going to take a while.

After many years together, I can tell my partner, "I want to do X thing for X dollars, let me know when the budget is good to go." This is something he does for me because he doesn’t want to see me stressed out when I don’t have to be. When I ask my partner if something is OK, I don’t mean that in the context of permission but in the sense of whether or not our budget is ready for me to get new shoes or yarn or whatever we have saved up for. It works for us. 

It took a long time for me to be comfortable enough to do this. Sometimes I still find it difficult. The truth is always that beyond the economic difficulties of poverty, regardless of where on the spectrum you are right now, the emotional part of doing things for ourselves that we may not immediately feel like we “deserve” is super hard. And it's important.

Before I go, I want to remind everyone: Not all situations are going to be the same but that doesn't mean we can’t empathize with and support each other. Don’t be a butthole to people who are struggling. And, lastly, teamwork the hell out of this. 

I turn it over to you. What are your ideas for teamwork?