November 16, 2021 • Q&A

How to Care for Yourself, Especially When the Supply Chain Cancels Your Book Launch

A Q&A with Author & Activist Shelly Tygielski

How and why did you get started in practicing self-care, and why do you believe it can have the power to transform the world?

I started to practice formalized self-care primarily as a means to survival. I was going through a difficult divorce, I was a single mom to my toddler son, and I lost my eyesight temporarily and was later diagnosed with an autoimmune condition that would one day render me blind. I needed to change my life in a drastic way and fill my well, but I knew that I could not go at it alone and that I needed help to remove the many obstacles that were in my way to do even the most “basic” of self-care practices. Ultimately, it was the community of care I formally brought together (whom I shared my self-care plan with) that saved me and helped me not only survive, but to thrive. What I learned was that when we are doing well – in other words, when we are no longer in survival mode – we show up differently for ourselves, for others and for the world. And so the connection between the inner work of self-care and the outer world is really simple: The best version of the world starts with the best version of us.

You formerly worked in corporate America. What message do you have for anyone questioning their career right now and looking for their path?

I would say this: It’s never too late to change your path and it’s never too late to change your path back, too. We live in this world of either/or and what I learned was that it is rather a world of and/also. We think that we have to choose one over the expense of the other and that all will be lost. We are just so black and white that way when we think about taking the leap. I would say, give yourself permission to dream, explore, begin while you are still doing something else that fulfills obligations but may not fill your soul. When the booster is ready to separate from the rocket, you will know. It doesn’t make it any less scary, but it does infuse excitement in the mix of things, too.

Pandemic of Love started out of a very simple idea and grew to help millions of people. What advice do you have for others looking to make an impact?

There is a beautiful Buddhist proverb that says that we should “tend to the areas of the garden that we can reach.” I think that people nowadays believe that we need to be influencers to have an influence, or a platform to make an impact. That’s totally not the case. If we each focused on our own “garden” – our community, our family, our neighborhood – and made sure that everyone had enough and was okay, the impact on the world would be immeasurable. When we try to think about solving the world’s daunting problems, they are so big that we tend to just walk away thinking: “I’ll never be able to fix that.” But when we boil down the problem to the way it is affecting our area of the “garden” – suddenly the problem is less daunting. It seems fixable. It seems actionable. All this to say: Start small, but just start!

Your book release was hindered by the supply chain. Lots of hard work and careful planning saw thousands of book orders be canceled overnight, and a date you had looked forward to be pushed back. How do you pivot in such a situation, and how do you push forward?

I allow myself to be human and feel deeply. I felt disappointment, anger, defeat, sadness and a sort of “ambiguous loss.” But I allowed myself to feel. The average human being is capable of feeling more than 33,000 different types of emotions and for some reason we have been told that some are “good” and some are “bad.” I don’t believe in this designation for emotions. Emotions – all of them –  are part of the human experience. So when I feel a “bad” emotion, I sit with it and push through it. The only way out is through. As my friend Dr. Dan Siegel says when talking about our uncomfortable emotions: “We have to name it, to tame it.” And so that is what I did. I sat with discomfort and really identified my pain and why I was feeling what I was feeling and ultimately I was able to push through the discomfort to just a point of coexistence.

What’s next for Pandemic of Love and for you personally? 

Pandemic of Love is still actively matching people in communities all over the world. I am pivoting away from the day-to-day tasks of Pandemic of Love and thinking about the bigger picture along with our amazing Advisory Board. I am interested in seeing how we can become the poster child for “mutual aid” as a consistent pillar in communities and municipalities all over the world, and to see how we can define standards and create templates that are scalable, replicable, and exportable. I am working on partnering with different national non-profit organizations who were originally annoyed by mutual aid organizations, but now realizing that we are not going away and that they need to get on the bus and work with us and perhaps even begin to include this type of offering in their own mission.

Personally, I am going to take a break and take my own self-care advice. I plan on slowing down for the last part of this year and the first quarter of next year. I am also working on my next book, “How We Ended Racism” that I am co-writing with my friend and peer, Justin Michael Williams, that is based on our popular course called The Liberation Experience.

The Riveter Fast Five

What’s the first thing you do every morning: 

I say a traditional Hebrew prayer that I have been saying every morning since I can remember, called the “Mode Ani” which is a prayer of gratitude to the universe for giving me another day on this Earth. I then think about the ONE intention that I want to focus on cultivating more of in my life for that specific day, if only for today.

What’s the last thing you do every night:

I meditate and think about my entire day, from the moment I woke up until the moment I got into bed and think about how I was able to infuse that intention into my life and whether I did so successfully. Then I text my son who is in college to tell him “Good night and I love you.” And I kiss my husband good night and tell him I love him, too.

What app can’t you live without: 

Seems mundane but the Notes app on my iphone. I write everything down and constantly have thoughts throughout the day that I want to come back to.

What book do we need to read: 

I have returned to the classics – Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Bronte, Faulkner, etc. All the books I dreaded being assigned when I was in school and I am now reading them with a new appreciation.

What business or person should we have our eye on:

Yourself. Tend to your garden. Not to someone else’s.

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