Appalachian Self-Care

Hiking the Smokemont – Bradley Forks Trail in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park from https://www.flickr.com/photos/ugardener/10817704663/

2020 has most of us on-edge.  So much loss, uncertainty, and stress with the COVID-19 pandemic has exhausted most people and pushed us to our limits. Those of us in Appalachia have seen hard times before.

I recently learned (from a health sciences academic research article) that Appalachian culture is a “fatalistic culture”. I am sure there is some long history involving Calvinism and the Scotch-Irish that moved to this region that explains our “fatalism”, but it was not until the pandemic arrived that I understood, truly, what that meant.

Appalachian people have long been stereotyped by books and Hollywood cinema.  I am not going to attempt to explain-away the stereotypes but I want you to know that Appalachian people are actually extremely hard-working, self-sustaining, contemplative, loving humans (with a drawl).  While the pandemic is extremely dangerous and extremely daunting, locals in western North Carolina are taking it in-stride.  Why, because we ARE “fatalistic” in the sense that “we make-do with what we’ve got” – we know all about self-care.  

 Side Note: If you want to know the truth about Appalachian culture, I suggest starting with the following books: To Live Here, You Have to Fight by Jessica Wilkerson, the Fox Fire books (anthologies), and No Place for the Weary Kind: Women of the Smokies by Courtney Lix.

So, here are some words and actions of wisdom from a true western North Carolinian:

  • “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right.” Accredited to Hunter S. Thompson
    • Put your whole heart and soul in to your generosity to others – it doesn’t matter if they look, think, or believe like you do. Let it go when they don’t repay the favor. In short – wear your mask even if others refuse.
  • Find Nature. While some of us are trapped in cities or isolated, try to find the joy in finding space and time for yourself. Appalachian folks are lucky in that their mountains provide ample opportunity to get lost. You can find a hiking group and hike safely and distantly virtually anywhere in WNC. If you need a book about where and when to hike – you know we’ve got those. Also, hiking info is prevalent – give it a try!
  • If you can’t get out: cook, read, or listen.
    • While it’s hard to feed our families and friends together right now, there’s nothing wrong with sending some fresh baked goods to those folks. You can find virtually any cookbook at a library if you’re new to cooking.
    • If you’re tired of sitting in silence, escape by listening to an audiobook. My current favorite is The Neverending Story by Michael Ende (also available on Libby!)

The point is: perservere. The good news is that this pandemic will not last forever and while the world around us feels like it’s out of control, try to make-do with what you’ve got: a library full of entertainment, and an environment that’s easy to escape in. Take the time to enjoy making time for yourself.

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