Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Mental Health’ Category

I typically spend December reflecting on the year that’s ending, and part of that process is reading through my journals and blog posts. Several times throughout the year, I have mentioned home and pondered what it meant. One particular quote stood out – “Perhaps home care is self-care?” Home isn’t just the place I live physically, although one’s environment is important. It also involves a sense of belonging – of being secure and loved and accepted – particularly within myself, so that no matter who I am with, I can still be at home. So even before I started reading Najwa Zebian’s Welcome Home, I was already preparing my mind to explore it in this context, but of course, there’s always more to learn.

Merriam-Webster defines home as…

“…one’s place of residence”

I always enjoyed having people over and feeding them in The Before Times. But then COVID protocols shut that down, and the adjustment was hard and, at times, heartbreaking. In many ways, though, it was also nice. I really do like having the space all to myself. It can be a mess, and I don’t feel the need to explain or apologize for it. It’s also less of a mess because there’s no panic cleaning (which results in some actual tidying/cleaning but mostly consists of “oh, shit, I don’t have time to actually go through all this paper on my table because people will be here tonight so I’m going to shove it into a bag and put it in the office closet where it now lives forever and ever amen.”). Additionally, being home alone sets a clear boundary for when I need solitude.

Every once in a while, though, I get a little pang of nostalgia (usually when I’m looking at entertaining arrangements on Pinterest). I’d like to find more of a balance this year that honors my home as my sanctuary but also is welcoming to those I want to invite into it.

“…house”

*sighs; wants*

I would love a house. With a backyard for some (very) minor gardening but mostly for looking at the sunrise and birds and the moon while I drink my coffee/tea/wine, undisturbed by passing cars or neighbors. With a garage so that the neighborhood squirrels will stop chewing on the wires in my car, the neighborhood cats will stop peeing on it, and the multiple hailstorms each spring will stop adding dimples to its hood. With a decent kitchen and laundry room. With walls and a ceiling I don’t have to share with strangers. With more room for books.

This is unlikely to come to pass this year, unless I suddenly get a huge promotion/raise. So instead I’m focusing on how to make my apartment, which has its odd quirks but overall is a decent place to live, more homey.

“…the social unit formed by a family living together”

This one is a little tricky, as I do not “live together” with anyone. I’m expanding it to include those who are family (both biological and chosen). I’m pretty good about spending time/keeping up/supporting some of them; I could do better with others. 

“…a familiar or usual setting; congenial environment; the focus of one’s domestic attention”

Last year – my lush year – I paid special attention to the places where I feel like I fit the best and that brought me the most joy/peace/calm/etc., so I feel pretty well set up for this one. It’s been interesting to see how quickly I notice not only when a setting feels off for me but also when it’s just right. It’s made decisions about which social situations, responsibilities, and tangible objects to take on and which ones to give up a lot easier.

“…habitat”

This makes me think about nesting, which can go a number of ways for me (not all of them good). I do tend to make cozy nests, which I really love while I’m using them, but then I leave them where they are, and as it turns out, an unoccupied former nest is just a lot of stuff out of place and probably some tea/coffee cups that need washing. I may need to find a way to create more permanent, aesthetically pleasing nests that I (and the occasional guest, I guess) can enjoy without having to put them together and take them down every time. I have some ideas.

“…a place of origin”

As my parents age, I’ve been spending more time at the farm. I used to make it home three or four times a year, but I’ve been going at least every other month for a while. I like to check in on them because they (and by they I do mean we as a family) tend to downplay struggles, so it’s good to see with my own two eyes what’s happening. I also just like the drive. It’s one of my favorites. 

“…at home”

  • Relaxed; comfortable; at ease – This is not my standard MO. I tend more toward the tense/anxious/fidgety end of the spectrum. But I look forward to finding ways to mosey toward the other side (or at least in the direction of middle ground) this year.
  • In harmony with the surroundings – I’ve been trying a few new habits at home already that seem to make it cozier and more harmonious. Work may be a challenge. I have a few steps in mind, including taking more frequent breaks any time I start to feel overwhelmed, using broader scheduling blocks for tasks (to adjust for inevitable interruptions to them), taking mental health days when I first need them rather than waiting until they’re almost an emergency, and, just in general, advocating for myself as fervently as I advocate for others.
  • On familiar ground; knowledgeable – I love learning, so this part is exciting. There are specific topics/skills I want to improve this year, including music theory and experimentation, reading/speaking Spanish, editing fiction, writing poetry, etc. I’m sure I’ll come up with more as the year progresses.

“…to be at one’s place of residence”

So much of my stress and mental health struggles could be more easily handled if I would just say no and stay home more often. I never, ever regret staying home. I really like it there. I don’t know why I find it so difficult to make it happen more often. I want get better at it this year.

“…to a vital, sensitive core”

This phrase jumped out at me, but so did the use-it-in-a-sentence example they gave. “The truth struck home.” I spent a whole year examining my core values, but that process has continued in the years that followed, because as we change, so do the things we value most sometimes. Currently, I would still list hope, generosity, and joy as some of the main things that drive my decisions, but the older I get (and thus, the more I discover there is to learn), the more important it seems to keep curiosity in the forefront of my mind, too. I’m sure these values will play a role in my exploration of home this year.

Two of the ways I want to do that is through two things I love – eating and reading. 

I’m going to make recipes that remind me of home. I haven’t decided if I’m going to post recipes and stories throughout the year or if I want to compile them for discussion as a 31 Days series in October (leaning heavily toward the latter, but we’ll see). 

Welcome Home was a solid start for books with home as part of the title and/or theme. I probably won’t get to all the ones I’m considering this year, but here’s the list so far:

Text Me When You Get Home by Kayleen Schaefer

At Home by Bill Bryson

My Hygge Home by Meik Wiking (February)

A Place in the World: Finding the Meaning of Home by Frances Mayes

The Poetry Home Repair Manual by Ted Kooser 

Patricia Wells At Home in Provence by Patricia Wells

The Home Edit by Clea Shearer and Joanna Teplin

At Home on an Unruly Planet by Madeline Ostrander

Cozy Minimalist Home by Myquillyn Smith

At Home with Madame Chic by Jennifer L. Scott

Eat, Drink, Nap: Bringing the House Home (Soho House)

This is Home: The Art of Simple Living by Natalie Walton and Chris Warnes

Placemaker: Cultivating Places of Comfort, Beauty, and Peace by Christie Purifoy

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

Do you have a theme word for the year? I’d love to hear what it is!

Read Full Post »

I am winding up the pause that typically is the week between Christmas Day and New Years. This is the actual most wonderful time of the year for me. I’m glad that I made my list of resolutions a few weeks ago, because that was Ambitious Me. Today, the person editing the list is Relaxed (and Slightly Feral) Me. With their powers combined, I’m more likely to end up with goals that are challenging but also attainable. 

I have certain things I want to accomplish at home, but they fall more into the category of ways of being rather than specific goals, so I’ll save them for my theme word post tomorrow. I’ve divided my six goals into three of the sections I use to track my progress and have stated at least one tangible, measurable long-term goal with each in bold.

Art/Words/Creativity

Read 180 books. This is quite a leap from last year (20% increase, to be exact). To the untrained eye, it may seem that I’m pushing myself too hard. But for me, picking up or tuning into a book is one of the best ways to relax. So in addition to giving me more time to embrace the simple joy of reading books, what this goal does is quietly beckon me to put aside space where I can be calmer and more at peace.

Set (and meet) weekly creative goals. I got away from this practice for a while, and I think that’s one of the reasons why my fiction writing and other creative pursuits have taken such a hit in the last few years. It may take a few (or six…or nine)  months to build the habit back up, but by the end of the year, I want to see not only a weekly plan but consistent follow-through (i.e., checking off finished tasks) in my goals planner (see the cute one I’m using in the picture above, gifted by my office Secret Santa).

Health/Wellness/Energy

Strength train three times a week. For a while in my middle adulthood, all exercise was a chore. But now? Cardio is no problem. I can cardio every single day. Dancing and brisk walks are my most common go-tos. But I dread strength training. I don’t actually mind it while I’m doing it, but getting motivated to start? UGH. The worst. It’s so, so good for you, though. And strong muscles (particularly core muscles) make it less likely that I will hurt myself during all that cardio. So three times a week – I can work up to that by the end of the year. And maybe as I get stronger I’ll learn not to dread it so much? I hope.

Take at least one weekly extended time out. This involves several steps to get started (some of which are mentioned as other goals in this list), but I think once I put all of them in place, I’ll love it so much that sticking to it will be easy. I need more downtime to rest and rejuvenate. The additional stressors at my full-time job are the most noticeable, but they’re really only part of the problem. My tendency to push toward what I think I should be able to do rather than what is actually healthy is also an issue. By the end of the year, I want to have established at least one major time out a week (that I actually plan and put on the calendar). This can look like a lot of things – a day off work with a fun or nonexistent schedule, a day in which I don’t leave the house at all, a completely work- and meeting-free evening, etc. 

Finances

Build a $1,000 cushion account. I am pretty frugal in general by necessity of my limited income, but I could sharpen some of my already decent habits to lessen some of my financial stress. Specifically, my goal for the year is to set aside a cushion for unexpected expenses. I can think of a lot of things I may suddenly need to upgrade or replace at some point within the next few years, but “unexpected expenses” covers all of them.

Identify one new way to save or make money a month. One reason I don’t already have a solid savings built up is that I have been content to meet my monthly budget and call it good enough (until something comes up, of course, and suddenly it isn’t anywhere close to good enough). I’m super anxious about money in general, but I think I have the bandwidth for one small change a month.

So that’s the list. Do you make resolutions? If so, I’d love to hear what they are!

Read Full Post »

A fitting start to my resolution recap is a quote from Luvvie Ajayi Jones’s newsletter

“The goals we set aren’t sacred oaths.” 

My 2022 resolutions were perfectly reasonable at the time that I set them. Things happen, though, and sometimes those things cause a big enough disruption (good or bad – still a disruption) that previous intentions either no longer represent what we want or simply aren’t feasible. So we adjust, and we extend compassion to ourselves (the very hardest of all compassions for me to muster). 

For better or worse, here’s the year in review.

Read 150 books – I read a lot this year, but not exactly what I planned to read. I finished the majority of the books chosen for in-person book clubs, but I didn’t read a lot of the online club selections. I made a pretty big dent in Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge, the POPSUGAR Reading Challenge, Girlxoxo’s Monthly Key Word Reading Challenge, and the 52 Book Club’s Reading Challenge, but I didn’t finish any of them. However, I discovered some new series and authors that I love, and still met my goal of 150 books. According to Goodreads, in those 150 books, I read 44,892 pages, which put my average book length at 299 pages. Most of all, I had fun, so I am calling it a success!

Write 5 short stories – I think I wrote zero short stories this year. I may have finished one for a What Now? submission, but I don’t recall specifics, so probably not. On the plus side, I have definitely written more words of fiction than in other recent years, so at least I’m getting back into the habit.

Finish expanded rough drafts of Feast and Epic Meal Planning – Welp. Hmm. Nope. This did not happen. I did make an impressive (read: intense) to-do list for each project to keep me on track. I’m pretty sure doing that just overwhelmed me, though, especially as life (read: work) itself got more overwhelming.

Earn $7500 with copywriting job – This also did not happen (see above re: overwhelmed at work). I have a couple of new teams that pay more per word, though, so it’s starting to become easier to work back up to the paycheck I need. This leaves me hopeful.

Build a consistent practice of an average of 30 minutes/day of movement – I’m so proud of myself. I’ve been really consistent with this. It’s mostly just been walking with a few dance breaks scattered in, but my doctor assures me that it counts (take that, overachiever brain). The main difference I’ve noticed that it has made is having fewer aches/stiff muscles, especially when I get up in the morning. 

So, two out of five. Not what I’d hoped for, but still progress. I learned some things, and I’m (working on) being satisfied with that. 

Did you make resolutions this year? What did you learn from them?

Read Full Post »

I’m participating in Susannah Conway’s December Reflections challenge (sporadically, at least), and the prompt today was “biggest challenge of 2022.”

That’s an easy one. My new desk location. I haven’t really talked a lot about it here, as it’s more of a conversation to have with my supervisor. But I’ve had several of those conversations already, so it’s not like it’s a secret. Plus, it has had such a huge impact on all the things I do talk about here and the energy/focus I have to do them that it seems like a relevant part of the discussion.

I also want to talk about it because I want you to know that if there are obstacles like this in your life that are hindering your well-being but that, for whatever reason, are difficult to remove (at least without causing a whole other set of problems), you’re not the problem, and I see you. I know you’re doing your best.

When we moved to the new building a few years ago, we weren’t really excited about it. Instead of being in a joint office like we were before where we were a little removed from the passing traffic, which made it easier to do our many tasks that require concentration and, more importantly, gave the students who came in a little more privacy as they were spilling the catastrophic reasons they needed to be released from their contracts, we were being relegated to what is essentially cubicles in a hallway.

The only perk was that we got to choose which cubicle we wanted. So one of my coworkers chose the one where she could be in the middle of the room with more open space and as much of a view to the outside as possible. I chose one in the back of the room that was less likely to get traffic and noise, as my sensory issues make focus impossible when I’m overstimulated (which happens relatively easily).

But in May, the office was reorganized and I was moved (despite my fervent objections) to the space at the front of the room. The space with the MOST traffic and noise. The space where the receptionist usually sits.

There’s nothing wrong with being a receptionist, of course. I did that job for 11 years prior to moving over to this office, and I was good at it. But I have a different job to do now, and getting stuck in a spot where I’m routinely called upon to perform receptionist tasks (and I can’t even blame people for asking, because logically, that’s who the space says I am) pulls me away from it a lot.

It’s also right in the path between the break room and the two areas the part-time staff use. Which means there’s almost constant noise and disruption. And while they usually try to stay quieter out of consideration, which I appreciate, it’s still so loud. There’s no way for it not to be when there are that many people milling about.

And the students who come in to talk to me about their financial, medical, or mental health challenges have to do so right in the middle of it. It makes some of them pretty uncomfortable, but other than straight up not doing my job and pawning them off on someone in a little more private space, there’s not really anything I can do about that.

The impacts of this decision bleed over into other aspects of my life. I’m so constantly overstimulated at work that I usually have a headache and am completely exhausted by the time I leave. That makes having any kind of social life or reaching out to a support system or doing my second job (which I need to make ends meet) a lot harder than it was before.

The most frustrating thing about the situation is that it could have been easily avoided. There was a much more logical solution, even from the beginning, that did not involve reorganizing and disrupting the whole office and putting me in a space that is harmful to me and makes my job harder to do. We could easily implement this solution at the end of this semester, too, but I have no reason to expect that’s going to happen or that anyone really cares how this affects me or my work. That realization has been disheartening.

Still, I have just enough hope that I haven’t had the picture mounted to the wall yet. I may just be torturing myself.

One good thing that has come out of it is that it has forced me to be hyper-consistent with the ways that I take care of myself. I am guarding my downtime more carefully, and I am using my PTO more liberally (PSA – use your PTO like it’s your paycheck. Because it is.). Still, there’s only so much that a strict self-care regimen can do. A friend in counseling put it this way, “You can do everything right and it still won’t matter if you’re drinking poison eight hours a day.” Well…damn. Thanks for the encouragement?

Anyway, thanks for listening, and I hope you’re doing well.

Read Full Post »

It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these posts, but there are several fun things I want to share.

To Listen:

  1. Usually, I’d rather chew my arm off than listen to someone ramble and “um” at me for long periods of time (i.e., most podcasts) (short periods of time are fine – it’s really the prolonged, coulda-been-ten-years-shorter-without-the-fillers monologues that get to me), but the Talkville Podcast in which Michael Rosenbaum and Tom Welling (and various guests) are watching episodes of “Smallville” and giving commentary on them is really entertaining. It will be more entertaining if you were in this particular fandom when the show aired, but I suspect others enjoy it, too.
  2. BILATERAL STIMULATION. So soothing. So engaging. Use headphones for the full (i.e., bilateral) effect.
  3. Tiger D – my friend Sarah’s show on Kuzu on Tuesday nights. You can listen (tonight!) from 8-10 (CST) on kuzu.fm. I’m typically book-clubbing or working during most of it, but I occasionally catch it on the drive home or if I have a rare night off when no articles are due the next day.

To Watch:

  1. In addition to rewatching “Smallville” with Lex and Clark, I’m also rewatching “Alias.” I think I’m at the part where I stopped watching the first time, because so far, nothing in Season 4 is familiar. I still heart Marshall the most.
  2. “The Good Doctor” is good overall. I will watch anything with Richard Schiff in it, so there’s that. I’m not very far in at this point, but it’s interesting enough to keep watching.
  3. And I’m not technically into this yet, as I have not started it. But I trust Maggie’s judgment, and she loves “The Sex Lives of College Girls.” So I may start watching that soon.

To Eat:

  1. It is gourd season. I am in the mood for squashes, and there is a significant pumpkin presence on this month’s meal plan. Specifically, Joy the Baker’s pumpkin muffins and some kind of pumpkin/cannellini bean soup. Maybe also pasta with pumpkin sauce. We’ll see.
  2. It’s also roasted veggie season. Most sheet pan dinner recipes contain some sort of meat, but I just don’t know how they find the room on the sheet pan with all the bounty of fall produce. A pile of roasted veggies (a warm salad, if you will) makes a quick, delicious meal with plenty of leftovers. And it’s a nice balance to the cheese-on-everything I tend to eat otherwise.
  3. Breakfast for dinner has been happening at least four times a week lately. It’s just so easy. I lean toward savory breakfast foods, so we’re talking egg and cheese burritos, frittatas, fried eggs over roasted tomatoes and rice, and toasted egg sandwiches. Happy.

To Do:

  1. NaNoWriMo! I have a new character and a new story, and I like both so much I may turn this into a series. I hope to get most of the first draft of the first book done this month.
  2. Performing with some friends at Rubber Gloves next week. Should be fun! You should come if you’re in the area!
  3. Quiet, quiet, quiet evenings. I remember now what a regular writing practice does for my schedule and my mental health. This has been good for me in so many ways.

What are you into these days?

Read Full Post »

We’re all mad here.

I love costumes. I usually dress up as food (e.g., one year for Halloween, I was a strawberry milkshake), but this year, I am the Mad Hatter. It’s so much fun. The spool sash took forever but is definitely my favorite part of the outfit. One of my coworkers squeals, “You’re so cute!” every time she walks by. I enjoy that.

I can be fairly sensitive and serious, but any chance I get to insert a little whimsy into my life, I jump at it. I love opportunities to be creative, and I notice that I do better mentally when I make an effort to seek them out. To that end, I track creative tasks as part of my ongoing goal-setting for the year. This year, I have eight categories I’m tracking, and while I have specific goals for each (see parentheses below), I try to work most of them in as often as possible:

  • Writing – My writing job and blogging basically track themselves, so I limit this category to other projects, such as poetry, fiction, and newsletter or journal submissions (at least four times a week).
  • Needlework – Most of this is knitting, but I also have been playing around with embroidery and cross stitch (at least twice a week).
  • Piano – I have been working through a book of sonatas, trying to keep my sight-reading skills fresh, but I’m also (slowly) composing a piece. It’s the first song I have written since I busted out “Texas Is the Place for Me” for a piano recital when I was in junior high, but unlike that little gem, this one is strictly instrumental (at least twice a week).
  • Art journal – I have a lush-themed art journal for the year as well as an ongoing scrapbook sort of thing. I also include coloring in this because most of those pages serve as page backdrops or cover art for my various art journals (at least three times a week).
  • Cooking/baking – Is cooking creative? It is the way I do it. Also, have you seen Pie Lady Books? But even if it’s not that elaborate, I like playing around with ingredients and seeing how it turns out (at least once a week, but usually more, especially if I have several free days/evenings).
  • Collaboration – Creative tasks are even more fun with other people. Choir practice and jam sessions are typically how this pans out, but the occasional studio or art party counts, too (at least once but often twice a week).
  • Performance – I usually sing with the choir in service on Sunday mornings, but I’ve been dipping my toe into being on other stages for the last couple of years. I have a performance coming up in the next couple of weeks, so stay tuned if you’re local (at least four times a month).
  • Miscellaneous – Dang, I love a craft project. I like figuring out how to build or make things, especially if I can use them to decorate or accessorize. At any point in time, I likely have three or four projects in process, and the only reason there aren’t more is that I am limited on space (at least twice a week).

Speaking of goal tracking, I would be remiss if I did not wrap up this month of writing about creating a lush life without revealing the specific things I have been trying to put into practice on a regular basis this year. I didn’t set a specific goal number for them; I’m mostly just logging them for informational purposes. There are five main categories that I use to track lush living:

  • Cozy – Big surprise there, I know. This category is super broad. Any day that includes sufficient cozy elements (this category is also super vague) gets a check mark. Mostly, this is an opportunity to reflect at the end of each day on whether I have made time for myself to relax.
  • Pleasure/self-care – Closely related to cozy (and sometimes they do overlap), this category is more for specific self-care actions like facials and getting my hair done and foot soaks.
  • Socializing – If left to my own devices, I will hermit away and hardly ever leave the house. But several things I’ve talked about this month involve actually connecting with other people, so I give myself a little shout-out in my goal chart when I do something social.
  • Journaling – Sometimes this seems like too much navel-gazing (particularly this month when I’m also journaling daily-ish online), but it is vital to my mental health. I’m so much more grounded when I take a little time every day to write my thoughts out. My journals bounce between total stream of consciousness and well-organized, multi-tiered arguments. It’s a wild ride. I may have to appoint someone to burn them when I die.
  • Adulting – For lack of a better term. I tend to procrastinate unpleasant tasks until I am desperate to get them done. This is unnecessarily stressful and counterproductive when it comes to living a lush life. In addition to putting the week’s to-do list in my planner, I give myself credit for each task in my chart, and it’s working so well that I’m going to keep doing it next year.

And that’s the end. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this series of posts on creating a lush life as much as I’ve enjoyed writing them. Hopefully, you found the occasional nugget that can help you make your life a little lusher, too.

Read Full Post »

If spring and summer are water months, the fall and winter are for fires.

Well, outside fires. I’m clearly in the hygge minority when I say that I don’t like fireplaces. They’re smelly and dirty and are more likely to make me sniffly than cozy. If I ever find a house that doesn’t have one, I will know it’s the house for me. I’m pretty resigned to never finding that, though, because it seems that all the newer houses have them. Apparently, it’s a big selling point. In Texas. Where it often reaches the upper 60s and 70s even in the dead of winter.

Anyway.

I do appreciate the glow and warmth of a communal fire when the air is crisp. I’m lucky enough to have several friends with fire pits in their backyards who generously invite me over to enjoy them. A warm blaze, a little cozy beverage, and camaraderie. Happy.

In addition to actually being able to walk from my car to my office without ending up a sweaty mess, there are many things I love about fall and winter. Boots. Sweaters. Soup. Cider. I enjoy baking in the winter, so I often have biscuits, scones, cookies, and cake lying around. Occasionally I get industrious and even make a pie.

I like warm beverages all year long, but they feel especially soothing when it’s cool outside. My go-to adult beverage is typically wine, but I also tend to keep Southern Comfort and peach schnapps around (don’t scoff until you try it – mix equal parts and enjoy) during the winter. I often drink it cold, but it’s better warm. Add apple cider or cranberry juice if you really must. Downright medicinal.

Shorter days make it easier for me to slow down and relax. I occasionally experience a little seasonal depression, but it doesn’t happen every year. Perhaps that’s because I actually rest in the cooler months. I typically sleep better in the winter than at any other time of the year.

I’m excited that we’re entering the time of the year that I find the coziest.

Cozy seasons are an important part of lush life.

Read Full Post »

I have a lot of mementos of past achievements hanging around my apartment. I keep the ones around that hold mostly good memories that helped to guide the path I’ve taken and to shape the person I’ve become. I’ve had to get rid of others that hold bad memories or simply prompt the question, “What was I thinking?”

I know exactly what I was thinking. That I did it because it would be a nice thing to do. Or because it was something to achieve that would look good on a resume. I did it because I could.

I’ve talked a lot with therapists about how could and should are not the same word.

We’ve also discussed my issues as a former gifted kid. Turns out, it wasn’t just perfectionism and undiagnosed anxiety and depression. It was also an almost constant state of burnout. I just thought that was normal. If I wasn’t exhausted, I must not be working hard enough. Who knew that wasn’t healthy? Oh, everyone knew that? OK, then.

[PSA – I’m fairly confident you’re working hard enough. Why don’t you take a break? Maybe have some water? When was the last time you ate something?]

One of the hardest parts of this unraveling is figuring out what constitutes a reasonable expectation. It’s been over twenty years since I earned that last tassel, and taking the highest possible level of achievement and internalizing it as an expectation is still one of my biggest struggles.

I have made a lot of progress. It’s gotten pretty easy to see when other people’s expectations of me are unreasonable, and I often have a visceral reaction to them, especially when they don’t align with my values. The example that springs to mind is when someone said to me, “Oh, so you’re not really using your degree at all?” when I talked about my job. First, my degrees are in communication, so the fact that I had the superior diplomacy skills necessary to refrain from imitating a velociraptor when she said that was itself an example of using my degree. Second, the idea that something is only worthwhile if it can be used to earn money disgusts me. Especially something as rich and formative as the whole of my college experience was. The very idea that I am somehow obligated to capitalize on all my knowledge, talents, skills, and connections doesn’t live up to my standards at all.

[Another PSA – If your college experience was not rich or formative, you didn’t necessarily do it wrong. As someone who has spent her whole career in higher education, I’m fairly confident it was them, not you.]

Most of my struggles lie in overcoming my own unreasonable expectations of myself. I still say yes way too often simply because I can. Because I know I’ll be good at it. Because I know it will be helpful. Because I know it would probably take me less time to do it than it will take someone else with less experience. And if it ends up taking me longer than I think it should, I am brutal with myself. Once, I was berating myself for turning in something later than I wanted to (still before the deadline, mind you – just not as early as I had planned) and my boss said, “You know you are still the first to turn it in, right? No one else has finished yet.” And without missing a beat, I responded, “Yes, but I’m extraordinary.” To his credit, he did not laugh in my face. He just let it sit there and marinate. And I took a much-needed walk.

As I’ve been trying to cut out the things that I’m involved in that don’t really bring me joy or stress me out, I’ve been bumping up against all the expectations I’ve taken on. I suspect that’s why the process is harder than I hoped it would be. But if I want the lush life I envision, I must work to move on from these responsibilities and the expectations that hold me to them.

Sometimes you have to fight for the lush life you want.

Read Full Post »

Now I’m going to take the question about the month-long paid sabbatical and daydream about what I would do if resources weren’t restricted by my current reality.

Most of the month would probably stay the same. I’d still visit friends and family, take day trips, hang out in bookstores and coffee shops, caffeinate significantly, and enjoy having more writing time.

My day trips might turn into longer excursions, though. I’d like to revisit my bookstore or coffee shop road trip idea (still open to guest posts, by the way. Click the link in the previous sentence for details.). Add to my coffee cup collection. I’d also like to spend a week or so in a cabin on the beach, reading and writing and listening to the waves. Or maybe I’d finally cross one of the countries that intrigue me off my bucket list.

Hmm. I might need more than a month.

As long as we’re making wishes, I’d also like a partner who is there for all of it. Well, most of it. I’m still going to need some me time, although probably not as much. Someone who is a good match for me would be one of those rare folks I’m so comfortable with that being with them is almost as relaxing as being alone. I imagine having someone like that to share my everyday life with (sabbatical or not) would up its lush factor a bit.

Because even when I take a week or two off and spend the time the way I’ve outlined here, it’s bittersweet. I haven’t talked about loneliness in a while, but it still permeates most of my days. It’s not as bad as it could be. I’m rich in friendships, and I have good relationships with people at work (which some days, is the only reason I stay). But while friendships are just as important as romantic relationships, they’re not the same. There’s still a specific something missing.

So my lush, unrestricted sabbatical would not just be me and a bottomless bank account. There would also be someone to wake up to and someone in the passenger’s seat, happy to be along for the ride.

I’m daydreaming about a lot of things that make up a lush life this month.

Read Full Post »

Self-care corner

Several posts over the next few days are inspired by some of the hygge journal prompts from the Montana Happy blog. Today’s question –

“How do you pamper yourself? What are some other things you can do to give yourself more love?”

I used to be really good at this. I scheduled regular manicures and pedicures. In addition to regular hair appointments, I also got frequent massages and facials. I had specific days of the week set aside for all the pampering I did for myself, and I made it a priority.

It’s no mystery why I stopped. These things take time, energy, and money. I simply had more time and energy in my 20s, and I definitely had more disposable income when I split major bills with a roommate or two. Additionally, I have felt like I was in constant survival mode for many of the years between then and now, and it’s really easy when you’re in that frame of mind to see self-care as something extra you do if you have time.

But real self-care isn’t extra. It’s essential.

I don’t want to go back to most of those habits. I had a manicurist/pedicurist I really liked then, and no one else I’ve tried since she quit to open a real estate business with her friend provides the level of service she did (PSA to service providers who touch people for a living – don’t just dive in and get started. Ask questions. Is the pressure ok? Can I use this lotion/oil? Do you prefer a different scent or no scent? How is the temperature? Do you prefer conversation or quiet time? Etc.). In fact, while I still enjoy the occasional manicure, after several lackluster appointments, I had one particularly bad experience during a pedicure (there was bleeding involved) that pretty much soured me on the whole concept.

I do have a colorist/stylist I love. She takes good care of my curls and creates an absolutely serene environment during the appointment. But I need serenity more often than an hour and a half every eight weeks.

In addition to basics like finding a therapist I like and buying quality toiletries (I’m particularly picky about hair products and facial cleansers/moisturizers), there are several other habits I am trying to work back into my weekly schedule:

  • Dinner by candlelight
  • Luxurious foot soaks
  • Face mask (focus on deep cleansing in the summer, hydrating in the winter)
  • Exquisite pastries
  • Daily stretches (morning and bedtime)

It sometimes stresses me out to put these things on my to-do list (ugh one more thing to do), but when I manage to fit them in, I never regret the time I spend showing myself a little more love.

Loving yourself is definitely part of having a lush life.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: