Archive for the ‘Mental Health’ Category

I had a readathon this weekend, and I forgot how nice and relaxing they are. I needed that. I didn’t realize how much I needed it until I looked at my calendar Friday evening, saw that I only had one additional thing scheduled the whole weekend (dinner at my friends’ house where I was plied with delicious food and wine and got to see their dog Charlie and catch up with them and watch TV – so, even the one thing was super low key), and burst into tears of relief. 

Welp, that’s telling.

In mental health news, it has been noted that I am describing a greater number of stress responses than usual in sessions. There are probably several factors. First, it’s the end of the semester, and transitions between application periods always have the potential for instability and extra wackiness. Even when the work week is reasonably calm – like last week was – just the awareness that this time of the year is particularly prone to changing in an instant is stressful.

I am also – once again – trying to do too much and not taking the time I know I need for proper rest and restoration. The writing project I’m focusing on is deeply personal and is uncovering some things I probably need to address in future sessions. And then there’s the ongoing, underlying theme of my brain’s particular neurospicy cocktail, which ensures that common elements in several environments I frequent often trigger an acute stress response, just as a matter of course.

A reasonable question might be, “Can’t you just avoid environments that hurt you?” As we discovered during the stay-in-place times during the height of the pandemic, the answer is yes – absolutely I can. That is technically a possibility that I could put in place if I really needed to, as these responses are rarely triggered at home. But since the aforementioned environments do allow me to do nice things like pay for food and rent or engage in creative pursuits and also socialize ever, they’re not really situations I would want to avoid, even if, technically, I could.

Up until recently, any time someone would mention the concept of fight vs. flight, I would state that I’m almost all fight. But while that may have been true at certain points in my life, I don’t think it is anymore. I still occasionally react in a tight jaw/tense muscles/knotted gut sort of way, but even then it tends to stay bottled up and internal, in ready-to-fight mode. More often, I get fidgety, which is more flight, or preparing to run away.

To my great dismay, though, the most common acute stress response I have these days is fawn. Particularly when the stressor is social. And it doesn’t have to be a big stressor – just something catching me off guard, conflict (even mild ones), someone talking more loudly than I can readily process, a slamming door (i.e., the doors at work all day every day), etc. I turn into this over-the-top people pleaser, which is not at all my usual personality. I switch into accommodation mode, giving the other people/person in the situation whatever they want or letting them control it completely. I become overly complimentary, saying things that, while they are truly what I think, are also in that moment specifically spoken to soothe their stress and, by extension, my own. I do anything I can to appear compliant, non-threatening, gracious, and useful. 

These things are not bad ways to be in general. But because I know it’s a stress response, and thus that the intention behind it is more about avoiding further stress than actual helpfulness, it doesn’t feel good. It’s not an honest interaction, but it seems to come across as one. It feels phony, and it’s hard not to judge myself harshly for that, even though stress responses are typically harder (impossible? I wonder) to control. At any rate, it’s my least favorite version of me, especially when I comply by doing something I didn’t actually want to do, but did do, and then felt compelled to either keep pretending that I wanted to or end the madness with an awkward conversation where I say all these convoluted things out loud and utterly confuse/hurt/disappoint everyone involved.

[That last sentence is what everything in my brain sounds like right now.]

Also, my skin hates it when I feel this way, and it’s acting out. That’s annoying. And itchy.

So that thing I was doing during Lent – taking the two time-outs per week instead of just one? I’m going back to that. It requires some creative corralling of my schedule for my second job, but it’s so worth it. I look forward to being myself most of the time again.

What are some things you do (or stop doing) to relieve stress?

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This week’s recap is going to be a little different. As you know, it’s National Poetry Month, and I’ve read a lot of poems! There were a few collections that were just meh for me and one that fell so flat that I couldn’t even bear to make it through, but I finished and enjoyed most of the ones I planned on:

I have also been bookmarking poems to share with my beloved Follow the Reader friends. I only shared a few snippets that night because I’m misfiring all over the place this week, so transporting from the page to my brain to my mouth is hard. But here are five of my favorites from the month:

  1. “A Song for the Status Quo” by Saeed Jones (Alive at the End of the World) – This whole collection is amazing. I also like this interview about his work. 
  2. “The Noisiness of Sleep” by Ada Limón (Bright Dead Things). I love the concluding line – “I want to be the rough clothes you can’t sleep in.”
  3. Elizabeth Wilder (Balefire) – “There is not much I trust so wholeheartedly as the musty-scented pages of a book.”
  4. “Perhaps the World Ends Here” by Joy Harjo (Weaving Sundown in a Scarlet Light). Of course, the line about coffee charmed me – “Our dreams drink coffee with us as they put their arms around our children.”
  5. To continue the celebration of poetry (does it ever end, really?), I’m currently reading and enjoying Clint Smith’s Counting Descent

And finally, a little something to start your weekend off right. For your aural enjoyment, half an hour of Tom Hiddleston reading poetry. You’re welcome.

Have a good one, friends!

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This week has been an experiment in balancing fun and rest. I took both Tuesday and Thursday nights off. Tuesday was very restful. I came home, laid down on the bed to cool off for a minute, and woke up four hours later. I got up, ate a bowl of cereal, watched an episode of Veronica Mars, and went right back to sleep. Last night, however, I couldn’t slow my brain down, so although I technically took the night off, I can’t really say it was relaxing. I finally just gave up and worked on a project I need to have finished soon.

Wednesday, we painted rocks at work (fundraiser for We Care We Count). That night, we worked on a percussion part that we’re doing on Sunday before choir practice, and then I got to go to this month’s Molten Plains at Rubber Gloves. The show was phenomenal. 

Tonight is cookbook club. I’m taking a lasagna skillet because I don’t have time to make a full lasagna in the slow cooker, and it is now officially too hot to turn on the oven in Texas.

Here are five things I enjoyed this week:

  1. A list of the best bookstores in every state that I found on Pinterest led me down the rabbit hole until I also found 13 beautiful bookstores I need to see. I like having lists like these in my proverbial back pocket just in case I find myself in one of these cities with an afternoon to kill. You never know.
  2. The Spite House by Johnnie Compton – The audiobook was great and appropriately creepy. It’s not scary in the jump-out-and-get-you way, but rather a slow, eerie burn, which is the type of scary I prefer. The fact that I could only listen to the last half of the book during the day is a testament to its spookiness. The story was well-told and moved along really smoothly.
  3. Balefire: Poetry for the End of the World by Elizabeth Wilder – I took a poetry class several years ago from Elizabeth, and it was so helpful. I enjoyed this collection. One of my favorite things about it is the spare use of language that marks every word as intentional and full. Added bonus – it’s free today on Amazon! I’m not sure how long that will last but grab a copy if you can.
  4. This is a succinct synopsis of some of the best advice I’ve heard about pitching to a literary agent. Just in case you or anyone you know is interested in that kind of advice. In related news, I’d be a great literary agent. *ponders*
  5. I love this piece on how to fight for your library, particularly as many are being threatened with defunding for simply operating as libraries are meant to operate.

Tomorrow is a busy day. I have book club at the library (we’re discussing paranormal fiction) in the morning. Then I have lunch with my friend Karla and a birthday party for another friend afterward. I’m practicing with Sarah during the evening for our performance next Friday. May definitely need a nap and a whole lot of downtime on Sunday. I took Monday morning off because we were going to go to the club, but we postponed that outing. Am I giving up my morning off? Absolutely not.

I hope you have a fun and relaxing weekend and find that beautiful, elusive balance!

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[Not really related – just happy treats I forgot I had and found at my desk this morning.]

Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, is this week. 

I have observed Lent since my early 20s, long before I was a member of a liturgical church that celebrates in seasons. I’ve practiced fasting from certain foods and activities, reading a book or study designed for the season, committing to certain service projects for 40 days, etc. I particularly love this piece from Tsh Oxenreider on why Lent is good for us. All of the ways I have observed Lent have been meaningful for me in some way, and I’m glad for the experience.

Being a part of a church that actively observes the season, though, makes my focus more communal and less personal, which is also nice. We have weekly soup suppers together and a mid-week service. For a couple of the years I’ve been part of this church, the communal observance was all I did, and it was enough. 

With home as my theme for this year, a personal observance also seems in order. Part of the way I’m doing that this season is by checking in with ongoing goals, figuring out what’s working and what’s not, and adjusting as needed. This, of course, is a helpful practice in reaching long-term goals regardless of your religious leanings.

Incorporating the solitude that I need with the life that I want is sometimes messy. February has been intense but good. I’ve been a part of three performances this month. Three! I think that’s more times than I performed in all of 2022. And I have at least two more performances coming up in April that I’m excited about. 

I like performing, and I want to keep doing it, but that means adjusting in other areas so that I don’t burn out. I’ve had to be extra vigilant about safeguarding my alone time, and I’ve had to be very strict with myself about boundaries between work and personal life. The time-outs have been useful because with so many performances comes extra practice and before I know it, I’m out of clean socks or spoons. Or worse – coffee. 

So some of my short-term goals for Lent are about continuing with this year’s focus and resolutions, which were intentionally designed to help me find a good balance between all the things I need and want to do so that nothing gets too far off track. Specifically….

  • Two extended time-outs a week – This resolution (taking one long break a week) is going so well. It’s the primary reason I was able to perform three times in a two-week period without losing my mind. It’s so effective, I’m expanding it, at least for the next 6-7 weeks (and maybe longer. I suspect longer). A couple of large blocks of time a week are helpful for giving myself the breathing room to be at home in my own life and experience all that it has to offer.
  • Tidying – Being physically at home with an open schedule more often makes me more aware of things there that need tending to. I’m not sure when tidying became less of a chore and more of a joy, but I’m grateful for that. I suspect it had a lot to do with Marie Kondo’s approach and the example she continues to set about paying attention to what gives you joy and focusing your time and energy on those things. When I know the results of work will be so pleasant, the work itself seems less like an overwhelming drudgery and more like just the way I’m taking to get there. For the next few weeks, I want to spend at least five minutes tidying a different small area of my apartment every day to make it more functional and cozy. 
  • Fun at work – OK, so my work situation is not great. But March is staff appreciation month, which is my favorite month of the year at UNT, and it’s a reminder that even if something is necessary but not a good fit, it still doesn’t have to be a total drag. During Lent (and hopefully beyond), I want to do one fun thing at work a day. Whether it’s taking a long walk across campus, decorating my desk, or attending a Hula dancing program (which I am absolutely signed up for), I want to learn how to make the most of it as long as I’m here.
  • Money issues – Two of the main reasons money makes me so anxious is that I don’t make quite enough to cover my needs plus a few small joys on a consistent basis, and I am acutely aware of how quickly the little I do make can be reduced or consumed if I’m not (and even sometimes when I am) constantly vigilant about it. To ease some of this pressure (ideally – I’m so very, very anxious), one of my goals for the year is to identify some way each month that I can either make or save more money. That’s been going fairly well, but now that I have a taste of cutting back, I’m no longer wanting to limit it to one a month. So I’m going to rip the bandage off and create a bare-bones budget that I can imagine actually sticking to. I hope to work out the kinks in March-May so that hopefully I have a better budget in place at the start of the summer. I expect that there will be tears as I let go of some things that I enjoy but are just too much right now but also hopefully some relief as, ideally, it will free up some funds to take care of other things I’ve been neglecting.

Setting weekly creative goals, reading a whole lot of books, and strength training are all seeing regular progress, so I’m just going to keep doing what’s working there. 

If you observe Lent, I hope you have all the time you need this season. If you don’t observe, I hope you have a wonderful next few weeks that are as stress-free as possible. And I wish a good day to all!

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You may remember Michelle from the approximately 2,342 times I’ve mentioned her over the years, or at least from her cameo on Tuesday’s post:

Today is her birthday, and I’m so happy she was born.

We met on the MRMB (Michael Rosenbaum Message Board – ah, fandom), where I knew her as ravenluvslex (raven for short, which is still the name she’s listed under in my phone). I met Michelle when I still had my first blog on livejournal (RIP). We traveled to Kansas City together to meet up with other fans where no one turned out to be a serial killer and we sang happy birthday to Michael Rosenbaum’s face on a cake.

We also met back before I carried a phone that takes pictures everywhere I went, so most of my documentation of our early days is in writing or in a picture album somewhere. Or on videos taken by other fans that we don’t really need to see.

I still have a lot of pictures of her sticking out her tongue (see above and below).

(Aw, orange couch)

(aw, Bochy’s)

There are so many things I adore about Michelle.

She’s always up for a good time.

She lets us take group pictures of feet even though she hates them (feet, not group pictures, to be clear). 

She loved going to the club as much as I did.

(It’s not blurry. It’s ARTSY.)

(We should go again sometime. I promise to only spend a minor portion of the evening crying about the old place.)

She gave Nelly Cat a great life.

(Aw, Nelly Cat. *pets*)

She helps me locate Billy Boyd when necessary (the world is just better knowing that somewhere, he is).

And sends me pictures of her face when I tell her I miss it (which is even better than Billy Boyd).

She also made this super cute kid:

I love Michelle’s passion, her compassion, her boldness, her humor, her honesty, and her insight. I love that we have just as much (or more) fun together binge-watching TV and sharing delicious snacks as we do going out. 

Michelle/Raven/Rupert, I love you. So, so much. Happy birthday, friend.

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After what was a glorious spontaneous week off due to an ice storm in Texas, we came back to work, Land of 10,000 Emails, this week. That has been less than glorious. But here are some things I’ve enjoyed despite being so far behind at work I may never catch up.

  1. Speaking of emails…“Hi, anxiety is a fucking prison that I can’t escape and now it has literally been ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY ONE WEEKS SINCE YOU EMAILED ME…” is the solidarity I need right now. Thanks, Jenny Lawson.
  2. So you know how everyone has been talking (for a couple of years) about how Only Murders in the Building is super cute? They’re right. Just a few episodes in, and I’m hooked.
  3. There’s nothing wrong with your personal library.
  4. Yep. Definitely hiring someone to lug around the boxes and boxes of books I own next time I move. Although, that was a pretty good workout….
  5. I finished Marissa Meyer’s Gilded last night. This is a retelling of Rumplestiltskin, and I really love what Meyer does with it. I had three versions going – ebook for reading on my desktop at lunch, audiobook for listening in the car, and a hard copy from the library for at home. Because once the story got going, I couldn’t wait to find out what happened next. I’ve already checked out the ebook of Cursed in anticipation of this need for the second part of the duology. Fantastic. Highly recommend.

Saturday, I’m performing some microfiction at a show at Deep Vellum. You should stop by if you’re in the area.

I hope you have a great weekend!

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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.


*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.


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!

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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.


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).


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. 


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!

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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?

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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.

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