6 Books To Make You Feel Strong

Can you hear that? That’s me sighing so deeply that the roof is rattling. The past two weeks have been trying, tiring, and… good for my character. Two weeks ago I received a promotion at my day job. This was a position that I had been chasing for two years relentlessly. And now it’s here. And now it’s mine. And now I am hella tired.

Adjusting to my new role has, on the surface, been alright, I feel like I am where I need to be finally… however, I come home exhausted, I work later, and my balance of life has been thrown for a loop. It’s amazing how small changes affect our entire being.

At the same time as my promotion I really hurt a tendon in my left leg and had to stop training for my half marathon. I am unable to run. Running is my main source of stress relief so not only have I found myself coping with new issues but I do not have my usual coping tools available to me. It’s been a weird September.

I found myself going back to my bookshelf for comfort. Reading books I read a decade ago for the first time, to help relax me. I wanted to find a center and I hoped it would be in those pages. I read Kerouac’s On The Road, Hornby’s High Fidelity, and I’ve been eyeing my Fitzgerald collection (I own all of his books) with a hunger I usually reserve for pizza.

As a result of using texts to soothe me, where I would normally use my body, I’ve put together a list of books that have made me feel strong in the past and that deserve a re-read. I’m hoping you too will pick up on of these books and feel strong and centered.

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Love as Self Discovery

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I can’t believe it, but somehow in the past 5 years I’ve become a champion for relationships. I have gone from being, let’s admit it, a bit of an ice queen, to someone who genuinely believes in the value of love. That doesn’t mean I’ve completely gone off the deep end… I am still very much on the fence about the institution of marriage… but I’ve become a believer in the value of loving someone very deeply and for loving when you can.

I am someone who gets afraid of caring about people very easily. It gives them control and since I am controlling, that makes me nervous. Trusting someone with your heart, your past, and your present is a big deal that shouldn’t be taken lightly. But it is also not something to avoid. Meeting someone, loving someone, and even losing someone are self-defining moments. They help to mold us in areas that we can’t mold alone.

Just as traveling alone, sitting in a restaurant alone, and living alone are great markers of being at peace with yourself (you enjoy your own company as much as anyone else’s), sharing your precious time with another soul is a great marker of how giving you are. And balancing the two? Well, you’ve hit the self discovery jackpot, my friend.

Loving someone requires you to let your guard down and share flaws while at the same time accepting another person with all of their flaws. Love is really a great equalizer when it’s done right. It can put your arrogance in check (holy crap I AM flawed) but also open your eyes to just how patient you can be (holy crap I CAN listen to country music). Yes, I realize I just used country music as a flaw there, but stick with me.

It is for these reasons that I am such an advocate for dating, trying some people out, and seeing where it all goes. Does it absolutely suck when it falls apart? Yep, it does. Have I gone through that many times in my life? Yep, I have. Am I better for it? I like to think so. Failed relationships are great to learn from and also put you in a hyper aware state of who you are, what your actions mean, and where you are going. It’s painful but does wonders for pulling you back into the moment.

This all seems obvious to my readers who come from pre-Millennial generations. Of course loving someone helps you to grow, you say. Of course building relationships is good for you, you laugh. I know but take a minute to view it from a perspective of a group of people who were not only raised during the peak divorce years but also an insane technology boom where we grew attached to devices because, in many ways, they were easier to understand and get along with than our peers. That is some isolating stuff.

I also know that being young in general, no matter what year you were born, is a very selfish time. So as I emerge from my selfish years and simultaneously remove my Millennial-colored glasses, I am finding the importance of making relationships (both romantic and platonic) a priority in my life. Like creating a home, they require more than just a weekly clean. They require, design, thought, care and they need to be lived in.

PS – Why is it so scary to press publish on a blog about love?

Create a New Story & Live It

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I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about meditation, mantras, and visualizing goals. I keep reading about mental blocks and holding yourself back from the things that you want and the things you deserve because of patterned thoughts and “stories”– the things we tell ourselves to keep us from going for something. We tell ourselves that we will never have money because we’ve always been broke or we’ll never find love because we’ve never been worthy or never had it before. We take the same paths over and over again because we don’t believe we can take another. It isn’t always about blazing a trail but simply taking a left instead of a right.

I get asked a lot where all my energy comes from. How do I get up early, how do I write at night after work, how do I have a dog… etc. etc. And while I sometimes thought I was just a high energy person by nature, I realized it’s really because I believe I am a high energy person.

Did I lose you right there? Wait! Stay with me.

I know this stuff can sound weird and can scare the living hell out of you but listen… just stop and think about the things you have always just assumed about yourself “I am just a nice person”, “I am just a lazy person”, “I am a math person”. Where did those things come from? You made them up! Or someone told you were good (or bad) at something and you believed them and created your story from it. We naturally want to do the things we are good at and avoid the things we are “bad” at, I get it. Life is easier that way. But what if the you you are now, is based on a series of stories that you wrote for yourself?

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To prove my point I’m going to break down a couple of my stories, both good and bad.

I Am Not A Math Person. Numbers bore me.
This is a story I started telling myself in the 7th grade. What’s funny is that I was in the “gifted” math group in the 5th grade, but it took just a couple of years of consistently being told I was a great writer, that I’d publish a book one day, and that math was my weakest subject, to reject the whole thing all together. No one explained to me that though it was my “weakest” subject, I was still very much “good” at it. I believed what I was told and leaned into my writing and let my math muscle deteriorate. Combined with two unhelpful middle school math teachers who laughed at wrong answers, and of course, puberty, I rejected the whole notion that I could ever be good at math or science and by the time I hit the 9th grade I lived in perpetual fear of it.

And then I had a wonderful Chemistry teacher who was TOUGH on everyone. She was this way because she believed we could do anything we worked for. I spent hours after class with her going over formulas again and again until I could do the most difficult problems she wrote. I worked my ass off and got an A. Because she believed in me, because she made me focus, and because she made me work as hard as she knew I could.

It still took me some time after that, years and years of undoing the bad story, but here I am, working at a company, doing math, handling my own finances, figuring shit out. The stories we tell ourselves are sticky but they can be unstuck if we focus and move past our setbacks.

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I am high energy. I don’t require sleep.
When I got to be about 16 years old and was forced to work my ass off at boarding school (a school that I was getting a free ride to and thus was in perpetual fear of getting tossed out) I told myself that I required little sleep. I worked a part-time job, I stayed up late doing homework, I had a boyfriend, friends, extracurricular activities, started playing sports…I jam packed my days and found that if I pushed outside of myself, the energy was there. The same went for college, I pushed my limits, always feeling a heightened awareness that college was going to end and that I needed to soak up as many experiences as I could. I went to parties, I took lots of weird classes, I worked as an RA, I said “I can do it all” because I truly believed I was that type of person. If I pushed, I found the energy for it all just outside my comfort zone.

Flash forward to me as an adult trying to do as much as I did in college but adding in new responsibilities: rent, a dog, full-time job, bills, navigating NYC, cleaning my apartment… At times I would come to a screeching hault all of a sudden and realize “Maybe I can’t do it all.” But I had always been that person, I had always told myself I could do it all. And the moment that belief faltered, so did my ability to do the things I wanted to do.

It took me a few years (yes, years) to right this ship. It took learning a new way of doing things and getting things done to get there. I went through months and months of stress and of simply doing it all wrong. I tried to apply what I knew in college to my new life and that failed miserably. And now I do believe I can do it all, just in a different way.

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I absolutely know what you’re thinking right now. Really! You’re thinking that this can’t possibly be true, that there are things standing in your way but just remember, someone who was born with more than you has fallen and someone born with less than you has risen. It’s all a matter of perspective and of creating stories for yourself that fit. If you secretly wish you were “A Morning Person”… Tell yourself you are, set your alarm like you are, GET OUT OF BED like you are. If you wish you were kinder. Tell yourself you are, do kind things, enjoy the feeling that comes from doing kind things!

I’m not saying this cut and dry and I am not saying it is easy. It actually kind of sucks most of the time. Re-writing your story is HARD. But like… what else are you doing with your time here?

Shakshuka for One & Getting Past Bad Days

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I’m having one of those weeks where I feel bogged down but can’t find the source of the bogging. I am searching in every drawer but I can’t find what it is bringing me down. The grind of 9-5 job doesn’t help despite the love and support of coworkers and each day I find myself coming home depleted, worn out, and demotivated. Probably sounds familiar and despite my sadness, it makes me feel better knowing I am not alone.

I am fully capable of psyching myself up, repeating mantras, believing, and feeling inspired but I find very few outlets for that good energy. I have yet to find my gift to give and the process is endlessly draining, discouraging, and tiring. Hanging on to the belief that I’ll find my gift is not easy.

When I got home last night, unable to use my subway commute to determine what I should do with my life, I focused on dinner. I wanted to eat something that would taste like comfort food to take my mind off of the chaos for a bit. I wanted something to stick to my ribs but not weigh me down anymore than my own thoughts already do. So I decided to make shakshuka and make it for the first time. And of course, being as inwardly focused as I am, I recorded the process and wrote a little recipe.

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I started by surveying what kind of spices and vegetables I had on hand to build this yummy egg dish around. I did not use a recipe. I am happiest when I am just grabbing whatever I have on hand and experimenting.

I love cooking but don’t have strong feelings toward recipes. I am including one here today and yes, I read them all the time. I believe the true pleasure of cooking is not following rules but taking something and make it your own. I like to use recipes as guidelines.

From my fridge and cabinets I pulled and used the following:

3 cloves of garlic
1 stalk of green onion
1 handful of Picholine olives
Olive Oil
3/4 cups of tomato sauce
Pepper, parsley flakes, and turmeric
3 eggs
1 cup of arugula

I do love simple and minimal recipes and this one certainly falls into that category with a fairly short ingredient list and the use of a single pan.

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Eating olives instead of cooking

To start I diced up the garlic while heating up a decent amount of olive oil in my pan. I kept the heat on low as I added the garlic. Next I rough chopped the green onion and tossed it in. And followed it up with some olives. The only olives I had on hand had pits so I spent a good amount of time both eating them and pitting them. Do yourself a favor and just go buy pitted olives and rough chop them as well. Toss them in with everything else and keep the heat low. Low heat requires patience but I usually use that time getting myself organized.

I let everything get tender but not mushy and poured in my tomato sauce. I used a Barilla pasta sauce that, while cheap, is pretty tasty. I stirred everything all together.

After that I sprinkled on some pepper, parsley flakes, and a tiny bit of turmeric because I like its anti-inflammatory properties and add it where I can. I did not stir these in, I left them on top to help season my eggs. Which I cracked right on top of the mixture. I wish all 3 eggs would have sunk in a little bit more from an aesthetic standpoint but in the end they all cooked nicely so it wasn’t a big deal.

After the eggs were cracked and plopped in, I covered the whole thing and turned up the heat to medium. I let them cook for about 10 minutes but should have done 7. The sauce cooked down just a touch too much. Full disclosure, I was texting my friends and making my lunch for the next day so I wasn’t paying as close attention as I should have!

I pulled everything off the heat and after a little photo shoot I dumped the mixture onto a bed of arugula.

And then I ate until I felt better. Which is perhaps not a healthy statement, but it is true.

Cooking is soothing and keeps me feeling level when days are long and difficult. Cooking dinner gives me a sense of purpose when I feel like I have none. I think perhaps that is why I cooked elaborate meals every single night when my former relationship was falling apart. It makes me feel needed and accomplished. It is the best escape.

Give the recipe a try and let me know what changes you make. There is a million things you can add to this! (Avocado, feta cheese, tomatoes, etc.) Also, what do you cook when you are feeling blue? Why does it make you feel better?

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SHAKSHUKA FOR ONE
3 cloves of garlic
1 stalk of green onion
1 handful of Picholine olives
Olive Oil
3/4 cups of tomato sauce
Pepper, parsley flakes, and turmeric, to taste
3 eggs
1 cup of arugula

  1. In a small to medium pan, heat olive oil over a low heat and add diced garlic, green onion, and olives
  2. Once tender, pour in tomato sauce and stir
  3. Sprinkle with pepper, parsley, and turmeric, do not stir
  4. Crack eggs on top of sauce
  5. Cover and turn heat up to medium
  6. Cook for about 7 minutes or until eggs are baked through
  7. Remove from heat and lay on a bed of arugula
  8. Enjoy!

 

 

I’m in Love with Brandon from LUSH

Going to take a quick detour from my usual blog posts centered around living your best life, and writing your best stuff, and eating your best food, to announce that I have a crush on the man that makes my face lotion.

If you aren’t a Lushie (someone obsessed with Lush products) you probably don’t know that all of the organic, vegan products that this store carries are handmade. Yes, a store that sells face wash and hard soaps has a cult following and we have named ourselves. Get over it, that’s not the point of this!

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To prove that the products are handmade, each one bears the sticker with the name and a cartoon of the person who made it. If you shop there enough you will have repeats; actually you’ll have repeats more often than you would think. This is such a nice touch because you feel like you get to know them.

Brandon is by far the cutest Lush product maker and I can just tell by his subtle ear gauge, nineties chin-only beard and charmingly uncomfortable smile that he’s the type of guy to buy a girl flowers but then follow-up by taking her to a concert for an obscure Ska band or what’s left of Blink-182. He believes in the vegan products he makes and would probably shame me for all the pepperoni I eat, but deep down he means well, and will even indulge in some ice cream from time to time.

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How cute is this man?!

This man pops up on so many of my products I am starting to wonder if we’re meant to be together. Should I be ordering a custom plug for his ear so it arrives in time for Christmas? Does he celebrate Christmas? So many thoughts when really all I should be doing is washing my face and going to bed… and oh yeah, texting my actual real life boyfriend. (Who will totally be cool with this because I am normally pretty stable and funny and nice and I’ve brainwashed him…)

But really, who is this adorable man? Where does he live? WHO ARE YOU MAKER OF 9-5 and Celestial?! He’s by far my favorite product maker and if the sales people at Lush weren’t so aggressively helpful, I would always seek out his face when buying my vegan face goods. He’s that dreamy!

I went as far to Google “Brandon from Lush” to make sure I’m not missing some cult phenomenon. But there were only two returns, and those were reviews, not love letters. So the playing field is wide open…

I’m just wondering when he can come over and teach me how to make my own damn face wash. Leads on Brandon appreciated…