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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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?

Food for Healing

Lets JamA lot of old pain bubbled up this month, mostly stemming from my rent being raised and my scramble to find a new home. I’m still looking, but not as passionately as I should be. It is one of those rare moments that I am faced with decisions I’d rather avoid and hide from. It seems so much easier to pretend that it’s not happening and that I don’t have to make a decision that will so greatly impact my life. It’s hard living in a city where your home can be thrown into complete flux. It makes you feel imbalanced. And very alone.

Strangely, as a result, I find myself spending more time alone. I didn’t notice it until days passed and I hadn’t spoken to anyone but my dog. I wasn’t working on projects either. Just sitting, thinking, reading (maybe). I am what you would call listless and what for me is a rarity. I feel my fire put out and I am worried it isn’t just the apartment thing anymore but a host of other things, all simmering just below surface. What they are, I’m not sure, but my desire to do anything other than worry about where I will live, has been quelled. I do not, in any sense, feel like myself.

So where did I go?

More importantly, how do I come back?

Over this same course of time I’ve been thinking very hard about what I want to write. Have you ever seen a writer who doesn’t have a genre, a home, a comfortable place? It’s embarrassing, frankly. I’ve been trying to teach myself to listen and look for opportunities where I would normally ignore them. What I heard a couple of times was the same question, “Why don’t you ever write about food?” Which is funny since I spend 80% of my time thinking about food in one capacity or another. I am either hungry, researching restaurants, ordering groceries, reading about trends, or eating.

It had never once occurred to me to write about food in a serious way. I think in the back of my head I just assumed that food writing was for people that were chefs, or former chefs, or food critics with insane palates. I guess I never thought about letting just a simple passion manifest itself in such a way.

As I mulled this over I also considered how I stopped cooking (really cooking) this time last year. While I’ve been marinating in limbo I didn’t realize I had stopped cooking or baking. That a year had gone by without any attention paid to one of my favorite pastimes. I used to cook full, intricate, and delicious meal 3-4 nights a week. I’d bake. I’d scheme. I’d eat. A year has passed of so-so meals, tried and true recipes. Flavorless turkey burgers and bowls of cereal. I lost the thrill I had for cooking. It went away with the close of a long relationship.

I let it leave the baggage and take my cooking away. My heart breaks to even write this knowing that I drowned out an important part of me because someone else used to play a part in it. Here I was thinking that I was fine but I erased something important to me because it reminded me of something sad. I wasn’t that strong after all.

So here I am, a year later and prepared to face some weird food demons. But it will be interesting and (maybe exciting) to reconnect with a former version of myself. I also can not wait to share whatever fun things I find along the way with you. It’s been a challenging couple of weeks but I keep hearing that when things get tough is when the magic happens.

Don’t Take for Granted How Far You’ve Come

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On Father’s Day last week I was scrolling through my Facebook photos to find a favorite one of my father and I from my brother’s wedding 5 years ago. I did find it:

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I love this picture because our relationship has always been about laughter. Challenging ourselves to tell the worst joke possible, or swapping stories about the crazy people we have the misfortune of meeting in our respective workplaces. My mom is the first person I call when I have a crisis, my dad is the first person I call when I want to laugh.

I am stunned by the sheer amount of my friends and acquaintances who have already lost their fathers. The memories of these men now gone from our world to another stack one atop another on my Social Media feeds like blocks. I don’t know what it means other than the fact that I am lucky. Two living parents. Two living souls to call upon when I need that extra support I can’t find anywhere else.

I am not going to be ashamed now to pull from the now removed/now famous Instagram post from Khloe Kardashian. I get it, I am a writer and I am supposed to be above pop culture and people famous for being famous and all of that but… I AM a writer and my job is to pull inspiration from wherever it may come, to consume all that I can, to shape words the best that I can. So here we are.

'You knew what you had, you just never thought it could slip away': Khloe allegedly decided to stop helping Lamar out unless he decides to beat his addiction once and for all

Set aside for the moment that she is most likely talking about Lamar here and take in this:

“We take things for granted on a daily basis, always with the assumption that whenever we need something, it will be there. There are many things that we fail to realize the value of until they are missing from our lives.” 

There is so much I take for granted. People, places, things… It’s important that I strive for more, to be better and to do better, but if I cannot appreciate what I have already fought for and have won, nothing will ever make me happy.

Sorry…but Khloe is right… I have fought (and I have fought so hard) to be where I am in this exact moment. I have cried, I have counted every penny, I have done things that have scared me to my core, I have been lonely, I have felt like giving up (like… everyday) but, without any of that I would not be where I am today. I am who I wanted to be 5 years ago. I surround myself with people that love AND support me. There is still SO much more to do but today I am going to sit down and take in everything I have accomplished and every failure I have survived. And I suggest you do the same.

Take 5 minutes and look around you. Look inside you. You have done so much, you have come this far, you have survived when you thought you wouldn’t. And you’re going to do it again. Don’t take anything you have for granted today. And I will do my best to do the same.

Halfway to 2017 & We Need Some Rest

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As a runner I usually love the halfway mark. Halfway is the beginning of the end. It’s a moment for me reflect on the miles behind me and gear up for the miles before me. No other mile quite feels like halfway because of its power to anchor you in the present moment. It’s too soon to visualize the end of the race and too late to regret the miles before. It’s a racing sweet spot.

Why is it then that I don’t feel this way about being halfway through the year, and halfway to my 29th birthday? Right now, it does not feel too late to regret the past 6 months as being inefficient uses of time or too soon to panic the end is coming faster than I intended it to. I should be patting myself on the back for a great 6 months and should be reassessing my goals. But I’m having a hard time doing both of these things sincerely.

It would be so much easier to wallow in a pool of regret and fear. It’s not a fun place or a good place to be, but it’s the easiest place to be. Regret of the past and fear of the future keep us out of the present moment which is where real change and growth happen. Being awake in the present moment is never easy but is something to strive for. Being present makes the days seem longer, the weeks richer, the months fulfilled, and the halfway mark buoyant with memories and work completed.

Part of being present is resting. If you are as busy as I am, and I think it’s hard to find anyone these days who is not constantly pressed for time, we all need to take some time to do absolutely nothing but reflect. Meditate, keep a journal, or even just sit and watch the sun set with no distraction. It sounds insane but I’ve started to schedule “nothing” into my weekly planner. If I don’t, I will skip right over the most important part of my day– rest.

I knew it was time to start taking rest seriously last month when I suffered an incredibly painful and actually very scary break out, along with an equally scary eye twitch. I was stressed out and didn’t even know it! I had been internalizing everything and pretending I was fine to the point that my body eventually just rebelled. “Take a rest!” It was yelling. I have to listen and pay attention to the signs that I am doing too much.

I need time to turn my brain off and reflect on life, not to let my fears, hopes, dreams, and challenges swirl around inside of me before they find other ways out. I often make the mistake of thinking “me time” is cleaning the apartment, organizing my closet, training my dog, and making even more to do lists. The problem with this process is of course that NONE of those things are “me time”. Not a one.

I think if we all start taking rest a little bit more seriously and schedule in the time to be alone and unwind, even if it’s just ten minutes a week to start, that we’ll find ourselves to be much happier, much more balanced, and even more productive. That is my hope because we all deserve it more than we think.