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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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.

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.

 

 

The Task of the Ask

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As you all know I hate asking for help. I don’t know why I’ve always found my asking questions or asking for assistance so deplorable, especially since I really do not look down on anyone who asks me for help, but I do. We’ll chalk it up my being stubborn and leave the soul searching there.

I’ve been making asking for help a new habit of mine. Not in a weird co-dependency play, but to start to understand when it is that I need external help and how to identify the appropriate time and place to ask. I have found that when I really need the help, I like asking, instead of following my old tactic–complaining to someone until they offered help.

Almost always this tactic does not work for the following reasons:

  1. I’m complaining to, and therefore asking, the wrong person
  2. I’m wearing out important people in my life (close friends, my boyfriend, my dog)
  3. I don’t know how to apply advice to my problem, again because I am going to incorrect sources
  4. I’m blowing off steam to a sympathetic party and then STILL trying to solve the problem by myself (and can’t)
  5. I realize I am complaining so I stop speaking altogether and internalize the problem and its stress

(I always find these posts funny. The ones where I admit to being a worthless human being who doesn’t know how to be an adult and then I find out that a lot of us don’t know how to adult. As Kurt Vonnegut said, “I just got here myself.” Meaning, no one’s got the answers. So even though I FEEL foolish, I’m still going to post this.)

So my terrible complaining tactic has not worked out for the reasons above and it has taken me 28 years to realize this fully. I just never knew that the difference was in simply asking for help. It’s funny what we learn when we are on our own in this world. I have been practicing my asking over the past few weeks. At first I didn’t know I was practicing! Like most stuff in my life it was not a conscious decision. I just sort of adjusted and noticed what I was doing later. And now that I am conscious of it, the real work can begin.

Here’s what I accomplished recently by asking:

  • In my writing life I started being active again in my Rich20Something entrepreneur group when I was discouraged by lack of freelance contracts and–not only discovered I wasn’t the only one in trouble–but picked up some work in the process!
  • In my office life I boldly asked for a job description change to be given more work I enjoy and found a lot of receptive parties who are helping me work towards that goal.
  • In my personal life I asked my boyfriend to watch my dog so I could go to my high school reunion last week. He did so and was so generous in accepting the task without hesitation that my heart exploded everywhere.

These are just three examples of how asking, just asking, has started to change my life in positive and glowing ways. There are still many things I do alone, and many things I can only do alone, but for the really tough stuff that I don’t have answers to, there is a community of people out there to help me.

Come In and Know Me Better, Man

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Ugh, I knew this was going to be a tough one to write but I have to do it. It’s the next step in this little evolution I’m experiencing right now. So here it is…

I’m a super jealous person.

Oh my god, I can’t believe that’s in print now, but here we go!

I’m a super jealous person, it’s my worst character trait, and I hate it. I wish my first instinct when someone has something really great happen to them was not to wonder what I’m doing wrong and what they’re doing right and if I’ll ever have that “thing” happen to me. But it is and it’s exhausting.

I am sure my sense of jealousy stems from my tendency to constantly compare and contrast everything that I am presented with. I’m a tiny bit… analytical. So when I see ANYTHING, anything at all, I want to know how it happened, how it works, and how I can do the same thing. It’s weird but I’m like a super smart Chimpanzee or a four year old — I want to know how everything works so I can make it mine.

The good news is that I know this about myself. I can now recognize it when it happens and control it. I tell my brain stuff like, “Calm down, wow.” “This is great for them, be happy, weirdo.” I channel my jealousy into fuel to work harder on myself and my own projects and then I take a few minutes to think about the person, the thing, and I always realize in the end, “This is really awesome. I am so happy for them.” It just takes me longer than the average bear to come to this conclusion. I’m fighting my natural state. And I’m hoping by doing so that it won’t be my natural state anymore.

I’m curious… what would you say is your biggest character flaw? How do you fight it? Or do you not? Tell me, tell me. I’m monkey who wants to know stuff!