Why I Like Being “Simple”

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Photo by Khai Sze Ong on Unsplash

It’s been over a month since I’ve last written and I just want to thank you all for giving me that time! My last post went up three days before I started my new job and then it was a whirlwind of travel and learning and bonding and total, absolute exhaustion. But I am happy to report I feel like I am settling in nicely and I am so excited to be challenging myself in new and interesting ways.

A younger version of me would have pushed myself to maintain the blog, the poetry, the novel, the social media presence all at once, even while trying to learn a new job. This time around I said no to overwhelming myself. I said no to setting unrealistic expectations for myself. I said no to torturing myself about “not being enough”. I wrote when I could, I slept when I needed to, and I took a break from obsessing about every little thing. I focused on my new work, I got to know my team instead of hiding away in my room to write (they made that easy) and I am so happy I did.

Maybe it’s because I am older and I’m finally learning a thing or two about life, or maybe I’ve changed for another reason, but I can tell you this: allowing myself to be simple kept me happy, healthy and sane these past six weeks.

I’ve never wanted to be simple. Simple was a sin in my book. If I wasn’t multi-talented, multi-tasking, multi-stressed out, then I was failing. A typical day would have been an intense weight workout, a full day of work, writing all night, responding to piled up texts, walking the dog, cleaning the apartment and then passing out totally exhausted. I got sick a lot. I wasn’t productive. My writing was… well… shitty.

Simple felt wrong, simple felt too easy, simple felt like I wasn’t doing my best.

What I’ve found is that SIMPLE allows me to excel. What I’ve come to realize is that my other talents, my other interests, and loves? They’ll still be there. This blog is still here. My poetry is still waiting for me to edit it and share it with the world. I’ve found other simpler workouts that don’t require me to travel to the gym every day. It’s all there and I will get to it. (When I can!) When I focus my attention to one or two things, I kill it. I sleep. I am not sick all the time. When I am simple I am a better, calmer, version of myself. It took a million and one tries, but I finally saw the pattern.

Now that the travel is done for a bit, now that I am finding my rhythm at work… now is when I can pick up the pen again. Write this blog post for you. Take some new photos for the IG. Make special plans with my friends. And when I do all of these things I will be more engaged because I won’t be tired, or worried, or thinking about the next task. I can simply be present.

I know there will be days when I want to go back to the way I was. When I want to pressure myself and push myself and overwhelm myself. And maybe I’ll need the extra encouragement. But knowing that it’s ok to take a step back and breathe is going to make all the difference. I mean, how often do you let yourself be simple?

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Letting Go of All the Versions of Me to Reveal… Me

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Photo by Vince Fleming on Unsplash

I spent a majority of my life trying to be several different people, all at once. It maybe all started with what I call a success-hybrid I created as a kid. Someone would ask, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” And I’d say, “A doctor-writer-veterinarian.” As I got older I adored to try new things. I played soccer for a year. I played the clarinet for 3 years. Theater and singing lasted longer, almost 8 years. I took on International Studies as a minor for a semester and dropped it almost immediately. I am a girlfriend, a daughter, a sister, a friend, a best friend, I work during the day, and write at night.

All those years I always compartmentalized who I was. If I was in a relationship but my friends were single, I would insist we not talk about my boyfriend. I didn’t want them to think I was actually that sensitive. (But I am.) I wouldn’t talk about my writing with my friends at the gym. I hardly ever mentioned my outside interests at work. It could seem at times even wrong to do so. I operated each piece of myself on its own.

Which ultimately started to drive me crazy because it was impossible to balance my time. Sometimes being a girlfriend took up three more hours than I had planned for. And so I couldn’t be a writer that day. Or I’d have to work late, and not be a friend that day. I have no idea why I did this, but I did. It wasn’t until the last year, maybe two, that I noticed it and attempted to stop it.

I asked my friends to welcome my boyfriend into our friend circle more fully, I made very close and dear friends at work, I told my superiors when I had work published so we could all celebrate. Instead of one or the other I was getting closer to the idea of me that I had as a child, I could be a couple things and it would be alright.

By removing my own compartments, I am a much happier person. My time doesn’t need to be parceled out hour by hour. My planner has become less precious to me. I write in the same room as my boyfriend. I am writer-girlfriend. I share my poems with my co-workers. I am poet-coworker. I make friends at work and introduce them to my boyfriend. I am coworker-girlfriend-friend. The more I combine my passions closer to one another the more like myself I feel. Every time I do not compromise one part of me for another, I glow. The tighter I wind in, pulling it all back, the more complete and whole I feel.

It turns out that I don’t need to be one person for each scenario. I just need to be me, in my entirety, and I will be happy. The closer I can get to my own core, the closer I get to being truly happy with the life I have built.

 

Key to Happiness? Space & Time.

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Photo: Zohar Lazar from NY Mag

I adore my New York Magazine subscription. I know I can almost always read the stories in the print edition on my phone or laptop but there’s something about holding the physical copy in my hand and reading it on the subway that just makes me feel SO good. (It’s also just easier on my aging eyeballs.)

This week they really nailed the cover story… How to be Happy. Which is of course also available online so you can read it too. (But grab it off a newsstand if you can, if only so we don’t all wind up like the humans in WALL-E.)

The story is structured around the most popular course at Yale– Psychology and the Good Life. Why is it so popular? Because college kids are more stressed and depressed than they ever have been before. And arguably, so are the rest of us. The article takes a skim across the course curriculum and its structure. A huge chunk of the course is focused on how our brains trick us into making us unhappy and then moves on to how to rewire our behaviors to be happier. Our brains are basically sabotaging us. Which is depressing to even think about. My favorite takeaway from this portion was that 40 percent of our happiness is entirely within our control. Holy shit.

I will not go on to recap the article here but I strongly suggest you give yourself the time to read it. Which brings me to where I wanted to get to… TIME. The breakdown is this: people are happier when they have more time to just BE than when given some extra money.

Living in a city like New York, it is so hard to see the value in having empty time. It’s a city of hustlers, the city that doesn’t sleep. But filling every waking hour with work, with side hustles, with stuff just to feel “busy” is making us depressed. The misconception is that “busy” means productive and “free time” means lazy.

I have been so guilty of this it’s not even funny at this point. I used fill every wakeful hour with whatever I could. I thought I was being productive. But by the end of the year (for many years) I didn’t move the needle much on any of my goals. I had just kept myself busy and stressed for essentially, the sake of being busy and stressed. I was trying to match the busy and stressed out lives of my peers. Which makes me sad just thinking about it.

This article has come at such a good time for me. I have been exploring self care, meditation, and relaxation techniques for the past year. It’s insane to think that I have to research how to be chilled out, that I actually have to read articles about this to learn that it’s OK to spend an entire weeknight just resting… but I do. And if I’ve learned anything, it’s that almost all of us have work to do in this department.

Happiness and success in America have always been measured by money and by time spent working… things that stress us and depress us. It’s time to flip the switch and change how we talk about ourselves and each other. If a friend likes to spend every Thursday night sitting in a coffee shop alone reading our reaction should be “Wow good for them for carving that time out,” instead of  “Shouldn’t they be working on their small business idea?” And the next time you want to spend an hour reading a book, let yourself. Give yourself the time and space you need to be truly happy. I know I am trying.

 

 

 

 

How to Be Resilient

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Photo by Hyungyong Kim on Unsplash

2018 at my day job has been wild. We’ve lost a lot of great people to new jobs and it was painful for me to let go of friends and mentors all at the same time. I won’t say that I handled it particularly well because I had to call my mom to keep myself from crying one day. That’s pretty rare for me. I mean, I waited 24 hours to tell her I spent the night in the ER with a broken nose.

What she told me that day stuck with me and since then, each challenge that arises in my life, whether in direct relation to these big changes or not, I think about it to calm down.

She said to me, “All of this proves just how resilient you are.”

Wow, that’s a word. A word I was and am proud to have bestowed on me. Resilient! I sometimes walk around wondering if I am crazy for putting up with certain things or for not jumping from place to place, job to job, like many of my millennial counterparts. I often think of myself as a lame duck, just paddling along with one sad foot. But resilient? I feel flattered, Mom.

She’s right by the way.

I am not sure when change became so trendy– Quit your job! Travel the world with your savings! Keep moving until you’re happy. All of those concepts never resonated with me. Sure, on a surface level I was like “Hell yes let’s do it!” But deep down, I am the type of person that much prefers to work through the complications I have in front of me, to find happiness and joy in the everyday. I mean, duh, this blog is dedicated to that. But I needed her to remind me that this tendency also makes me resilient.

(PS – I mean if you’re unhappy please find your own happiness, I am not telling you to be miserable! That’s different and you know it. Don’t pin that on me. ;))

Resiliency can be a learned trait. I truly believe this and I will preach it to anyone who will listen. Learning how to be resilient comes from learning how to be uncomfortable. Finding comfort in your life is like finding comfort on a crowded subway– you may not have seat, but you can probably work your way into a safe corner. Since everyone responds well to lists, here’s a “How to Be Resilient” list to get you started on your own journey or to continue growing (everyone, no matter how resilient, always has room for improvement!)

HOW TO BE RESILIENT

  1. Learn to Be Uncomfortable – Life is never going to be 100% sunshine. Find joy in rain. If you’re avoiding a work project because it seems complicated, try to find a way to un-complicate it. Create space where you are.
  2. Find Your Edge, And then Push Past It – Like with exercise or eating kale or starting a particularly hard book… If you stick with it, just past your edge (your breaking point, the day you usually give up) you’ll find that it is possible for you to get past whatever is holding you back. And you don’t need to go far past it, just enough so that tomorrow, you’re a little bit stronger.
  3. Support Others – Believe it or not but helping others to get over their own fears and problems will make you stronger. Others give us purpose, which in turn gives us strength to carry on.
  4. Take Breaks – No human being is going to be capable of taking sh*t nonstop. Learning how to be resilient also means learning how to take a big old break from the work of getting stronger. If you’re tired, take a seat, just don’t turnaround, you are so close!

How often do you think about being resilient? Does thinking of this word make you more capable? Is this the first time you’ve applied the word to yourself? Do you feel resilient now? Let me know…

Love, light and red wine,
Amanda

me

What Life Should Be Like

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I’m back post-holiday to return to my blogging roots–talking about some serious business. *Queue Serious Music* I took a little break to get into the holiday spirit with my gift guide and to support a group of incredible female entrepreneurs. But now… it’s back to business as usual.

Today I’m talking about shoulds, how they haunt me.

Sometimes (seriously, sometimes) I can come off as pretty collected and calm. But that’s after many years of learning to be that way. By nature I am a worrier. When I was 12 I stopped sleeping at night, plagued by insomnia and anxiety by my very *complicated* life. I was sick over old things and worried for new things and was very tightly wound. My memory of that year, and even the next couple after that, is of lying in bed every night, wide awake and troubled.

I’ve come a long way since those days. I am often able to sleep through the night and have been doing that for years. But lately, I find myself falling into old patterns. Waking in the night to start worrying and overthinking. Spiraling knowing very well I shouldn’t be. It’s odd to find myself here 18 years later.

The cause of it all, of course, is the shoulds of my life. I am straight up shoulding myself. Maybe it’s because I turned 30 this month or it’s because my life keeps butting up against serious life moments (for not just me, but my friends and family around me too) and it is causing me to look at my life and start making choices for my future in a new and terrifying way.

When I was younger all I wanted was focus and security, even though my nature is (again) the opposite of this. I crave new things, excitement, and change. To counter that I made highly secure choices and this, unlike my efforts to calm myself, has backfired into making me feel caged in and to put it bluntly, kind of a big fat failure. I keep telling myself that I SHOULD be doing X,Y,Z or that I SHOULD HAVE done X,Y,Z when I had the chance. On the surface I guess this looks a little like a midlife crisis but really it’s the return of the same fears I had at 12 years old:

What is all of this? What should life be like? 

Smaller goals over time (graduate high school, graduate college, do not starve) gave me the ability to stray from the bigger picture, the life picture, that I saw back when I was a little girl who could not turn her brain off no matter how hard she tried. No matter how tired she was at school the next day and the day after. The smaller goals are now accomplishments to be proud of,  but as I stare down the next phase of life, without any small hurdles to cross, the big questions I never answered “What do I want to be when I grow up?” “What do I want to see and do?” “Who do I want to be?” are bubbling up with a ferocity of a caged animal.

The positive in all of this is that with my blinders removed I have the opportunity to start exploring the things I have always been afraid to try. And that is what I need to keep in my mind–that instead of anxiousness for the future, I can instead feel excitement for it. I am standing on a cliff and I can jump or I can worry about would happen if I did. (I hope there’s a net there…)

The answer to what life should be like is this: to not look for shoulds and instead find joy in the past we’ve survived the potential of what can be in the future.

But it’s never so easy. I’ve been here before. You’ve all been there with me and you’re probably rolling your eyes getting ready to push me off any old cliff already. I feel you. I can say it and I can write it but living that truth is so much harder in reality. I’ll keep working to balance out of course… that’s who I am and though I’ve tried not to be, that hasn’t changed. I’ve been here before and I am sure I will keep coming back to it. I can only hope it will one day result in something great.

How do you handle your fear of the future? Do you keep trying obsessively to smooth out your life or am I crazy? Curious to know.