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.

Continue reading

Advertisements

A New Borough & Drive Renewed

NYC
Moving absolutely depleted me. And for that I am grateful.

It doesn’t need to be explained again, but I am a person that enjoys feeling busy. Actually “enjoy” is probably too positive a word. I am a person that needs to feel busy, I find value in busy, and that is a very dangerous way to be. I fill my days to their max which in many ways makes me very accomplished but in many ways inefficient and completing tasks that don’t mean much to me.

Because I am a busy bee, I lack focus, and jump from one project to the next with reckless abandon wondering why I’ll never “publish that book” or “finish that collage” or just “get my shit together.” I know what I am like and I am trying, really trying, to change. (Mean it!)

Having to move forced me to focus. For the past three weeks my mind has been set on a singular project, with many different tasks, with a very strict deadline. It was all I thought about and all I worked on. I was focused and driven and exhausted! But… It got done. I moved. And I love my new place! I even found my passport after I panicked that I had lost it in the move.

Processed with VSCO with c1 preset
Post Move//Pre AC & Bed Frame

The move reinforced what I already knew– that I work best under pressure and with an immovable deadline. Now to create those sorts of deadlines for myself… well… I am working on this. I need to find an accountability partner. (Taking applications now! Must be a hard ass!) Or a system that will place high value on real deadlines.

The move also showed me how much time I have in a day if I really dedicate it and direct it to one goal, not many. I was worn out, exhausted, and sore every night but I also was moving through my tasks on deadline (sometimes ahead of deadline) and went to bed each night with a sense of accomplishment and little panic about how I was going to get it all done. Because I was getting it all done. (The novelty.)

Moving myself, with no partner or roommates, was a terrifying task. But as I moved through the steps I realized that I was fully capable of doing it. I even called my mom and said, “Apparently I became an adult at some point and missed it.” Moving, like living alone, is not something you think you can do by yourself until you just do it by yourself.

And like my best friend, Kate, once told me, “Fear means go.” And so… as I shop for curtains and strange wall art I need to regain my strength to totally and completely drain myself with the projects that mean something to me. And to focus for crying out loud.

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.

The Perfect Project Recipe

DeathtoStock_Medium5Hey! Funny story… I still haven’t figured out how to balance all of the writing projects I want to take on… and my mind is getting a little clouded by the whole charade. I now keep lists of both, the projects I have in progress, and of all the projects I’d like to get going on as soon as humanly possible. The biggest challenge of course is taking on work that pays versus working on my own personal writing. The personal stuff doesn’t make me any money (not yet, anyway) but it feeds my soul in a way that some projects cannot. I am always choosing between the two.

It’s funny how the writing I do at home started as a way to keep my brain alive while working an office job, but even that has divided itself into writing work that gets me paid and writing work that makes me happy. I should point out that the two are not always mutually exclusive and I am much happier writing above all else, but somehow I have once again made the work/pleasure divide in my life and once AGAIN work is getting most of my attention.

Perhaps it is because money is easily measurable. I feel accomplished each week because I’m receiving some pay, even if it is tiny. The pay arrives and marks the end of a long work week, a job well done. It is proof that I worked hard and I worked well. Writing for myself is only measurable by word count and often those words make my skin crawl.  

Little by little though I find a way to chip away at the unnecessary and find tricks or methods that allow me to accomplish just a little bit more each week. You see, a flaw of mine, that hardly seems like a flaw upfront, is that I like to “get stuff out of the way”. I’d rather spend four hours one night on a project from beginning to end to get it out the door then dedicate a slot and move on to something else that needs my attention.

The problem here of course is that work that is regular (this blog, freelance, etc.) gets put in front of all my other endeavors (essays for lit mags, poetry, etc.) almost constantly. For example, I haven’t worked on any personal essays in ages and they are where my true passion lies. I should instead, evenly split my time to the best of my ability and finish these things in tandem alongside my personal projects.

The fight for balance continues but I promise you that I will find a method that works for a scatter-brained girl like me and I’ll share the secret sauce with you. I am determined to get the Perfect Project Recipe to get anything and everything you’ve ever wanted done.

Halfway to 2017 & We Need Some Rest

Death_to_stock_photography_wild_1

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.