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?

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.

Newest Member of the Stay at Home Club

DeathtoStock_Medium10Spending time alone is a skill that I’ve had to diligently learn over the past year. I know it is something that comes easily to others–I can tell by all the memes about staying home– but for me, staying at home alone has been a challenge.

As a direct result of becoming more focused on my work, I’ve had to spend more time alone. I spend hours diligently putting words on paper and then moving them around until they are arranged in a way that doesn’t make me want to pull out my hair. Writing is an awfully solitary activity, and painstaking to boot.

I spent three nights last week coming home after to work to write and cuddle my dog. Three nights in a row without any social interaction is a major moment for me and what’s even more exciting is this single fact: I didn’t hate it. I didn’t hate it at all! Writing is something I have both loved and hated my entire my life and to warmly embrace it as I did last week has me smiling from ear to ear.

I love the process of writing. I become obsessive with switching out commas and words to make better sentences and stronger thoughts. The power that a single comma can hold still amazes me. I suppose my obsession with sentence structure is close to what geneticists feel for a chain of DNA.

I hate the process of writing. Sometimes I could spend an hour on a single sentence and it still won’t convey what I want it to. My brain and the keyboard get misaligned and everything falls apart. I have to be alone for hours at a time with just my thoughts, which are constantly asking me to analyze them and to find meaning in every daily interaction. I simply can not ever just be– chances are if we hung out recently I did one if not all of these things:

  1. Questioned our relationship and how I can make it better (Is it worth making better?)
  2. Try to find a connection between that moment and a previous moment in my life (What does it mean?)
  3. Been in awe of life and how pleasant serendipity can be (Can’t make this up.)
  4. Seared the moment into my memory by mentally writing down colors, smells, and the look on your face (I don’t want to forget you, this.)

For the first time in my life I have fully embraced what it means to have a writer’s life and exactly what it takes to get everything done. Or… attempt to get everything done. I am really coming to find that time, persistence, diligence, and consistency are really the keys to having anything you want in life. I am doing my best to take the good with the bad.

A big key player in all of this is also scheduling. I put a lot of time and energy into building my days. If you’re a friend of mine you’ve definitely gotten about 15 texts in a row as I decide how to structure my weekend to get it all done. It seems like nuisance but actually I find it to be quite rewarding.

I’ve included my current weekday schedule for kicks. I am constantly trying to improve it so let me know what you think. I usually workout in the morning but recently just changed this because I read that the first thing you should do when you wake up is what’s most important to you. (Cuddles, obvi.)

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WEEKDAY
6am – I wake up and cuddle my dog for 15 minutes.
6:15am-7:15am – I make a tea or ACV infused water and work on any writing project on my to do list. Lately it is a lot of blog posts and writing contests.
7:15am-7:45am – I walk my dog.
7:45am-8:30am – I eat breakfast and (reluctantly) get ready for work.
9am-5:30pm – I work and work and work as an Office Manager.
6pm-7pm – If I’m lucky I am home this early. I walk my dog.
7pm-8pm – I use this time to work out either at home HIIT/weight training or go for a run
8pm-8:30pm – I shower and eat dinner
8:30-10pm – I write and cuddle my dog once again
10-11pm – I let myself read or watch TV
11pm – I pass out and sleep for 7 hours