I've been reading the future a lot lately. Outcomes of phone calls, responses to social media posts, real-life interactions, you name it—I will tell you what will happen.Read More
Up until a month ago, I've worn officially one romper in my adult life. I had two for a split second a few years back, but during my minimalist phase I deemed it unnecessary (okay, but it was a 90's navy and white floral print and it was so beautiful and I might need a moment of silence for it).Read More
I've had to take a step back from most things this month.
It all stemmed from something I can't even put my thumb on: gradually, and yet all at once, I hurt my back. It ached while I sat, it ached while I walked. It ached in my downward dog and shot pain whenever I pushed it too far in a forward fold.
It seems to come mostly from my hips, where a single bit of misalignment means that my heating pad and I have another all-night Netflix date on the couch.
So needless to say, I've been out of the yoga studio for over a month, with only brief visits for yin classes or when I think I'm over the pain. (Spoiler alert: it comes back).
So here I am, still doing baby yoga in my apartment every day, trying to find a balance between strengthening and healing. I'm going a little stir crazy, and it's fueling every wonky depressive synapse in my brain.
Whether it's physical, emotional, mental or spiritual, we all get into ruts we never intended to arrive in, and it can be devastating to your habits and motivation to get pulled so harshly out of your routine. So today, I'm going to just muse on what I've been doing that helps me, and maybe it can help you too!
How to fill the space when you have to take a step back
- Know that it's not gone forever, it's just not available to you right now. Like (ugh) pumpkin spice lattes. They're not always around, but they will come around again.
- Pay real attention - if it's an injury, really focus on how your body feels and get in touch with where you're at. Be honest, take care of yourself, and get hyper aware of what feels good and what hurts - both emotionally and physically.
- Tell someone. The likelihood of them understanding you on a very precise level is extraordinary. So many of my friends and yoga studio buddies have experienced injuries (including hip + back), and they can offer suggestions for what to do. They can also offer an empathetic ear, which is even better.
- Do something. Do not do nothing. I'm saying this because today, I almost did nothing and were it not for my husband pushing me out of the door, I would have stayed home in my pajamas. (He even had to start the shower for me so I'd get up and bathe).
- Do something else. I've been trying to do some yoga at home, but I've also been trying to get out on walks since that doesn't currently hurt. It's no intense sweat sesh or cardio bombshell, but it's getting me out of the house and getting some fresh air - two of the things I've been missing since I'm not getting out to the studio.
- Find yourself - you are still there. Who you are is not gone, she's right there and it'll be okay. Whether it's through journaling or sitting there giving yourself a pep talk while you stare at a blank wall - listen as hard as you can for the voice that's your own.
- And finally, know that it's okay. It's the okayest. Let yourself be hurt, let yourself be in whatever state you are in and don't face yourself with anger or guilt. There's no use making yourself feel worse about not doing the thing, when you really, truly cannot do the thing. Let. It. Be.
If you didn't catch on by now, this blog post is today's "something else" for me to help get me out of my rut. It's not much, but it'll do.
How do you get out of ruts - physically, creatively, emotionally?
Today I feel like a knuckle that hasn't cracked in years, but yearns to. I feel a little wound up, a little like everything I've experienced this week has settled in between my bones and is now aching, to remind me it's there.
Who else out there remembers being a kid and poking at end caps in the Target register line while your parent pulled out a well-worn checkbook, wrote a check, and noted the expense for balancing purposes later? Every time I write a check, I think about those moments, when things were so much slower and my attention span was still somehow longer.
I've been thinking specifically about the idea of balancing your intakes and outputs lately, and it takes me back to the lessons of balancing a checkbook or balancing chemical equations that I learned in high school. I always thought it was so interesting how things worked out in the end, as long as you didn't eff it up.
Someone recently said something about how we, as a society and as humans in this society, spend most of our days intaking absurd amounts of information. Pop yourself into the middle of Los Angeles, and your cup runneth over the second you step outside your apartment: billboards, bus signs, bus stop posters, banners flowing from behind tiny planes: it's all vying for your attention, and it's all getting a piece.
There are two facets to finding this balance that I've been working on: curating and creating. We can only curate what goes in - unless you're able to live a cabin in the woods lifestyle, it's almost impossible to remove yourself from the noise. From there, to keep the noise from building into a loud, rather dull static in your mind, it's essential to create. Let me explain:
First, Feed Yourself The Good Stuff
Are you feeding yourself well? Not just in a literal sense - social media is kind of like pizza and soda and candy. It's delicious and amazing, but we're eating it every. single. day. All day. We're eating it on the toilet. We're eating it in our Lyft, we're eating it right before and after yoga class and on our lunch breaks and even at work if it's our job to spend time on social media.
For the connected person, the junk food is almost unavoidable. But here are a few things that I've worked on to help manage it:
- Unfollowed nearly everyone I am friends with on Facebook. Even family, even close friends. That way, if I want to opt in to see a friend's posts, I search their name and go directly to them. It also helps me realize when I'm just doing something to be nosy or if I genuinely care; 80% of the time it's to be nosy.
- Avoided following people out of a feeling of obligation. I'm not the greatest at this one, but it's a helpful way to gauge whether or not I truly want to follow someone: am I following them just to be nice? If yes, then will their posts clutter my feed or make me feel overwhelmed or sad or angry? If yes again, just don't follow back. Ultimately, who's following who is not a marker of your friendship or loyalty.
- Ditch the notification badges. If you can, ditch the apps all together (I've tried and all I've ended up doing is keeping a Facebook tab open at all times in my mobile browser...not very effective at curbing my use of it). If you must have the apps, go into your settings and get rid of all notification badges. Do this for email too - it will make you feel SO much better.
- Don't knowingly harm yourself. If you're having a bad hair day, don't browse through lovely pictures of your friend with the gorgeous mane. Don't seek out drama, gossip, political bummers, or contentious people. Just...skip it.
When you find yourself sinking in to an old habit, try to replace it with a more productive or positive one. For example, instead of scrolling through Facebook, maybe click through to an article that sounds informative (and not fake) and give it a read. Go to a blog you enjoy, or watch an insightful YouTube video. Try to use as much of your "social media" time in a way that fills you up with good, healthy stuff instead of filling you up with greasy cheese and rage.
You've Curated Like A Champion - Now It's Time To Create
Don't cringe just yet! I'm not telling you that you have to create lyrical poetry or magical velvet paintings every day.
Your version of creation can look any way you want. It can be through physical creation, or it can be a physical manifestation through movement or music. It can be organizing your home outside of the typical cleaning routine, it can be writing on a blog. Anything that takes you a few steps away from the mundane and gets your energy moving in a new way - that's the creation I'm talking about.
So no, sending routine work emails doesn't count. But calling a friend to tell them a story does!
Creating something, as often as you can, can help you balance the ruckus in your head. It's helped me feel a little less scattered, even on days when I create some terrible, awful things. (Seriously, some of the poetry I've written in the past twenty days of my thirty day challenge has sounded like poetry a third grader writes in hopes of getting it put on the fridge - and it doesn't even make the cut).
It helps you get all the bad noise out of your mind so that the true melodies can shine. It's so cheesy, but I think focusing on how I'm engaging and using my mind a little more, I've been able to see myself more clearly as a person.
And now I'm completely cured from consumerism and I only ever read sophisticated and intellectual things on the internet.
(Just kidding you guys - it's a daily battle that I regularly lose. But I'd rather be losing than quitting this one!)
Sending you all the love and balance that I can muster this evening.
Today I feel like a leaky sugar bowl, like sweetness is coming out from between my jagged cracks and edges and softening them. I feel like a tired calendar that is ready to drop from the wall and rest.
I’m on day three of my November poem-a-day challenge, and I am happy to say that I’ve written three terrible poems.
There are good bits in each one. One poem, about a terrible pearl, ends with the a reflection on nothing being left over except the work of living. Yesterday’s poem was about bivouacking, a new word I discovered. And today’s poem is about a sugar bowl that fell to the ground and shattered.
What I’m realizing is that things are more quickly coming to mind, things I never would have thought about had I not created this challenge for myself. Frankly, I wouldn’t be able to think this quickly if I hadn’t done the past month or so of daily writing on my blog.
And even though I’ve sent some pretty disappointing words onto the internet, I know I have so many more to go through. Like, probably years worth of awful writing before I get to the good stuff.
Which brings me to the point of today’s concise blog post:
In order to do the thing that you’ve wanted to do for so long, you have to do the thing.
And you have to be terrible at it, and you have to keep doing it anyways.
You have to look yourself in the eyes and say, yes, I am hungover and angry and drawing every blank in the world, but I must do this thing or else I cannot do this thing. And here’s the truth from someone who has been doing her thing every day for only 42 days: it’s awful. Some days it’s physically painful and you’ll sit at your desk and yell about how you don’t want to.
Those are the days that you just do whatever it takes to say you did it: even if the blog post is more whining, even if the poem is so abstract that a balloon wouldn’t bump into it.
I’m so, so sorry to tell you this. But if you aren’t doing the thing, then you aren’t doing the thing.
It’s something I’ve been told and every fiber of my being lashes out in defense and anger, but from where I stand right now it really is the truth.
There are so many days ahead of me that I will probably not do the thing. And there are deadbeat days ahead of me, but at least now I know that I am truly capable of handling the work, even at its worst.
Bad example: if you want to be a singer. Are you singing? It doesn’t have to be daily, but it helps if it is. Sing in the car, in the shower, in your designated singing room. Sing even if you’re hungover, and sing especially if you’re drunk. If you’re not singing even when you’re drunk, then you are somebody who wants to be a singer—you are not a singer. I am sorry.
I am, for all intents and purposes, a writer. I am not a good writer, but I write every day. I have been a writer for 45 days, but before then I was an aspiring writer. Before that, pretty much everything I wrote was emails, so I was an emailer.
Here’s the bottom line: if there’s something you want to do, do it. Sneak out of your day for a few minutes here and there and do the thing. Let yourself be devastatingly, embarrassingly bad at it, practice it, nurture it. And then get better.
Today I feel like each octagonal cell of my body is beating, pulsing to some autumn songs I will not remember in ten years. I feel yellow and mustard and ochre and marigold and canary and amber. A little burnt, but not badly. Cooler weather is here.
Tonight’s writing session will be short and sweet—it’s technically already November, although I’ll backdate this post so that it doesn’t look like I was up past midnight. I haven’t slept all the way through October yet, so I’ll take tonight as an opportunity to do some goal setting for this next month.
But first, a story:
I got a little kick in the pants this afternoon when I checked my personal email and found a newsletter from a poetry website that I never remember subscribing to (or even visiting). It was a call for contest submissions from new and emerging poets—with a deadline of the last day in November. I can’t help but feel like this is one of the loudest signs that I’m heading in the right direction.
So, at the end of the month, I am going to submit at least one poem to a literary magazine, with no expectations of outcomes or attachments to results. I’m just excited to do the thing that I’ve said, for years, that I was going to do.
Now onto my goals for the month. I’ve decided to batch them out into different facets of my life, not because I want to have a million goals, but because I want to stay balanced this month in all of these areas: mind, body, spirit, and relationships.
I really want to work on feeding myself healthy mental food. In November, I will finish reading This Side Of Paradise, and proceed to start reading a collection of poetry, maybe a collection of new American poetry.
I will also begin to limit my social media consumption without participation. That means that I can’t just scroll—I want to be posting, to be working a little bit for the rush. Stretching myself to take interesting photos or writing thoughtful captions will at least be a small step towards forming a more healthy relationship with Instagram. I know it sounds crazy, but my totally mindless consumption needs to chill out, and forcing my involvement will help me limit my time on the app.
Yoga every damn day, as usual.
But I also want to work on my other physical activity. Other than my little walk to and from the studio and my commute to work, I don’t usually get out in the world. I want to remedy that with a handful of destinationless walks each week. My goal for November is two walks a week, outside of work and yoga. Totally doable.
And, to my body’s delight, I would like to also set the intention of drinking more water. I’ll work on drinking a full water bottle before I arrive at work (I found it’s easy for me to grab a few sips at each stop light on my commute), one at work, and one more in the evening. I usually drink a full bottle after my yoga practice, and am okay about drinking one other full bottle somewhere in the day, so I’m ⅔ of the way there. Just need to be drinking one more bottle’s worth of water. Again, doable.
After a bit of thought, I believe this is the proper category for my writing challenge. I’ve found that my daily writing habit has certainly helped my mind, but it’s done even more for my heart. I’ve felt such a drive and regained a sense of self control throughout the past several weeks, even on nights where I write begrudgingly. At the end of this month, as I mentioned, I'll take the new and terrifying leap of submitting a poem for publishing consideration.
Other than writing a poem each day for 30 days, I want to work on discovering new ways to love myself. I’ve been so okay with disliking myself for so long (don’t we all do this?) that it’s definitely time for me to drop it all and just friggin’ love the crap out of me. This isn’t really a tangible goal, but I just wanted to share it out into the world so I can read this in a few weeks and remember to check in on myself. Maybe this is a reminder for you, too: you don’t have to hate yourself so much. In fact (and it is a fact), you don’t have to hate yourself at all—give yourself a little hug, because you’ve come all this way in life and I mean, come on, just look at you. You’re cool.
This one has been on my mind all summer and fall—I want to cultivate my relationship with my husband a little better, especially with the colder, darker months coming up. In November, I will spend one evening each week playing a few board or card games (I should probably tell him this). I feel like we’ve just been two ships passing in the night all summer long, and it’s time for us to drop anchor and chill for a bit. More yoga together, more board games, more coffee dates.
I want to touch base with all of my closest friends in November as well. It’s tough to keep in touch, and I’ve had much greater success with slow, sustainable communication versus a forced schedule. So I’ll set a goal to speak to one friend each week for an hour. This is a typical cadence for me, but I want to work a little harder to initiate calls and texts, since I could actually go for months without saying hello to some of my dearest people. That’s bad, I know. But I never stop loving them like crazy!
There you have it! What are your goals for November?
Today I feel like booming airwave of relief rushing through the my veins, tracing through my body like city streets. I feel like traffic has finally dissipated and all the stoplights are slowly turning green, welcoming me back to the free roads.
On Borrowed Dime
I’ve debated about writing about debt today, because it feels almost more personal than mental health. I think it’s because of the level of apparent control a person has—although, I could argue that both have elements beyond our grasp. Both mental health and debt have helpful and detrimental habits, they can both go on indefinitely, and they both require a healthy environment and a huge investment of personal work to get free of. They’re more similar in the amount of personal influence than I realized.
But that’s not the point. Another reason I debated writing about it was because it’s been a notoriously emotional issue for me. I can get so worked up about it so quickly, and worrying about money has ruined many a good weekend. But I feel pretty level about it right now thanks to a few new mental shifts that have helped ease my mind immensely.
To our credit...
My husband and I have a moderate load of student loans between the two of us, and while we have no car payment, we do have a pretty penny’s worth of credit card debt.
Call it irresponsible if you will, but much of it just got beyond our control faster than we could keep up. There’s such a stigma about people in credit card debt spending lavishly and thoughtlessly, but for so many people it can be a lifesaver. It was a lifesaver for our rabbits.
Most of our credit card debt has risen from vet bills for both of our rabbits. They’re a mess. (Have I reminded you to not get rabbits yet? Just kidding, you should. Just prepare yourself for more commitment than a dog.) We’ve relied on it for car issues, airplane tickets (although we have set foot on only one plane in two years), and improv classes (which is the reason we’re in Los Angeles, so it has become a non-negotiable).
None of these things I would take back, especially every single cent I've ever spent on the rabbits. I feel beholden to them, and if the health issues aren't inherently fatal, I will address them with all the money I can find.
It can be disheartening to realize that you’re living on “tomorrows,” and some days I just feel so paralyzed by those devastating numbers. I used to find myself often saying things like “I just wish we could do fun things” and the classic “I just want a fucking day off, that’s all”. I still say those things sometimes, but there’s been a shift:
I am no longer viewing my debt as an emergency.
I’m not a financial genius. In fact, I may very well be reckless. But in the grand scheme of things, I realized that I was wasting that precious life energy being angry and sad about something I couldn’t fix overnight.
Once I realized it would be a long-haul effort, I started to loosen up. I still try to be careful with money, but if I wake up on a Saturday craving a solid brunch with some good coffee, I don’t beat myself up for that desire. It's okay to be a human person.
Sometimes I even spring for it—because I’m more than happy to spend a couple hours of my work life in order to get a couple of hours of a positive and productive date with my husband.
When I viewed debt as an emergency, I saw every purchase as a pain. Now, I acknowledge the pain but have created space for myself to consider the benefits of each purchase. Will it make my life easier? Will it bring me joy—like, will I genuinely be happy to see it in my home for years to come? I’m giving a little more to myself nowadays, because I’ve poured so much energy and time into working and worrying about debt that now it’s time to go a little easier on myself.
I’ve also slowed way down on my student loan crusade from a couple of years ago—the interest rates aren’t the lowest, but we’re making our minimum monthly payment on time each month (which, for anyone who bitches about Millennials and our avocado toast affections, our monthly payments add up to $450).
The slippery slope
All that being said, I realize that I have a dangerous “treat yo self” side as well (again, so many of us humans do). With all this scarcity mindset, I find myself putting more things into my Amazon shopping cart, scouring Pinterest for pricey home decor ideas, and suddenly having a wonderful taste for nice beers on draft.
It’s a constant game of (literal) checks and balances, and I’m working on asking myself about how much of my life energy something is worth. This Saturday’s brunch with my hubby? Totally worth it. That shower curtain that’s in my Amazon cart? Not so much. It might be worth it down the road when my life’s energy is rolling in dough, but now is not the right time.
So forgive me as I remain in debt just a few weeks or months longer because I love my rabbits, because I wanted a nice cup of simple black coffee one time last week, or because I need to pay my internet or health insurance bills.
Take a look at the finances that are driving you nuts right now—either way, you’ll be broke, so maybe be a broke person who goes out and enjoys a satisfying brunch once a month or so. Don’t punish yourself and ignore your heart because you want to get out of debt a few minutes earlier.
Am I way off? Or is it okay to tap the brakes on paying down debt so that I can (a la Bon Jovi) “live while I’m alive”?
Today I feel like a C on an otherwise brilliant report card, like a first detention. The vehicle of my day took a hard left in the middle of an afternoon joyride, and I’ve been trying to pull it out of the swamp it’s become mired in.
I’m not very intentional about planning my weekends that work for my mind and body. A typical weekend looks like me sleeping in, sitting around for the first half of the day, panicking and trying to work for a few hours, going to the latest available yoga class and then dinner and watching movies and TV for the rest of the evening.
To say this type of weekend is unhealthy for me is an understatement. I’ve known it for a while, but usually by the end of the week I’m ready to stop thinking about anything and just go on autopilot for a few days.
Yesterday was the picture of pallid perfection as far as my standard Saturday goes, but I had some time-sensitive work to do today (and my husband was out), so my day was already feeling disrupted. The good news is that I got plenty of work done and avoided feeling too much like I hadn’t done enough. The bad news?
I started to head out to yoga for the 5:45 class. But muddled work-minded Emily forgot that the last class on Saturdays and Sundays starts at 5:30, and I had already missed the start of class. In less than a minute, my grand plans for a good sweat session after a rigorous work day were completely foiled, and my evening derailed from there.
So what do you do when your plans are a nonstarter?
Well, in my case, you sit scrolling through Instagram for a half an hour and zone out as Hello, Darkness My Old Friend plays on loop in your mind. I curled myself up into a tiny ball and sat with my back to the wall in our tiny hallway, trying to find funny memes to bring me a smile.
After I realized that I had spent over half of what would have been my yoga class just sitting in the darkening hallway, I finally pulled myself off the floor. If only you could have seen me—it was pretty dismal.
The rest of the evening has been a struggle to get back up to that productive feeling I had earlier today, because I haven’t known what to do with myself. But I did find something that helped:
I switched gears completely.
I had puttered around with some cleaning earlier in the day, but after my mind had melted like bad cheese on bad bread, I decided to dive into some deep cleaning that’s been on my mind.
I didn’t push myself to get back to work or to write or to dive right into a home yoga practice, and instead just started slowly scouring strange things in my apartment. I vacuumed under the couch (and all the upholstery that’s gathered bunny fur along the bottom edges). I took apart our living room box fan and scrubbed the blades clear of dust and fur, I vacuumed the air filter and the intake for our air conditioner. I vacuumed the blades of our ceiling fan and the only thing keeping me from taking apart our other box fan was a lack of the proper Philip’s head screwdriver.
I lit candles everywhere and diffused essential oils in the bedroom. I threw every knickknack that didn’t have a proper home into a box (that box now lives on my dining table and I’ll maybe get to it tomorrow).
I found a rug that I love on Amazon, and threw a handful of shower curtains into my shopping cart to show Victor when he got home. I actually threw quite a few things into our Amazon shopping cart without buying them—it just felt nice to feel like I had a little control.
I still didn’t have any structure in my evening, but I worked my way through, going from one action to another without any forethought or expectation. Basically I just cleaned the first things that I saw. I’m thrilled to say that the infamous pile of unsorted things in my room has disappeared thanks to today’s hard shift in my mood. I basically worked to use my unfocused mind and lack of structure to my advantage, instead of fighting against it.
Not quite a perfect ten
I’ve been feeling so well lately that this felt like a few aggrieved steps backwards, but I’m working on remembering how much I’ve appreciated the past week or two of feeling like a normal person for the first time in many moons.
Since I've been feeling a bit more levelheaded, I was also able to contemplate creating a shorthand way of telling my husband what to expect when he comes home to me in this bummer of a state.
I wonder if it would be helpful to have a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is fine and 10 is a full blown meltdown. I figured today was about a 5 or 6 on the sad/anxious scale, and that number made me feel better too. I don’t have to act like I’m perfectly fine, but I can also allow myself the grace of nuance. Plus, a 5 or 6 is manageable. The only answer to a 10 is putting myself to bed, and I’m fortunate to have only had a couple of those this year.
I think we could all use a little allowance for nuance in our lives—we can be functional at a 5 without ignoring ourselves. We don't have to be at a 9 or 10 to give ourselves proper attention. It’s a little tiny check in.
After a full evening of shifting my rusty gears, I feel myself slowly floating back down into a 3 or 4, and I’m looking forward to a good night’s sleep to dispel the lingering blues.
Just another manic Monday
I’m wrapping up this Sunday evening with lead-heavy eyelids and a half-clean apartment, and I know that I’ll face many of these same challenges tomorrow. Because Mondays, my work from home days, are a wild card. And it’s usually a rough wild card.
After doing some quiet yoga, I’m going to snuggle up in my bed with a huge mug of Sleepytime tea and my planner and set a few goals for tomorrow. A handful of expectations help keep this girl in check, and I’m getting better about setting reasonable ones for myself. I just have to set them beforehand, because flying by the seat of my pants usually ends up with my pants not leaving my desk chair.
(I stepped outside to take the trash out tonight, just as the sun was setting, and those 60 seconds were my only contact with the outside world today. Tomorrow I’ll set an easy goal of leaving the house for yoga and for one other small adventure—even if it’s to the grocery store or just a walk around the block, I know that will help me stay grounded.)
I hope you get a chance to do something that grounds you tomorrow, something that makes you feel accomplished and satisfied. I can’t wish enough grace for you, and for any day you’re anything but a 1 on that scale, I hope you listen to yourself and love yourself thoroughly.
I’m always a work in progress, and I’m glad that I’m back in working condition after today’s derailment. Sweet, sweet dreams my majestic friends.