Why I'm Totally Embracing Instagram Stories

I'm going to tell you something that you could probably guess (because it's true for almost everyone I know): I can't stand the sound of my own voice.

I've struggled with understanding how anyone takes me seriously when I hear it. I sound so young, and my public speaking skills could use some serious polishing. I've presented campaigns to Fortune-50 clients over the phone, and I can only imagine them wondering why a pre-teen girl was talking strategy with them.

I'm also fairly introverted and don't care to be the center of attention in social situations. I'm still weird about getting my photo taken (selfies do NOT come naturally).

So naturally, Instagram Stories is the last place I would hang out. Right?

Starting something new

I've never had Snapchat because of the aforementioned anxieties, but there's something compelling about this new Instagram feature.

I love Instagram, and am trying to use it much more often. With this feature front and center (literally) on my feed, I want to double down and seize the opportunity to live outside my comfort zone for a while!

I hope that this challenge for myself will help improve my confidence across the board. I've been in need of an extra dose of confidence as I continue to pursue writing as an actual career (oh, yeah, if you need a writer let me know).

It's nice that I've never had a Snapchat, since I've seen so many Instagrammers dealing with the tension this new feature has created between the two platforms. I never thought I'd say this, but thank goodness I'm behind on my social networking applications.

How I'll be using Instagram Stories

My primary goal with IG Stories is to talk in person about what I'm writing on the blog. I want to work on putting a face (and a voice) to the posts I'm writing. I like to see my favorite bloggers opening up and being a little vulnerable in a new medium, so I'm doing the same with you.

You'll also see me exploring LA, cooking up good stuff in the kitchen and you'll see my two goofball bunnies (of course).

So check me out on Instagram! I'm easy to find, as long as you know how to spell Ennaree (not always the easiest).

I'm looking forward to sharing my weird, unfiltered self with you.

Don’t Wait Until the Journey is Over

Today is day two of my 20-post August blogging goal. It’s not just an exercise in blogging; I'm learning to document where I’m at and what I have to share with others.

I'm working on sharing my human experiences with others who might find them helpful, and not waiting until I feel like I'm an "expert" to get started.

It’s about the journey, not the destination

We’ve heard this a thousand times in many variations: it’s not about where you’re going, it’s how you get there.

Nowadays online, it can be tough to assert yourself in a sea of experts. It can be frustrating and disappointing to realize that you’re not always the expert that people want to hear from.

But that’s the beauty of a blog and a writing practice like this: you can document the journey you take to "experthood". If you wait until you’ve arrived as an expert, you’ll lose some of the most important lessons you’re learning along the way. 

Don’t silence yourself

So when you’re working on a project or learning something new, don’t fall silent. Talk about the process with your friends and peers, tell your family what it is that you’re up to.

This isn’t just for creative work. Maybe you’re a student, or maybe you’re learning new software at your job. Immerse yourself in that learning.

Don't spend the next ten thousand hours waiting for the moment that your skills are considered valuable. Instead, value what you already know and cherish what there is still to learn. You are human, and you are always growing.

Take time today to recognize that there is immense value in the process itself.

August Magic & Goals for the Month

I've always liked August. Aside from the golden-hot evenings and the changing Midwestern air, it was always the month that I started back to school.

And this girl loved school.

Putting together my schedule, meeting new teachers, getting fresh notebooks and sipping the first spiced coffee of the year all happened in August. Without school, August has become a bit of a bittersweet month for me.

Where are my clean-lined notebooks? And the non-frayed highlighters that I didn't really need? And the used and yellowed books of literature that I would never have read outside of class (and that I inevitably fell in love with).

All the newness has faded in the five Augusts I've had since I graduated college, and I have a nagging homesickness for that feeling.

The busyness of August

Nowadays, August has become a different kind of busy. The year is halfway gone, and we're heading full steam into autumn. Time is an unrelenting bitch, is she not?

Out here in California, we're feeling the stress of holiday visits and worrying about how to wrap up our finances for the year without going mad.

There's something about August as a non-student that reminds me that we're running out of time in the current calendar year. Because once October hits, the blur of the holidays is the only thing standing between me and 2017.

Does anyone else feel this way? August is way more chaotic now that I'm an adult out of school. I miss those childhood evenings at the pool, splashing around to the sounds of Smash Mouth and Len.

August goals

So tonight, I want to outline some goals that might help me restore some of August's glory. I hope some of these can resonate with you and help you create your own magical August.

I'm splitting my goals into several categories this month:

  • Education (getting in that back-to-school spirit)
  • Home
  • Health
  • Blogging
  • Work (this one is boring, so I won't go into detail)

Education

I am about halfway through Letters from a Stoic, and I have been enjoying Seneca's wisdom. While I don't necessarily feel like Stoicism will be my new philosophy, I am learning some valuable lessons and expanding my philosophical education.

On top of that, I have a nonfiction book and a book of poetry that I'd like to read this month. With our new schedule, we've allotted much more time for reading, so I'm looking forward to diving in.

Home

I've had the DIY itch for a couple of months, and I am so close to painting every wall I can find. Finances permitting, I'd like to get through two small DIYs I've been planning for a while.

My husband and I are also on the thrift-store hunt for some wall hangings. Adding some wall hangings would be a cheap(ish) way of making our apartment a little more polished, so I'd like to add some this month.

Health

I'm putting this on relative autopilot for the month—nothing new or extensive here. I've been doing fairly well on healthy habits, so I'm just on a mission to continue them.

So this month, I'm committing to attending 20 hot yoga classes. I'm a little bit addicted, so it shouldn't be too difficult.

Blogging

This will be my biggest stretch. I'm aiming to share 20 posts here on Ennaree, and I'd like to put together a couple of posts over on my other neglected blog.

My plan is to announce Ennaree over on Minimal Millennial by the end of the month, so I want my readers over there to have some great content to scroll through when they arrive here.

I'm also hoping to put together an email newsletter, I just have to figure out a format and frequency that I can be happy with.

Cheers to August

July felt like it was moving in the right direction, so I'm wishing you all some good momentum and a hearty piece of peace as you dive into August.

What are your goals for August?

Not How I Planned It

We've had one tenuous goal since we got married: to be debt-free by the time my husband turned 30. That gave us a little under four years to pay off over $40k of student loans.

Now with a year and a half left, we're less than a quarter of the way done. Granted, we did get married and move across the country (starting completely over) in that time, so it's not as heartbreaking as it could be. But still, this is not how we thought it would be.

We're not alone

I just had a conversation with one of my best friends about how things aren't going how either of us planned. Turns out, life looks a lot different at 26 than it did at 20.

Our paths and life plans are so different from one another, but we share the feeling of how time is starting to slip through our fingertips. Sure, you can push some things back a year, but two years? Three years? Five?

And I know that we're not the only two Millennials who are feeling that way. So many of us feel like we're wasting time or like the "real world" is coming on a bit stronger than we would have hoped.

I thought I'd have it all figured out by now. I imagined I'd be working a job I love at a progressive and youthful company. I thought that I'd be confident and LA-cool, laughing with my stereotypical girlfriends at brunch. Or maybe hopping on a plane for an actual vacation with my husband.

Instead, I feel boxed in, overwhelmed and seriously frustrated about how long it's going to take to get things on track.

When plans fall through

The shoddy plans I made when was in high school and college have all fallen through. There was a moment, when I was 18, that I was sure I was going to become a fashion designer and live in New York City. When that lost its appeal (after about a month), I lost the unequivocal feeling of "this is what I want to be when I grow up." And I've been wandering ever since.

So what do you do when your plans fall through on a grand scale? It's like rebuilding from the ashes. It certainly feels that dramatic.

It's not easy to just brush it off by reminding me to live in the moment and to cherish the place you are at in your life. I think that approach underplays all the emotion and stress that is swirling around us during these chaotic times.

How can we love where we're at & still make progress?

I don't want to delay the (hopefully) good things in my life by living statically in the very present. So I think that my mantra should focus on that forward movement:

Love the efforts you are making in your journey.

Don't just love the present, embrace the forward momentum that you have built for yourself. Even if it's too minuscule for anyone to see but you.

Learn to look at things objectively. Instead of saying things like "I only got one blog post published this week," remind yourself that you published one post this week. Sticking to the facts can help remove some of the emotional sting that our self-talk can cause.

I know that loving and embracing our efforts won't solve the emotional, mental, financial and physical whirlwind that is young adulthood, but I think that maybe it's a start.

So maybe we'll be debt-free by the time I turn 30. Since I'm younger than my husband, that gives us 3 1/2 years. Think we can do it?

Lay Aside the Load On Your Spirit

Today I wanted to share something that I've been meditating on for the past week. It's been helpful as I unburden myself of the unnecessary anxieties and work to move forward in my life.

Seeing as the world is filled with too much unnecessary anxiety and not enough action, this idea is particularly important at the moment.

A peek into Socrates

Thanks to a few mentions on Tim Ferris's podcast, I've decided to dive back into reading philosophy starting with Seneca the Stoic. Here's the passage from the Penguin Classics version of Letters from a Stoic that gave me pause:

Though you cross the boundless ocean...whatever your destination you will be followed by your failings. Here is what Socrates said to someone who was making the same complaint: ‘How can you wonder your travels do you no good, when you carry yourself around with you? You are saddled with the very thing that drove you away.’ How can novelty of surroundings abroad and becoming acquainted with foreign scenes or cities be of any help? All that dashing about turns out to be quite futile. And if you want to know why all this running away cannot help you, the answer is simply this: you are running away in your own company. You have to lay aside the load on your spirit. Until you do that, nowhere will satisfy you.
— Seneca

While I don't feel that my physical moves about the country have been to avoid any particular feeling, I do know that I've used people and activities to distract me from myself.

How can we feel satisfaction when we're constantly allowing ourselves to get in our own way?

So lay down your burden

I have no definitive answers on how to do this. I think it manifests in different ways, but at the end of the day it's still about expecting outer elements to change or heal our inner selves. And like the Pixar movie, we should be focusing on unburdening ourselves from the inside out.

It's a new habit of mine to take a moment after my yoga practice to find any heaviness that I feel, physically or emotionally, and mentally remove it from myself. I imagine myself setting it down beside me physically and giving it a pat on the head (like I do with my rabbits) and sending it on its way.

Maybe this is too whimsical or "woo" for you, but it's worth a few moments of reflection. Find some lightness and allow yourself to let go of some of that weight on your mind and your heart. Because that's when we can truly start to move forward.

How a Deaf Rabbit Changed My Life

Niels was the sickly-looking rabbit at the pet store in the mall. He didn't turn around to see us at all—he just stared into the corner of the cage while the world bustled about around him.

So naturally, I chose this little lop-eared fluffball. I spent the first month of his life nursing him back to health since he was in such bad shape from the pet store (this may have been when he lost his hearing).

I also spent the first month researching proper rabbit care. I realized that rabbits are a lot more work than I thought they were, but since Niels was so sweet, I didn't mind.

He snuggled beside my feet while I wrote papers, jumped up onto my bed when I was hungover and knocked over mini-trashcans to get to the old yogurt cups and orange peels inside.

That first year, I learned so much about how to care for a creature other than myself. On my worst days, Niels's little twitching nose and chubby cheeks were restorative. He showed me how to find joy in the small things when it was hardest to find joy anywhere.

And Rory makes two

A year later, I moved into a larger space and was able to finally get Niels the buddy he deserved. I intended to adopt a sweet girl named Milly, but when I laid eyes on "her" in her horrible cage, I knew two things: "she" was a he, and that I had to get him out of those conditions.

So I ended up with a spunky, boisterous boy and named him Rorschach. He startled easily and was terrified of the vacuum cleaner. That was when I noticed Niels's quirks: he never startled, and he loved to sit in front of the vacuum as it was running.

He was completely deaf.

As the months and years passed, the two bunnies became inseparable. Niels followed Rory everywhere, constantly grooming him and giving him all the affection that Rory so selfishly desired.

Again, I got to see the unrelenting joy that Niels felt with his partner. They played and explored each new apartment together, and served, again, as a light on my darkest days.

The broken years

When I moved into an apartment with wood floors, things started to change. I noticed that Rory had no trouble running around at his usual speed, but Niels began to slow down. Even though he still followed Rory with all the enthusiasm he could muster, his back legs were giving him trouble.

After a couple of vet appointments and a devastating X-ray, we found out that his back was broken at the base of his neck. Our options were surgery or bedrest. Surgery was expensive and uncertain, so bedrest it was.

I can't explain how terrible I felt.

This was all in the few days before I moved (by myself) to a city where I didn't know anyone. So I carefully padded Niels into a small carrier and drove slowly, not even thinking about the new job or the new apartment. Just that Niels would be okay.

The next three months were the hardest. Niels was confined to a small carrier as his condition worsened, and eventually couldn't move even if he tried. My days consisted of waking early, changing Neils's bed pad and cleaning and drying him. I rushed home after work to do the same thing twice more before bed.

I didn't have internet in my apartment, so I watched the same DVD of The Office over and over again with Niels by my side. I fed him anything he would stomach - carrots were his very favorite. Every week I broke down, thinking that it was time to put him down. Every week I couldn't do it.

We still had good times. Rory hopped in for a visit and to give Niels kisses every once in a while, and loved to steal carrots from the little bed. I moved him from room to room as I prepared for the day, cleaned and cooked, just so that he could feel like he was part of things.

I have a strange fondness for those days of having a single purpose: to get home and care for that tiny rabbit.

The recovery

One morning, while Niels's bed was in its usual spot in the dining room, I came out of the bathroom to find he wasn't there.

He had hopped out of his bed (remember, he was almost completely paralyzed for several weeks). I found him sitting next to the bookshelf, and when I tried to get him back in his carrier he hopped away again. Almost as if he'd never been hurt.

He went uphill from there. He began jumping up on furniture again (much to my horror), and he finally explored the apartment on his own. Soon my boyfriend (now husband) joined us and a few of my friends moved into the city as well. I even let my guard down and started making friends at work.

It was a time of healing for both of us.

The bridal shower

In that time, I got engaged. I loved to imagine the bunnies being ring bearers on our big day (I knew it would never happen, but a girl can dream, right?)

On the day of my bridal shower a year after Niels's recovery, I got a call from my fiance. The second I heard his voice, I knew it was all over. Niels was gone.

 Rory went on a diet shortly after this photo. He stole a few too many carrots (which are a "sometimes" food).

Rory went on a diet shortly after this photo. He stole a few too many carrots (which are a "sometimes" food).

I kept my tears at bay until I was driving back to my apartment the next day. I wept for my little man, and replayed everything over in my mind. Maybe if I had never moved into that apartment...maybe if I had fed him more green vegetables...

Niels passed away in the night with Rory, his best friend in the entire world, by his side. We buried him on April Fool's day.

It seemed fitting, although I'm still not sure why.

What I learned from that 4-pound pet

Niels was my first pet as an adult. I adopted him in a time when I was struggling with depression more than I ever had before, and with all his health problems, he needed me just as much as I needed him. We connected in a way I hadn't connected with any other living being.

I learned the sadness of commercially sold pets (adopt don't shop from here on out), and I learned the absolute joy of being a rabbit caretaker. I discovered the financial and emotional burden of pet ownership, and I realized that it's all worth it.

I've now been a rabbit owner for seven years, and I've become more patient and kind than I ever thought I could be because of them. I've become attuned to the smallest things—the miniature binkies, the smacking of their lips when they eat bananas, their facial expressions when they're feeling particularly silly.

I feel safe whenever they feel safe, and I feel honored when they let me pet their little bellies or hold their paws between my fingertips.

What I wouldn't give to hold Niels's tiny face in my hands again, or to see him and Rory snuggling one more time, or to see how much he would love our new rabbit Bonnie.

But thanks to him, I know more about who I am and where I'm going. I know how to give more love than I thought I ever could. And I am grateful for that.

For a New Beginning

To kick off this week, I wanted to share a poem with you all that my yoga instructor recently recited during class. Maybe it was just exhaustion, but hearing this poem made my throat feel like it was falling down into my stomach.

With so much chaos around us and within us, it was the perfect time for me to discover this poem. Read this however you want, for an inward change you’ve been meaning to make or as the beginnings of a larger societal revolution that absolutely must take place.

This is “For a New Beginning” by the late John O’Donohue.

---

For a New Beginning

In out of the way places of the heart
Where your thoughts never think to wander
This beginning has been quietly forming
Waiting until you were ready to emerge.

For a long time it has watched your desire
Feeling the emptiness grow inside you
Noticing how you willed yourself on
Still unable to leave what you had outgrown.

It watched you play with the seduction of safety
And the grey promises that sameness whispered
Heard the waves of turmoil rise and relent
Wondered would you always live like this.

Then the delight, when your courage kindled,
And out you stepped onto new ground,
Your eyes young again with energy and dream
A path of plenitude opening before you.

Though your destination is not clear
You can trust the promise of this opening;
Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning
That is one with your life’s desire.

Awaken your spirit to adventure
Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk
Soon you will be home in a new rhythm
For your soul senses the world that awaits you.

---

Awaken your spirit to adventure, friends. Step into the day with courage and conviction and move confidently into the direction you know that you must go.

Happy Monday!

Why You Should Comfort Your Inner Mean Girl

I've had a voice in my head for as long as I can remember, and it's actually not my own. Well, it's still part of me, but I don't have as much control over it as I do the other, calmer voice in my head.

I didn't tell anyone about this voice until early last year. Sure, I could talk openly about depression or other mental health issues, but I never told anyone about how my "hard on myself"-ness was actually stemming from an abusive inner relationship.

And finally I heard a podcast episode that broke it all down for me, and opened up some serious conversations: Brooke McAlary and Kelly Exeter's episode about Inner Mean Girls on the Let it Be podcast.

I had never heard the phrase "inner mean girl," although I think it's been floating around for a while. It started to put some perspective on what was going on in my head.

My inner mean girl

My inner mean girl tells me horrible things about my body, my writing, my work, my social interactions, you name it. This year it was a crippling issue. I would come up with a new idea for a project or a story, and within a matter of hours that cruel voice in my head would talk me out of it.

I even started to realized that I could identify when the voice was the strongest: when I was coming down from a caffeine high, when I was hungover, when I was PMSing and when I had spent an extended period of time scrolling through social media.

Since I've been such a podcast junkie this past year, I couldn't help making a connection between this and all of Jess Lively's discussion about the ego. I've started to find that my inner mean girl is nothing more than an embittered ego—it doesn't matter how you address "her," what is important is that you learn to identify her boundaries.

I hated my inner mean girl

I came to hate that inner voice. Which ended up even worse for me, because it perpetuated that devastating cycle of self-hatred that inner mean girls love to feed off of.

I would try to fight with that voice, aggressively standing up for my "real voice" and ending up exhausted and, most often, defeated. There were nights where I couldn't sleep because of the litany of ways I had failed that day were running through my mind.

What can you do when you're fighting a battle against yourself?

Instead of anger, I reached out with kindness

It was one of those sleepless nights that I decided to try a new approach. As my husband slept soundly next to me, I found that calm voice in my head and said this to my inner mean girl:

Hey honey, I hear you. What's really going on? What is it that you're afraid of right now?

Instead of lashing back out, I felt myself melt. Seeing through to the root of the voice (my ego), I realized that it wasn't coming from a place of anger or cruelty. It was coming from a place of fear.

By being patient with myself and letting my mind unwind itself on the question "What is it what you're so afraid of?" I was able to face that voice with a more concrete understanding of how to calm it.

Now what?

In the months since that night, I've noticed that voice almost disappear. If she does come back, I meet her with a mental embrace and an inquiry about her fears.

It's strange, but comforting myself in moments like this has really transformed my daily life. I've been able to push through moments where I would have previously been paralyzed. I've done things like start this blog and take a hot yoga class.

I know that this "inner mean girl" runs rampant within my group of friends, and I'm sure that there are so many more women (and men) dealing with this same issue.

I'm curious to find out if this kind approach of comforting fears instead of battling aggression works for anyone else. Let me know in the comments if you try it!