Some Of The Amazing Ways I’ve Learned To Love Myself This Year

Today I feel like an unwritten story that would rather laze about in someone’s brain than go through the harrowing work of being written. I feel like a metronome that is finally getting set to the right tempo—and that tempo is a little faster than I had expected.

 Photo by  Diana Feil  on  Unsplash

Photo by Diana Feil on Unsplash

This was the title and the first paragraph of my original post for the night:

All The Times I Failed To Love Myself, And How I’m Learning To Do Better

We can all look back at our personal history and chart the the fluctuations of how much we like ourselves. I know that for me, my chart of self-love has been a long, slow, spiky mess with a tiny upward trend. My mess of a chart often changes more than once during a single day, so I’m obviously not going to talk about every single time I’ve failed to love myself.

But then I found myself stuck at how to type out exactly how I had failed to love myself without getting into very specific details. I’ve dealt with mental health issues and some unhealthy notions around food in my time, and typing out specific incidents was starting to open up some old wounds and just generally bum me out.

So, in the spirit of loving myself, I’m not going to write about those incidents as a list like I had originally planned and just focus on the successes and “getting better” part!

Self-Love Hasn't Come Naturally For Me

If you hadn’t guessed already, I’ve had a tough time learning to love myself. I mean, sure, most days I think I’m an alright gal, but love? That’s a work in progress.

So here are a few of the ways that I've been able to increase my self-awareness and self-respect over the past year.

First of all, starting up at a yoga studio has been one of the most transformative experiences of my life. It has taught me to be patient with my body and my mind, and that things like self care and self love take practice. As one teacher shared with the class, “we practice today so that we can practice tomorrow.” It’s all about patience and sustainability.

I have also learned to be more intentional about what I feed my body. Early last year, when I was working exclusively from home, I was having a hard time remembering to feed myself properly. I was so caught up in work that I couldn’t quite take the time out of my day to prepare and eat a proper meal. This has been a recurring pattern in my life. I’m so glad that I work out of the home nowadays (and also that I have a yoga practice that keeps me insanely hungry), because there’s a little more structure to my days. For someone with a healthy self image, feeding yourself doesn’t seem like something that’s difficult to do. But there are any number of factors that can creep in and remove it from the priority list. Quick tip: if someone you love is struggling, make a nice, healthy meal for them. It nourishes bodies & souls.

I also quit coffee, and now have worked into the point where I have it when I am really excited about drinking it. Being thoughtful about my consumption has been empowering, and I recommend starting by ditching coffee if you feel a general lack of control in your life. Beer is next, but I'm still clinging to every last drop of that goodness.

In the past year, I have begun to add tiny moments of joy in throughout the day to remind myself I am worthy of love. Things like using a sweet-smelling lotion or fixing an afternoon herbal tea or wearing my favorite dress. Again, thanks to my hot yoga routine, I am also showering every day. If you need some tiny ways to spark self-recognition in your life, start with sensory practices. I love a good soap and shampoo, and an essential oil diffuser or candle adds a touch of magic to even the dullest day. Smell has a huge impact on how I feel and go about my day—is it that way for you too, or do you find that joy in a different sense?

Another way I’ve shown myself love this past year has been my commitment to wearing clothing and makeup that I enjoy. I had gotten into the habit of wearing the same old dress for several days in a row (since I didn’t do anything other than sit at a desk in it). That dress hasn’t seen the light of day in over six months because I’ve been making a point to wear things that aren’t just utilitarian. It’s a privilege to be able to wear things just because I like them, and I’ve been working on seeing that and taking advantage of the opportunity. Skincare and makeup are a newer addition to the list, and I’m navigating the tricky waters of how to simultaneously rid myself of acne and also love my face exactly the way it is.

An area that I struggle in is my media consumption. I’ve been adding more interesting podcasts to my queue, and I’ve also relished new and old music alike (now playing: Purple Rain). Unfortunately, I’ve been pretty bad about mindless Instagram scrolling, comments-section reading and general outrage consumption. I read certain things under the guise of “being informed,” but deep down I know it’s just to fuel inaction and bitterness. It’s time to be more selective in my reading and do a little more work in the real world. As silly as it sounds, avoiding Twitter comments can be a form of self love.

And now, I’m learning to cultivate my interests and skills, even on days when I don’t want to. Friday marks the 30th day of my writing challenge, and I fully anticipate that I will have posted 28 blog posts. I worked on one post over a span of two days, and then there was an emotional meltdown one of the days that kept me from writing. I consider that missed day a win, though, because I worked hard not to beat myself up about skipping. I was surprisingly gracious and kind with myself, and am still basking in the sweetness of knowing when I needed to go easy on myself.

I know that I have other things to work on: getting out on more walks, drinking more water, making sleep a priority, developing a morning routine, and loving this crazy mosaic of a face. But I’ve made so much progress this year, much of it subconsciously, and I’m pleased. You can’t force self-love, but you can do everything in your power to strongly suggest it.

How have you learned to love yourself more?

A Long & Weird History Of How Coffee Has Flowed Through Each Era Of My Life

Today I feel like each section of my mind is a continent unto itself, the only thing connecting my fragments is the ocean of my forward movement. I feel like I’m living in the space between the pre-set stations of an old car radio.

 Photo by  Dominika Lugin  on  Unsplash

August was a rough month.

Our car gave out, and were it not for our amazing West Coast family, it would have died a sad and expensive death. Our rabbit was inexplicably on his deathbed, too, causing many of my oft-mentioned hot yoga tears. And my grandma, who lives in Florida, was having serious health problems of her own—and she was holed up in the hospital for weeks while the hurricanes raged on.

So of course, my husband and I decided to quit coffee.

The withdrawal and our bodies’ bitterness about not having it lasted about a week. Day three was all migraines, and day four was pure anger. I was so mad at everything, and it wasn’t until later that I realized it was coffee desperation.

Now, a couple of months later, I can gladly say that I have coffee about once (or twice) a week, and it’s always as a treat. I’m reclaiming my celebration of the drink, rather than abusing it and then blaming the poor innocent coffee for my mistakes.

So today, since I indulged in a lovely black iced coffee, I thought I’d poke around my own history with coffee and share my story with you. It’s filled with many (caffeine) highs and lows, and you’ll see that I went to some very strange lengths to get my warm little cup of sunshine.

Let’s start off with this tidbit - an amazing epigraph about coffee from the 17th century, that I discovered while doing a high school research paper on—you guessed it—coffee.

That Grave and Wholesome Liquor,
That heals the stomach, makes the genius quicker,
Relieves the Memory, revives the Sad,
And cheers the Spirits, without making Mad.


My first cup of coffee was while I was playing SimTunes on the computer in my brothers’ room. I think my parents had just gotten a coffee maker and my dad was chatting with me while sipping his cuppa. I jokingly tried to drink his coffee (I was a Mountain Dew kid because I knew it had the most caffeine. I was a caffeine kid.)

He surprised me by letting me take a sip. I was maybe 8 or 9 years old, and I knew that coffee was an adult drink of sorts. I tasted it, and it wasn’t half bad. He then made me my own tiny cup and we had to add heaps of sugar before I could really drink it all.

The next experience I had with coffee was my first latte. I was with my mom at a Christian bookstore to see a band perform and browse the hottest new Christian books, and she helped me order a zebra mocha at the cafe. She didn’t believe I had actually half-enjoyed the first coffee I had tasted, so she wasn’t surprised when I hated the mocha. Then she tasted it.

Turns out, it was dreadfully burnt, quite possibly tampered with—it tasted like a milky pool full of cigarette butts.

Those were my first two experiences with that grave & wholesome liquor, and I decided coffee probably wasn’t for me.

Enter: Andrea.

This girl had been drinking coffee with her parents since she was 8—we were 15 at this point. l imagined her as a child, sitting with a newspaper and adult-sized mug talking about stocks and the weather. So when she made me a cup one morning at her house, I felt entirely unprepared to handle her mature drink.

Drinking coffee at her parent’s home became one of the most meaningful rituals of my teenage years.

I had my favorite mug, my favorite Coffee Mate creamer. When I get homesick to this day, I often get homesick for her kitchen, for watching rain fall outside those beautiful windows after an early morning cross country practice, watching as she prepared my coffee with just the perfect amount of creamer. Talking about boys and about kittens and never once using a serious voice.

And I tried, so hard, to bring that coffee with me to college. She went off to a different college than I did, so I lost those weekly coffee dates. I got a mini coffee maker, bought the same creamer and the same coffee, and even got a tall, skinny mug like the one I would drink from at her house (it was a failure—the lip wasn’t nearly thin enough). Nothing ever compared.

It’s funny—even when I went to visit her and she would brew cheaper-than-Folgers coffee and we’d use cheaper-than-Coffee Mate creamer (because college), it was always the most delicious cup of coffee I ever had. She’s magical.

That first year of college, my relationship with coffee changed. I started drinking it as an “intellectual” and brewed it late into the night to fuel my collegiate reading and writing. I sipped the brown bean juice while gazing out of windows and wearing scarves and glasses. It showed up in almost every poem I wrote, and I felt like the first person who had ever written about coffee.

Coffee helped me become a poet.

It was there for me when I dropped out of my apparel design class on the first day and switched to creative writing. It was there for me when I missed the drop date of my interior design class, but had at least realized enough to know it was time to get serious about creative writing.

I camped out at coffee shops because that's what writers did, I tried desperately to enjoy black coffee because that's what writers drank.

I became obsessed with Tuesdays, of all things, because of coffee—their trudging, climbing pace, their penchant towards cloudiness and poetic drama. It was the perfect day for moody window-gazing and sitting by streams, watching dried leaf-boats set sail.

I got a tiny espresso maker to reaffirm my dedication, and even though my homemade drinks were truly terrible, I fell in love with the idea of being a barista. One of my first Pinterest boards was dedicated to all the recipes and furniture I would have in my someday coffee shop. I started a blog (er, I wrote a single post) about my future coffee shop.

I found myself making coffee for my new friends, creating a community around it. Sad? I’ll make coffee. Happy? I’ll make coffee! Hungover? I’ll make coffee and you can throw it up later.

I even volunteered at The Pourhouse Café, a coffeeshop that donates all of its tips to different nonprofit organizations each month. All I got in return was a 15% discount and a free coffee each 4-hour shift. I didn't care—I loved learning how to make the coffee, and loved my Café Miels even more (a vanilla latte with honey drizzled in the cup before adding espresso + milk, and then on top of the foam). Every Friday for at least a semester, I trekked a few blocks off campus to help make coffee for my fellow Hoosiers, and then trudged back through the snow to my on-campus office, latte in hand and feeling pretty damn good about myself. Free coffee!

And then coffee became a utility.

I started getting more involved on campus, through internships and the student programming board. I started to venture into the business school to get my minor, and I needed lots of coffee for those long database assignments. Hah, coffee helped fuel my love for well-organized spreadsheets, too.

I hardly ever entered campus without a travel mug filled with that brown liquid gold (and in the fall, my homemade pumpkin spice simple syrup.) I left travel mugs to become petri dishes in my office over breaks. I drank coffee that had been sitting in the carafe for far too many days, and I drank it instead of breakfast. And lunch. Not the right way to lose the freshman 15, kids. I was so depressed and fatigued all the time. The answer was always more coffee.

I went into an all-out shutdown my senior year of college. Coffee, spaghetti with marinara sauce, cottage cheese and alcoholic beverages were my dietary staples. Yikes. I got better by the time I graduated.

Then there were the cave days.

In my first job out of college, my coworkers didn’t like the fluorescent lights in the office we shared, so they worked by the light coming in through the windows and their computer screens. Only trouble was, I worked in the desk farthest from the windows so most days were just a battle to stay awake.

I drank the coffee that came from one of those ancient, giant machines you see at the mechanics while you're waiting for an oil change. Just thinking about it makes me gag. I got really into french press coffee around this time, and would savor good coffee when I got ahold of it like it was my first breath of oxygen.

Then there were the Keurig days.

My next job had an industrial-sized Keurig. We had unlimited access to it, and I fell in love despite the insane wastefulness of it all. There were these half-gross mocha K-Cups that filled my coffee cup to the very brim and I had to regulate myself to one a day because they’d make my stomach feel awful. If I opted for plain coffee, I’d sometimes use the Coffee Mate creamers that were set out on the cupboard until the day that I realized how gross it was that they were just sitting there, unrefrigerated and very, very artificial.

That was after I squirted a pump into my cup and saw ants swimming in it.

Then, I started to realize that no one ever cleaned the Keurig. I’d run it three or so times without a K-Cup in it before the water didn’t come out brown and filled with old coffee grounds and residue from the machine.

The world was working against my love of coffee, and I’m only now realizing how much gross coffee shit I’ve experienced. But still I soldier on.

Then there was the lonely coffee days.

This section of the story takes a hard left turn, so hold on tight.

We got rid of our coffee maker before we moved to Los Angeles because it wasn’t worth the space it took up in our car. We tried to hold out without one, but finally got a tiny 5-cup coffee maker a couple months in and got really into black coffee.

I worked from home, so most days I’d send my husband off to work and pour a cup to drink alone as I started my days. I didn’t have any lovely morning rituals or habits that helped me ease into the day—I just started plugging away at work and chugging away at my coffee.

TMI alert—it’s no surprise that coffee makes people poop, but it would come upon me immediately once my husband left for work. Even after a single sip. The coffee would totally wreck me for the rest of the day (especially on days I didn’t eat a good breakfast), and I just figured that’s what being an adult was supposed to be like. Lots of poop.

Fast forward to a weekend, when I would have multiple cups and never have the same, uh, toilet situation, as I did during the weekdays. My sister-in-law pointed out something that hit closest to the truth: coffee wasn’t entirely at fault, for the first time ever. I had been going through some pretty bleak mental health doldrums at the time, and she asked me if I thought it might be anxiety over being alone all day.

I had the lonely poops, even on days I didn't drink coffee.

It improved since I started yoga, then got better when I started working in an office every day, and now I can say that I feel much more normal ever since coffee became a treat instead of a utility.

The caffeine kid is still alive and well, though, since I’ve discovered a love for Earl Grey and Yerba Mate. I actually found myself craving Earl Grey instead of coffee one day and had to take a moment to question who I even was.

I think we’ve all had our own emotional journey with coffee, and I encourage you to think about yours. It’s kind of a fun little exploration. And if you, like me, think it’s time to take a step or two back from your daily joe, let me know and I can hold your internet hand while you deal with the withdrawal.

Wishing you the warmest sleepytime tea & the coziest of blankets for your beauty sleep tonight, my lovely friend.

There Are No Clean Lines In Life, And You Don't Have To Worry That Much About It

Today I feel like a lightning bug, flickering, lingering, sluggish in summer heat. I feel like a lone and distant star, homesick for a galaxy I have never belonged to

 Photo by  Igor Ovsyannykov  on  Unsplash

Classic, clean lines.

Now that I'm spending more time in the fashion world, I’m surrounded by the “innovative” ways companies describe themselves. And I realize how many of them say the exact same thing (heck, I would have said the exact same thing if I were them). Each brand lives in a vacuum, describing their products as you would describe your own child—fully honest, but maybe a little blinded by bias.

It’s a thrill when I click through to a company site that either knocks the wind out of me or prompts a whaaaaat. Beautiful branding, beautiful products, great storytelling.

But this post isn’t about what I brands I find compelling. It’s about the phrase clean lines and why that it stuck with me today.

Everyone wants a life of clean lines, but it's unattainable.

We like to imagine our lives as neat and tidy bookshelves that we can artfully style—put all the skills and professional experience in a color-coded corner, cohesive and chronological. Pop a few happy family photo albums in between grandma’s vase and grandpa’s navy hat. Show off your very mature interests with The Complete Works of Gustav Klimt and War And Peace and of course a few works by Vonnegut because it makes you appear relatable to the common man while still being aloof and mysterious.

Clean lines, a starting point and an ending point for each thing, and everything contained in its proper place.

But our lives are a little more like a poorly-constructed IKEA bookcase that’s bulging with books and papers and half-filled journals. There’s a handful of books about vintage clothing because you thought that’s what you wanted to do for a few months, there’s a program from your grandmother’s funeral service in there, too. There’s a pencil holder filled with crochet hooks and loose bits of yarn not big enough to use, but you like the color so you've kept them. Your diploma is in there too, still in its mailing envelope. Where’s Waldo and adult coloring books are peppered in. Sometimes it all comes crashing down and you have to rebuild and you don’t care about the order of things because there never was one.

What I’m saying is that there are no clean lines. The story of our lives lays out like a Venn Diagram with a million circles, most overlapping, some hanging out as total islands.

So how can we embrace the squiggle? The roughness that can’t be sanded down? Where can we see it, and how can we celebrate it?

Non-attachment is a constant theme in my yoga practice, and I work at it almost every day. I can be good and non-attached for the hour long class (O.M.G. Look at how non-attached she is), but it’s bringing the practice into my daily life that’s been the challenge.

But it’s allowing me to see that I thrive more in a fluid state than I do in a rigid one. For example, flowing through my daily schedule versus delineating every minute allows for a little more margin, and a little more self-compassion.

Even though my last two posts were about structure, I think the key to handling structure is that fluid mindset. I do my best to write every day, but if I must skip a day or write a little less one evening, I’ve been working on letting that moment go. No good ever comes from self-deprecation or dwelling on failure. 

I think structure + fluidity can coexist.

Structure is having a glass to pour water into, and a fluid mindset means trying your best to pour all the water into the glass—but not minding too much if you spill. No use crying over spilled schedules.

Rough Edges Are Everywhere

I see the not-so clean lines when I see the scuffs on my shoes and the flyaway hairs on my head and the rabbit hay sprawled across my rugs. But that’s the sign of a life that is being lived—it’s not ever going to be exactly as clean as we want it to be, so maybe we should stop trying to force it.

Sure, we can love beautiful things, but we shouldn’t love them any less if there’s a presence of something ugly. I can be frustrated with my acne, but I can still appreciate how nice my eyes look when I wear my blue shirt. I can be completely fed up with the apartment and all its noise, but I can still take some comfort in my little lackluster writing corner that really lights up when I ignite one of my favorite candles.

I can be annoyed at my own voice on this blog, but I can celebrate the fact that I’ve never written this much in this span of time in my entire life. They’re just dumb words, but they’re still words. (And lots of them!)

So I hope you don’t spend all your time searching for something that may never come. Things will get cleaner, and clearer, and then they’ll get chaotic again. But it’s all a work in progress, and sometimes we need to just embrace the mess. 

And because I’m feeling dramatic tonight, here’s a little poem I hacked together:

Are there no neat containers, no straight days?
It’s all spilled out in so many ways.
And we spend all our time searching until we find
A few final beeps and a ringing clean line.

Breaking The Boss Babe Work Trap And Being Softer On Ourselves

Today I feel like a puzzle that’s missing all its corner pieces. I feel a sense of completion, but not a sense of success.

Mondays are always rough for me.

I spend all day on the computer in my apartment doing mind-numbing work that doesn’t have an end point. I begin my week with a day of aimlessness and no matter how much I achieve,  I still feel like I missed the mark.

Mondays make for a very grumpy Emily.

Last year, it used to be that I worked like this every day. Loose projects with vague timelines or unpredictable levels of work. I would clock five, or maybe six hours if I was lucky, because I stopped the clock each time I stood up to take lunch or head to the bathroom. Most days were that: at least five hours of time spent glued to my desk chair.

It was so difficult to see five hours on my timer app, because I’ve been taught that eight hours is a normal workday. I would extend my working hours earlier into the day and later into the night, so that I was working all day, every day in hopes of achieving that golden "8 hour day". I would eat lunch in front of my computer, spend Friday nights on my laptop while movies played in the background, and I've even hopped on to complete some work while guests are over.

And even though things have changed greatly in the past year (hello, office space and engaging work), I’m still doing a lot of work from home. All day on Monday + two or three evenings a week, and sometimes weekends, I’m in work mode.

There’s never an end, especially since these past few months have been a financial rollercoaster. Work is the only thing I have that I can half-control, so I dive in like it’s my safe place. Because it totally is.

When I’m working, I don’t have to look at the messy apartment, or the tragic comedy in our bank account, or even worry about taking care of myself. I become an actual robot, programmed to make money. I forget to drink, to eat. To go outside and see the sun.

I know it’s not okay, but I’m never sure how to disentangle myself from something that, in the long run, will take us to a more secure and stable financial place. If I step back and look at the loans and debts we have, I panic thinking about how I’m not doing anything to alleviate them.

How can I chill out when there is no chill to be had?

I’m going to switch gears here and talk about what tiny adjustments I’ve discovered that help me, and I hope if you work from home or struggle with drawing a similar line, maybe you can find some solace here.

I also am getting worked up just writing about my effed-up relationship with work and I’m not about to add a mini breakdown to my Monday.

A few ways I’ve learned to be softer with myself

I try to do these things every day, but I'm not perfect. Be gentle with your sweet self if you miss one or two.

Drink water. As much as you possibly can, until walking to the restroom becomes a significant part of your pedometer steps for the day. I used to employ this tactic at a job that docked your vacation time if you clocked in more than two minutes late - they policed everything, but they couldn’t say anything about how often I went to the bathroom. Not only does it make you feel better, but it’s a built-in reminder to get up and move around.

Dress up. Take the time to put on a little makeup or wear pants while you work. It will make you feel a little more of a part of society. Do not wake up and pull on the same dress you have worn for three days straight because you haven’t done anything in it to warrant washing it. It will not make you happy. On this same note, I was on a good run for a while where I painted my nails with an absurdly pink + sparkly nail polish and it was a nice little treat each time I looked at my hands.

Do not drink all the coffee. I’m so, so sorry. Maybe it truly does work for you, but I found that coffee was messing with my moods, my appetite, my sleep, my water intake. If you feel like maybe life could be better without it, try giving it up for a couple weeks. The first week will hurt like hell physically and emotionally, but now that I’ve been off the daily grind (heh), I’ve been able to enjoy coffee once a week without too much disruption. Tea exists, and it is delicious.

Eat something you like and that you feel good about fueling yourself with. When you’re in a rut or are consumed by a project, it’s so easy to just eat whatever you see first when you remember to take a lunch break. Prep a salad and cut up some fruit before you start your day so you have no excuses. Here too, be sure you eat something for breakfast. Even just a few bites of oatmeal can have an immensely positive impact on my day.

Have a good desk setup. A comfortable chair and ergonomic keyboard are all well and good, but I’m talking a little more about emotional support than tech support. If you’re going to be camped out at your desk, make it a fully functional self-care command station: have your favorite lotion on hand to remind you to moisturize, have a desk chapstick that you love, maybe add some candles and matches or essential oils. Hang up a picture or a print that doesn’t stress you out or make you unproductively desperate for life beyond your four walls. Something calming, something sweet.

But ultimately, the biggest way to help yourself is to set goals.

Most of my worst days come from things not going according to a plan that I never had in the first place. If I don’t set down goals, then I never meet them - and that makes me experience failure and inadequacy on a daily basis (on top of the failure and inadequacy that’s just built in to humans that we’re all constantly fighting).

Make them achievable, reasonable, with a clear stopping point so you don't self-sabotage and just try to get one more spreadsheet done. 

This Monday is done and over with (thank God), but I think that next week I’ll have to really focus on setting down concrete goals for the day. From there, I know I need to take a little time to plan out my week more in-depth.

Oh, and don’t forget the weekends - a little structure can go a long way. I keep getting caught up in the week and then land into my Saturdays like a baby bird who’s first flight out of the nest ended up with her just lying dazed in the yard below. Before I know it, the weekend is gone (oops, I worked all weekend again), and it’s crappy Monday again.

Between today’s post and yesterday’s post, I’m seeing a desperate need for a little more structure in my life.

I suppose that structure can be soft, too.

Being gentle with yourself isn’t always just feeding yourself coconut macaroons and curling up in the closest soft blanket while you watch 30 Rock for the eighteenth time. Being gentle with yourself can also mean setting achievable goals and adhering to reasonable timelines. It can also mean that sometimes you say no to watching Liz Lemon’s shenanigans.

Although I will say, I’m in pretty desperate need of a girls wine & binge-watching day. Someone come paint my nails for me and tell me I’m doing okay.

I’m off to bed, and with any luck I’ll get up a little early in time to eat some ultra-nutty, wildly fibrous oatmeal while I doodle down a few achievable goals for my Tuesday-Friday. And if you have some weekend planning suggestions, I’m ready to listen.

Happy almost Tuesday, my babies. We made it.

High Frequency: Recovering From An Intense Week

Today my stomach is seismic. I feel like every output has a dozen inputs, every drop of energy that I’ve spent throughout the day has reverberated back into my body. I feel like each lobe of my brain is its own, separate racquetball court with men in short white shorts slapping away at my bouncing thoughts with their tiny racquets.

 Photo by  samsommer  on  Unsplash

Photo by samsommer on Unsplash

It’s midnight again, and I’m trying to pin myself down to write for a few moments. I’m unwinding all the tight cords of the week in hopes that I might be able to rest for a day.

It’s been an intense week. Along with the mental and emotional struggles, I’ve talked big picture with my employer, been through the financial ringer, and just a couple hours ago found out some worrying news about my rabbit Rory (he needs more tests and I am at a loss for what to do). Not to mention everything in the world that is beyond comprehension - the Vegas shooting, the political insanity, the natural disasters.

I’ve tried to seek the good stuff - the healthy dialogue, the constructive disagreements, and especially, ESPECIALLY the beautiful support and strength and resilience of good humans.

But I’m trying to unpack what to do after a week like this. I’ve truly never experienced these emotions, at least not concentrated and compounded like this.

I felt it driving home today when I spent the whole commute fearing every honk and feeling my stomach churn with each sound my car made. I felt it in yoga class when I went to drop into my warrior poses. The intensity in my legs made my ears ring and my heart race. I spent the middle twenty minutes of class in child’s pose, sweating and trying to let the grip melt out of my fingers.

I felt it when I took a sip of my long awaited Friday night beer. My stomach started rolling and rumbling and it took me a moment curled up on the couch to decide I wasn’t feverish. My ears are aching and my eyes are drooping.

Here’s what I want to do this weekend to maybe recover from this intensity:

I’ll drink plenty of water and take restorative yoga classes when I can. I’ll get outside and walk a little bit, maybe in the morning when it’s quieter, and get some of that fresh air that I’ve heard so much about.

I’ll read the books that I got from the library, the ones that make me feel smart and poetic.

Because I am the person that I am, I’ll work a few hours here and there so that I can start next week on a good foot. Plus, my personal finances is one of the few things in the world that I can directly and immediately impact for the better. Note to self: I cannot control them, only influence.

And I’m going to go to bed. Right now. I’m not writing the full hour tonight, but there will be time tomorrow or the next day or the next.

If you’ve had an intense week as well, please know that you are not alone. I am sending you a thousand hugs and one solid pat on the back. If you are working on being a good person, you are doing just fine. If you're working on being a better person, you're a hero. Light a candle, paint your nails, and chug water from your best wine glasses.

Lower your own frequency so that you can help others lower theirs. The more peace we can find in ourselves, the more peace we can extend outwards to the world around us.

Get some rest, dear friends.

I Don't Know What To Write, So Here's My Recipe For A Perfect Normal Day

Today I feel like an arrow that was pulled back, aimed, but fell off balance at the last moment and flipped and stuck down onto a muddy earth. Every word I speak is the gutteral, threatening squeak that a fully inflated balloon makes when a terrible person rubs it in their hands.

 Photo by  Alexandra Gorn  on  Unsplash

Extended title:

What to write about when you don’t feel like writing and it’s after midnight and all you ever wanted to do was go to bed but you promised yourself that you’d write every day for thirty days and you already skipped a day so you have to really try hard to prove to yourself that you can handle it.

As I sit here, picking at the acne on my face, I can say for certain that I do not want to be writing this evening. I’m exactly at the halfway point - day fifteen - and I’ve skipped just one day of writing so far. And I think I only have enough grace in my grace bank to cover that single day.

So today I'm going to run down the perfect day for me, right here and now, because I've been living a little bit outside of the present lately. This isn't the first time I've done this, and I highly recommend you try it too - write out a realistic perfect day. Make it a work day, too, because those are the most difficult to tackle.

Here’s what I wish my day could look like:

Wake at 7AM and eat kickass oatmeal. Drink some water and black tea with breakfast because it doesn’t bulldoze my stomach like coffee does - that comes later. Read a dozen pages of the book that’s been on my nightstand for weeks with the bookmark forming a permanent attachment to page 7.

Pop outside for a brisk walk around the block and imagine waving at all the old people that are milling about because they wanted a bright and early start. Smell the coffee coming from the neighbor’s windows and hurry home to poop because my body knows that coffee = poop. Then make a pot of coffee and set up my writing desk.

Write for an hour and listen to the music my brain is craving (lately it’s been Prince and Rufus Wainwright). Make the writing bad, like God-awful - you know, like this piece here. And probably publish it, but let myself off the hook if it just is too embarrassing.

Scrub my face and smoosh on some makeup, and convince myself that the foundation is totally the right shade. Try to also convince myself that I look real pretty today. Drink a glass of water and take supplements that an actual doctor recommended for me specifically, instead of just taking ones I feel like sound nice that day. Pack a thoughtfully-planned lunch.

Drive to work and actually be early - if not, I’ll settle for on time. Kick butt and take names, and remember to drink a couple glasses of water.

Leave just a few minutes before five because traffic gets worse once five hits, and I want to make it to the 5:45 PM yoga class. It will be the best day if I don’t look at my phone from the moment I get in the car to the moment I step out of a quick hot shower after 60 not-quick minutes of hot yoga.

That would put me at about 2 ½ hours of not looking at any screens and my mind needs that more than anything these days.

Restore my humanity with a big glass of water and a dinner that has side dishes, like actual vegetables. Eat this glorious food at the dining room table, and rest my feet on a freshly vacuumed rug and enjoy the open space of the table without laptops or phones or charging wires snaking between plates. I would be able to look my husband in the eyes as he told me about his day, truly undistracted for a moment.

I would put my dishes in the dishwasher and arrive into the evening like a sighing ship gliding into port after a long journey.

Log on to a laptop for an hour and make sure my other work is caught up and gets the littlest lick of love. Publish what I wrote in the morning, because who even cares if it’s perfect. That’s not the point right now.

Clap every laptop closed, so that the apartment is filled with their applause for completing another day. Make sure my phone alarm is set for 7AM and then edge myself into an early bedtime with an inspired nightly skincare routine (I’m open to suggestions, beauty queens - someone just tell me what to do and also buy all the products for me). And probably some ladylike ritual of moisturizing, because I hear that’s all the rage these days.

Tuck all the ugly stuff on the bedroom floor back into its proper place, then tuck myself into bed. Maybe read, maybe talk to my husband while he’s trying to read. Or maybe the drool that comes out of my mouth the second my head hits the pillow just reminds me to get straight down to the sleeping business.

Try to think of something happy, excavate some peace from somewhere under my skin and let it warm me as I drift off.

There’s so much about this day that’s possible, but a few glaring problems come to mind: a single fifteen-minute-snooze would set off the whole day and shatter that bedtime peace fossil into dust. A bad day or a good day could alter the formula - I might want to work more, work less, write more, write less.

My question is this: is a daily routine or rhythm more like baking or cooking?

If it’s like baking, it’s a science and the measurements always need to be just right. If it’s like cooking (if it’s anything like my cooking), it’s all based on what looks and tastes and smells good in the moment.

What do you think - does a carefully & lovingly baked day work better for you, or do you prefer the vibrant & volatile cooked day?

Femininity, Self Care, & Acne: Haphazard Musings About What It Means To Be A Woman

Today I feel cheap magazine cutout taped onto a Picasso painting. I feel like a toad, dry and bumpy, with a throat sore and cracking from croaking a sad song. I feel like someone is slowly turning down the music at the end of a long and difficult night.

 Photo by  Christian Widell  on  Unsplash

On Being Woman

I’ve always been told that I am a girl, and now I’m what some would consider a woman (when did that happen?) I’ve always held those two pieces of information as facts, but I haven’t fully reflected on what it means to be a woman.

Masculinity is a concept that easily takes up space in my mind, in my world - but since it’s never felt quite “becoming” for a woman to strongly identify herself, I haven’t ever expressed, even in a private journal, what womanhood means to me.

And it’s a hefty box to unpack. But I’ve been inspired by amazing women in my life - my high school and college female friends have all become women that I admire - and I’ve been slowly shaping my experiences as a woman into a personal definition of womanhood and femininity.

Better 28 years late than never?

I would say that much of my life, I’ve viewed the lot of the woman to be one of self-sacrifice with little reward. I grew up in the Midwest in a Catholic environment, so I don’t think that’s too far off - women were meant to be mothers.

It’s only just recently that I’ve started to become aware of how much of the sky women are holding up. We’re emotional laborers, physical laborers, spiritual laborers. We are leaders and supporters, and our power is truly undervalued.

I’m beginning to see women as artists, as fellow covert members of the emotionally burdened sisterhood. As strong and beaming and deserving of a serious break from all the work this world is sending our way.

Feminine + Masculine Energies

I’m starting to delineate my own energies - I see my soft feminine energies and my dominant masculine energies ebbing and flowing, and I’m only just now beginning to consider how I can nurture this balance and find some inner peace.

I’m working on celebrating my feminine, joyous, flirtatious side - seeking out frills and lace and dresses and bright colors. But I’m also working on embracing the masculine energies I’ve been ashamed of for so long (because I’ve been told it’s bad). I feel like I’m starting to walk with my left foot in an oxford and my right foot in a stilletto - it’s awkward and I’m not quite sure if I’ll get the hang of it.

I’ve found myself daydreaming about goddess stuff - crystals and earth tea and incense - and I’ve felt a little locked out of that definition of femininity. It almost feels like I have to have a certain level of grace or number of flowy robes to participate in that world.

A Lack Of Intentional Self Care

So to begin with, I’m getting a little more intentional about my self care routine. I bought new bras to replace my bras from high school because dammit Emily you can take care of yourself as a woman. For some reason, buying bras feels really strange to me because it’s a “feminine need” that shouldn’t get the same priority as other household needs.

In fact, I often hold back on purchases that would make my life better because I think I harbor some subconscious beliefs that I don’t deserve them. If it were my friend who needed something, I’d tell her to drop everything and purchase it immediately. I think a lot of my ideas around womanhood circle around this core belief: that it’s okay to nurture others, but it’s not okay to nurture yourself.

And even though I’ve become a crusader for women to take the time to care for themselves, I rarely do it for myself. 

So what would my ideal self care routine look like? I need to start digging a bit to find out what it will take to make me feel supported, nourished and nurtured by my own practice.

First of all, I have a lot of “only whens” that pop up. My first reaction was that I could only have a lovely skincare routine once my face is lovely & acne free. I’ve had terrible acne for at least 7 years, so honestly if I wait until it’s nice and smooth I’ll never have a skin care routine.

Zits Are A Bitch

I have some huge hangups about my acne and what that means for my femininity. It feels like a barrier to entry to the world I see my female friends living and thriving in. My acne makes me feel like I don’t deserve the investment of good makeup. It stains the idea of getting a new dress, because feeling sexy isn’t for me and my face.

This is all absurd, of course, because I see so many women with varying levels of acne who are radiant blooms of femininity, and I celebrate them. If another woman told me what I say to myself in the mirror every day, I would do everything in my power to convince her that she is a goddess.

But how come it’s not for me? Again, another huge well of emotions I need to dip my ill-equipped bucket into.

Why I'm So Flustered About Femaleness

This has been a really difficult post to write because my thoughts have not formed on this topic enough. I constantly feel like an outsider in my own sex/gender because I haven’t unlocked the secrets to it yet.

TMI alert: I think part of it has to do with the fact that I have never once in my life had a regular menstrual cycle. I get a period once every two or three or four months, and no doctor has ever jumped out of his or her skin to tell me that it’s not normal or that there is a solution other than putting me on birth control. That means I’m almost entirely disconnected from the routine and intuition that comes with knowing what your body is doing on every day of each month.

But it’s getting better - I’m learning to differentiate PMS mood swings from a true low point, which saves me a lot of grief. Obviously there are some hormonal and health issues that I’ll need to dive into once money is available. But then again I wonder - will I, as a woman, be sure to be my own advocate and seek the help I need, or will I live with symptoms past the unbearable point?

To end this on a brighter note...

I'll wrap this post up by saying this: I think there's hope, and there's space to grow into your identity. Your true identity will give you infinite space to fill it up and rejoice in it, it's just kind of waiting for you to meet it.

Today has felt like hours of scooping up water and squeezing it in my hands - I've been able to contain things, but not grasp them. And if you've read this full post, my heart thanks you and reminds you that you totally didn't have to. This is one of those "write crappy words, and write lots of them" days!

So I guess then I need some help - what does being a woman mean to you? Is it an easy question for you to answer?

Why You Already Have All The Support You'll Ever Need

Today I feel like a surprise cake in my second favorite flavor. I checked in on my heart, and found it feeling quite diagonal. I feel like I can dig it.

 Photo by  Scott Trento  on  Unsplash

Photo by Scott Trento on Unsplash

A few weeks ago, I found myself laying there in silence before an evening yoga class, surrounded by two blocks and a strap.

A smile started to spread onto my face as I realized: I had all the support I would ever need.

My back firmly rooted on my mat, blocks for when my I couldn’t reach the floor, and a strap to help guide me into deeper poses without hurting myself. I was completely and inarguably supported.

So today I’d like to explore support - how to support yourself, how to support others, how to ask for support.

Humans come with built-in support systems.

First of all, know that you carry the ultimate support with you every minute of every day: your breath. It’s the single common thread through our entire human experience, from the moment we emerge, shiny and screaming into the world, and to the moment our final page turns, our breath is first and last.

If you are alone, if you feel alone, if no one in the entire world supports you, you still have your breath. It will not let you down. Even if you aren’t paying any attention to it - it’s still there, hanging out, supporting your heartbeat.

From there, it’s essential to build routines and spaces in your life that allow you to feel supported. Maybe it’s a daily yoga practice, a writing habit, a moment of drinking tea or coffee in quiet, a daily chat with someone you love, painting your nails or doing your makeup, or reading a mesmerizing book. What is it that makes you feel like yourself? What is it that makes you feel capable or powerful or grounded or even just a little softer?

Create these things for yourself, because no one else is going to create them for you. In grade school and high school, we had assigned periods to study history, science, literature - we had designated times for exercise, for eating, for playing music. The support was built in (and it was required), but once we move from school into the real world there are no longer teachers who are telling us to read or write or play.

And if you need the reminder - yes, you have permission to give yourself space. It will heal you and allow you to grow in new and exciting ways.

Find your tribe and ask for what you need

Once you’ve established your own inner support network and begun to connect to your breath, you can expand if you want to. When I realized that I had everything I needed to support myself, I also realized that any support beyond my breath and those blocks was a bonus.

My husband’s support of my thirty day writing challenge (and his participation in the thirty day yoga challenge!) is completely optional - he doesn’t have to support it, and I don’t require his support to complete it. Obviously, it makes it entirely more possible and enjoyable, and I can’t express how grateful I am for his encouragement.

But what I’m trying to say is that external support is bonus. If you have it, celebrate it. Roll around in it like a dog rolls around in goose poop.

I have family and friends all across the country that have spent their breath supporting me and encouraging me, and it’s the most valuable thing they could give me. I have a community here in Los Angeles that grows stronger every day, and someday I hope to fully express to them what they’ve done for me with their love and their kindness.

If you feel like you want more external support, asking for it isn’t as easy as saying “I need your support.” Honor yourself and what you need and get really, really vulnerable and tell your nearest and dearest exactly what you need from them. Do you need space or time for writing? Do you need a text once a week or so reminding you to be kind to yourself? Do you need surprise coffees or check-ins to make sure you’re drinking enough water?

Asking for exactly what you want is a beautiful way to solidify your community too - it will deepen your understanding of who belongs in your tribe, and it will open up space for them to ask for exactly what they need. It’s a win-win.

Don’t ask for support in a long winded social media post - unless you truly, deeply feel like it emboldens and fortifies your soul when you see a comment that says “Hugs and prayers XO,” skip it. For me personally, I found that posts like that just met my ego’s whiny needs but didn’t fulfill me. Like Dorito’s - my taste buds love the experience, but I never feel good or fulfilled once I’ve finished eating them.

How to support your loved ones by donating your breath to them

And the frosting on the support cake isn’t necessary, but it is if you’re hoping to not go it alone. If you, like most of us, want at least a small ride-or-die tribe, you have to share your breath with others.

Yes, the one thing you truly have - the one support beam in your life that is truly steady - you have to give it away. When your best friend calls you and needs more support than her body can muster for herself, you breathe with her as you remind herself of her strength and capability. You spend hundreds of breaths staying up late into the night to listen to your partner’s hopes and dreams, lending a voice now and again for reassurance, but mostly just breathing through it all, being there for the ones you love the most.

So many of my dearest friends have donated their breath to me in my times of greatest need. Their breath comes on the wing of a joke, or silently alongside a listening ear, or red-hot with anger on my behalf. Their breath is filled with pride, sorrow, joy, consolation. They’ve truly, and literally, given portions of their life to me and I’ll say it again - it’s the most valuable, expensive gift they can give.

And I’m happy to give my breath in return, not because I have to but because I want to and I love to do it.

Next time you feel alone

Seek solid ground. I live on the second floor and often find it easier to feel supported when I’m on ground level at the yoga studio. If you don’t have a studio, find a shaded spot at the park to lay or sit down in. Go to a quiet library and sit and meditate in a chair that makes you feel secure. You can grab a book and pretend to read if you don’t want to creep people out, or you can creep people out and that’s fine too.

Put your feet in the dirt, in the grass, in the sand. And breathe.

Many people will choose not to support you, and some will choose to work against you. They’ll resist your forward movement, they’ll hate it, they’ll beg you to stop. They’ll list out all of the risks and try to break down your other support beams.

But just know this: they are spending their breath, the breath that is meant to support and give life, on doing the opposite. If they don’t support you, it’s them who loses - not you. I even think there’s a certain amount of compassion and grace we can send these people who may be hurting or feeling unsupported themselves.

But try, as much as you can, to no longer spend breath on people who say you’re wasting your own breath with your passion project, or career, or whatever it is you're leaning in to.

And again, anchor yourself. Breathe in. You are supported, you are whole.

Think of those around you who are sharing their breath with you and send them a few breaths of gratitude - breaths made in gratitude are never wasted.

Share your breath with your tribe, and they’ll reward you tenfold.

You are supported.