December 3, 2019

NaNoWriMo, The Holidays, & Lessons ReLearned


It's December 2nd, and the holiday season is officially in full swing. We've all just survived Thanksgiving, only to be thrown head first into the Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanza/December Land of Craziness. This is normally the season of stress, anxiety, and overwhelm for me. At least it has been since I had kids.

In years past, I've started slipping down this stress-slope in September, with back-to-school. I pick up some serious speed as we careen through autumn and Halloween, fall on my butt come November as I attempt to write 50,000 words of a new book in NaNoWriMo, and then "handle" Thanksgiving. Finally, I crawl toward the New Year's finish line, bedraggled and beaten, while simultaneously creating a fantastic birthday for my daughter and a memorable Christmas for all.


And, sadly, most every year, I am blindsided by all of this.

Sigh. I know.

If it happens every year and I, theoretically, know it's coming, how can I be blindsided?
Your guess is a good as mine.

Every year it's...
Why am I so stressed?
Why can't I handle all of this as well as everybody else?
Why am I having more anxiety attacks?
Why is my stomach upset?
Why am I stress eating?
Why am I gaining weight?

And, every year it's then...
Oh, right, I always get stressed this time of year.
Oh, right, I need to get back to self care.
Oh, right, I need to let things go and enjoy myself.

What I really struggle with is letting this whole scenario be okay.

Yes, this happens every year. Yes, I'm still blindsided. Yes, I'm stressed. And, yes, ALL OF THIS IS OKAY.

Getting stressed-out is okay. It does not mean I'm a failure. Forgetting that I get stressed out at the same time every year is also okay. Still not a failure.

This does not mean I'm an idiot. Even if it feels like it does, in fact, prove exactly that. It just means that I'm human.

I am human.
I make mistakes.
I am not always on top of things.
I get stressed out.
I sometimes want to rest instead of doing the things.
I mishandle my emotions.
I forget to take care of myself.

And that's okay.

I get judgy when I slack-off. But I still slack off. And then I wallow in my conflicted feelings. I am a hodgepodge of contradictions and conflicting emotions, as all of us humans are. I am a buckle-down and get it done girl. I am also a slack off and eat chips on the couch while watching Hallmark movies when there's work to do girl. I am hard core and low key. I'm an over achiever and a slacker. I'm filled with guilt and shame, but also confidence and glee. All at the exact same time.

And this is also okay.


NaNoWriMo was both tough and easy for me this year. Regardless, I managed to finish 50,000 words, and I like my book already, despite it's rough draft short-comings, and the fact that I still have to write a good 20-30,000 words to finish it. I had fun writing a lot of the time (though not all of it) and for once I don't feel completely dead of all writing energy at the end of Nano. I actually want to keep at it this December. And I hope I will. Though maybe I won't.

Either way, it's okay.

A Woody Guthrie.
I hosted Thanksgiving this year. And it was super stressful and also awesome. I loved having my family around. I hated having to cook anything when all I wanted to do was hang out with my favorite people. And I felt bad for letting my mom pick up my slack in the kitchen. The food all turned out good and I think everyone had a good time.

Not actual photo of boyfriend.
But my tiny dog also bit my niece's boyfriend, so it wasn't all good. (He's okay, I promise.) The highlight, aside from just the fun of being around my family, were the drinks my husband mixed. The man makes a mean drink.

It was good. It was bad. It was all okay.

The next day I could barely be bothered to get off the couch. I was so drained from all the planning, preparation, and socializing. I was a blob of goo.
So, did I meditate and do yoga to take care of myself?
No. No, I did not. I ate more junk and watched tv.

Also okay.

So, tonight, I acknowledge what I've been doing. I remember the lessons I've learned and re-learned ten times before. And I put the brakes on. I meditate. I stretch. I read a book and chill. And I remind myself of my deeper why.

Why do I participate in Nano? To practice my craft. To hone my writing skills so that one day I might write a book that makes a person I don't even know feel understood, and a little less alone in the world.

Why do I host Thanksgiving? To be around my family, who I love so dearly and genuinely adore spending time with.

Why do I do all the Christmas things I do? To bring joy to my family and myself. To give my kids and myself warm memories of love and family and home.

What's this all for? Love.

What's it all about? Love.

This is my reminder. This is your reminder too, dear reader.

This is your reminder to think of your deeper why. To focus on THAT this season, and not the long list of things to do.

Balance.
So, I'll take a day and stop "doing" and lay on the couch with my daughter and watch Hallmark movies while we stuff and address Christmas cards and snuggle all day. I also may take a day and clean the house top to bottom and do about 50 loads of laundry. Then I might shut everybody out of my studio so I can get some writing in. Or I might paint all afternoon. I will also travel into downtown Chicago and spend three hours at the American Girl store despite a strong desire to stay on the couch or locked in my room in the peace and quiet I crave. On another day I may take a nap. Because I'm tired and I love naps. But then I'll spend loads of time pouring over websites to find the most wonderful Christmas gifts for the people I love. Then I might volunteer at the school and run errands like a mad woman.

There's a push-pull to life that I'm just beginning to appreciate. It's not so much balance as it is this push-pull. I always imagined "life balance" as this tight rope we were supposed to walk, staying balanced right in the middle.
Tip right. Adjust. Tip left. Adjust.

But it isn't like that. Not really.
It's more like puddle jumping. Both feet into one puddle, then both feet into another.
It's messier like that, too.
Splashing water.
Splashing mud.
Maybe the key is to find peace with that.
With the puddles and the water and the mud. With the balance that isn't really balance at all.

There's a scene in the movie Parenthood where Steve Martin's character imagines the craziness of life and family as a roller coaster ride that he's white-knuckle-gripping and grimacing his way through. Until something finally shifts in his perspective and he suddenly starts smiling and laughing at all of it-- he starts enjoying the roller coaster ride. This is a pivotal moment in the life of a control-freak.

This is that time in life when we realize that we are in control of, well, pretty much nothing. An especially hard lesson for all of us who adopted "attempting to control everything in our world" as a coping mechanism for feeling out of control in our childhoods.

Letting go of that white knuckle grip on imagined control is, like mediation and yoga, a practice. You don't just figure it out and are magically fixed. You must practice letting go again, and again, and again, and again. Ad infinitum.

And so it is a lesson we learn and relearn all the days.
But we get better and faster at it over time.
So we got that going for us.
Which is nice.

Until next time, let it go.

And jump in the puddles with both feet.


P.S.

In loving memory of one of our family who's
missing this holiday: Sydney.








October 30, 2019

Remembering Your Why

This is not a To Do List. This is a Cosmic Book
of Hopes and Dreams and Deeper Whys.
(Sculpture by David Kracov)
I've spent the last week or so in a heightened state of anxiety. It has not been fun. I tried blaming in on the move and all the extra stuff there is to do with the house and the life. I've spent more than four hours at the DMV in the last week and I still have to go back one more time. That's reason enough for anxiety, right?

But then, last night, (after having a mini anxiety attack) I remembered what my last therapist said to me around this same time last year. Amy, this is your stress time. Every year, the activities and responsibilities ramp up in October, hit a frenzied peak in mid December, and then slowly descend back to normal by New Years. And every year your anxiety follows the same path.

This happens every year for me since I had kids.

Every. Damn. Year.

And every year I am surprised by it (Every. Damn. Year.) and try to shove it down and push on through and explain it away with special circumstances (like moving to a new state). Every year I pile on the responsibilities. And every year, subconsciously,  I feel like I'm not up to snuff. (I don't actively think, Wow, I'm really failing at this. But if you dig down a layer, that's the underlying belief when I can't get EVERYTHING done perfectly ALL THE TIME. I've been through enough therapy to recognize that much!)

What really irks me about this is that I've been a mother for almost eleven years and I still have not retained this life lesson.

I'm normally such a good student, this must be due to the demise of many braincells since having kids.

So, following said revelation yesterday, I took a step back and reassessed. I re-instituted some self-care and refocused my thinking and my priorities. I got back to meditating and using essential oils. I reminded myself how much movement helps. And, THE BIG ONE:

I remembered my WHY.

This is two fold for me. Part of the reason for the extra bump in anxiety this week is that we are now two days away from November 1. For me, that's two days away from the start of NaNoWriMo! (For those new to this blog, that's National Novel Writing Month. Where writers from all over the world commit to writing 50,000 words in 30 days-- essentially that's writing a novel--or a large chunk of one--in a month. This will be my 7th year participating in NaNoWriMo.)

So my DEEPER WHY is connected to my family life: To build a fun and love-filled life for me and my family and friends-- and my writing life: To connect with others through words and stories, and make the world a less lonely place to be.

When you're stressing about getting your house in order and your new license plates and winter gear for the kids and cleaning for guests and oh my God what novel am I going to write in November and I haven't done any research and my outlines not done and....OH MY GOD!-- It can be a good time to remember your why.

Why are you here? Why do you do what you do? What do you want your legacy to be?

Is it to be a stressed out ball of angst?

Probably not.

Is it to be perfect at everything you do?

Not actually possible. Plus, subjective measuring stick. Perfectly dusted furniture means different things to me and my mom. Trust me.

So what is it?

Remembering our deeper why can help us refocus on what really matters and why we do what we do.

So, if, like me, you sometimes get sucked in to the frenetic pace that can be life in our world today, and you find yourself stressed out trying to do it all-- if your body reminds you that you're heading down the wrong path (with headaches or indigestion or sleep troubles or aches and pains or whatever), then take a moment to step back and remember your deeper why.

And then remember it again and again, with every sunrise. This is why you're here. This is why you do what you do.

And, always, take care of you.

Until next time, love on, dear ones!


P.S. If you'd like to read more about dealing with anxiety, check out these previous blog posts:https://mamamanagement.blogspot.com/2018/04/anxiety-confessions.html
https://mamamanagement.blogspot.com/2018/04/fear.html
https://mamamanagement.blogspot.com/2018/06/self-care-why-is-it-always-first-thing.html
https://mamamanagement.blogspot.com/2018/09/she-let-go.html
https://mamamanagement.blogspot.com/2018/12/holiday-stress-and-anxiety.html
https://mamamanagement.blogspot.com/search/label/Anxiety

P.P.S. If you're interested in using guided mediations, there are lots of free apps out there to help you. I use Insight Timer, which I highly recommend, but there are many others. Here's my current favorite guided mediation to help me slow down and recenter: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BFwT_r4b57c

P.P.P.S. And don't forget to cheer me on for NaNoWriMo 2019! It starts Friday and I can you all the support I can get! Thanks, friends!


September 13, 2019

Embracing Uncertainty and Change

I have not shown up here on MamaManagement in many months. There are lots of reasons I could list as to why. But, I think the core of it is that I haven't had much to say.

We've had a lot of "stuff" going on...all of which revolves around us moving from Pennsylvania to Illinois in August. Plus, for a while there, back in Spring and early summer, I was working hard on book revisions (decidedly NOT the case now. Sigh.). But mainly, I've just been really self-absorbed lately.

Both in good ways and in bad.

Truth be told, I've been a bit of a hermit these last few months. Much of my reclusiveness was born out of prepping for the move and then moving. Moving a family from one state to another is a full time job. And it's stressful. It throws your family's entire life off its rhythm. And, in my case, it also throws your mind, body, and spirit off-rhythm.

My mind has had so much on it that it no longer works properly. Information flows in and out like water through a sieve. I misplace my phone at least ten times a day. A week or two ago, I lost my wedding ring and searched frantically before finally remembering that I'd purposely put it in a bathroom cupboard for safe keeping. I still can't find the brand new box of heartworm medicine I bought for the dog just before we moved. I'm relatively certain it'll turn up eventually. At least I know for certain I bought it, because I found the receipt....just not the actual medicine.

My body, which has been coasting on a slow, meandering downhill slope for over a year, careened around a sharp turn and launched itself down a Matterhorn-esque slalom, jiggling it's way toward some seemingly bottomless chasm. It ain't pretty, by current cultural standards. But I'm working toward loving it anyway.

My spirit is hanging in there, weathering the stormy days and relishing the sunny ones. It has moments of clarity and bliss. It has days hung heavy with grey, armored clouds and bits of residual anxiety. It feels as though it's finding its way, but it's taking its own sweet time trudging through the muck.

And me? Well, I'm trying hard to love it all. Loving what is, not the storied version of life I conjured up somewhere along the way (fed by marketing and media). Trusting that the universe has my back and will lead me out of the muck and back into the light. Living in the now, not the "when x happens, then I'll..." Embracing uncertainty and change. Seeing life for the adventure it is and jumping at opportunities whenever they arise. Stopping putting things off or spending lots of time weighing the options and wondering if it's the "right" decision.

Jumping into the deep end and trusting I'll remember how to swim.

It's slow-going. But I'm trying.

I read this quote on Instagram the other day and thought it fit perfectly with where my (scattered and tattered) brain is at right now:

each morning,
ask your heart
how it would like
to be loved

and each day,
do that.

--della hicks wilson

I love that.

Also, I just finished a Fredrik Backman book (My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry). I love his stories (I've read 4 so far) because they (almost) always have quirky characters that share a unique way of looking at life and death. And his books always make me feel warm and gooey inside and soften my perspective on life, at least for a while.

So, my new motto is: Embrace uncertainty and change.

At least for now.

Until next time...Hope you all are well. Sending love and light and warm, gooey feelings your way.

xx






March 28, 2019

Belly Love

This post is as much for me as it is for you. I am just beginning my journey into the land of Body Positivity and #BellyLove is my next big step.

As many of you saw in my last post about diet culture, I've recently been inspired by a #BodyPositivity movement that came to my attention through Instagram. This movement is all about loving our bodies just as they are, in whatever shape they are in. It's about ditching the pervasive diet culture and body shaming, and seeing the beauty in every body...especially our own.

This Body Positivity movement is connected to another movement called #HealthatEverySize. Which focuses on being healthy and doing the best for your body regardless of what size you are. Not worrying about what the scale says or whether of not you have washboard abs and a thigh gap, and instead focusing on eating foods that make your body feel good and doing movement that promotes good mental and physical health AND feels good...without caring at all about losing weight. There's also a movement for #IntuitiveEating*, which is about getting back in touch with our bodies, really listening to them and feeding them what they want rather than restricting or feeding them what our stress wants or what diet culture tells us to eat.

For me, this has meant riding a stationary bike for 30-40 minutes most everyday, because I know the movement is good for both my mind and body, and because I LIKE IT. I can read or watch author YouTube videos while I do it! I can close my eyes and daydream--which I don't do enough of lately. It also means stretching every night in whatever way feels good to my body. It's no longer a yoga class, per se, but it includes a lot of yoga poses. (I'm dying to add a rower to the mix...here's hoping I get one for mother's day! ...hint. hint.)

For me, this has also meant trying to learn to listen to what my body wants. When I really listen, I find that I'm not always hungry at the designated mealtimes, yet I've almost always eaten at them. Now I'm trying to eat only when I feel hungry, regardless of the time. It also means checking in with my body to see what it really wants to eat. More often than not, of late, that includes carbs like bread or pasta, and fruit; though it also may mean soup. I give it what it wants.

And now, for me, this means focusing on a new relationship with my current body. This, my friends, is THE HARD PART. This means no more cringing when I look in the mirror. This means a new kind of self talk. This means thoughts filled with love and gratitude and admiration. This means wearing clothes that I think are beautiful regardless of how body-con they are or how much they show the more voluptuous parts of me (yes, I mean the FAT).

And, I've decided, this means BELLY LOVE.

My current belly is the crux of my movement into Body Positivity. I've never had a small waist, but for most of my life I had a relatively flat stomach. Not. Any. More. I now have some thick rolls chillaxing on my midsection. They are soft and squishy and totally pinchable. And they are big enough now that I can no longer even suck them in, really. I can't stand a certain way in pictures to hide them unless I'm completely blocked by another person. I can't camouflage them under a sweater.

THEY. ARE. THERE. Like it or not.

So that's the decision before me: To like them. Or not.

Could I eat less and exercise more and whittle them down a bit? Probably. But here's the question I keep asking myself: Why? Is that what I really want to do with my one wild and precious life? Workout? Diet? Worry about how I look? Will I wish, on my death bed, that I had been skinnier? That I'd had a flatter stomach?

I kinda doubt it.

So, I choose to like them, those belly rolls.

And this is my new practice, starting today: Every day I will say nice things to myself about my appearance. Every day I will focus some of that love specifically onto my belly. I will tell it how much I love it and I will thank it. I will rub it lovingly with yummy lotion after I shower and I will dress it in lovely clothes. I will try my best not to hide it or deny it. And I will feed it what it wants.

I will give it BELLY LOVE.

It's an experiment in challenging diet culture and body shaming and self flagellation. It's in experiment in self-love and body positivity.

I'll let you know how it goes. Feel free to join me in this experiment and report back.

Until next time, love your self...love your belly.

xo


* Check out these hashtags on Instagram for more information and inspiration on your own journey to loving the body you live in!


February 27, 2019

Body Image and Diet Culture

I have subscribed to the pervasive diet culture that exists in the United States for my entire adolescent and adult life.

As a one hundred and fifteen pound teenager, I believed myself fat. My body, though I see now in the rearview mirror of age, was beautiful even by society's standards, became a loathsome enemy very early on. I compared myself to magazines and movies and friends. Everyone was always thinner and more beautiful. Everyone had clearer skin and a skinnier waist and thinner thighs. I was an attractive enough girl...and then woman. I wasn't "ugly" per se, but I was less than.

Within each decade of my life, there seemed to be some magical (and unattainable) number on the scale that held the holy grail of "enough". If I could just get to that number...120, 125, 130, 135...then everything would be great. I'd be thin enough, pretty enough, fashionable enough...

I'd be enough.

As I got older, especially once I had kids, that "acceptable" number got higher and my relationship with it more conflicted. I no longer just bowed down to the idea that I needed to be thin. I still wanted it. I still beat myself up about not getting it. But, I no longer had absolute acceptance of the idea that skinny = happy/better/being enough. Now the feminist side of me started to challenge this idea.

Skinnier isn't inherently better/more beautiful. There was a time when a more Rubenesque physique was thought more beautiful. My belief that thinner is better comes from the pervasive diet culture that I've grown up in...lived my whole life in. And there's plenty of evidence to suggest that a patriarchal society benefits from my shitty body image-- they want to make me smaller, weaker. They want me riddled with doubt and fear. It reinforces their power. If I'm distracted by my appearance, if I'm busy trying to get thinner, it makes it far more difficult to challenge their authority. Plus, they get to make LOTS of money off of me.

So why do I, an intelligent, educated, self-aware woman who's about to turn forty-fucking-five (and, frankly knows damn better), still find herself burdened by the number on the scale (which doesn't match the "should be" in her head) and the rolls on her middle?

I wrote last week about my February Funk. Well, said "funk" has invaded my psyche and become pervasive negative self-talk. And some days, it's pretty bad, y'all. I catch my thoughts berating my self and I can't even contradict what they're saying. Because I believe it's all true. (Which is kind of mortifying to write.) So I degrade myself and do hopeful online shopping for creams and makeup and clothes that promise to help. And I try intermittent fasting, followed by reactionary 9pm chip and cereal eating.


And it becomes a vicious cycle in which I get more and more down on myself and my head becomes a really ugly place to be.

I would never say to another person any of the awful things I currently am saying to myself. I wouldn't even think them. That's what's so weird about this. I really only turn it on myself. I don't look at other people and think about how they should really lose some weight, or do their hair or wear makeup...not ever. But the things I say to myself...whoa!

I feel ugly and fat. And when I look in the mirror, I cringe. And this makes me-- So. Very. Sad.

One way to stop this is to increase my exercise routine (currently 30 minutes on a bike and yoga stretches daily) and restrict my already (mostly) healthy eating. Could I stand to eat less? Probably. Could I move more? Sure. -- I'd even do it happily if I could just get this Plantar Fasciitis to go the hell away.

Which brings me to the broader issue of body hatred. Because I'm REALLY mad at my body these days. And not just because it's carrying extra weight and won't let go.

But because I've had Plantar Fasciitis for more than 9 months now,
...and because I wake up sore and in moderate pain every morning,
...and because my hormones and period are jacked up,
...and because I'm some kind of tired most of the time,
...and because I have anxiety that requires medication and even then still flares up from time to time,
...and because...

I feel betrayed by my body.

I feel old before my time on top of feeling fat and ugly and I blame my body for it all, when what has my body ever done for me but LIVED.

My body has been relatively healthy my whole life. My body allowed me to conceive, carry, birth, and nurse two amazing children. My body has taken me on adventures and given me pleasure and really been nothing but wonderful to me from the very beginning.

Not that you'd ever know if from the way I've emotional abused it so often over the years. If my body was a friend, I would tell it to get out of its relationship with me!

So, what prompted this post about body image and diet culture?

It's a funny thing. A few weeks ago, an Instagram friend turned me on to this wonderful Instagrammer @bodyposipanda. Then, last week the negative self talk got so bad that I scheduled an appointment with my therapist (who I haven't seen in months) for her first available slot (not til next week). Then last night I spent an hour reading @bodyposipanda's past IG posts, trying to absorb her philosophy/message. I even went so far as to order her book on Audible so I could attempt to rewire my brain. Then, the tipping point this morning, when someone I don't even know posted a question seeking dieting and weightloss advice in a Facebook group I'm a member of and I thought...

I am not alone.

So many others are body shaming themselves every day. So many others are looking for the miracle diet/weight loss/wrinkle cure plan that will help them "be enough." Because we have all been steeped in this diet culture our whole lives-- so much so that we don't even see it for what it is.

So, today, I'm going to try and start over.

I'm going to try to start saying nice things to my body.
I'm going to try and start rewiring my brain.
I'm going to try and listen to my body and what it tells me about what it needs and wants.
I'm going to try to eat the healthiest things possibly for my body--the things that make it feel good and energetic, and move it as much as I can in ways that feel good.
And then
I'm going to let the chips fall where they may.

And I'm going to try and shift the blame and shame, the hatred and anger, off my body and to where it truly belongs: onto the diet culture.

This isn't about letting myself go or eating junk food or laying on the couch all day or being unhealthy. This is about reclaiming my body and my self. This is about taking my power back. This is about being happy and loving life and spending my time and energy on the things that really matter.

Which is decidedly NOT belly rolls or wrinkles.

Wish me luck.
Join me.

Until next time, love yourself...not thinner or younger or prettier, but just as you are.

xo

P.S. And check out @bodyposipanda (Megan Jayne Crabbe) for some inspiration here:

https://www.instagram.com/bodyposipanda/ or http://www.bodyposipanda.com or  https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCJU46H9UjvIXLEtAknI9c8g








February 19, 2019

Inside The Funk of February


So much...
When I have a low day (or days) that appears, seemingly, for no reason whatsoever (as in: nothing has happened, nothing is "wrong"), I have a really hard time accepting it as normal.

It is, you know. Normal. To have a blue mood every once in a while. To be "in a funk." I'm not talking about depression. I'm talking about a day or two, maybe a week, when you just feel...blah. Life has lost its shimmer and shine. Maybe you have lost your shimmer and shine, too...temporarily.

That's me today...okay, this week, really. And I feel equal parts mad about it and guilty for it.

I don't want to feel blue. It's dumb. There's no reason for it. Nothing is wrong beyond the fact that it's February in Pennsylvania. But "the funk" doesn't care what I want. The funk will be, if it chooses to be. The funk will have its way...and that makes me mad.

I also feel an undercurrent of guilt. What right do I have to be blue? I am a happy person living a good life. People who are going through hard things have the right to be blue.

What I'm supposed to feel like
I do not.

To a part of me, this rationale sounds as stupid as it is. You hear it, don't you? The insanity of that statement? But I'll be honest. Even when I write it here. Even when I want to make the point to you, and to myself, that it's okay; that it's normal to be blue sometimes. Even when I know exactly what my therapist would say about these guilty thoughts. (*whispers) I still think they're kinda true. If I'm honest, truly honest, underneath it all I don't believe that I have the right to be in a funk.

I mean, what the hell is wrong with me?

Truth is? Nothing. Nothing is wrong with me. It is perfectly normal to have blue moods and bad days and peaks and valleys in motivation and performance. This week I feel like an uninspired slug. I bet you have, too, at some point in the last few months...since it's part of the human experience. We are not energizer bunnies who keep going and going. We are humans. We need valleys between our peaks, ebbs between our flows, rest between our races.

Recovery time.

And so it is that if we don't naturally impose such breaks on ourselves, then our lives or our bodies will impose them upon us on our behalf. Enter: low energy, low mood-- THE FUNK. I'm pretty sure this corresponds to some dip or rise in hormones, or the lunar cycle, or the seasons, or circus rhythms, or something. I'm also pretty sure I ought to be accepting it and going with it.

Cocooning and letting it be. Riding the ebb and waiting peacefully for the return of the flow.

Instead, I grit my teeth and get annoyed, and yell at a few people in frustration, and then get all down on myself and how unproductive and uninspired I feel and how I'm doing nothing with all that I've been given, and I get all introspective about the meaning of life and the time I'm wasting, and...

You get the picture.

So, the other night, I dropped my daughter off at Girl Scouts and then headed over to Panera. I made them brew a fresh pot of decaf for me which I loaded up with cinnamon, and I revved up my laptop and started writing this.

Because what writers do, even when they don't feel like it, is write.

On the writing front, when I'm not feeling sullen and moody, I've been working on a short story class and Aaron Sorkin's Masterclass over the past two weeks. I'm also reading a shit ton. I'm assuming it's to escape my current mental undertow. I just figured out that I'm currently reading ten books. Because that's totally normal. (insert eye roll here) Here's the book lowdown:

RANDOM OFF-TOPIC BOOK TALK THAT CANNOT BE HELPED. SORRY.

Love. Book and Dog.
Current audiobooks: Michelle Obama's Becoming (almost done and love it), The Enchanted Glass (the kids and I are listening to it in the car and we're on the last disc; cute and fun), and The Confident Code for Girls (my daughter and I are listening to it in bed at night a few times a week).

Current hardcopy fiction: Sourdough or, Lois and Her Adventures in the Underground Market (just started; also, almost done; love it), Beneath a Scarlet Sky (just started), Heads of the Colored People (short stories), Poppy Mayberry (reading with my daughter), The Rules of Magic (shelved for the moment while I move through a stack of library books), and My Sister the Serial Killer (just finished).

Current hardcopy nonfiction: Save the Cat Writes a Novel (writing research), and The Opposite of Spoiled (a bookclub read...I'm not gonna lie, I'm skimming; money's not my fave topic).

No wonder I can't get anything done. All I do is read.

Sigh.

Escapism.

Look! It's Aaron Sorkin.
As a part of the short story class I'm taking, I'm working on writing two short stories, both of which need first drafts finished for this week. And I'm reading through all of the course materials and doing all of the smaller assignments. And I'm listening to Aaron Sorkin talk about screenwriting-- not because I want to write screenplays, but because he writes amazing dialogue (if you don't believe me, watch The West Wing). Plus I am attempting to put together a simple website, but I'm not really sure how to juggle time spent working on that versus time spent on classes and time spent on my novel. So, it languishes.

All of which means I have not been working on my novel revisions.

I am the poster child for Procrastiproductiveness!

Being procrastiproductive means you are super productive and get lots of stuff done, but never the stuff you really, really need to be doing. That is me. Even now, I'm getting a blog post written, which is great. But I'm actually here at Panera at 6:53pm to write a short story.

And, let's be honest, that novel's not going to revise itself.

Sigh. Again.

Me. Funk City. Population: 1.
Also, love these headphones.
And we circle back around to the moody blues. (No, not the band.) Funk City? (Eek.)

So here's what we're gonna do right now. We're gonna extend some grace to ourselves...which is to say, I'm going to extend some grace to myself. Just as I would to a dear friend. I would not berate my friend for her lack of...whatever. I would tell her she's amazing. I would tell her to stick with it, but take it easy on herself. I would tell her she is worthy no matter what she does or doesn't do. I would tell her that she is loved, just as she is.

I am amazing. I am worthy. I am loved. Just like my dear friends. Just like you.

Let's try to ride the waves of life with a little more comfort and ease. Relax into the valleys with as much grace as we climb those peaks. It's okay to feel a little blue. It's normal to have off days. Give yourself a break, even when the funk cannot be explained beyond: It's February.

Breathe in. Breathe out.

Until next time, remember: You are amazing. You are worthy. You are loved.

Namaste.



February 7, 2019

Take a Class

From an art class I took last summer. This ended up being the background for all the mini-paintings I did this fall.
Today I'm here to urge you to take a class.

I know you're super busy. I know there are already too many things crammed into your day. I know you've got work and home and kids and spouse and workouts and family and friends and general life stuff all vying for your attention and time. And the last thing you want to do is add something else into the mix.

But I don't care.

I still think you should take a class.

I don't really care what kind of class you take. It can be one that gets you further in your career. It can be one that introduces you to a new hobby. It can be one that you've always wanted to take. It can help you learn a new sport. (Tennis, anyone?) It can be online. It can be through your community rec center. It can be at a local college.

What and where it is doesn't really matter all that much, as long as it's something you're interested in. What matters is that you do something new, you learn something new, you try something new, and you get, at least a little bit, uncomfortable.

Why do I think you need to get uncomfortable?

Because that's where all the good things happen.

Margaret Atwood's Masterclass
I began challenging myself to take classes a few years ago. I call it Continuing Ed (aka My Life Masterclass). This year I'm taking actual Masterclasses through Masterclass.com. I started in the fall and will continue throughout the year. At the moment I'm taking only writing-related classes, but when I've exhausted those, I plan to take other classes that interest me...on cooking and wine appreciation and photography and...whatever else strikes my fancy. I'm also currently taking a month-long short story writing class through Pennwriters, a Pennsylvania writers organization I joined last year. And, I've been attending writers' conferences and workshops whenever I can (at least two in the past year).

My daughter taking a
sewing class
I've also been taking various art classes, both online and in person. And, I've been watching art-making videos on Youtube-- Youtube is a great resource for free learning!! Sometime this year I hope to take a sewing class at JoAnn's so I can finally learn how to use the sewing machine my mother got me two years ago...so I can repair all the holes that magically appear in all of our clothes all of the time. (What's with that???)

But I'm not here to tell you about my classes. I'm here to encourage you to find your own.

Taking a class does wonders for your life satisfaction and self esteem. Even if you're busy and you have to wedge it in between twenty other things. Taking a class will challenge your brain. It may make you feel stupid and slow at the beginning, but that feeling won't last. Eventually you'll get better/grasp the material/get absorbed in the topic or the process and you'll start to feel alive. And then, when it's done, you'll feel a sense of accomplishment.

You'll learn something new. You'll broaden your horizons. You will grow. And that is, after all, at least part of why we're here. To learn and grow. We are not here to stagnate. We are not here to be lulled by the sameness of every day. We are not here to live the unchallenged life.

So challenge yourself.

Book Club feet, from our annual
holiday sock exchange
And while we're at it, I also think you should join a club. (Extracurriculars, Yay!) Find a running club or a book club or a dinner club or a golf league or a slow-pitch softball team. Again, it doesn't matter what it is. But it does matter that it's something you enjoy and it gets you together with other people. It matters that it gets you interested in doing things to relax and unwind other than watching TV or surfing Facebook (or, if you're me, Instagram (#instaaddict))...or playing video games (I'm looking at you, husbands).

Take up running or tennis or fly fishing. Start painting or baking or gardening. Volunteer at a local animal shelter or soup kitchen or library. Take the classes to get SCUBA certified or CPR certified or teaching certified. Learn to knit or throw a pot or fix an engine.
From a Bonsai class my
husband and I took last fall

And, if you can, do it with a group.

Meet new people. Make new friends. Converse with people outside your comfort zone, whatever that zone may be. Do something you've never done before. Do something that makes you nervous. Do something that you "would never do."

Push. Stretch. Reach.

Reach for something further away than your own doorstep. Challenge yourself with something new. That is where growth lives.

Until next time, TAKE A CLASS. (You knew that was coming ;-)

Namaste.