June – The Renewal of My Vows to Myself

Photo by Jamie Street on Unsplash

It’s the turning of the seasons again, and the beginning of my all time favorite one! 

It’s summer! Specifically, it’s June, my favorite month of the year. There are the obvious reasons of course. It’s my birthday month, and the month when school always let out. The month when the days are long and hot, yet the nights cool and breezy. But it also feels like the start of new beginnings, where all the dreaming and scheming of winter can come to fruition. 

I absolutely love this month, and I’m using it to start anew for myself. April and May were sick months, where I struggled every day to do right. Sometimes I did but sometimes I failed. Or rather, I needed to rest and heal. I shouldn’t say ‘fail’. That’s where this month gets me back on track. 

I have been doing yoga on and off for as long as I can remember. It started sometime in high school, when I received a yoga DVD for a Hanukkah present. I would go down to the basement, alone, and put it in our DVD player and feel so proud of myself. 

That didn’t last that long, but a love of yoga stayed with me throughout the years. Nowadays I just go on YouTube, who even owns anything that can read a DVD, amiright? And while the beginning of the year I was on a roll, doing yoga almost every single day, the past couple of weeks I’ve been negligent in my duty to my body. 

What is our duty to our bodies? Well, different people can have different answers to that, but this is mine. Keeping it healthy. It’s not about looks, so much as function. (Who am I kidding, I’d love to be a supermodel). My duty to myself, to my mind and soul is to keep the machine that they are in working at maximum efficiency. Which means, in simple layman’s terms, doing my best to be my version of healthy. Eating right, working out, so I can continue to live my life to the fullest. 

And to be honest, I haven’t been doing the best job that I could be doing. Granted, I’ve been trying to eat right, and right now keeping to a strict vegan diet (which is to be determined if it’s actually the ‘right’ way for me to eat. There’s a blood test in my future, let me tell you) which is not easy when my husband makes giant cheesecakes and freaking delicious cheesy ziti. But every night when I lie in bed, proud that I didn’t sneak a bite, I realize that the feeling of the food would have been gone anyways. And I don’t even care that I didn’t get to eat it. The moment is over and done with, after all. 

Honestly, the best thing would probably be to not even look at his food or be in the same room (or house, with the delicious smells emanating from the oven as he reheats his dishes) but that’s not going to happen. I love eating with him, but I have realized why people who are on diets always try to convert the people that they live with. This way there’s no temptation from a source they can’t control. After all, I can buy all the things I think are healthful, but if my roommate is eating chocolate and cheese all the time then keeping to my diet is going to be difficult. 

But I digress. This month is a reaffirming of my vows to myself, getting stronger in the ways that make me feel good, and I haven’t been moving my body as much as I know I should.

I write this outside on my porch as construction drones on and on, beating holes into the ground to lay a foundation and I want to hold my hands over my ears in a desperate attempt to block the noise out. That won’t work, obviously, because I do need them to type. I’m loath to go inside though, as the weather really is perfect. 

Perfect June weather. 

Well, now that I made a full circle back to talk of my favorite month, let me tell the world how I am recommitting to loving myself and keeping my mind and body healthy. 

Yoga. I did it this morning and I will continue to do it every morning. I have unfurled my falling apart yoga mat (it barely holds me up anymore as my sweaty hands slowly slide down the length as I try to keep a downward facing dog) and I’ll be leaving it there, to encourage me to do it every day. It’s incredible to me how already, that one choice has made my day more accomplished. I’m writing, I ate a healthy breakfast, and my mind feels alive. But I won’t be hard on myself. It’s every morning, but it’s to keep to healthy habits. Which is why five minutes or fifty minutes, either one will bring me joy. 

My self love that I’ve been practicing religiously for the past month has made a difference in how I see myself in the mirror. I don’t want to get into it right now, but sometimes I can be very hard on myself on what I perceive are imperfections. I’ve been slowly moving past it, by rearranging negative thoughts into positive ones.

Writing, which of course is my great delight, is something I am going to start up again as well. It’s been almost two weeks since I’ve posted here, but honestly, I’ve been thinking non stop about the novels that I want to write. When I read amazing books, it inspires me again to get back into it, and I’ve had some good ones lately (namely, an overdue reread of Harry Potter). But in whichever way it’s expressed, the writing will get done every day of the month. Even if it’s just one sentence.

It’s the month of June! Join me as I try to make every day a little better than the one before, as I remind myself to do the things that make me happy and to keep my body active and my mind strong. 

A rehash of what I’m working on:

  1. Yoga, my workout of the body.
  2. Writing, my workout of the mind. 
  3. Telling myself every day that I am amazing, and wonderful, and special, no matter the body that is staring back at me from the mirror. 

Let me know what you want to take upon yourself for this month! I’ll make sure to bring back updates about how it’s going for me as I enjoy living the best month of the year. 

How To Be Mindful

Photo by Lesly Juarez on Unsplash

I have seen this all over the internet now. It’s all anyone can talk about. 

Scratch that, all anyone can talk about is corona. That’s all anyone can actually talk about. 

But mindfulness is a very popular topic right now. Maybe it has been for a while, but I’ve been noticing it now. 

Why? Well, because. That’s the answer. Well, actually, isn’t the answer because when we start to think about things then all we can see is what’s on our minds?

Deep, man. 

Our lives are so fast paced. We’re running from one errand to the next, we’re taking care of a billion things at once. Our phones are on nonstop and constantly ringing and buzzing, reminding us to walk the dog, exercise, make food, eat the food, and we never have a moment to relax. 

And then when we do get that rare moment where we get to prop our feet up and just not think, we’re not mindful. We’re mindless. We sit in front of the television and think about nothing, because you know what? That’s easier than caring. Caring is hard, and caring takes time away from not caring. Because not caring means we can shut our minds off and not think. That’s why the entertainment business is booming. People want to be entertained, people want something to take their minds off their troubles. 

Now, it’s wonderful that there are ways to do that. But if we never check in with ourselves how do we know we’re really happy? What are we trying to accomplish by rushing all over and doing things if not in the pursuit of happiness?

The pursuit of happiness. Hardcore American right here. Yeah, baby. 

But this is one reason why it can be helpful to just stop everything and think about what we’re doing and be in the moment. 

Be in the moment is a phrase that is used often in regards to this topic. We want to be present so we can figure out if what we’re doing is what makes us happy.

So mindfulness can be that checking in with ourselves to figure out what we really need, why we need it, how we can get it. How we can be successfully happy.

Success shouldn’t be based on numbers, although it is often about the amount of money you have. But it should be based on happiness. 

Now, unfortunately, I’m not one of those people who think that happiness has no relation to money, and burn your money and live in a commune with other hippies and grow your own vegetables. I say unfortunately because wouldn’t life be easier if we just didn’t care? Like, if I legitimately didn’t care about certain milestones I deem success, then I could be genuinely happy doing almost nothing. But because I do care, and because I have a tiny bit more ambition than that (not that much, but some), I need to stop some times and check in with myself to make sure that I am on the road to happiness. Not just to success, but to happiness as well. Honestly, we all have different definitions of what it means to be successful. For me, it isn’t necessarily making a lot of money. 

Oh, who am I kidding? I’m totally in that camp of people who think that if they have money life will be grand. There will be no more problems, everything will be amazing, you’ll never want for anything. But the thing is that if I do think that, and I don’t have money and I sometimes want for stuff, does that make me… just not successful? And therefore not happy?

I guess so. This feels like a mind rollercoaster.

And that sucks. So maybe I need a different barometer for happiness. 

To be honest, I haven’t been using mindfulness to tackle the ever present existential crisis (although I really should now that I’ve seen where my thoughts have taken me). I’ve been using it to treat my unhealthy relationship with food. 

That’s for a future blog post (hopefully soon) about my perception of the difference between being a kid and adult and just food in general. It might overlap somewhat with what I’m discussing here but that’s alright. Everything in life is a circle and meets again at some point. 

But mindfulness in terms of food has turned out to be a life changer. I signed up to Healthline’s 21 days of mindful eating because I realized I’m not mindful at all. I have a fear that food will disappear.

That I’ll be left hungry in the cold, 

While the bread grows mold. 

I’m scared of fruit being scarce,

And all I want is to be fierce… 

and take advantage of the fact that I have a healthy mind. Woah, got a little caught up there with the rhyming. I was on a roll, it just came to me. 

But back to my lack of mindfulness while I’m eating. I don’t feel like I’m truly enjoying what I’m putting into my body, and that’s just stupid if I’m eating good food. If you’re going to eat a brownie, might as well enjoy the brownie, amiright? Because you didn’t nourish your body on the inside so you might as well nourish your soul with pleasure. 

But I used to feel too guilty to have any pleasure from the ‘bad’ food I ate. I’d eat a cookie and then shove a cucumber into my mouth afterwards. Now, what was the point of the cookie, lemme ask you? Nothing. I didn’t even have that lingering taste of the sweetness in my mouth anymore.

But working on being mindful has changed that. I now have to think, taste, feel, smell what goes in my mouth. Or at least, I’m working on it. I make a choice before what I eat, an actual active choice, and that helps me decide to do what is best for me. 

This is good, because it can definitely overflow into other areas of life as well. And just thinking before we do can hugely impact what we call success and happiness. 

There was a story my teacher told us once about his daughter eating an orange. He said he was watching her, his three year old daughter, peeling away the strands from each other. Each piece was another wonder, each bite gave her joy. Her whole focus was on eating this orange, and nothing else. And that story stuck with me, how when you’re a child the whole world is new and exciting and you’re present for all of it. I want that to stay with me into adulthood.

Now, I’m not perfect, not even close. I’ve been working on this food thing for less than a month. 

My goal is to go to a party and not eat the entire bag of potato chips. Not try to lick all the icing off of the cake. Not guzzle down everything so fast that I’m left with such a bad stomach ache that I can’t enjoy anything for days. I want to eat healthy, mostly, and when I decide to eat something for my soul as opposed to my body I want to really enjoy it and not have it pass so fleetingly that I barely knew it happened.  

So to wrap up this post that might have been hard to follow:

  1. Try to be aware of what you’re doing. Take a moment to just stop and examine your feelings in connection to your actions. 
  2. Make sure your actions are what make you happy or at least are putting you on the road to happiness. 
  3. Enjoy the little things in life.

Let me know what you think about mindfulness. Yay, or nay? And have you ever tried to meditate?

Now that’s a whole nother story. 

What It Means To Be An Introvert

Photo by Jordan Steranka on Unsplash

The deal with Coronavirus is that you have to remain alone. You have to see only the people you live with, be that with just yourself or fifteen roommates. Choosing to socialize with others is no more. The choice is made for you. 

If you live in a full house and you’re an introvert this can be hard. I think a brief explanation of introversion and extroversion is in order. For anyone who tries to google introvert, what comes up can be misleading. Google had this to say: a shy, reticent person. For extroverts it’s an outgoing, overtly expressive person. I want to head everyone off at the beginning from this deceiving explanation. The first time I was exposed to this terminology I was in grade school and was led to believe that extroverts were cool and outgoing and introverts were shy and awkward. Of course we all wanted to be extroverts, because what ten year old girl wants to be described in such an unpopular way? There were the girls who were clearly losers who ate lunch alone, but everyone else claimed to be an extrovert. 

The more I learned about these meanings though, the more I realized how false my initial understanding was. 

The meanings come from where you get your energy from. Every human needs to recharge at some point, and do you do that surrounded by people, or alone by yourself? Is being in a group draining, or do you crave the comfort of fellow humans? 

Those are the true meanings and definitions. Which goes to show that you can be an outgoing and friendly person, but still need to be alone to recharge those batteries. You might be wondering about why it’s important to even know these things. But if you don’t understand what makes you tick you might find yourself lashing out at things that normally don’t bother you, or having strong emotions that don’t seem to connect to anything. Knowing why we feel things is the key to having healthier habits and responses. 

I am an introvert. I love hanging out with friends, but if I don’t get some ‘me’ time I start to get grumpy and pick fights about silly things. This was important for me to know, because now I make sure to make room for alone time and use those moments to relax so I can be ready to hang out with people again. 

To reiterate: this does not mean that I don’t enjoy parties, or going out to see people. I love events, concerts, and carnivals. I just need some time to be alone afterwards so my mood doesn’t take a downward turn. Armed with this information I can be a more fun person to be around and I can understand someone else who acts differently than me. For example, if my friend is always going out and partying and never takes time for herself and tells me she’s a self diagnosed extrovert, then I know she just has different needs than I. 

Now that we have the basics in understanding what these terms mean we can move on to the way introvertism has become my life. 

I live with my husband. That’s it, it’s just the two of us. This is wonderful because I live with my best friend who isn’t draining and knows me well enough to see when I need space. I definitely don’t dread hearing him come home like I have with some previous roommates. 

Yet there’s work. I go to work, I deal mostly with children who can be ridiculously draining and then I get to come home and relax. This is fine, this isn’t too much for me. Sometimes we have guests on the weekends and sometimes we go out as well. This is fine, this isn’t too much for me. After all, I still live with the one person who understands my needs and lets me have them. 

Life is good, life is fine, I’m working on both being around other people and I get to exercise my introvertism. 

Everything sounds just dandy, does it not?

One word: quarantine. 

Now this is some people’s enemy. And not because they can’t work, but because they are bored out of their minds, forced to interact socially through online platforms and can’t go out to see any of their friends. They are painfully waiting for quarantine to be over so they can be around other people again. 

Originally, it was hard for me because of the running. I missed going outside, grassy parks, and taking walks. But the requirement of not being allowed to see other people was a gift I didn’t foresee. 

My introverted side has been multiplied by a million. I am glorying in it. I really have it good, because when I want to be around someone I look over to my husband and when I want alone time there are endless amounts of it. 

Life is wonderful. The problem? I never want to go back to work. I never want to see my friends again. (Perchance there is some hyperbole in the words I’m using but it does really feel like never).

I’m valuing this forced quarantine time like I’ve never valued anything else. 

While I have known about my introverted side for a while now, there are some things I never thought about. I didn’t realize it before, but people are draining. Yes, that is the very definition of an introvert, as I’ve said. I am definitely not an extrovert in that area. But something I’ve realized while in quarantine – I haven’t felt that feeling I always feel. That ‘introverted around people’ feeling. Fellow introverts, you know the feeling. When you’re around others and you feel like if you don’t get to a quiet area soon your head will explode? 

I’ve never been a wallflower but with each passing day where I’m not forced to be around others my dislike for being around my fellow man becomes stronger. 

Having conversations, just the very idea of having a discussion, becomes something to dread. Oh, I’ll stay in my house and video chat for  a bit, but please please please don’t make me go to a party. I don’t know what I’ll do if I have to put up with another story that is supposed to make me laugh, or an interesting anecdote about someone’s vacation. There are people who love hearing that, others who love being the storyteller, but all I can think about is the fact that everyone wants something from me. Everyone wants something from everyone, I should say. They want you to laugh at their jokes, or respond with a rebuttal when they tell you about their latest political thought. They want you to nod appreciatively at their rendition of their chosen celebrity, and they desperately, desperately want you to accept them (human nature is to want to be accepted, that’s alright).

I am dreading life returning to whatever the new normal will be with coronavirus. I am worried about my capacity for withstanding human emotions and the struggle to exist that we all endure. What if I have to learn to deal with others from the very beginning? Go back to what it was like to be one and and a half years old and I learn what it meant to share my parents with a sibling? 

These are hard thoughts, scary thoughts, and I feel alone in thinking them. 

And yet, there really is nothing I can do about it now. I can only enjoy the time I have to myself and know that one day there will be an end to it. But to anyone who has seen The Good Place (warning: small SPOILERS) doesn’t the very thing that makes a time amazing is knowing it must come to an end?

How to Push Forward

The lovely painting made by moi

Last week was crazy. More sickness, more TV and movies, more lack of productivity, higher levels of restrictions…. I’m here to look back at the crazy month we’ve lived through and forward – into an uncertain future. 

So while I had a whole list of things I wanted to accomplish in the beginning of the lockdown – for anyone who didn’t read that post it was mostly about finally accomplishing the coveted split and holding my handstand and doing lots of writing – the inspiration trickled away after a couple of weeks. I tried to hold onto it, but the thing with not leaving the house is all the days sort of drift by in a blur and before I knew it it was the end of the week. And then the end of the week again! I found I wasn’t doing as much as I had hoped for but I tried not to let it get me down. I know that me feeling bad for not accomplishing things won’t help me be productive. 

Inspiration is interesting. I remember having a whole lecture on it when I was younger. Without inspiration, we wouldn’t have the drive to do anything, we wouldn’t have the ideas and the imagination to see what could be accomplished. But inspiration slips by fast. 

It’s similar to a relationship. First, there’s the honeymoon period. Everything comes up roses and your partner can do no wrong. You wait for their texts eagerly and when you see them your heart skips a beat. 

But as anyone who has been in a relationship for long enough knows, that part doesn’t last. In fact, those feelings aren’t even so deep. There’s a lot of infatuation, but the real feelings, the ones of commitment and eternal love, come later on. That needs to be worked on because it’s not just going to come naturally. After being in a relationship for a while, and then having your first fight, you have a choice. To work on the relationship and get through the fight and come out stronger or to give up and find another person to be infatuated with. 

The latter choice is easy. The former, not so much. To have true meaning in anything we need to work on it, and work hard. Because things that mean something don’t just get handed to you for free, like flyers at a busy street corner. 

So then what is the point of the infatuation? We need that first feeling, we need that to come easily, so when it leaves we know where we can be. Because with hard work from both sides and two people who are in it together you can get back to that infatuation stage – only this time it won’t be infatuation. It’ll be real love.

(Wow, I sound like a corny Rom-Com).

It’s the same with inspiration. You know what you want to do, you have a goal. Maybe the first couple of days or even the first week is easy. But then as time goes on it gets harder and harder to accomplish something. But if we think back to how effortless and wonderful it felt when we first started, then it’ll be easier to push forward and get that high again. 

That’s what I’m trying to capture for myself this week. I had rough weeks in terms of accomplishments. I barely worked out, did hardly any writing, and sat down for so long that my legs cramped up. But today was different. 

This morning I woke up and said, “Today will be wonderful,” and whadaya know? It was.

It started off with the perfect patch of sunlight, just waiting for me on the porch. I sat down and reveled in it. I haven’t felt the sun on my face in too long, what with being stuck inside and all. Then I found the strength to go running on the porch again, something I only managed to do twice in the whole time I’ve been home. It’s not easy to loop loops endlessly, but I listened to an audiobook and it helped tremendously. When running the same scene over and over it’s easier for me to be entertained rather than listen to music. Music helps me go faster and gets me in the mood, but there’s only so fast I can go while having to stop short every twenty feet, turn on my heel and head back, all while trying to keep my momentum. 

After my run I felt *inspired* to clean, and scrubbed down the porches. It’s the start of spring after all, and there was dirt and mud caked everywhere from a rainy and cold winter. I also treated myself to a delicious meal that I can only have once, namely, gluten free ravioli that was on sale and is probably sold out now. 

Ah, so wonderful. I felt like I was on a roll, so I did a load of laundry, washed all the dishes, showered and even had time to paint a picture. 

The best part of my day is that everything is rose tinted. I am so grateful to everything I have that even things that usually annoy me – like cleaning the porch which takes forever – I enjoyed because it reminded me that I have a porch. Even though I’m stuck inside I’m still outside, you know?

So this is the start to my week. Starting it off right is hopefully going to set the tone for the rest of it to be successful and productive as well. 

But the biggest thing I learned from my previous lack of productivity is that even if I did nothing worthwhile I can always pick myself up again. 

I know you all must be hitting walls, with corona enveloping us and feeling like it is never going to go away. How are you dealing with the encroaching anxiety of a changed world?

Let me know in the comments!

An Ode To My Sister

The frustrating fact being that my little sister is taller than me

This post is dedicated to my sister. It’s her birthday! HAPPY BIRTHDAY! It’s the day my parents decided to give me, the only child up until then, a sibling! (Of course, as an eldest, I must make this day all about me).

I don’t know how I felt about it when I first got told, seeing that I was only two years old at the time. But you can imagine the love/hate relationship we had growing up. Yet, relationships change as you age. Not living in the same room anymore, under the same roof, you can either choose to forget and become distant, or hold onto the friendship. 

However many times we got into it as kids, I am still so grateful that I had the privilege of growing up with a sister close in age to me.

We were sisters who were close in age and we used to fight. I once gave her a black eye, you know. I can’t believe I did that, and wouldn’t dream of harming a hair on her head now. But she was bothering me while I was with my friend and I’m sure she knew she had it coming.

My sister is one of my favorite people in the world, someone who understands me better than almost anyone. I still find it so surprising when I come to her with a feeling and without even needing to finish my thought she understands what I’m going through. Sometimes she’s even going through the same thing!

But this is now, this is after years of being best friends and fighting and getting along and then beating each other up. Now we’re both adults and we can communicate with each other. Now we don’t live in the same house, or even on the same continent so there’s no more competition. Now we can have that relationship that sisters can have after years of building towards this moment. 

I am so lucky. 

To understand what it’s like to have a sister you actually get along with I’ll need to set the scene. It’s your best friend lounging on your bed who is willing to listen to you vent about whatever silly thing just happened to you that day. The friend who understands everything about you and knows everything about you. Someone who will love you unconditionally no matter how many times you fight. And then someone who also went through the same life experiences as you, had the same parents as you, the same brothers. Someone who gets you because they were there through everything. 

If you don’t have a sister or if your sister really sucks and you try to avoid her as much as possible, I’m sorry. But also I’m not just talking about sisters. I’m talking about that relationship that you can create with almost anyone that you love, someone who has your back and you can call on the phone and talk to for hours. After all, how many of us pick up the phone and actually talk to people anymore? Everything is over whatsapp or online social media. There are only a handful of people I feel comfortable talking to on the phone, and that includes being able to tell them, ‘Alright, I’m done, I gotta go,’ and not feel like I must find excuses to extricate myself from the conversation. 

When my darling sister and I were younger we had a secret club. It had a secret name and it took place in our bedroom closet, when no one else was around. We would bring in pillows and blankets and shove ourselves in there. Our closet was no walk-in, lemme tell you. It was a tiny thing, with just enough room for a hanging rack and a shelf above that that we couldn’t reach without a chair. But we sat down and brought in a flashlight and told each other secrets. There was a code involved, something so difficult that no one would be able to figure it out, I’m sure, and a special notebook where we’d write the minutes of the meeting in the secret-special code. 

I still look back on those days and laugh. We were so adorably innocent and such good friends! We could tell each other anything, and trusted each other not to tattle. 

Then there was the time she locked me out of our room for hours. I don’t even recall the reason why, but my sister can be extremely stubborn. I had to go call my mom, and even then she wouldn’t open it for us. It was torture and I was so angry. I think the doorknob got taken off our door for a while because of that, so it wouldn’t be able to be locked from the inside. (Or maybe it was just threatened? You have to understand that this was so long ago and I’m getting on in years).

We were raised that it was important to always love each other, so if my mom caught us fighting then she would send us to our shared room and tell us we weren’t allowed out until we made up. 

Then we conspired together to get out of the room by saying we would ‘just pretend’ we weren’t fighting, but obviously once we were on the same side we were no longer fighting. So the joke was on us, really. 

Now I find myself wondering what life would be like if we did still live near each other. We’ll obviously never share a room again (one of the perks of being married :P) but would I still want to talk to her all the time? When she goes on a run, would I want to go with her like I claim to want now, or is it just because I never see her? 

My sister is a writer like me and we regularly challenge each other to push ourselves in our projects. We understand how much we value that part of ourselves and don’t let each other give up on our dreams. 

One day I hope we do live near each other. Have coffee together as we sit basking in the sun, writing our very successful manuscript. For now I have to deal with the distance, and the mandatory use of technology, and the seven hour difference in our time zones. 

I value my relationship with my sister so much. I think it’s important to have someone in your life that doesn’t judge you, that gets you on a deeper level. Someone who makes you feel good about yourself, who pushes you to be better. Someone whose support is never wavering. When we hit that inevitable hurdle in life we need to have someone who is there to get us over the hump. 

I’m luckier than most. I know that I have a sister who loves me, but also I’m the older sister. You know what that means. I got to do things first and I was the one she looked up to. Of course she’s smarter than me and I would never challenge her to a math contest in my wildest dreams. But I’m sure being the younger sister was no picnic.

Today my sister is another year older, and another year wiser. I hope she never gets too smart to come to me with her problems, since she’ll never catch up to me in age so I’ll always have life experience to boast about. I love her more than she’ll ever know, the person who inspires me and cheers me on even when I don’t believe in myself. The person I need to be better for so I will always be there to take care of her and be the role model she deserves to have. 

Do you have someone you love so much that at times you want to cry because they’re not around, and other times you want to give a black eye to?

How to be Self Confident

Photo by Victoria Palacios on Unsplash

I am definitely not one to write a blog on this. Most people say they don’t believe me when I tell them I’m insecure. Apparently, I give off vibes of ‘screw everyone I’m awesome’. I only wish that was how it actually was. I don’t feel like that at all. I don’t believe it’s true! I mean, I like that that’s the front I give to the world, I only wish I could embody it in my mind. 

So you might be wondering, if I’m not confident, then who am I to be giving advice on how to live this way? I have one thing to say to that question. 

Um, who else? 

Have you ever asked someone who was actually confident what they do to be confident? Or how they believe in themselves so much? Or how to not be insecure? Any question like that works. Well, have you?

I have. Of course, I always thought that we need to ask people who are already the way we want to be how to become like they are. But all they respond to me is ‘I don’t know, I just am.’ Or they shrug their shoulders and go, ‘Just be awesome, I guess.’

But no. That doesn’t work for me. Those times I told myself to just be confident and not worry about what anyone else thinks were the times I had the most anxiety. 

Although it was probably a case of the chicken and the egg, because if I was trying to pump myself up it was certainly a case of something anxiety provoking and nerve wracking. 

Either way, those vague declarations of just be confident never did diddly squat for my confidence. Whenever I thought I had a handle on my self esteem something would go and bite me and I would be left a whimpering mess on the floor, tear streaked and sad and full of self pity. 

We need to ask people who had a journey to get to where they are. The people who had to fight tooth and nail to accomplish something, not the ones where it was handed to them on a silver platter. Those ‘silver platter-ers’ don’t know anything about what it’s like to be insecure because they never were. The ones who were bumbling, sniffling chaos are the ones who know.

I go through cycles. It happens when I start something new. I am absolutely terrified that I am going to fail miserably, or irreversibly mess up, or embarrass myself completely. All of which are the same type of term, yes I know, but I wanted to use all of them to give you an immersive experience into how I feel. After a while of me continuing to do the new thing I started, I become accustomed to the experience. I relax into myself and my work. I’m not worried about failing anymore. 

Wow, I am so confident. I must have changed, I must be a new person. I can’t wait to unleash my confidence onto the world!

Only to be severely depressed when it turns out that I actually haven’t changed all that much. I’m still the same timid person who second guesses herself with everything she does and believes that life is out to fail her. I begin something new and the cycle starts again from the beginning. So much for the change that I thought I saw. 

I realize it was just me getting used to something and I haven’t actually become the confident, well adjusted adult that I dream of being. 

I must stop this ‘woe me’ shpiel to say that I don’t believe that that was all for nothing. I might not have changed dramatically to become someone that is scared of nobody, but I did change in small ways. I’m more likely to pick up the phone and make that call, and the fear of a job interview won’t stop me from applying to jobs. So I am proud of myself for that. I believe that if I continue to do things like this for years, challenging myself with doing things that scare me all the time then eventually I really will be that person who isn’t frightened of anything. The problem is that that could, quite possibly, take years. And I don’t want it to take years. I don’t want to mother children until I am ready to be a role model for them on how to accomplish your dreams and believe in yourself. Right now I’m not doing that, right now I participate in self hate talk way too much. 

So I want quicker results than years. I don’t want to be a confident eighty year old. I mean I do, obviously. But I also want to be a confident twenty six year old. Because that’s how old I’m turning in less than two months! Which is crazy. Even this time last year I had no idea that this is where I would be, living in a new place, working at a new job. I’m very impressed with myself. 

But my goal is to change the narrative. The negative self talk, those times we tell ourselves we suck, that’s what brings us down. I recently had a sort of mini meltdown where I stood calmly at the side of the room and informed my husband that I was never going to amount to anything, but that it was okay. I was okay being a nobody for the rest of my life and I just prayed that he would succeed so I could be proud of him. 

He told me I was being silly and not to think like that of course. But I really believed that. 

And I really believe that that part of me has to change. 

I want to be more self confident, I want to be someone who believes in themselves, even if my dreams are so big I can’t imagine how I would accomplish them. I want to be someone who looks in the mirror and sees strength, and beauty. 

And all of this starts from within. Even the beauty parts. Because beauty is in the eye of the beholder and if I don’t think I’m beautiful then who else will?

I have to start believing in myself instead of waiting for other people to give me validation. 

So all this was going through my mind and I realized, screw it. Screw everyone. I’m awesome. 

Now, this wasn’t necessary how I felt at that moment. But I realized that if I didn’t say it to myself all the time then I would never believe it. 

I want to be the person that no one else can bring down ever because they know their own worth. Do you want to be confident? Do you want to know your own worth? Great. Come on this journey with me. 

  1. There is no such thing as ‘I’m a loser. Yes, this applies to every form of harshness you can inflict on yourself. It would take too long to list all of the ways we participate in self hate, but this includes such things as; I suck, I’ll never amount to anything, I’m a failure, and really I should stop listing these things because they’re making me feel bad just by writing them over and over again. 
  2. Do tell yourself you’re awesome. This includes your favorite phrases you say to your best friend. I love you, or You’re the best. We have people we care about and we love building them up. So why don’t we give ourselves the same care and kindness. I LOVE ME AND I AM AMAZING. Yes. Yes, I think that did the trick just then. This can happen whenever you feel like it, or whenever you find yourself starting to say something negative. You almost hit another car as you merge into traffic: ‘I’m so stup-’ ‘NO! I am wonderful! I should be a little more careful so I don’t kill myself or anyone else!’
  3. Own your worth. At what point did we stop bragging about all of the things we can do? As children we believe that we can do anything, draw pictures, build things with legos, chase people around the park. But then as we get older we stop. We start being this term called ‘humble’. But do we even know what humility is? Did you know that if you google humble, the adjectives for it are meek, deferential, and submissive?!? (There’s also respectful, but that doesn’t really go with what I’m trying for here). Um, NOT OKAY. Does anyone think that being meek or ‘submitting’ to other people is a good thing? I don’t think that should be what humility is at all. It’s knowing your worth and not bragging about it, maybe. Or being able to listen to other people’s ideas and knowing when someone can accomplish something better than you. But definitely knowing and owning your worth. 

The first memory I have of my supposed humility was in first grade. We had story time where the teacher handed out blank sheets of paper and we were allowed to draw pictures of what she was saying. I suppose it could be pictures of whatever we wanted, but I remember really enjoying drawing the stories and being very proud of what I did. Anyways, after class we were all showing each other and talking about how horrible our pictures were compared to everyone else. (Crazy! We were six year olds! Where did we learn to do that?) My initials were S.E. which I signed on the bottom and one of my friends, let’s call her E.S., came over to tell me how much she liked it. 

“Oh no, yours is much better,” I told her. “I don’t like mine at all, it’s so ugly.”

I didn’t believe that at all, her picture was horrible.

“So let’s switch!,” she responded gleefully, already trying to grab my paper from my hand. 

“But…,” I faltered, and then quickly recovered. “I signed my name!”

“So? My initials are the same just backwards, I’ll tell my parents I made a mistake.”

This was the most ridiculous conversation ever, I still can’t believe it happened. She was willing to fake being stupid and messing up her own name just to get MY picture. 

I made up some story about wanting to show my mommy my very own picture or something and hurried away from her grabby hands. It’s the silliest thing, why on earth couldn’t I just admit that I liked what I did? Was I worried that people would think I was stuck up, or had an inflated ego? When everyone is putting themselves down all the time then one person actually copping to their talents seems a bit self absorbed, I suppose. But I wish I could figure out that turning point in my life, when I started believing I was not allowed to admit to being good at something. 

We must tell ourselves we’re good. We must own our talents. Yes, if you’re not JK Rowling then there might always be someone who writes better than you. But why do we have to compare? Why can’t we just be awesome, no comparison to others necessary. 

  1. Accept compliments. You don’t have to deny it’s true. You don’t have to say anything except ‘thank you’. But you definitely should not say, ‘Na, I suck. This was a really horrible drawing’. JUST ACCEPT THAT YOU CAN BE GOOD AT SOMETHING. Also, this applies even if you think that what you did wasn’t all that great, or even if you’re feeling extremely insecure. They don’t need to know that, and you accepting that compliment just drove your self worth just a tad up in your mind. You’re amazing.

People say to engage in mirror talk, which basically means stand in front of a mirror and tell yourself wonderful things about you. It’s not that I’m not a believer in that, I just think that requires a lot of action. This list of things requires more passivity, which is easier as we begin the process of being more confident. I don’t think I’m going to stand in front of the mirror and tell myself that I am smart, kind, and important. I should, but I just don’t think I will. I do think I could learn to accept a compliment, though. I do think I could learn to take ownership of my good qualities and not second guess everything I do. 

This journey might take awhile, but it’s along the road of more success and overall happiness. 

How to Stop Binge Watching Once And For All

Photo by Mollie Sivaram on Unsplash

I am so sick of TV. If I watch one more episode I might throw something at the screen. Which is interesting, since I still continue to watch without following through on my threats.

I remember being a child and having the TV in my parent’s room. On some days I got out of school before my mother came home and I would run upstairs to sneak in some TV. I would have to have the volume on very low and listen for her car, which was difficult since my parent’s bedroom was situated at the back of the house, but I managed to do it just fine. I probably got in a solid fifteen to twenty minutes of TV watching in those days, which is a laughable amount to what I watch today.

I’d like to think this is applicable to all adults out there, whether during coronavirus season or not. But not being given a time to get off the technology, to come eat dinner, to go to sleep, has created a space for us to watch and binge whenever we feel like it. No longer is it something that is restricted for us. It’s something we could do whatever we want with. 

Which is interesting. I mean, it’s an obvious thing that boundaries are hard to make for one’s self, but it’s interesting that it continues even though we know it’s bad. Or, rather, something that slowly drives us insane.

My dad just remarked to me the other day how he can’t watch another movie. He’s been in quarantine for five weeks now, having shut himself up at the beginning of this whole thing to protect himself but he really can’t look at another screen. He’s itching to get to work, to be productive, to do something. 

On the opposite extreme I’m sitting here for hours a day pretending I’m working while really watching whatever Netflix decides to show me. But I’m also going nuts, if I’m honest with you. I need a break. And it’s hard, I wish someone would force me to take one. 

But I’m an adult and I need to force myself. But why can’t we force ourselves to do something that we know is good for us?

I’ve been doing some research in this area. Did you know that this binge watching that we all love so much is making us enjoy watching shows less. Yes, that’s right. You think you love having a full season of episodes to go through and not waiting for it week to week, but that isn’t true. 

There was a study done a couple of years back on the impact of binge watching on memory and perceived comprehension. If you want to check it out and read it through go ahead but if you’re too lazy it can be summed up as follows: three different groups watched a show either daily, weekly, or a one-time binge and it showed that those who binged had less enjoyment than the other two groups. This is really interesting because it’s the way most of us choose to watch our shows. That’s why many shows come out with a whole season at once as opposed to weekly (how it used to be in good-ole-days of cable TV).

I am currently in the process of binge watching a show on Netflix called Community. It started while I was hospitalized two weeks ago, sick in bed with nothing to do and trying to find a way to take my mind off the pain. I got out my phone and went into my Netflix app and started watching. I enjoyed the first couple of seasons, yes, you heard that right, SEASONS – but that doesn’t mean I’m enjoying it now. I’ve watched so much of these characters that I am slowly starting to go insane. It could be because the last season doesn’t live up to the first couple of ones and they don’t even come close to the humour I loved and the jokes and the content. It could be with the introduction of new characters and storylines it’s gotten boring and it definitely didn’t help when they took away one of my favorite characters. But I also think I’ve watched too much. It’s one thing when that’s all you can do in the hospital – and even then I couldn’t do that much because I just couldn’t focus- but it’s another when life is passing me by and I feel like I’m living in a TV series. A TV series that is slowly driving me insane. At this point I’m just watching it because I want it to end already so I have a reason to stop watching it. Kind of messed up, right?

As opposed to Modern Family which I just finished yesterday. That was a good series that wrapped up wonderfully. I enjoyed watching it, even though I did binge it a bit in the middle there. But the last season I waited weeks between episodes, and the finale was everything I wanted to be (maybe I cried. I’ll never say. 

Which is another thing! Why do we use up all our emotions while we’re watching? Shouldn’t we save them for the real world?)

Sometimes, when I get so addicted to something and I watch myself falling into the abyss of characters and plots that are not my own, I put myself on stop. I say I’m done, and just so you know it requires an incredible level of willpower. But I do it, and I go onto wikipedia and read the summaries of all the episodes and everything that happens because I need to know, but that takes me a couple of minutes and then I can walk away happy. 

I did this for Suits when I started watching it years ago, which is funny because I actually rewatched the entire show last year. But I guess the time hadn’t been right, and anyways I had forgotten everything that happened. 

I also did this for Gossip Girl but for another reason (warning! Spoilers. In case you never watched the show and were planning on it). I reached the end of season one and Serena and Dan broke up but I loved them together – shipped them together I think you say – so much that I needed to go read what happened at the end to make sure that they got back together. Because if they didn’t, I had no interest in continuing to watch. Which is funny, because they do get back together but literally like the last episode or last couple of episodes, so I watched five seasons of stuff I thought I didn’t want to but I enjoyed immensely. 

Getting back to the binge watching and the fact that I’m trying to be an adult and have a productive life.

Now, this post is not to say that movies and TV shows are bad. In fact, sometimes it’s nice to be able to escape our problems and experience another world for a while. Occasionally we might be able to relate and learn how to see our problems from other angles. Yeah, it’s a script, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t hidden gems about how to live. It can be an emotional escape that some have dubbed ‘cinema therapy’ which might only be equated to movies, I’m not sure. 

I’m not here to talk about that. I don’t think we need to swear off the screen and never sit down with a vat of popcorn again. 

I’m talking about binge-watching. Where we reach a point where we’re not even enjoying it anymore, and yet we can’t stop. Where things that we need to do fall by the wayside and we neglect our physical health by not moving for hours, or days. 

Anecdotally, Stranger Things is a great show, an incredible cast, the world loves it. I loved seasons one and two, but to be perfectly honest, I barely had time to enjoy season three. It was over so fast. I binged it with my husband and a friend. We had the curtains drawn the whole day and snacks set up and we paused only for bathroom breaks, and only between episodes. That day was fun, up until a point. But I remember being tired, and achy, and needing to stretch. Yet we were on a marathon, we couldn’t stop. And we didn’t. 

Not that I regret it at all. It was a fun day, an exciting experience, and Stranger Things really is a great show. But would I do it again? I don’t think I want to. I would want to stretch it out and enjoy it just a little bit more. 

I’d probably still binge a couple of episodes though. Maybe two. Or three. Or four…? I don’t know! But not eight. If I could convince the other two, that is. 

Anyways, we’re enjoying TV less, and yet still can’t stop. So now what do we do? Do we have to go cold turkey? Swear it off completely since that’s the only way we won’t get into it? I mean, if you want to then by all means go ahead. It’s certainly not going to make your life worse if you stop watching TV. If there’s anything my detox week I did a couple of months ago taught me it’s that I can accomplish so many things when I free up my time from screens. I remember saying to myself that I wasn’t going to go back to binging and not taking time for myself and my dreams. But then…cough cough…life whacks you in the butt and sends you sprawling. 

So do we know why TV is addictive? We know that it is. It gives us another life to watch that is far more interesting than our own, it moves us through plots and story lines that are ever changing through resolutions and ever more plot lines. But did you know that watching TV releases dopamine, and our bodies feel good pleasure hormones in our brain? Now, we love feeling good. Duh. So of course we continue on a course to continue to feel good by watching more and more and more. It’s an addiction like any other – just not one that your friends will have an intervention for you for and make you go to rehab. 

But the way addiction works is that your body gets used to it as you do it over and over again and you need more and more to get a good hit. Kind of like cocaine. 

Which should be terrifying when you think about it like that! Why aren’t you worried?

Maybe it’s being a kid and having to listen to a parent that makes it easier to forget. We can’t bring ourselves to turn off the screen, but if my mom yelled up the stairs when I was watching and told me to come down, I had to listen. And it might have been hard to wrench my eyes away, but within minutes I was playing outside, or eating dinner, or whatever she wanted me to do at that point. 

Ok, so what is the answer to the crisis that is binging until we turn into zombies that don’t know how to do anything aside mindlessly eating a bag of potato chips and staring at a screen while holding in their pee?

Being the parent. Wow. I’m an adult without kids, thank you very much. I have no bedtime because I am responsible and I should be able to stay up until whatever time I want. And yet the only thing I can think about is the fact that I got so much more done when forced to do so. We need to get back to that productivity we see as children when we aren’t allowed to do things that waste time. I’m not putting ‘shoving your friends into pools of water and running away to hide when they try to retaliate’ underneath wasting time. That’s building friendships after all. But we need to see TV for the wolf in sheep’s clothing that it is. Watching a bit is relaxing. Watching a small amount can help us leave reality for a bit when it’s really necessary. But watching too much can be dangerous. The first step is being aware. after that we all have to take measures for ourselves. 

Some rules – ugh horrible word, who wants rules amiright? Let’s change that to tips – that I’m hoping to incorporate are:

  1. Starting with something productive right when I wake up. Sometimes I eat breakfast in front of a screen but I’ll try to either eat my food without distractions or read a book. 
  2. Set limits for myself and be as strict as my mom would be. No matter how bad my tantrums were she didn’t let up. I can’t let up no matter how much I want to. 
  3. When I do (inevitably) get into a binge watching craze try to get up and stretch between episodes instead of slowly becoming as stiff as a statue and gluing myself to the couch. 

And that’s all! The silly thing is right now what’s happening in life. You know, Corona. There’s only so much that can be done, and really, TV is a necessary and helpful escape in these trying times. So while I’m trying to be all gung ho and positive, I really don’t know how it’s going to play out and what I will do with the endless amounts of free time I have on my hands right now. 

Let me know how you expect to handle it, or even if you’re interested in trying to watch less!