Check On It.

Yes, the title of this post is a Beyoncé song and it was fitting for my post content, but not at all related to the song. A few days ago, I was lost down the “rabbit hole” of social media and decided to “check up on” some former friends to see the going-ons of their lives. I already knew it was not a good idea, but did it anyway because if there is one thing I lack it is self control. There is a quote I scrolled past while on social media urging “stop checking on people that are not checking on you”. It could very well have meant physically checking up on people but I took it as checking up on people via internet “stalking”. I should have heeded the advice. Instead, I leapt face first into my former friends’ social media lives and came up gasping for air and feeling like a complete failure. 

One of them had posts highlighting the fact they had their dream career after graduating from a Master’s program and were able to buy and renovate a house and buy a new car. The other one had posted about recently graduating with a doctoral degree in psychology while living their dream in Southern California. 

Instead of feeling happy for their success I felt horrible about my own perceived lack thereof. I sat there ticking off the list of things they had succeeded in that I had not. For me, my lack of education was a huge hit to my feelings of self worth. I am very well aware that there are very brilliant, successful people without advanced degrees and plenty of people with advanced degrees who are so stupid it makes me question how they were ever able to pass kindergarten let alone obtain an advanced degree. However, continuing education is a sore spot for me. I am currently working so my husband, Paul can go back to school for a career in the medical field, which means I currently do not have the means to go back to school myself to obtain a doctorate or master degree. This makes me feel really behind even though I am grateful to be able to put Paul through school . I know this season of life will pass but seeing other people who are more successful right now hits a particular nerve. 

I brought my feelings up to Paul and he replied “You do not know anything about these people anymore. They could have thousands of dollars of school debt or just be pretending to love their lives. They only post on social media what they want the world to see”.

Touché. People only post on social media what they want others to see. Let me repeat that for my own benefit: people only post on social media what they want others to see. People do not (usually) post their bad marriages, insecurities, failures, debt, or hatred for their jobs. I certainly do not post those things (except here, obviously). There may even be people who look at my accounts and think my life is anything but a clusterfuck, so maybe I need to listen to my own advice and stop posting just the highlights of life…..

I could go delete all my social media accounts to spare myself from comparison but there are people that I do find inspiring that do not make me feel as though I am not enough. I follow accounts that promote art, comedy, zero waste, puppies, minimalism, Golden Girls, intersectional feminism, and body positivity. All these accounts inspire me and therefore I want to go on social media to see them. Instead of purging all social media I have decided to purge all the accounts of people who spark feelings of failure or insecurity. I am going to Marie Kondo my social media and rid myself of accounts that do not “spark joy”. Does that mean I am ridding accounts of anyone successful? No. If someone posts they trained hard and put blood, sweat, and tears into running a marathon and finally did it then I want to see that success. If someone posts pictures of their perfect house, life, marriage, kids, career and claims they have it all because they are #blessed, then yes, I am blocking them. 

I am also going to block people I am no longer friends with, not to be a bitch, but because the chapter of my life is closed and I do not want to keep rereading those stories when I could be creating new ones.  They are allowed to be successful and post about it, but I am no longer going to allow myself to be subjected to it. I am going to be kind to myself and this means I am going to stop checking up on the past and focus on the present and the future. I am going to do what Queer Eye’s Jonathan Van Ness does and not worry about what everyone else is doing and just keep focusing on my own thing (and keep dancing in my kitchen). 

30 Days of Yoga.

The goal for living a life with more meaning in 2019 is to complete different goals for 30 days at a time. The month of January was for yoga. My intention was to do yoga every single day for 30 days and to see if it added any value to my life. For the past 30 days I have stuck to that goal and practiced on my mat each day.

I did not go into January thinking that yoga would alter my life significantly. I had done it previously and knew it was a great way to unwind and a decent workout. I was not expecting the immense change that took place in just four weeks. What changed was gradual, sneaking up on me like a predator to its prey. There were days in this challenge when I REALLY did not want to do it. I had days when I had so many other things going on that it was hard to find time. Yet, I made the time. Even if it was 15 minutes instead of the 30 minutes I was planning. I promised myself that I would stick through something for 30 days and I kept it.

At the end of my 30 days, after completing one of my yoga videos, another video started playing (typical YouTube) and it was about the science of yoga. Almost instantly, I became enthralled in the video and watched it until it cut out and told me I needed to sign up on their website to get the rest of the video….(not very yogi in my opinion, but whatever). The 20 minute clip solidified what I felt had changed in my body, mind, and spirit. I felt lighter, happier, and (let’s be real) like less of a bitch. After the challenge was over, I had time to reflect on what things had changed:

  1. Less Anxiety. By the second week in, I noticed I was less anxious. My feelings of panic hit me like a freight train, usually at night, and it can keep me from being able to come back down. I start having shortness of breath, I lose focus, and terrible thoughts consume me. Throughout my yoga practice, I noticed I was having less panicky thoughts. I felt calm and able to relax both during the day and at night and took things as they came instead of instantly freaking out if something felt out of my control.
  2. Better Mood. Prior to yoga, I felt like it took very little to set me off. I could feel perfectly chill and then something inconsequential would happen and I would lash out in rage. I felt despondent; all I wanted to do was lay in bed and sleep. Little tasks or work was enough to send me to tears. While I did cry one time at work during the 30 days, I know that it would have been more frequent without yoga. At week three I could feel myself waking up happier, a sense of calm over me as I tackled the day. A sense of peace washed over me on my way to work that felt foreign and it has continued with me since.
  3. More Self-Esteem. I have not always felt good about my body or my abilities. There are times when I feel so fat or ugly that I want to stay home and times when I feel so incompetent and out of my element that I break down. I am very hard on myself. I still have those insecurities, but yoga helped lessen them. The more I practiced, the more I saw improvement in my strength and flexibility. I noticed my body could do things it was not able to previously and I felt a sense of strength. The more I spent time connecting my breath to my movement, the more I reflected on how lucky I am to have a body that can move the way mine could and I started looking in the mirror and seeing a strong body instead of a flawed one.
  4. Improved Flexibility and Strength. I sit on my butt for the majority of the day at work. This causes my legs and hips to be extremely tight. I have also been told I have the strength of a nine month old baby by my husband because I cannot open jars on my own. No joke. With each day I practiced, I felt my hamstrings, hips, and quads loosen up and I was able to touch my toes by the end of 30 days without pain. When I was young and did ballet, I could go into splits no problem. By the end of the 30 days I was back to being able to do it. I may still have trouble opening jars, but I noticed improvement in my arm strength (and legs) with the 30 days and started to even see definition in both.
  5. Improved Sleep. Not to be Garfield the cat or anything, but I hate mornings. I have never been an early riser and I could not remember the last time I woke up feeling refreshed. It may have to do with my problem looking at memes on my phone all through the night, but also I felt burned out with work and life, which made getting up hard to do. Just 30 minutes of yoga a day improved the way I slept. I went to bed feeling relaxed, was able to fall asleep and stay asleep, and after week three I was waking up at 6:30 on the dot awake and ready. This did not mean I did not lounge in bed until after 6:30, but still, I felt awake.

Yoga is not the cure all for all of life’s problems. It was not the sole cure for really any of my problems. It is an outlet for me to connect my mind, body, and spirit; to nourish them. For me it is time set aside specifically to stay in the present, to connect with God, to strengthen my body, and to calm my breathing. These are all ingredients that in combination help improve my outlook and attitude and sticking with something for 30 days even when I did not feel like it made me stronger. If you are willing to give yoga a try, please ease into it and stick with it because the rewards are so worth it.

New Year, Who Dis?

Year 2019 has began, meaning that 2018 is a fading memory. The new year brings with it hope and resolutions for the future. Vows to get in shape, travel, volunteer, change careers, meet someone or leave someone, learn a new skill, etc. are made as promises to ourselves that this is the year will be different and we will become our best selves.

I try not to make any sweeping declarations of what I intend to change for the upcoming year. Usually when I do, I end up failing halfway through the first day of January. Example is telling myself I am going to stop eating junk food and workout, but then end up spending the day on the couch, nursing a hangover with a burrito the size of an infant.

In this moment it feels as though nothing in my life has changed the past year, but when I pause and really think about where I was January 1st, 2018 I realize so much has. I quit my dead-end job and opted for one that is pushing (and sometimes shoving) me out of my comfort zone. I nourished relationships with acquaintances this past year and those people are now some of my closest friends. I have also started being more honest and setting boundaries, telling people if/when they hurt me and separating myself from those who do not care that they do. I have also challenged myself to try new things and have stuck with those challenges and pressed on, even if it was hard (ahem, hiking to Everest base camp for example).

In 2018 I chose to forgo social media for 30 days. In this short span I noticed changes in my attitude and mental health stemming from cutting the excess that was making me feel inadequate. After discussing what I learned with a friend over brunch, she encouraged me to try to add or eliminate more things from my life for 30 days at a time. She even agreed to join me on the journey. So this year, I will do multiple challenges for 30 days at a time to either introduce things into my life that will add value or take away things that weigh it down. These challenges are meant to be (baby) steps into creating habits that will enhance my well-being and aid in curating the life I want.

The month of January I will be doing yoga every day for 30 days straight. There is a Youtube channel I subscribe to that does “Yoganuary” for the past two years in January. The instructor releases a new video every day for the month of January with yoga power, flow, or even just meditation sessions.. This allows me to do yoga in my living room where only my dog can judge me. There will also be some classes in my community that I will join throughout the month so I can experience yoga with live instructors and other humans. I just completed today’s Youtube session in my living room and am looking forward to the next 29 days of yoga. For this month I can honestly tell people that I do yoga instead of just pretending I do yoga but really just wearing yoga pants while watching Netflix on my couch.

So cheers to the new year and all the victories (and spectacular failures) it will hold. May you be taking steps, big or small, towards curating a more meaningful life this year. Please follow me as I stumble and fall flat on my bum, attempting to live this year with purpose. There are bound to be many incidents, but nevertheless I (and I hope you as well) will get back up and keep moving forward. Cheers to 2019!

It’s the End of the Year as We Know It… and I Feel Fine.

Daibutsu (giant Buddha) in Kamakura, Japan

December is the bookend month. The month to reflect the months before it. The close of the year. For me, it also represents another year around the sun, also known as: My birthday. Like a new years resolution, every year I promise myself that I am going to do something great by the time the next birthday comes around. I vow to run a marathon, write a book, learn Mandarin, land my dream job, etc. Then comes December and I am hit with a gut full of regret, feeling like I wasted the year before me, wishing I could start again from the beginning. Birthdays and the end of the year are a reminder for me that I am not where I thought I would be- where I want to be. 

Reflecting on this last year I can get stuck on the things I have not done, but if I pause my worries and let myself reflect deep enough, I see baby steps toward the things I have done-the changes I have made towards my goals. I started a blog this year. This has been a teeny tiny step in allowing me the space to write my thoughts, as well as keep me (semi) on a writing schedule. I did not run a marathon, but I trained this year and was able to run my fastest mile ever. I did not learn Mandarin, but I traveled to China two times since my last birthday and that is when I figured out that Mandarin was the language that wanted to speak and I found online lessons for when I am ready. I did not land my dream job, but I quit a job that was unsatisfying and took a chance on a job more rewarding and is pushing me out of my comfort zone; teaching me skills that will benefit me for the next step in my work career. 

I can beat myself up over the fact that I did not complete all the things I wanted to accomplish, or I can acknowledge that overall I had a pretty great year and did a bunch of different things that I enjoyed and that pushed me to be better. I get caught up in what I am “supposed” to be doing by accounts of what Pinterest and social media quotes think I should be. Pins and Posts tells me to “follow your bliss” and “find your passion”, but what if I have no idea what my bliss or passions are? What if my bliss is just a day at work where I do not have a panic attack? What if my passion is laying in bed with my dog, eating cookies, and watching re-runs of The Golden Girls? The “follow your passion” mentality is such horse shit, to put it kindly. No one is constantly passionate about what they do, even if they say they love it. I enjoy writing, but sometimes it makes me want to bang my head against a wall and I feel insecure posting my “white girl problems” for the world to judge. Even people with the best jobs and lives have hard days-it just is not something that gets advertised.

Recently, my husband, Paul and I were taking a drive, which is usually when we have our deepest discussions. We were chatting about life in general when I brought up the fact that I felt stuck. 

“Everyone else seems to be happy and capable of pursuing multiple things and I can barely take a shower without feeling exhausted and spend most of my time working a job that gives my more grief than joy, instead of following my passion and going on adventures. Just seems compared to everyone else, I am lost, and it makes me feel inadequate and unhappy,” I complained. 

He did not even pause before replying matter-of-factly, “Of course you are unhappy. How can anyone actually be happy with these ridiculous expectations we have created-as a society-for ourselves? We are constantly told that we have to buy more and be more. Living outside our means, up to our eyeballs in debt, trying to chase the lifestyle we are told we “deserve”. Just to prove to people that our lives are impressive. Who can be happy forever chasing the unattainable?” 

I nodded, reflecting on his words. “I feel like I am forever trying to be someone I do not have the capacity to be in order to have feel like I have a fulfilling life.” 

I may never be the person who wakes up when the sun rises to workout, who can wear a white shirt without getting some part of my lunch spilt on it, or who has the energy, money, or photo editing abilities to make my life appear like it is put together. Most likely, I will never be more than middle class. Which is a blessing in itself to be middle class, but will mean my house will not end up in a magazine, I will not find the cure for cancer, and my vacations will not be to the Maldives. That does not mean that my life does not have value or that I will be deprived of happiness. 

Why is happiness and passion the ghosts we are always chasing? As if happiness and passion are concrete instead of fleeting; as if it can actually be bought. It is seen as a destination instead of a product of a well-lived life. If you go out and interview thousands of people on the streets, asking them what they wanted most out of life, I bet you they would reply with “to be happy” (or to be rich, which they think will make them happy). Yet, each person defines “happy” differently. Reading makes me feel happy, but to Paul it is misery. Golfing makes him feel happy, but it is one of the last things I want to spend my day doing. It is assumed once we get to the state of “happiness” that life halts. That’s it, we made it, and we no longer have to try. The pursuit of happiness is future oriented. I catch myself saying, “once Paul is out of school and we have more money and time together, then I will be happy” or “once I land my dream job that I am passionate about, then I will be happy.” If we are always happy then it loses its magic. Like daylight savings, we spend the winter praying for summer and revel in the light once it comes, but if it were light all the time, we would become desensitized and would take it for granted.

So my goal for this next year around the sun is to stop pining and punishing myself for not having the life I wish I had and to stop waiting to be happy. Instead of trying to “find my bliss” I am going to work hard towards things that bring meaning to mine and others’ lives. Hopefully when I look back next year I will have made progress curating the life I want and will also have no “ragrets.”