Tuesday, July 23, 2019

As I Enter The Last Two Months of My 30s

Exactly two months from today, I turn 40. I'm honestly not sure how I feel about this. On one hand, I'm not exactly where I pictured myself at 40. To be honest, that picture has changed numerous times over the years, so it's a little tough to say where I thought I'd be, but there are definitely some things I pictured that haven't yet happened, and some things I didn't picture happening that have. I'm not saying it's all bad by any means. This isn't a dismal "whoa is me I'm almost 40 and my life is half way over" type of post at all. I'm also by no means saying that life happened to me. But for my illnesses (genetic), I know that I made choices that directly or indirectly affected where I am today.

39 was a pretty eventful year. I started and graduated from yoga teacher training and became a certified yoga instructor. I started my new yoga business and got my first private yoga client (OK it's a family member but still, baby steps) and have a corporate benefit client in the works. I taught my first few studio classes. I self-published my first novel! And I got my first royalty check within a month, and though I'm not doing it for the money, seeing your name on a royalty check for your novel is pretty cool. On the mental health advocacy front, I was interviewed on a podcast, published on several patient advocacy sites, and made new connections with several patient organizations. Like I said, eventful year. Lots of cool stuff happening.

I also started doing a lot of self-discovery work in an effort to reconnect with myself and remember who I am, because it's been honestly years since I really did an aggressive deep dive head on. I have spent years taking on other people's definitions of me, never asking myself if they were true. I always assumed everyone knew better than me (and when I think about it, assuming others always know you better than you know you is actually kind of ridiculous, since you're the only person in world that's actually lived all of your life, inside and out.  But it happens to a lot of people, me included). The work has been really  revealing  - as in personally revealing, not as in wardrobe malfunction revealing - and I've had to take a lot of accountability for my own part in a lot of my own shit. Which, I'll admit is still a work in progress, but it's now more because I'm working on trying to recognize when it starts to occur and redirect course, as opposed to not realizing what's occurring or not wanting to see it. But I'm making a progress, and as difficult as it is to look at oneself and be completely honest about your role in the pieces you don't love, it's also oddly hopeful to know that I have a part in it, because it generally means that I can do something about it.

"What at all does this have to do with your impending birthday?", you might wonder. When I turned 39, I made a list of things I wanted to do throughout the last year in my 30s. And it's a great list. It has served me well. Some I accomplished, like graduating yoga teacher training and self-publishing my novel. Some, I did not (I haven't gone hiking in one state let alone five, which saddens me because I really love hiking and nature, but again, I had a part in choosing other activities).  Some of the goals  became things I'm no longer really striving for, at least not at this time, because life and growth and change happen. And as I come down to the last two months of my 30th decade on this planet, I'm looking at the list realizing that 100% of these goals are external - do this, become this, go there, get that certification. And while that doesn't make them bad - some were super meaningful in fact -  none of them were about how I wanted to live my life in the long term. None of them were about me, intrinsically, and who I want to be, now and in the future. So I thought that as I approach these last two months in which I'm able to say that I'm in my 30s, I'd work on a new list. This is the list I hope caries me into the next decade of life feeling more connected with myself, more sure of who I am, and more confident in where I'm going. It's a list that focuses on some of the internal changes I've been delving into, and that I plan to continue to work on.
  • Living intentionally. This is a biggie for me. Honestly, I think it's a biggie for many of us. The number of times I check social media, look at my phone, eat a snack out of boredom, fill my head with 100 things instead of noticing what's going on around me in the moment, is startling. I know this because I've begun actively paying attention. I'll notice myself on twitter or Facebook or wherever and think, "Wait, why did I sign on again?" And it's fine if to intentionally sign on because I want to check in on what people are doing. But it's not OK with me that I go there by automation without realizing it. Same with my phone. Same with not paying attention to actual life happening. I could be walking my dog on a gorgeous sunny morning, and even living in the city I can hear the birds chirping, and my dog can be happily walking along and enjoying the moment with a big smile on her face, and I'm running through a list of 100 "to do" items in my head. And then I later bemoan the fact that I  "I haven't had the chance to get outside all day", because I wasn't being intentional and present during the time that I was, in fact, outside. 
  • Owning my own shit. Or taking accountability. Or keeping your side of the street clean. Or  whatever other description you want to give it. Basically, this means acknowledging my own part in things, whether it's overt (I actively said/did something I know I shouldn't have) or subconsciously (letting others' beliefs/criticisms about me define me, instead of questioning if they're true - see next bullet).  
  • Not owning other people's shit or taking responsibility/blame for keeping their side of the street clean. What I said above, but in the reverse. I have a really bad habit of trying to fix everything for everyone, often at the expense of myself, my values, my core, remembering who I am. In it's extreme, this is called codependency, and it's not a healthy or happy way to live, for anyone involved. To clarify it's not that we shouldn't do nice things for each other or be decent human beings. We 1000% should be thoughtful and considerate of others, be good people. But we cannot make other people happy. Nor can we change others. And thank goodness, because I wouldn't want to put my happiness/life direction solely in someone else's hands with zero control. Nor would I want that control over someone else. 
  • Stop questioning my intuition, and for that matter, stop fighting my innate personality.  Let me psychology/self-help nerd out for a moment here. According to the Myer's Briggs personality assessment (and life experience/knowledge of myself) I'm an INFJ - Introvert. iNtuitive, Feeling, Judging.  This means:  I get my energy from time alone/one-on-one meaningful time with people I'm close to (Introversion). I "just know' things instinctively instead of gathering all the evidence/data/details and then figuring it out based on that (iNtuitive). I make decisions with my heart (Feeling). I need a plan and can't live life five minutes in front of my face (Judging).  INFJs are 1% of the population if that, the least common personality type.  So I am not like a lot of other people.  But that's ok. None of this is wrong. It's who I am. We are born with our personality type. It's innate. It's "how I'm made" for lack of a better phrase. I need to stop spending my life trying to prove to everyone that just because it's different it isn't wrong, and just start being me. It can't waste all my energy trying to defend who I am. Yes, life always requires us to adjust, make accommodations, meet people in the middle, etc. But we also need to honor ourselves and meet ourselves where we are. We are way more effective, happier, are more enjoyable to be around, and overall more at ease in the world if we work with who we are, instead of rallying against it. 
  • Remember that the negative "what ifs" aren't the only what ifs. This is part a mindset thing,  part an anxiety and depression thing. It also goes along with the "trying to make everyone happy" above. My brain is super good at saying things like, "Yo lady, what if you fail catastrophically? What if you make a mess of things/embarrass yourself/make a major decision that causes financial chaos for you and those in your life" etc. And these could be possibilities. Extreme and relatively unlikely ones, but possibilities nonetheless. Unfortunately, my brain rarely plays the positive what if game. "Yo lady, what if this is exactly the right path for you? What if you're super successful and everyone's proud of you and more importantly you're proud of yourself? What if you prove all the doubters wrong? What if you go with that intuition that's so strong, and you do what you know is the right decision and it turns out great?" My brain doesn't like this game. Lifelong illness won't allow my brain to totally get off the negative what if train, because depression and anxiety love to be a**holes that convince you that you're crap. But I *can* work on the mindset piece, the part where I let everyone else tell me what's best for me, where I believe the doubters and critics, where I don't trust my own intuition and self, where I allow myself to only look at the negative what ifs as if they're fact, instead of a hypothetical.
  • Stop asking so much permission. Note: this doesn't mean not communicating/making unilateral decisions when they affect others. I'm not going to two buy tickets for a concert and then tell a friend they're going with me and owe me $100 for the ticket. Communication is just common courtesy and quite honestly a necessity for basically any type of positive relationship between two humans. But I ask permission to the point where I don't make decisions without someone else's approval/OK, even if it doesn't affect them. Which thinking about it, strikes me as especially absurd because iNtuitiveness is my strength. I often KNOW the right decision. I just need to trust myself. 
  • Live the heck out of life, and offer something to others in the process. Yes, I know the bills need to be paid and the house cleaned and I need food in the fridge and laundry done and all that. But I often say that I want to live the my life according to what I want my eulogy to read. And I don't want the highlights to be my clean house or how much time I spent at the office or the grocery store or the things I have. I want to have made a difference in people's lives, to have made their lives better, and for them to have positive, lasting memories with and of me. Nor do I want to spend my last days with regrets of "if only I had".  I want to experience as much as I can, while acknowledging that sometimes, my health requires a step back so that I can do so again in the future. 
So happy last two months of my 30s to me! I'm looking forward to what the next couple of months, and for that matter, the next decade. 

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Life Updates and Thoughts

Hi readers. It's been a while. Apologies. The last month or several have been busy. I thought I'd give a life update, and also a bit of what's been going on in my brain. First, the life update. I graduated from Yoga Teacher training on May 19th and registered with Yoga Alliance, so I'm now officially an RYT-200 Yoga Teacher. Woo hoo! I've also been working on my yoga business pretty diligently. I am on the sub list for one studio and working toward being on the sub list for another. I'm teaching two community yoga classes at The Grant Building in Collingswood, NJ, one on July 6th, the other August 3rd, but 12:30-1:30PM. They are donation based classes, so pay what you wish, and the proceeds go to Twist Out Cancer. I have a some other things in the works that aren't at the stage where I'm able to really promote yet, but hopefully soon.

In addition, my novel went to the self-publisher, I just received the first copies of the soft-cover version in the mail. So that's super exciting! Tentative release date is July 16th, but I'll keep everyone posted.

I have been working on my self-branded business, super creatively named Maya Augelli, LLC (that's not the DBA, I'm working on those, it's the LLC name), and I have a website for that as well. You can check out all I'm doing yoga/wellness/book/writing wise, and more, here.

So, on the business front, things are going well. I feel I have goals I'm working towards daily, and it's helping me feel like I'm regaining some sense of control over the course of my life and I'm not floundering around waiting for a lifeline.

Personally, I've been working a lot on my inner strength and belief in myself. As is probably obvious by now to anyone who reads this regularly, low self-esteem, lack of belief in myself, and low self-worth have been my companions for close to the last 25 years now. They've become gradually lower, due to numerous factors including my illness and life stuff. I'm working on changing this. But it's brought up some questions that I'm grappling with. I'll note that while these aren't rhetorical questions, I'm not actually expecting anyone to answer them. I'm simply laying them out there because, well, this is my blog and they're in my brain and I figure others might have dealt with similar questions themselves.

1. How do you differentiate between finding your voice/setting necessary boundaries/standing up for what you believe in, and selfishness/self-centeredness? It seems like this should be obvious, but when you think about it, often, it's about perspective. If I strongly believe something should be one way and I'm standing up for it, and you strongly believe the opposite and are standing up to it, who gives? And is the person who doesn't give good at setting boundaries and saying "I won't let myself be pushed into going against what I believe", or are they being selfish because they are putting their needs/values first? I'm working at recognize those areas where maybe I am sticking to my guns unnecessarily, and those where I need to actually stand up for myself and set boundaries more.

2. How do you differentiate between letting fear hold you back and making excuses, and being smartly cautious. For instance, when I first started Chimera, I chose the "not letting fear hold me back" route. I decided to dive head first into my business and just go for it. I knew I could make excuses all day - How would I make enough money? What if I failed? I wasn't good enough. Etc Etc. But I was luckily in a position that, with help from family, I was able to make this leap. I don't regret for a second starting my business. I learned so much, and building up that business and the storefront were some of the happiest times of my adult life. But I did learn that sometimes the ocean that looks nice and calm has an unexpected undertow. I also know, though, that my fear strategy is self-sabotage. Which means I become my own worst enemy, my own worst critic, and I constantly find 'reasons" that I shouldn't take that leap.  Often, I'm over here worrying about the dangerous undertow (i.e. something catastrophic happening) when reality is like, "Um, it's a 12-inch high kiddie pool". Where is that sweet spot of "I'm not jumping in without enough of a plan, but I'm also not waiting until everything is perfectly set because nothing is ever perfect"?

3. How do I take accountability for my own actions, while not also always taking unnecessary blame/fault? I'm struggling with this, because I'm really big on personal accountability. I know my faults, my weaknesses, my points that I need to work on - 20 years of therapy will do that for a person. But I also know what's NOT a fault - things like a difference of opinion, a different approach to something, a preference. So where is the line for saying "Yes, this piece is something I have to work on. But that piece over there, that's not a fault, that's just a difference/something others might not understand/something someone may not prefer about me"? It's a delicate balance between not taking enough accountability, and taking accountability for others' stuff, or for stuff that doesn't require accountability from anyone.

So that's what's going on in my life and brain right now.  I'll try to be more consistent about writing. In the mean time, I have been updating my yoga website and blog, so if you're inclined, go check that out. As always, thanks for reading! 

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Crumbling and Disappearing

I haven't written in a while. I've been going through a lot. January and February were horrible brain wise. My illness grabbed hold, and tossed me, flung me, emotionally beat me until I was literally praying for some, any, reprieve from it. Then March hit, and the horrible emotional grip started to ease. The majority of my March was amazing. I felt positive, energized, I had hope. Most of all, I began to feel like I was reclaiming a bit of the me that I've lost for years now. I was finally, finally starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

In March, I began working on my personal branding website for all of my various services and skills, to be premiered once I (fingers crossed) graduate from yoga teacher training. The editing on my book was finished, and I started moving into the next stages. I was working on more travel clients than I have in a while. I actually felt like I was capable in building what I want to build. Like I might really regain autonomy over my day to day again. I began to feel more independent again. I actually found myself occasionally making decisions and suggestions instead of just going with "whatever everyone else thinks" for fear of causing an issue. I found myself standing up for what I need, what I know is best for me, what I believe in for my life, even if I was only defending my cause to myself most of the time. I started making small changes each and every day. I also worked on reconnecting with my faith, which has been a lifelong process in which I've generally failed miserably, and I felt like I was getting somewhere. In addition to yoga and meditation and writing and my other self-work, this was helping me get through things when I did feel alone and hopeless at times.

And then, March started coming to a close. And the proverbial ceiling caved in. My emotional life came crashing down on me. I woke up one morning and all of that calm and piece and quiet self-worth I'd finally thought I was finding was gone. I don't know why, but it was. In it's place was sadness deeper than I've ever known, hurt, emotional pain, hopelessness, and yes, I'll admit it - anger, resentment, and bitterness, driven by the aforementioned. I say that because a note here: actual anger as a reaction doesn't last long at all naturally. I forget the stat, but it's something like after two minutes, if you're still angry, it's because it's masking another emotion like fear, pain, hurt, sadness, etc. Few people will admit this because it's easier to point fingers than take a deep dive into our own pain, but I'm a master at deep diving into my pain, so I'll own my anger. I woke up feeling like I was again a rat in a maze that didn't actually have an exit. Like a puppet in a show, being yanked around. Hope was gone, which is particularly devastating for someone who runs the Spread Hope Project. All the things I thought I could do, they felt like silly dreams. Like a little kid dreaming of being an astronaut, like a girl dressing up in her mom's heels and makeup and pretending to be an adult, instead of a grown adult who believes in themselves and dreams that they can actually accomplish.

I don't know what happened. Not entirely at least. I know, of course, that I have a mood cycling disorder that involves depression and anxiety, and that it can hit without a moment's notice. But I also know that it doesn't usually cycle in months. It's normally hours, days, a week at the most. I also know that part of what hit me is that you can't single-handedly change situations in your life that involve others, and that my trying to do so finally crashed in on me, and it felt like I'd been beating my head against a wall. If this doesn't make sense, here's an example: Say you work in a place where negativity and gossip is rampant, and you easily pick up on other people's energy. You can go in and be positive and cheerful all you want. But if you have to interact with other people who are negative and gossping all the time, and they don't change, you still work in a toxic environment. And yes, people will say "well you could change that by getting a new job." But sometimes it's not that easy. and besides, the job is just a random example that I chose. Sometimes, it's not a situation you can just change like you can a job. Sometimes, it's a whole bunch of things at once. You can't suddenly just be out of debt (unless you win the lottery), or make people believe in you and support you (emotionally not financially). You can't make friends suddenly have tons of time for you. You can't suddenly get tons of clients and build your own business so it's super profitable (no matter what those courses they sell try to tell you.. it doens't turn around like that). You can work your ass off every damn day, you can be the best person you can be, you can be willing to throw yourself in front of a speeding truck for people, and you still can't affect what anyone or anything else in the situation does. Sometimes there are pieces of life you cannot control, and when you're trying to change your life and things just. won't budge it's physically, mentally, and emotionally painful and exhausted.

Lately, I feel like I'm mentally, emotionally, and physically crumbling. It feels like each time I move pieces of me fall off. There are physical effects. I've had headaches and been nauseous a ton. I've oddly been losing sensation in my extremities frequently, and I'm not sure if it's related but that's super annoying/scary. I'm exhausted all the time. I am in constant physical pain. I don't even mention my physical pain really because I don't recall what it's like to not be in physical pain. And every single morning that I wake up it feels like there's a ton of bricks sitting on my heart. I spend probably at least an hour a day crying, often more. I'm getting to the point where I struggle to hide it. I know I am not living the life for me, and yet I feel like I'm tangled up in it, unable to make any changes. I feel so frozen in my life that I literally am afraid to do the tiniest things - like cook a meal or choose something to eat.

I feel like I just want to fade away, like some special effects in a movie where I become more and more transparent until eventually I'm just not there. Sometimes, I feel like disappearing quickly. Most days I feel like making drastic, massive changes in my life because I can't stand the  crushing ache of pain every day anymore. But any way I slice it, this version of me, this crumbling, hurt, scared, frozen version of me that feels like a caged animal is not sustainable.

That's where I am right now. I know it's not super uplifting, but I wanted to give a life update. If you want to support me, please reach out. In person, not on a Facebook comment. Not with a "virtual hug" (please, please no virtual hugs, I can't explain but I'm practically begging you not to say this). But actually reach out. And please no cliches please. I can't handle it. It won't end well. I'm broken. You wouldn't give someone with a heart attack a cliche, so don't give me one either. Just be there to listen. Not one and done, not a perfunctory check in, but actually be there for me.  As much as I need, as long as I need. I have a lifelong illness. I need people in my life who are prepared to be there for me through life as well.

Thank you for listening.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

I Believe In You

I believe in you. Whoever you are. Whatever your dreams. I'm serious. I might not even know you personally. I might not know your plans or goals or dreams. But I believe in the human potential. In every human. It doesn't mean they always live up to it (I can think of plenty of examples in which people took their potential and used it in really harmful ways, or squandered it all together). But the potential is there.

Why am I telling you, potentially a total stranger, that I believe in you? Because from time to time, we all need to hear it. We especially need to hear it if you, like me, have ever shared your dreams with someone or someones, and been told that you aren't capable, you're unrealistic, you don't have the education or training or qualifications, that you'll never make it happen.  Or put another way, that they didn't believe in you. And if like me, you've ever struggled with self-confidence or self-esteem or self-worth or feeling like you're not enough, if like me you've ever battled depression and anxiety that magnifies these feelings, you know that this can feel like someone physically tearing you apart. It can feel like they reached into your chest cavity, grabbed ahold of your heart, and ripped it out. Maybe for you it wasn't that extreme. For me it is. Because to me, one of the most amazing things you can have in this world, in the darkest moments, the moments when you struggle so hard to believe things will work out, is hope. And telling you that you can't accomplish your dreams can tear this hope, potentially the only thing keeping you going at times, to shreds.  And yes, when this happens to me, is it on me a bit that I rely so heavily on others' opinions? Absolutely. I'm working on that daily. I'm putting huge effort towards self-love and appreciation, self-worth and self-esteem. But when you already feel like you're not good enough, and others basically tell you you're right, it's pretty natural that it'll affect you seriously, at least temporarily, perhaps longer.

Now naturally, there are going to be things we're not qualified to do. I'm not qualified to perform surgery because I haven't gone to medical school. So if I were to say, "I think I'm going to get a job as a surgeon", the response of "you don't have the education and qualification for that" is legit. But if I said, "I think I want to go to medical school because my dream has always been to become a surgeon" and someone replies "At you're age? Come on, that's so unrealistic. You'll never make that happen!" that's where the dream killing happens. And the thing is, they may be right. I am 39 years old. If my dream was to go to medical school, I'd probably be in my 50s when I finished (I'm eyeballing this, not calculating the actual years so excuse any innaccuracies), and it's probably pretty tricky to get accepted to medical school at 39, then interneship, residency, get hired for the first time as a surgeon in ones 50s. But telling me right off the bat I'll never be able to do it? It might be unlikely. It might be improbable. But I likely already know this, so shutting down my dreams  in one stroke and saying you don't believe in me literally serves no purpose. there are ways to voice the struggles, to help someone be realistic, without telling them you can't. For instance, "This could be really tricky. It could be tough to get into medical school at that age, and it'll be a long road, but if you really want this, let's talk about what the next steps could be." Or maybe you help them "troubleshoot": "Well, you'd need this qualification to get into school, so maybe start by taking pre-requesites somewhere local. Also, it's going to cost a lot, so let's talk about how you're going to be able to support yourself while doing this." There are numerous other ways to approach it. But flat out: you can't make that happen is just a hurtful one. And if you're anything like me, it's probably one you're already telling yourself. So what does someone telling you this actually accomplish, besides making you feel worse about yourself?

So I'm here to tell you I believe in you. I don't care how silly or weird or out there your dream ism how unlikely it is or how much effort it'll take, because if you really want it that badly, you'll put in the effort. (Caveat: I can't support you in something I think is illegal/unethical/immoral because that would be going against my core values, and we should never ask someone to compromise their core beliefs and values.  But I'm going to assume here you aren't asking me to support you doing something immoral, so with that exception, I believe in you.) If your dream is to dress up in a chicken costume and dance around and make viral videos and get sponsors to make money, go for it. Hell, that sounds fun and I might even join you.  If your dream is to travel the world, to restart your career, to start your own business. If your dream is invent something new, to run away to the mountains and build a retreat, to go back to school and get a new degree/desertification/training. I believe in you. If your dream is to find a way quit your 9-5 so you can stay at home with your kids, I believe in you. If your dream is to write a book, I believe in you.

And if you ever need someone to bounce idea off, or someone just to listen, or someone just to remind you that someone believes in you, I'm here. Because there way too many people in this world that'll tell us we can't do something. So I'm here to tell you that you can. 

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Simplifying, Letting Go, & Spreading Hope in 2019

I don't set new year's resolutions. I've written about why before, but basically, resolutions tend to be all or nothing. "I'm going to lose 10 lbs". What if you lose 9.5? Technically, you've failed in your resolution. But you've lost 9.5 lbs through hard work and dedication - no failure about that. See where I'm going? Instead, I set goals and focuses. Yes, there are concrete items I'd like to accomplish in there that I create plans for  (resolutions don't generally involve plans, which is another reason I don't set them). But my real point is, I am more focused on patterns, on ways of being, and changes I'd like to make in those ways of being to improve overall quality of life.

For 2019, I'm focusing on Simplifying, Letting go, and Spreading Hope. If you'll notice, two of the three are related (I'd argue that all are, but two are more obvious) - they're about less. Getting rid of or shedding. And to me, if I'm able to do that, I'm more able to focus on the third, which if you've known me for any length of time and have paid any attention to what I've been doing over the past two years, should ring a bell.

Why have I chosen these? Well, life in general and my brain, are messy. With a rapid cycling mood disorder, there's literally no telling what's going on in there at times. I could have had the best day of my life, go to bed, and wake up in horrible depression. Then, I could rapidly cycle into hypomania by the end of the day. I'll be anxious through the entirety of it because everything seems unstable and uncertain, and I do about as well with uncertainty as I would handle being chased by a rabid dinosaur.  Note: I have had people tell me, when I say this about uncertainty, that I should never have kids. I'd like to point out that 1.) That's a shitty thing to tell someone 2.) I have, in my past, had a young child in my life, and done just fine. 3.) If you repeat this "wisdom", YOU will fare about as well as if you were chased by a rabid dinosaur. Just putting that out there. But I digress.

My point is there are certain types of uncertainty that I'd like to pare down in my life, in order to improve my mental and physical health, and to get me on the path to where I'm quite sure I need to be going. Furthermore, I have a habit of throwing myself into everything 1000%, trying to be everything to everyone, even when time and again, it feels incredibly one-sided or I feel that my efforts aren't respected/valued the way they should be (i.e. the number of times I've been passed over for things I worked my ass of for and feel I deserved is rather alarming). I've cluttered my life, hanging onto each and everyone of these situations, often for years. I've also hung on to all of the ideas, all of the ways of doing things, all of the criticisms and "ways I should improve myself", impressed upon me by other people over the years. All the ways I "should" live. All the views I "should" have. All the ways I should be more like everyone else says I should be, and deny who I am. I have hung onto all this stuff. And it's suffocating me, and it's time to get out from under it.

So, Simplifying:
  • I'm simplifying my things. I don't need fancy stuff. I don't need that necklace I haven't worn in two years because part of it broke off and I keep saying I'll somehow figure out how to put it back together, or that purse with three zippers missing that I'm so sure I'll somehow find a use for anyway. I don't need those jeans from five years ago that I haven't been able to fit in for the last two. I don't need that book that was required reading for a CEC course five years ago that I  haven't looked at since. I do not need them Sam I Am. So, I'm simplifying my things. Ill donate what I can.
  •  Simplifying my routines and habits. This involves things like making a budget and sticking to it. Meal planning and prepping and sticking to it (also helps budget, so bonus). Making plans and sticking to them as best as possible (i.e. no constant last minute decisions/changes/etc). I need to try to eat around the same time, go to bed and wake up around the same time. My therapist has consistently told me my life needs routines and plans I can rely on, and that the lack of this is detrimental to my mental health.  The more I can rely on in my outer world, the easier it is to handle when my inner world changes unexpectedly, which is often.
  • Simplifying my space. I've read time and again that your physical outer space is a representation of your inner mental space. This makes sense. When your thoughts and emotions and brain feel all jumbled, it can be tough to keep a nice orderly home/desk/office/closet/etc. Similarly, when your house looks like a mad scientist is using it as their lab, it can be really tough to organize your thoughts, and it often feels like the walls, or your things, are closing in on you, and that's anxiety inducing. 


Letting Go:
  • I need to let go of pieces of my life I've held on to for too long. Whether it's organizations that I was involved in that no longer serve me, or friendships that now feel totally one-sided, or anything else that used to maybe be a big piece of my life that no longer is (like the fact that I had to sell my storefront building four or so years ago). This doesn't mean big friend breakups or loudly denouncing organizations for which I previously gave so much, or anything like that. But I can't spend my life chasing ghosts.
  • I need work on letting go of all of the stories I've told myself about how I'm not worthy, I'm not enough, I'm a failure. Depression and anxiety are assholes that lie to me daily, so I know that sometimes, I'm going to feel this way and there's not a ton to do about it but whether the storm. But not letting it be my defining story any longer is key.
  • I need to let go of all the untrue stories I've been told by other people. Those stories that tell me I'm wrong, I'm inferior, I'm lazy, I'm selfish, my ways are wrong, my views are wrong, I'm not capable, that my illness is attention-seeking. To those stories that others have told me that degrade me, berate me, make me feel bad about myself, that aim to make me feel ashamed or guilty for who I am or how I'm made, that tell me I'll be good enough if only I'd change like this or that. Every one of those stories needs to go, because these do nothing but reinforce the untrue stories I already tell myself, which only depletes my self worth and self confidence further, and that massively affects my mental health. This doesn't mean I can't learn and grow, because as humans, we're almost all continually doing so. I love learning new things and having new experiences. I'm an open person, and I love expanding my horizons. But negative words and name calling that offer no actual helpful insight, no solution, no new opportunities or experiences simply don't serve me. They serve one purpose and one purpose only - to put the other person down. And I'm good enough at doing that to myself.
  • I need to let go of everyone else's idea of success. I heard something on a podcast the other day that I've heard in numerous forms before, but the way it was put succinctly drives home the point: "The richest wo/man in the graveyard is still dead." Success doesn't have to mean having a 9-5 that makes x amount of money (hell, it doesn't mean having a 9-5 at all). It doesn't mean having x car in the driveway or y size house. It doesn't mean having fancy china or designer clothes. It doesn't mean having abc qualifications or xyz degrees or titles. The person running around like a chicken with their head cut off isn't any more successful simply because they're "too busy".  For too long, I've let other people's opinions of success make me feel unsuccessful. To long I've let them hold me back. It's fine for them if those are other people's measurements of their own success. But they are not mine. 




  • Letting go of grudges and wrongs.  One of my favorite quotes of  all time comes from the Dalai Lama, "Holding onto anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intention of throwing it at someone else. You're the one that gets burned."  Note: Letting go of grudging and forgiveness doesn't mean the person's actions were acceptable. It doesn't always mean reconciliation. Nor does it mean they've apologized and asked for forgiveness. They never may, but waiting for that gives them control over you, and I refuse to allow that. Forgiveness is something you do for you, so that you can stop feeling burned and move forward. You stop holding that hot coal that hurts you more than anyone else. That's what I'm aiming to do.
  • Letting go of how things should be. I'm going to write more on this later, but I, like many people, tend to have strong ideals of how things should be. I have visions/ideals in my head how things are going to go, and I get super disappointed when things don't turn out like those visions. I'm working on tempering that. Note: this does NOT mean that I just do whatever everyone else wants and abandon my own hopes/goals/dreams/ways of life. But it does mean I'm open to new experiences that don't require me to give up me totally but maybe bring in new opportunities as well.

Spreading Hope 
  • If you're unfamiliar, I founded the Spread Hope Project. My goal in 2019 is to bring the theme of hope into even the tiniest pieces of my life. Hope doesn't mean kittens with rainbows coming out of their butts - or at least it doesn't have to. Hope means that despite everything we have to go through daily, we still see that all is not lost. We see that there is a way out, a way forward, a way through, even if we don't see exactly what that way is. We see that there's the chance of things getting better. I recently talked to someone very wise (who happens to be related to me) who said that when you have a word that means so much to you, like hope does to me, it informs everything you do - from the way you run your business/org, to the way you cook, dress, communicate. This has honestly opened my eyes so much. I love personal challenges, and this challenge to basically bring hope into every aspect of my life is one that I am wholeheartedly embracing. It's given me a lot of clarity.
  • You can learn more about Spread Hope Project on the website (linked above), Instagram, or Facebook.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

My Experience of Attempting To Not Complain

As part of my yoga teacher training, we had an assignment to practice Ahimsa. If you're unfamiliar with ahimsa, more or less, it's non-harming or non-violence. Now if you know anything about me, the vegetarian who literally can't harm a fly, balls my eyes out at SPCA commercials (damn you Sarah McLaughlin and your perfectly depressing songs), and who apologizes to inanimate objects for bumping into them, you're probably thinking, "Yeah violence isn't really your strong suit, so I think you're good." But something I'm becoming increasingly aware of is this: harming comes in many forms, and it doesn't always hit you over the head - literally or figuratively.

For this Ahimsa practice, the general idea was that we had to pick an action, or more likely pattern of behavior, that could be harmful to others, and to work on addressing this. Partly because I'm quite excellent at finding fault with myself, and partly because I'm a human being and most of us are far from perfect, I actually had a good number of these to choose from. Ultimately, what I chose was to (attempt to) stop complaining to other people. (Notable exception: I didn't count my therapist ... maybe I should have, not really sure on that one. I feel like that's a fine line.)
 

The reason I chose this challenge? Complaining is one of those things that seems to sneak into our repertoire, often under the radar.  Unless we're actively going to lodge a complaint (calling a company about bad customer service, speaking to HR at work about an issue), we generally don't go around in our daily lives with the purpose of complaining. And because we don't go around intentionally complaining, because it slowly slips its way into our actions, we often don't realize we're doing it. But those around us do. And it can be super draining on them. If you've ever had a friend or family member who, every single time you ask how their day was, launches into a list of why it was so stressful or boring or frustrating, you probably know what I'm talking about. After a while, you don't see the point in even asking. We all have enough stressors going on in our life, in the world, and especially when it's the same thing day after day, we don't need the added negativity. And unfortunately, I realized I was becoming (or some might argue already being) that person. And I don't like that. Not at all. So this, I decided, would be my challenge.

Admittedly this doesn't seem like it should be all that tough. Just. don't. complain. Right? It isn't as easy as it sounds, and it's actually been  a pretty enlightening experience thus far (enlightening in the lay person sense, not in the yogic 'enlightenment' sense.) I actually have been learning quite a bit throughout this practice, and I thought some of it worth sharing.

1. I learned that I complain a lot. A lot more than I even thought I did. It's amazing, when you start to pay attention, when you start to be more present to your words and actions, what you discover about yourself.

2. When you are opting to pay more attention to complaining, it means you're paying more attention to complaining... all of it. Including that of others.Which means that you may increasingly notice how much others complain, and that could have an impact on you.

3. My complaining isn't always intentional. This isn't an excuse, just an observation. It's so easy to get caught up in the, "This traffic sucks. It's so cold out. Work was so (insert adjective) today...". It's especially difficult when part of a group. (See point 4)

4. As a socially anxious introvert, I dislike small talk. But unfortunately, it tends to be a part of almost daily life. It's often tough for me to (not super awkwardly) join in conversations. So I realized sometimes, I was participating in complaining just to be part of the conversation. Because sadly, I've learned that when everyone is hell bent on complaining about something (the weather, traffic, whatever) and you smile and pipe in with a positive comment instead, you've somehow committed a greater social faux pas than if you'd walked into the room, farted loudly, and left.

5.  Not every negative statement is a complaint. There's a thin line, at times, between complaining, discussing, and confiding. This was a really tough one for me. I'm not good with gray areas or blurry lines, so I tend to categorize things in absolutes - right/wrong, good/bad, positive/negative.  I noticed when I actively started  trying not to complain, that I was basically putting a nice "I'm fine" gloss on everything. But this isn't ideal, because sometimes things aren't fine, and they need to be discussed. Whether it's because you're legitimately not feeling well and need to let someone know, or an issue that comes up between people, sometimes, difficult/not overly positive conversations need to be had. That's different than complaining. It serves a specific purpose.


I have found that when the above question is murky, journaling/writing down my thoughts helps. If writing about the issue "gets it out of my system", then it was probably just complaining - i.e. I needed to vent about something, I did so to my journal, and now I'm good. But if I notice that it's a consistent pattern, there may be more to it. And to clarify, by consistent pattern, I don't mean "Every day the traffic on 95 at rush hour is terrible" kind of a pattern. I mean that if you notice that you're repeatedly writing that a specific friend is saying things that hurt you, or day after day you're feeling depressed or anxious about a specific situation, then it's probably something that needs to be addressed or discussed.

I have also found that turning the complaint inward - i.e. running it over and over in your head just so you don't have to say it out loud to someone and "be complaining" - doesn't help. It might help the other person in the short term, but eventually, it's going to build up for you. It'll weigh heavily on you, and in the long run, it'll probably affect them too (because none of us live in a bubble, and peole can often tell when something's wrong even if we aren't saying it). So by all means, write it down, discuss it with your therapist (as applicable), do what you have to do to vent it out. But then, if it's not something that really warrants further addressing, let it go. Because I do get that sometimes, complaining feels good. But in all honesty, I've found that letting shit go feels a lot better. 

Monday, November 19, 2018

If You Need Some Gentle Reminders on Your Own Self Worth

I haven't written in a while. In truth, I've been both super busy, and also struggling. Today, I'm especially struggling. And in case you are too, I wanted to send along a few reminders. I know these things are easy to forget, or convince yourself of, in tough times. So if you need them today like I do, I hope they offer some solace.

1. You are not your thoughts. Depression and anxiety can be a$$holes, and they like to lie to us a lot. "You're not good enough. Your lazy. Your selfish. You're a failure. You'll get rejected. You're stupid...." and the list goes on and on. But just like a bully that's trying to lie to make you doubt yourself, just because someone (including your own brain) says it, doesn't mean it's true. I know not believing these lies are easier said than done.

2. To build on this, don't ever let anyone tell you you're not enough. Including yourself. You are enough. Period. Remember that "enough" is subjective. It's an opinion. And by definition, that means it can't be a fact.

3. A bad hour doesn't make a bad day. A bad day doesn't make a bad week. A bad week doesn't make a bad month. I once told my therapist that a day was ruined because of something (not overly consequential) that took up less than an hour. She reminded me I still had 23 more hours to make it a good day. And if you can't, you can get up again and try again tomorrow.

4. On that note, sometimes the biggest accomplishment you may have in a day is getting through it.  If this seems like a small achievement, remember that you've done battle with one of the biggest, most cunning, most ruthless opponents in existence, and you've come out on the other side. That's huge.

5. Being vulnerable is not a weakness. Opening about the way you feel takes so much strength and courage. Even if the only person you're opening up to is yourself.

6.  It is not your job to change other people's opinions of you. Because you cannot control other people's thoughts, even when you want to. Hell, half the time it feels tough enough to control my own (high five, anxiety). Do the best you can. Be the best version of you that you can be.

7. Remember that different isn't better or worse, it's different. Just because you may not see or feel or experience things the way others do doesn't mean you're views or ways or feelings or thoughts are wrong. They're different. Again, opinions are not facts. Even when others, or your own brain, try to convince you that they are.

8. If you're looking at others feeling like they have their shit together and you're floundering, remember that someone is looking at you feeling that exact same way in the reverse.

9. When you feel alone in your depression or anxiety, remember that 1 in 5 Americans has a mental health condition. It may often feel it, but you are far from alone.