Personal Experiences · To Do

6 Weeks Down, 12 To Go

Today marks the third-way point of my 18 week self-given challenge to focus on and improve aspects of my life as I approach 30.

So I figured it might be a good time to check-in so I can analyze my progress and hold myself accountable going into the next 6 weeks.

♥ Become a better blogger

Well, I’ve posted one other time over on my spiritual/life journey blog and I’ve started at least three or four other blog posts for this one, but every single time I start, I ask myself ‘what’s the point?’ and close the tab. Even if I overcome outside factors such as energy levels, general lack of interest, difficulty with putting my thoughts into words (brain fog, essentially), time constraints, etc. I still end up with the question of what’s the point?

Anything that I could write about has been written by someone else far better. I don’t have a niche, I don’t even lead a very interesting life – it’s essentially the same routine day in and day out with a little variance once in a blue moon; even that variance is usually mundane.

So I wonder why waste the little bit of time and energy I have on waxing philosophical about favorite characters, movies, and similar things? Again, when others out there are offering so much more than I can to any potential audience (not that writing is always about an audience, of course). Just because I could probably sit down and write post after post on Kathleen Kelly (You’ve Got Mail heroine) or The Lord of the Rings or any of my other eclectic (but basic) interests doesn’t mean I should.

I suppose this is the pessimistic attitude a lot of writers feel from time to time. Regardless if it’s blogging or writing a novel or anything else. I just happen to wonder frequently if my pessimism and lack of focus when it comes to blogging means I need to stop trying to fit a square block into a triangular hole.

 Improve my handwriting

Thanks to muscle pain – potentially repetitive stress or carpal tunnel from my job – this one has been on the back burner. I’ve mostly been experimenting, trying to find my favorite ways of forming letters in a way that I can keep consistent. I’ve also worked on paying better attention to trying to keep my arm loose and letting it come naturally. Lastly, I’ve been making myself write in a planner and make lists as a way for daily practice without overtaxing my already stressed limbs. I can honestly say I have seen an improvement (on the days I’m trying; some days I’m still like ‘forget this I’m going with shorthand chicken scratch’).

 Improve my fitness

My health and fitness has been my main focus over the past 6 weeks (well, a little longer than that of course!) since I figured that if there is only one thing to focus on in this challenge, it’s that. I got very complacent during the first half of this year when it comes to fitness and if there’s anything I’ve learned about my body it’s that the whole ‘you can eat at a deficit and lose weight without exercise’ thing doesn’t work for me.

Consistently in my life if I only eat at a deficit (tracking calories religiously), I can still gain – and not just a little but a lot as if I were overeating. But if I track my calories religiously (even on days I go over or my compulsive need to eat everything in sight rears its ugly head) AND work out at least an hour a day, I start to see the scale go down and other physical changes.

It’s exhausting that I have to do both. It sucks that I can’t do the average recommended 30 minutes a day. It sucks that I can’t be like my coworkers that can eat all the junk food and stay thin while if I eat at the minimum suggested 1200 calories (which I don’t because I feel like I’ll eat my own face when I do that regularly) I still gain.

It sucks, but when I started this challenge and started thinking about my future, turning 30, etc. I had to be honest with myself and realize no amount of pitying the poor hand I feel I was given is going to make things better. Either I have to accept that an hour minimum of exercise a day and treating caloric intake the same way I treat my bank account is the lifestyle I have to commit to and make room for in order to be fit* or else I need to stop whining about what isn’t going to change just because I don’t think it’s fair I have to put in a little (or a lot, depending on each person) more effort than others.

* I say fit because I also have to work on getting out of a shallow mindset of the number on the scale or the composition of my body on the outside being the sole determination of if I’m strong, eating right, etc. Obviously, when I workout that much each day, I may not look like a person who works out at all to those who can only see my weight, but I know that I feel better, walk faster, sleep better (okay marginally better lol), fill full faster, etc.  Just because the science of calorie in, calorie out dictates I should be losing approximately X pounds a week doesn’t mean it’ll happen. Recently, it took ten weeks of effort before my scale showed my weight loss, going up and down 2-4 pounds at a time before dropping 12 seemingly overnight. That was a good reminder to me that persistence even when nothing seems to be changing is what matters (this is true of other areas of my life!).

I won’t go into detail, but I also took the gallon of water a day challenge in July and I am ecstatic to say I’m never going back to drinking less than 100 oz of water a day (outside of extenuating circumstances of course). While a gallon is a little too much for my body on most days, I learned over the course of the challenge that averaging around 100 oz does wonders for my body. I just feel better in ways that are hard to explain, and this is speaking as someone who regularly drank the recommended 64 oz a day, sometimes getting closer to 75. In fact, the days that I only drank 64-75 oz I was just a little more blah and I retained water really bad.

 Pay extra on my student loan principal

So, I guess it counts on extra on my student loan principal that I paid off one loan entirely, right? Since $1200 of an almost $1300 balance was the principal rather than interest on it ahaha. I was lucky to get a on the spot type bonus that allowed me to pay it off. Otherwise I haven’t paid any extra on any of my other student loans yet, but I have been saving money back extra per paycheck with the aggressive goals of paying off one more loan before my birthday (happy birthday to me – y/n?) and then another one after that by the end of the year/beginning of January in order to have my minimum payment down by over a hundred dollars from what it was at the start of this year. So that’s sort of what this specific goal has shifted to instead (and if I have an extra five-ten dollars laying around at the end of each pay check, I may still put it on the principal of my largest sum/interest rate loan).

While it’s depressing laying down literally grands at a time instead of being able to use that same money for other things, I keep telling myself the more aggressive I am now, the faster my minimum payment will go down and the less of a hassle this will be in the future. A little discipline and sacrifice now, while I’m in a position where I can do this (since I don’t deny that privilege whatsoever!) without as many worries as there might be in the future, will give me breathing room in the future – e.g. lower minimum payment to budget for in addition to other bills.

Of the other goals: improve my Spanish, write a novella, practice better skin care, deal with my name issues, and develop better sleep habits, there’s nothing of much interest to report. I’m working on them, but my focus hasn’t quite been there as much.

 

Personal Experiences · To Do

18 Weeks

As of today there are exactly 18 weeks until I turn 30. It’s still a little hard for me to believe that I’m this close to such a (arguably?) milestone age. In 18 weeks I’ll never ever be in my twenties again. Wow.

But I’m looking forward to it. So much so, that thinking about it has helped me with my ongoing depression. It’s given me something concrete to focus on, to plan for.

So with 18 weeks left in the countdown, I’ve come up with 9 goals to focus my energy on for the rest of my twenties (/dramatic). 9 goals that I also have specific mini-goals/strategies for helping me achieve them.

Become a better blogger
Improve my handwriting
Improve my fitness
Pay extra on my student loan principal 
Improve my Spanish
Write a novella
Practice better skin care
Deal with my name issues more aggressively
Develop better sleep habits

I plan on making this list into a visual graphic and then making copies of it to have at home and at work so I can keep a literal eye on my goals. They say that you are more likely to achieve goals if you write them down, but you increase your chances of achieving them even more if you can see them regularly. This has proven true for me in the past so that’s why I’m utilizing this method again.

Also, I tend to do strangely well when I challenge myself with very specific goals. If someone else gives me a deadline, or task in general, it tends to fall on deaf ears until I go out of my way to break it down and then psych myself up. This was true as a kid when cleaning my room (I’d make a list of the things I needed to do and then work on just one thing at a time), it was true in college (and the only way I survived my last term) and it’s true as a worker (I make a list of the overall goals for the month and then at the end of the work day I make a list of the things I want/need to accomplish the next day). I feel more capable when I break it down like this and then challenge myself to prove what I can do.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t want to over do it only to make myself feel like a failure. That’s why I’ve used language such as improve or better for most of these. For example, I fully recognize that I’m not likely to be speaking Spanish perfectly or even understanding it perfectly when it’s spoken in 18 weeks unless I actually immerse myself in the language and culture. But I can work on it regularly so that I’m more capable of saying the basics without thinking too hard or developing my vocabulary so that I can read/recognize words without relying on my English/Spanish dictionary.

So, here’s to 18 weeks more and, hopefully, an improved life as I prepare for the next decade. Since once of those goals is to become a better blogger, I will definitely be checking in on my progress via posts.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go read a bunch of silly posts about all the things a person should supposedly do before they’re 30. I’m pretty sure I’ll probably have accomplished very few of them!

Mental/Emotional Health · To Do

To Do: May

I don’t wish to alarm anyone, but it’s April 30th. And you know what that means!

Most of the first half of 2017 has been pretty bad for me mentally, emotionally, and even physically. But I’m working on it and April has seen more, if not good days then, even-kiltered days than just plain low days. While I seek more drastic changes in my life over the course of this year, I also strive to at the very least look toward small changes in the interim.

So in May, I’m finally going to partake in a Hygge-inspired challenge.

If you haven’t heard of Hygge, then you’re essentially like I was up until a week ago: somehow entirely clueless of the phenomenon. I must have been living under a rock (or more likely was trying not to be crushed by a political landslide) since apparently this became wildly popular some time late last year. Oh well. Better late than never. Actually, the timing of it is completely perfect!

The reason Hygge even caught my eye at last is because in a bout of whimsical longing for a simpler life where I’m actually content I went looking for photos on Pinterest to match my mood. For me this means a lot of photos of Autumn and sweaters and all of the other stereotypical “white teenage girl” things (although, a teenager I am not), but it also means pictures of flowers and sunshine and red hair and blonde hair and hair with ribbons in them and tea parties and trees and girls in dresses and girls smiling and… you probably get the point by now. Whenever I long for contentment, I don’t imagine it while working a 9-to-5, posting on Facebook-Twitter-Tumblr-Wordpress-Etc., bingewatching a show. While I enjoy those things, am extremely materialistic, have to work to pay of student loan debt, and won’t be giving up my favorite tablet games or television shows and movies or shopping, or anything else anytime soon, I’m desperate to cultivate a lifestyle that’s a little less of that and a little more of the things that require “unplugging” so to speak (I’m keen on eventually looking into a minimalist lifestyle).

While indulging my aesthetic and whimsy by pinning photos that represent the ideal (and ironically materialistic if you think about it, but I digress) life, I caught sight of a pin about a Hygge challenge. I was curious, clicked on it, and down the Danish-inspired rabbit hole I fell. I’ve always said I wanted to move to Denmark, so I guess this was inevitable.

That’s why I’m going to try and incorporate more Hygge-inspired things into my life over the month of May. That is, every single day in May, I’m going to do one thing that’s been branded Hygge (while understanding, of course, that this is a superficial attempt and Hygge is much more nuanced than a trend). The bonus is, a lot of the things that I have on my Hygge calendar are things I’ve been wanting to do more regularly or to try for a long time, but I never get around to them because of excuses. Excuses like: “I can’t afford the resources to incorporate those things into my life” even as I lay down money on clothes, hair coloring, Starbucks, fast food, dvds, etc. Or “I’m so tired all of the time” even as I force myself to watch movies, surf the internet, play Sims Freeplay (it’s not an addiction, I swear), write fanfiction, etc. Or “People will think I’m being weird” as if they don’t already think I am (I mean, writing and reading fanfiction at 29 is considered weird by a vast majority of people, but I do it anyhow; the key here is I do that in private when really I need to stop being so afraid of being myself regardless of others’ opinions).

By looking at other challenges and taking into account those things that are sadly still not within my means (aka, I do have a full time job to consider as much as I’d like to be able to wear slippers all day or enjoy an entire day to myself in solitude, which can’t be done at home on the weekend either). I mean, obviously this isn’t going to work at all if I challenge myself to do things that would be so difficult (even if rewarding) that I’d just give up. So, here’s the itinerary I’ve put together.

May 1st Wake before sunrise
May 2nd Spend the evening with a favorite book and some tea
May 3rd Buy some fresh flowers and a vase for my desk at work
May 4th Spend the evening with only candle light
May 5th Clean while listening to Billy Joel
May 6th Pull out a board game/cards
May 7th No Internet
May 8th Take a candlelit bath
May 9th Watch a favorite movie by candlelight with popcorn and hot cocoa
May 10th Spend another evening with a favorite book and some tea/ambience
May 11th Spend an evening with classical music playing
May 12th Meditate/do yoga before work
May 13th Go to local tea shop
May 14th Something special for mother’s day of her choosing
May 15th Go for a walk on lunch break
May 16th Go to bed early (on purpose)
May 17th Buy some pretty teacups
May 18th Fill up a notebook with words and thoughts throughout the day
May 19th Treat myself to a gourmet, hearty lunch instead of the standard workday lunch
May 20th Draw a picture
May 21st Try something new
May 22nd Color on lunch break
May 23rd Do something nice for coworkers
May 24th Lord of the Rings Marathon
May 25th Lord of the Rings Marathon
May 26th Lord of the Rings Marathon
May 27th No Internet
May 29th Take family to dinner
May 30th Take an extra long walk
May 31st Reflect

Look, I could be dishonest with myself and in this post by saying, “Yes! I’m going to do all of this! And in 31 days my life is going to be amazing! I’m so excited to give this a try!” Truth is, I’m exhausted just thinking of this challenge, just writing this post even, and completely scared. I may fail miserably and it’ll be one more thing to hate about myself. I may end up getting no benefit out of it whatsoever. My attempts may not even be genuinely Hygge, since I’m working with what I can to start with. And the excuses are still running through my mind (I really am depressed, and mentally and physically exhausted 80-90 percent of the time because of it, for example).

But physical therapy isn’t easy. It hurts and is hard and many patients have to do it whether or not they want to. Self-care is no different. I’m learning little by little that self-care is absolutely necessary, in some form or capacity or another, and the stigma that it is selfish, that we’re just weak and unable to handle real life, etc. cannot stop us from taking care of ourselves. As someone with ongoing depression, among other things, it’s vital to treat self-care with the same kind of attitude as physical therapy. It may not always be fun, it may be difficult to get used to or exhausting, but it’s a critical component of one’s health, recovery, remission, etc.

So I’m going through with this to the best of my ability. And the optimist in me hopes that I learn a little more about myself along the way. The things that made me feel better, the things that I want to devote more time and effort to, the things that really didn’t do much for me, etc.

I’m not trying to make Hygge a lifestyle, like some, and I’m definitely aware that there’s a time for safe places and a time to throw yourself into harsh reality. I’m simply trying to remind myself that there’s so much to take pleasure in, that life is worth reconnecting to,  regardless of what depression or stress or a ‘keeping up with the Jones’ society may tell me. I want to start being a little more selfish in my self-care. I want to start being a little more exact in my self-care. I want to start looking for the pleasure that can be had in spite of how hard this life is. I want to slow down, evaluate, remind my mind and soul how to appropriately find joy and pleasure even in the humdrum of a small life instead of wishing for a life that is better, more fulfilling, etc. If I wait until I’m completely self-sufficient, able to travel at the drop of a hat, have accomplished some career aspiration, etc. then I’ll miss out on the ever-ticking seconds of my life that can be enjoyed right here and now. Perhaps Hygge will give me a good guide for how to start.

Mental/Emotional Health · Personal Experiences · To Do

To Do: March

Nine days into March, I suppose it’s as good a time as any to outline some goals I have for the month.

March, in the past, has always been a difficult month for me. It’s a month where depression either tries to sink it’s claws in deeper following some January and February lows or it’s a month where I start to climb out of January and February funk only to fall back down harder. Thus, I’m trying to be as proactive as I can at the moment. Staying on top of things. Avoiding triggers. Not stressing too much. Taking steps back from things. Focusing on healthy habits. So on. So forth.

Thus some goals I’ve set for myself in 5 key areas are as follows:

Health

I’ve let myself get lax with my walking and general physicality thanks to 1. winter and 2. emotional health. So I’m currently in the middle of a 2 week restart, getting myself back up to walking 10,000 steps (at least) a day. I’m doing this by using this guide from MyFitnessPal. I’m utilizing the off-the-couch one since even though I used to be able to walk/jog 3 miles a day, my body quite literally feels like it’s back to square one so I’m just going to ease into is as if I am. Today was day 5, so I walked 5,000 steps today! Half way there! But, boy, oh boy, was it a doozy. I don’t work in at a place where I feel comfortable getting up and walking (although many of my coworkers do so maybe a later goal is to deal with my insecurity in this respect), so finding a way to squeeze in more and more steps has been a challenge. If the weather were nicer, it would be no problem, as I can walk a nearby trail after work. So I’m thinking I’ll need to readjust my typical daily schedule to fit in logging some minutes on the treadmill – which is a bonus since I’ve been trying to get myself to use it more!

Spirituality

I’m not Catholic, but I during this season of Lent – and thanks to the inspiration of Simoa – I am trying to spend my Friday’s separating myself from the things that I tend to give too much time to or fixate on which for me is negative media (like social media, news, etc.) and writing fanfiction. The latter one may sound silly, but I sometimes find myself writing 10,000+ words a week and latching onto unhealthy behaviors with it (like writing instead of sleeping, not wanting to do work around the house because I’m writing, obsessing over updating, not focusing on my own original stuff which would probably be of more merit, etc.). While fanfiction is an outlet for me to let the pent up creative energy flow, sometimes I need to reel it in or find multiple ways to release that energy instead of “stemming” so much with it.  On Fridays throughout this season, I will be spending as much of the day as I can focusing on prayer, meditation, etc. I feel like this is especially needed right now as I’ve been so disengaged spiritually due to fatigue from the election and my ongoing break away from Evangelicalism.

Social

This is a huge trigger point for me so I’m simply trying to stay positive and not put any undue pressure on myself. Updating this blog alone is quite the exercise in itself. My goal is pretty much the same as it always is: engaging without getting stuck inside my head. I typically engage and then stress out over it after it’s done or stress out prior to engaging or stress out when it feels like nobody wants to engage with me.

Self-Improvement

I really do want/need to start working on my own original fiction writing again. So even if I have to pull a few teeth in the process, my goal is to write at least 5000 words, be it a short story,  a few short stories, some outlines or something of a greater work. 5000 words. If only I knew where to begin. Sigh. I have another post about this topic coming soon.

Interests/Hobbies

I haven’t been reading much lately and I really want to get back in the habit of it. So I may pick up a few quick (guilty pleasure, campy) reads from the Amazon Kindle store to read this month which will also get me back on track with my Goodreads goal for 2017!