balance · self-care

Intervention

A few days ago, I woke up feeling like I’d spent the whole night running into a brick wall.

There was nothing out of the ordinary about this morning; I was just done. I was sick of eating junk food, watching TV all night long between J.J.’s feedings, going too many days without a shower, and forgetting to brush my teeth or wash my face.

That day – the day I woke up feeling like total crappity crap – I plotted out a little intervention for myself.  I decided that I was DONE with:I’m exhausted. My self-care’s been lacking ever since J.J. came home, and I just have not been able to figure out when to exercise and how to maintain some semblance of healthy self-care.

1. Eating junk food all night long during J.J.’s feedings;

2. Having a TV show constantly playing in the background while at home with the boys;

3. Ignoring self-care and hygiene; and,

4. Zoning out of my life because I’m feeling too overwhelmed to zone in.

It’s only been three days, but I’m already feeling so much better.

It’s so hard to keep from slipping back into old habits. When I’m stressed or overwhelmed, I always, always, fall into my vices of caffeine, junk food, and background TV noise. It’s inevitable; much as I wish it weren’t so, this is just what I do.

I’m not going to waste any time worrying about when I’ll slip back into these vices again. Today, I’m just grateful that I feel a little less out of control. I showered this morning; I’ve gone for a run every day for three days; I haven’t been watching TV on the phone while playing with my boys; and I feel hydrated and (somewhat) well-rested. Life is good.

I may be six years sober, but this still made me laugh out loud.
balance · self-care

Every Little Moment

When I am tired and overwhelmed, I fall victim to old habits. Specifically, I start to become addicted to reruns of my favorite television shows, playing them in the background throughout my days.

Ugh. I hate this habit of mine! It’s something that soothes me when I’m feeling anxious or stressed, and that’s not a bad thing. But it also is a habit that causes me to be less present in my life, and that is not a good thing.

Things are looking up lately. Our two-year-old has been slowly returning to his usual sleep routines after six weeks of tantrums at bedtime, nightmares (I think?), and wanting to fall asleep with the door open, a light on, and a parent lying in his bed. Our five-month-old has started eating solid foods, and I’m praying that a full night’s sleep will happen within a few months from now.  And, thanks to my new job working at a County school, I’ve been lucky enough to have several snow days recently, which have been great opportunities to rest and recenter in the midst of the chaotic life of a working parent.

As I take stock of these tiny bits of progress, and as I start to feel more rested and energetic, I’ve started to think about all the time I spend listening to old television shows. And then I’ve started to think about what I really want to be doing with that time – reading books, listening to the audiobooks on my syllabus, and thinking about my novel, plotting it out in my mind.

All those little moments – while I’m doing dishes with Edgar, while I’m feeding J.J. in the middle of the night – they all add up. And I want to use every little moment of my life to be doing something wonderful – whether it’s being present with my boys, working on my dream project, or educating myself on the variety of topics of interest to me.

Every moment counts. Every little moment. Here’s to hoping I can use them all to be healthy, wise, and well.

balance · self-care

Snow Days

The very best thing about working at a school is not the kids, the hours, or the actual work I do every day.

It’s the SNOW DAYS!

Oh, boy. Nothing makes you feel more like a little kid then finding out that school’s closed because the world has been covered in a beautiful, playful white blanket.

This year, the snow days we’ve had have come at the absolute best times for me. They have magically arrived during weeks when I have felt completely stressed and overwhelmed with the monotonous chaos that is life as a working mother.

When I am overwhelmed, what I crave most is a free day. A day to relax and to reset. This has been for always, not just since I become a parent. I used to call them days of rejuvenation, and I would capture them with a page in my journal full of intentions and plans for how to regain my center.

DAYS OF REJUVENATION – that’s exactly what these snow days are for me, and I appreciate them even more this year. We got the call from the adoption agency about Baby J.J. on the second day of school, and then I used six weeks of leave (most of it unpaid) to be home with him this fall. Because of this, taking a personal day to address my mental wellness is not an option for me this school year. Which means that snow days are IMPORTANT and APPRECIATED to the max.

My most recent snow day was blissful – a lazy wake-up, sipping (rather than guzzling) my coffee, a run down the snowy road, some writing time, some cuddly baby time, a little time to get organized, and (sigh) an hour or so of tidying the house. It helped that this was a day when Edgar attended pre-school; his school was not closed, so the day had even more opportunity for rest than a typical weekend day does in my world.

I do a happy, silly dance every time there’s a snow day. I feel grateful, and blessed. And when the snow day is done, I typically go to sleep that evening knowing that the next day I’ll face the world as a calmer, more rested, and happier Kerriann than I was the day before.

 

self-care · snapshots

All The Things (October 2018)

SO. MANY. THINGS.

Well, not so many, really – just a few. Taking care of a newborn and a toddler – working – and sleeping. Those are the things I’ve been doing, all day every day, for the past two months.

However, I’ve squeezed in some THINGS this month – most involving binge-watching shows on Netflix and Hulu.

Things I’m Reading: The books I’ve read this month are The Beginning of Everything; Vox (super scary #MeToo-esque premise!); Pachinko (such an awesome novel); and Lethal White (Robert Galbraith’s latest). Currently reading The 19th Wife and loving it so far.

Things I’m Watching: So much television!  I’m all caught up on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and The Good Place. I slowed down with my binge of This Is Us – not sure if I’ll get back to it or not. (I hope I do!)  I watched both seasons of Dear White People on Netflix – loved the first season, liked the second season a little less but still enjoyed it. My latest obsession is Black-ish, but that’s an exaggeration since I’m still in the middle of the pilot episode.

Things I’m Working On: My patience. (Taking care of a toddler while caring for a newborn is testing my temper!) AND my self-care. I know this by now, but when things get hectic, my self-care takes a nose dive. I am mid-dive right now, and this week have been aiming to get back on track.

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goals · self-care

Set An Intention For Your Day

I am a person who is constantly making resolutions. I am a person who is often found looking for books in the Self-Improvement/Personal Growth sections of either the library or my local bookstore. I am a person who sets many intentions about ways to be a better/best version of myself.

This can be overwhelming.

On New Year’s Day 2018, I set several intentions: I wanted to meditate; to write more; to practice self-care rather than angsting; and to be intentional with my actions, my words, my choices.

These are all in line with the person I want to be, but they’re pretty broad. What do I focus on, from day to day? Do I read about mindfulness? Do I meditate? Do I write? Do I try to make really intentional choices about how I spend my time, either on my own or with my family?

The answer is ALL OF THE ABOVE. And this is where I get overwhelmed. Because how do I focus on everything that’s important to me, all at once?

I can’t. And that’s what got me started thinking about setting an intention for my day.

I like the idea of choosing a word or a resolution and focusing on it for a set period of time.  In the past, I’ve done this via a happiness project. (See more info on Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project and check out her monthly resolutions chart here!) I find it helpful to focus on one thing at a time, especially when life is hectic. And life is definitely hectic lately!

Right at this moment, when I think about setting an intention for my day tomorrow, the one that’s drifting to the forefront is this: Be well. 

I feel a little unwell these past few days. My exercise routine has been abandoned (oh, newborn life), and that always throws me off. I don’t have a novel on my nightstand; that feels weird, too. Most importantly, my diet has been all out of whack this week.

When things get busy, I have a hard time remembering to take care of myself. Even the basics, like showering and drinking water, are neglected.  I think that’s why the idea of wellness appeals to me at the moment. I want to slow down and consider my choices; I want to think about what choice would help me feel the most whole and healthy and well.  

I don’t know if I’ll stick with this intention setting. It’s a tough time to commit to a new habit, especially when I’m not even maintaining the regular habits! We’ll see. For now – my intention is to focus on wellness all day tomorrow. Wish me luck!

relationships · self-care

Shortcomings

During our adoption home study, a social worker came out to our house and interviewed Tamara and me – a standard part of the adoption process. It was a little nerve-wracking, somewhat awkward, but overall we knew what to expect and it went okay.

Except for this – this one question the social worker asked. For this question, we were sitting together on our couch.

“What do you think Tamara’s greatest weakness is?” she asked.

Now, in job interviews and in adoption home studies, there are rules for this particular question. The rule is – you don’t give a real weakness. You don’t tell a potential employer at a job interview, “I sometimes have trouble getting my paperwork in on time.” (Even if it’s true!) No, you give a weakness that is ACTUALLY A STRENGTH IN DISGUISE. You say, “Sometimes I am too much of a perfectionist.” TRANSLATION: I will do excellent work if hired.

So, when I answered, I gave an honest answer that displayed one of Tamara’s strengths. “She is one of the hardest workers I know,” I told the social worker. “Sometimes I have to remind her to take breaks and to take care of herself!”

The social worker nodded, smiled, and then asked Tamara the same question.

Tamara answered thoughtfully and honestly. “Kerriann can be defensive sometimes.”

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SCREECH. STOP. PAUSE. SOCIAL WORKER LADY, PLEASE GO HOME SO I CAN GIVE MY WIFE ALL THE DIRTY LOOKS IN THE WORLD.

Defensive?! That is not a secret strength disguised as a weakness! It is just a weakness – an absolutely 100% accurate weakness of mine. I do get defensive, which is evident every single time I tell this story. There is literally no way to tell someone who calls your defensive that you are not defensive. CANNOT BE DONE. Because if you weren’t so defensive – and believe me, I AM DEFENSIVE – then you wouldn’t feel the compulsion to, ahem, defend yourself.

As soon as the social worker left, I calmly explained to Tamara the principle of the “strength disguised as weakness” answer. (Yes, calmly. We were able to laugh about this that same day.)

Now, one of the reasons this story is on my mind today is – I’ve been thinking a lot about ‘character defects.’ This is something that’s talked about often in recovery circles. They can be called character defects, flaws, or shortcomings. They’re sometimes given other names, too, but my favorite is shortcomings. These are things we struggle with – areas where we come up short – in brief, our weaknesses. We talk about them in recovery because we want to be aware of the things that get in our way.

Needless to say, defensiveness is a big one for me, as is perfectionism, numbing, over-sensitivity, self-centeredness, and insecurity.

These shortcomings are on my mind recently because they keep popping up. My theory is this: I’ve been so stressed and overwhelmed for the past year that I’ve barely noticed any of my shortcomings. I was sort of drowning in self-pity and constantly seeking a new job, so my day-to-day inventory of who I am and how I’m leading my life was periodically lost in the shuffle.

Now that I have space and time to breathe, I am noticing times when my shortcomings rise up – times when I am faced with a situation and I fall short of the version of myself I’d like to be.

I’m not writing any of this to make myself feel bad. Sometimes, thinking about the areas where I fall short actually helps me to feel GOOD about myself. I am not a horrible mess; I’m a complex person who does awesome in some areas, average in others, and below average in some. I’m real.

I think the shortcoming that has been bothering me the most in recent history is my tendency to numb. When I get stressed, I become UNmindful. I distract myself, I drink lots of caffeine, I eat lots of candy. None of this helps me to deal with the things that are stressing me out.

I’m trying to go easy on myself this week. Yes, I’m drinking too much coffee and eating too many Cadbury Mini Eggs – but I’m also caring for an infant and have had the most emotionally up-and-down 19 days of my life.

So, instead of beating myself up further, I’m making a few mini-resolutions for myself:

1. Seek out joy and lightness every day. There is always something to laugh at and something to be thankful for.

2. Remember that you are enough. Believing that you don’t have enough of what you need does not serve you well.

3. Be gentle with and accepting of others. I sometimes want to *fix* family and friends instead of just being there for them.

4. Treat everyone like a toddler. I am way more patient with y two-year-old than I am with adults. And doesn’t everyone deserve to be treated with patience and compassion?

5. Let go and let God. Have a little faith. Not everything is on your shoulders. In fact, almost nothing is.

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self-care · simplifying

Death To My To-Do List

You know how some people are organized and efficient? They are planners. They’re the ones who check the movie times when they’re going to a movie with friends. They’re the ones that check ahead of time to make sure you don’t need a reservation at the restaurant for dinner.

Yeah – I am not one of those people. I never have been, and I doubt I ever will be.

My favorite way to go through life is as the willing, flexible, and laid-back participant in a group of people that includes a planner, such as the kind of person described above. I am a grateful and always-willing-to-help participant – but I’m not the best candidate to be in charge of the details of an event. First of all, I’m not great at managing said details, and secondly, I HATE IT SO MUCH.

Ugh. I really do!

But, as an adult, I find myself having to plan more and more. First of all, after years of living in group housing with fun friends all around me, I am now (and have been for several years) living in my own house, just me and Tamara and Edgar. In 2008, I lived in a big building in the middle of the woods with eight amazing, fun, and like-minded roommates. Every night was a party and it required no planning whatsoever, because everyone was just THERE.

Now, I have to make plans if I want to see friends. And it works…okay. I still miss the convenience of having friends right next door, where fun could be had spontaneously and with little to no planning.

In addition to the planning my social life requires, there’s just – ugh – so much adulting to be done. And that’s where my to-do list comes in.

I constantly feel overwhelmed by my to-do list. One of my Summer Sabbatical goals is to finish every single item on my list so that I can start fresh in the fall, with literally EVERYTHING in my life taken care of. I don’t know if I’ll meet this goal, and I am okay with that. I want to enjoy this time, and get writing done, and spend time with Edgar – those things are more important to me than a to-do list.

AND YET IT PLAGUES ME. I’ve been daydreaming lately about ways to kill my to-do list forever. My train of thought starts with a conversation I had with a co-worker a few years ago.

This particular co-worker always, always, always responded to every e-mail and request immediately. If I asked her to “when you have a second” check on a note for me, I’d get my answer back within twenty minutes. I always thanked her profusely, but also let her know that I usually don’t require that quick of a response time.

“Oh, it’s no problem. I just do things right away so I won’t forget to do it,” she explained.

I had probably heard people say something similar to this before. But at this moment in my life, I was brainstorming about ways to be more efficient, and this really hit home for me. I’m a great employee and I’m a reliable person, but I am constantly afraid that I am going to forget to do things. I realized that if I did what this girl did – if I did everything that was asked of me right away – then I wouldn’t have to worry at all about remembering. Everything would just be done. (Gretchen Rubin calls this the one-minute rule – if you can do it in a minute, then do it right now.)

It occurred to me that if I could do this – if I followed a policy of doing things right away – then it is possible that someday, I would never need a to-do list. Instead of writing an item on my to-do list, I would just take care of it. No list needed.

This was eye-opening for me. Was that why some people seemed less stressed than me? Were they not constantly carrying the weight of a to-do list a mile long? It also explained why some people get so aggravated when they have a task they can’t complete because they’re waiting on info from someone else. They’re not used to having uncompleted tasks – so that low buzz of anxiety my to-do list causes me starts screaming in their ears.

I’ve never been able to fully put this into practice, and I’m okay with that, especially when it comes to work. I am a therapist who works with kids; I’m never going to prioritize responding to an e-mail over a child’s need to talk about a problem. And at home, I want to prioritize writing time and family time over my to-do list. However, lately I am finding myself completing tasks quickly and immediately whenever I can, mainly because I don’t want to add another item to my to-do list. I want the list to get shorter, not longer. It feels amazing. Here’s hoping I can keep it up!

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