Lately I’ve been getting a lot of messages from the universe about humor.
I love to laugh, and I am someone who laughs relatively easily during certain periods of my life. In fact, how much I am laughing is probably a good indicator of my level of stress. When I’m overwhelmed, NOTHING IS FUNNY; when I’m feeling good, almost everything can be a source of laughter.
There’s a little meditation book that sits on my bedside table, and one of the readings for this month was about humor. This was one of my favorite parts: “…when we raise our sights, look at the world with lightness in our hearts, expecting to enjoy the day, the people, the activity, we’ll succeed.”
Sigh. That is beautiful. I agree that when I have expectations that things will be awesome, they usually end up being pretty great. And even when they don’t – it’s better for me to be optimistic than to worry. Worrying about the future does nothing except make me miserable in the present.
I am taking these little messages from the universe about humor seriously. Lately I find myself physically, mentally, and emotionally stressed about the state of the world. I’ve been seeking out laughter, fun, and comedy because I need it badly. Primarily, I’ve been finding laughter in stand-up comedy; Ali Wong’s new Netflix special and Michelle Wolf’s new weekly show on Netflix are making me really happy. (As is borrowing my sister’s Netflix account.)
Things feel so much lighter today than they have recently. And I feel a big motivation to seek out laughter, especially at times when I’m feeling stressed or overwhelmed. I’ve heard it said that there’s always something to be grateful for. I think there’s probably always something we can laugh at, too, even in the bleakest of moments.
I absolutely love writing about self-care. I love writing blog posts that talk about how I take care of myself and strategies for self-care that others can use.
The thing is – I suck at self-care. It’s not my strength. I am always setting new resolutions about practicing better self-care, and it’s because this is not something I do well naturally.
Now, this is interesting to me. I assumed that people would gravitate toward writing on topics about which they have some expertise. Maybe some writers do that.
Maybe other writers, like me, are drawn to writing about things that we’re trying to figure out. When I write, it helps me to figure out what I think and how I feel about a topic.
This lines up with something I’ve wondered about: the tendency for new parents to do a lot of writing/podcasting about parenting. Now that I’m a parent, I imagine that this instinct is often about new parents trying to figure out what they’re doing and wanting to explore this new (and veryveryvery important) frontier by writing and talking about it.
Recently, I went through all of my old blog posts (346 so far – yippee!), and I assigned each post to at least one ‘category.’ Many, many posts fell into the category of self-care. It’s a subject that baffles me and inspires me. It’s a topic I’ll continue to explore.
Every so often, I do a little inventory, considering the impact technology and social media are having on my life. I am definitely not anti-technology; I can see so many benefits that modern technology has had on my life. I can keep in touch with old friends easily; I can research issues, become informed about topics, with little effort; I can be connected with my communities, local and global.
I also see the negative impact my phone has on my life. It’s a way that I check out of my day-to-day life. It’s a way that I cope with anxiety that doesn’t actually make me any less anxious. It’s a thing that keeps me from being fully present.
I haven’t tracked this at all, but I know I look at my phone a LOT. Sometimes it’s legit, like when I’m using Google maps – but sometimes, I look at my phone simply because I haven’t looked at it in a while, and that feels kind of gross.
I definitely use my phone way more when I’m anxious. If I’m feeling uncomfortable and not up for social interaction, I like knowing that my phone is in my pocket.
This is my inventory, and it makes me think that maybe my phone and I need some time apart.
It’s so HARD, though! There’s a lot of great stuff I get from my phone. I listen to a ton of audiobooks and podcasts, and I am newly obsessed with the Netflix show The Break with Michelle Wolf. But I don’t really think of those things as interfering with my life and my happiness.
I guess the biggest trouble spots for me are:
Social media – mindlessly scrolling and comparing myself to others.
Zoning out – looking at WHATEVER – texts, websites, my bank account, etc – rather than being present in my actual life.
This is what I’m planning to try:
SOCIAL MEDIA DAY. I’ll only check my social media one day each week – I’m thinking about Thursdays – and when I check in, I will actually engage, rather than just scrolling and skimming and clicking ‘like.’ I’ll write comments or respond to others. I’ll actually READ articles. I’ll check in on links I’ve saved. For the time being, I’m not planning to limit the amount of time I can use social media on that day – so I could wake up Thursday morning and be on Facebook ALL DAY LONG if I want. (I don’t want.)
Designate official Phone Time – meaning that all other time is NO PHONE TIME. This is so much harder to tackle, since I use my phone for so many things. (Even now, I’m listening to a podcast on my phone as I type this!) There might need to be many times in a day for Phone Time – typing a note to myself, adding an event to my calendar, responding to a text – but I really want to give myself permission to actually do ONLY ONE THING AT A TIME. The pressure to multitask is so strong. I often feel like I’m actually SUPPOSED to be doing many things at once – but I’m not. I am allowed to focus on just one thing at a time, and I’m better at everything when I operate this way.
I’m going to check in with myself about these two strategies – Social Media Day and Designated Phone Time – in my June All The Things post. Until then, I’m hoping I can take baby steps toward a more peaceful phone life.
One of my favorite topics to read and write about is self-care, and I think it’s because I’m not very good at it and want to do it better.
Today I’m on Day 5 of a five-day holiday weekend, and I’m feeling pretty good.
Every weekend is a three day weekend for me, since I don’t work Fridays, but I often find that when Monday comes, I don’t feel refreshed and ready for the week. That seems really silly to me. Many people are able to get recharged and refreshed with only a two day weekend. And maybe there are reasons for that – maybe they’re not parents with young kids, or maybe they have better self-care instincts. Or maybe (this is what I’m hoping) they have learned ways to be intentional about their weekends so that those days off from work include activities that are rejuvenating.
Lately, I am almost always feeling burnt out halfway through the day on Monday. This is in part due to the structure of my current job. I’m in the car a lot, driving around to meet clients at various locations, and it gets exhausting and irritating real fast. And, since I’m not that crazy about my current job, I get the Sunday blues bad, and I get cranky on Mondays quickly.
So, my work week can get exhausting and stressful really quickly. And it doesn’t help that I do not have the best self-care instincts. For as much as I love thinking about self-care, and writing about self-care – when it comes to actually taking care of my body, my mind, and my soul when things get stressful, my instincts are terrible. I instantly reach for junk food, caffeine, and candy, which causes me to feel exhausted and cranky.
HOW DO I KEEP THIS FROM HAPPENING?
The only things that come to mind are these:
That’s ALL I got! So they better work.
For planning ahead, the most important habit I want to cultivate is having a date with my planner. I do this sometimes, but not often enough. It’s helpful for me to take a few minutes in the evening or early in the morning to actually think about what I have going on during the work day; maybe I will notice things I need to move around, or times when I’m going to have long breaks. Maybe I’ll be able to plan ahead for troublesome circumstances, like when I have back-to-back clients straight through my normal lunch time.
The second thing that I KNOW I need to do but can never manage to accomplish is to pack everything I need for the day. I don’t like packing my lunch at all. I prefer to decide what I am going to eat when I am about to eat it. But maybe an action item for me can be deciding on some good snacky/lunchy foods to have in the house for work lunches.
And then, there’s everything else that needs to get packed up – my travel charger, phone, work keys, wallet, cash for tolls, water bottle (almost always forgotten), bullet journal – SO MUCH STUFF. I feel overwhelmed by how much I need to take, which sometimes means I walk out the door with none of these things and then feel aggravated later in the day because I don’t have the things I need.
I think another action item for me might be waking up earlier. This is a little funny , to me, because I’m a natural early bird – it’s not that unusual for me to set my alarm for 4 a.m. so that I can go to the gym early. So resolving to get up early isn’t usually a problem for me. EXCEPT THAT PARENTING IS EXHAUSTING, and sometimes I stay up a little later to either do some housecleaning or to get some writing done, and then I find myself hitting snooze until 6 a.m., which is really the latest I can get up and still do everything I need to do to get myself and Edgar out the door for school drop-off and work. But the nice thing about being an early riser is that I can resolve to get up earlier and I know I can do it. This might be a good strategy for getting more writing time, too, now that it’s summer and I’m getting exercise in the afternoons and evenings.
I don’t know! Sometimes, I think the answer to my stress level is finding a new job. But, in general, I want to be better at self-care – I want to know that even when circumstances suck, I can do the things I need to do to feel healthy and well.
So – plan ahead and be intentional. Let’s give it a try. And if you have other ideas, PLEASE share!
Lately, I’ve been contemplating my relationship with uncertainty.
I am not a fan.
In fact, I wrestle with uncertainty. I sometimes will make a crappy decision – one that I don’t feel good about – just so that things can be decided. Certain. Over and done with.
It’s not a good way to be, especially in a life that is filled with uncertainties, good and bad, nerve-wracking and wonderful.
Usually when I am wrestling with uncertainty, it’s because I am imagining the worst possible outcome occurring. This is funny, because if you ask me if I’m an optimist or a pessimist, I’ll say, without hesitation, that I’m an optimist. I believe that most things work out for the best. AND, more importantly, I believe that I am a happier and better version of myself when I believe that most things work out for the best.
That’s the theory. In actuality, I am a worrier, and I often worry excessively about outcomes. Much as I try to just do the next right thing and not get too attached to what comes out of it, I can almost always feel myself angsting about what will be.
I don’t think I was like this as a kid; my mom would know better than me, I bet. But I don’t remember being an anxious child, although it’s possible I was underneath and that it just manifested in different ways.
For me, I think the first time I was really anxious about uncertainty was when I was 21 years old. My dad had died six months ago, and I’d just moved overseas to Barcelona with a few college friends. I was taking a course, becoming certified to teach English as a second language, and the course was nearing the end.
Which meant I needed to find a job. In order to pay my rent.
It was so much easier dealing with uncertainty as a child, and as a college student. Very little was at stake, and, thanks to my parents, I had a secure and comforting safety net. (Though I don’t think I was consciously aware of it at the time.) But sitting in my tiny Barcelona apartment, facing the panic of the unknown – I felt an uneasiness that I’d never felt before.
I often wonder if this was related to recently losing my father. Would I have become quite so overwhelmed if I wasn’t right there in the middle of my grief? I’ll never really know. I mean, of course they were related – my grief and my panic, my panic and my grief. And of course, also, they had nothing to do with each other. It’s always both/and. Everything is its own thing, and also everything is connected.
This is basically a big lead-up into the title of this post, FUNCERTAINTY, which is a concept that I possibly made up and might mean nothing to anyone but me. But bear with me.
The reason why I angst about uncertainty is that I ask myself and the universe this question: What if everything falls apart and is terrible?
So – if I want to feel less uncomfortable with uncertainty – can I re-train myself to ask a different question?
Such as: WHAT IF EVERYTHING IS MORE AWESOME THAN I EVER THOUGHT WAS POSSIBLE?
Seriously. What if everything turns out awesome?
This possibility usually does not even occur to me. When I was younger, I daydreamed about amazing things happening to me and for me and around me. But that’s been harder for me to do recently. I’m not old, but I’m also not 18 anymore. Daydreaming is way different these days.
WHAT IF EVERYTHING TURNS OUT AWESOME? What if I achieve all my personal goals, all my career goals, all my travel goals, all my financial goals, all my family goals, and also do a whole bunch of awesome stuff that hasn’t even crossed my mind?
I have no idea what’s coming next in life – when Our Second Baby will come home, when I’ll identify a clear career goal, when we’ll find a farm to buy. But I like the idea of trying to switch things around on myself – imagining awesome things happening instead of worrying about things that may suck.
FUNCERTAINTY. Same exact situation as UNCERTAINTY – but with a more hopeful state of mind and an openness to the possibility of good things happening.
A few weeks ago, I sat down with my bullet journal and wrote out a plan for my morning and evening routines.
This plan included things that normal people probably don’t have to write down – things like wash your face or brush your teeth. The plan also included The Big Three Things That I Want To Do Every Day – writing, running, and meditating. Oh, and reminders for small acts of self-care or planning – things like laying out my work clothes the night before or remembering to use lotion or perfume.
I am most definitely a creature of habit, though I often struggle to form and stick with healthy habits.
The thing is, routine is good for me. I’ve heard it said that highly sensitive people benefit greatly from a regular routine. I struggle with this occasionally, because I greatly value diversity, spontaneity, surprise. But yeah – when it comes down to it, I am usually the happiest and the healthiest when I have a regular routine.
I can break out of my routine, of course. I do it all the time. For special events, for parties – but I am noticing that it’s important for me to be honest about what adjustments I can make without sacrificing too much energy.
For example – socializing on week nights. I just don’t think it’s for me. Our farm is about 30 minutes north of Baltimore (more with traffic), and I’m trying to remember to be realistic about what I can commit to on a week night. I made plans on a week night several weeks ago, and honestly? It took me over a week to get back into my groove. And I had SO MUCH FUN during the actual socializing – I loved it!
But the next day, I felt sluggish and cranky. I’d been up too late and didn’t get any writing done or any alone (or just Tee-and-me) time. It threw me way off, and it’s because I wasn’t realistic about what I can handle in my daily routine.
I can be somewhat flexible and spontaneous – ON WEEKENDS, when there is way more wiggle room in my schedule. NOT Monday through Thursday, with very few exceptions.
This weekend has been really lovely – lots of good time with friends and my little family. And I am ALMOST excited to get back into my morning and evening routines on Monday. (ALMOST. Really, I am never excited for Mondays anymore. But I’m hoping that will change sometime in 2018!)
When my son Teddy was a little younger than a year old, he had a pattern. He would start to fade out sometime between 5:30 and 6:30 p.m. every evening. I’ve heard parents call this “the witching hour.”
When Teddy would get into that zone, one of two things would happen: either he would erupt into adorable (and often unprovoked) baby giggles, or he would start having back-to-back meltdowns in rapid succession.
An interesting phenomenon would occur at this point: Teddy would forget his coping skills.
Yes, even though he was still a baby, Teddy definitely had coping skills. What I mean is – he had activities he could engage in that were reliably comforting and calming for him. Like standing by the front door looking outside at the cat napping on the porch. Like looking at a book of baby first words. Like playing in one of ‘his’ kitchen cabinets.
However, when Teddy is exhausted and burnt out on the crazy baby life and not thinking straight, he forgets about all the things that help him feel better.
That’s where Mommy comes in to save the day. I’d pull out his favorite baby book and turn it to the page with all the cars on it. I’d shake his little tambourine so he could pretend to dance. I’d scoop him up, carry him to the window, and point out the cat. Then I’d set him down beside the window, and he’d stare at the cat, smiling occasionally. Tantrum over. He didn’t even need me to sit by the window with him.
He just needed me to remind him of the things he can do to feel better when he’s struggling.
Oh, boy. Don’t we all need reminders sometimes?
I constantly forget to do the things that help me to feel happy, healthy, and whole as a human being. I start to feel sluggish and it takes me days to realize it’s because I haven’t been running or eating healthy food. My monkey mind starts twisting and turning like crazy, and I forget that going to meetings or meditating or journalling helps me to get out of my head and back in the present moment.
Sometimes Tee or a good friend can remind me; I’m always grateful for that. Often, though, I wish I could remind myself. Sometimes, when I slow down and allow myself a little bit of Kerriann time, I’ll feel myself calming down and getting back to neutral. I daydream about writing messages to myself on giant post-its all around the house. YOU NEED TO RUN. YOU NEED TO READ. YOU NEED TO WRITE. YOU NEED TO MEDITATE.
I’ll consider it.
For now, I’m grateful to have just finished a day that included reading, writing, a long run, and pancakes. Excellent self-care.