anxiety · goals · self-care

Funcertainty

Lately, I’ve been contemplating my relationship with uncertainty.

I am not a fan.

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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.

PANIC.

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?

 

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http://www.amelix.co.uk/awesome-week/

 

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.

I like it.

 

self-care

Routines: The Making & The Breaking

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.

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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!)

parenting · self-care

This Is How You Remind Me #heart

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.

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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?

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http://www.nunnovation.com/2018/02/28/self-care-luxury-necessity/

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.

self-care · Uncategorized

Changing My Perspective

I’ve been getting pretty stressed out by the ups and downs of everyday life lately. And I don’t think it’s necessarily because my life is hard right now – I think that a lot of the time, when I feel stressed, what I need most is a change in my perspective.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the importance of perspective. Our perspective is EVERYTHING. When I’m struggling with perspective, it’s often connected to anxiety about the future and making assumptions.

UGH. Assumptions are the absolute worst.

There’s a veryveryvery old (possibly Taoist) parable about a farmer that I’ve been thinking about this week.

There is a story of a farmer who used an old horse to till his fields. One day, the horse escaped into the hills. When the farmer’s neighbors heard, they said to the farmer, “Oh no! How unlucky!” The farmer replied, “Maybe so, maybe not. We’ll see.”

A week later, the farmer’s horse returned with a herd of horses from the hills and this time the neighbors congratulated the farmer, saying “How lucky!” The farmer replied, “Maybe so, maybe not. We’ll see.”

Then the farmer’s son was attempting to tame one of the wild horses, and he fell off its back and broke his leg. The neighbors cried, “How unlucky!” The farmer replied, “Maybe not, maybe so. We’ll see.”

Several weeks later, the army marched into the village and conscripted every able-bodied youth they found in the village. When they saw the farmer’s son with his broken leg, they let him off. The neighbors said, “How lucky!” The farmer replied, “Maybe not, maybe so. We’ll see.”

We don’t know the future. We don’t know the effect of things that happen today on the days to come.

But I act like I do. ALL THE TIME.

I look for a job for a long time. I can’t find what I want. I’m devastated, because clearly this means I will never have happiness at work ever, ever again.

But I don’t know the future. I don’t know what’s coming down the road. We waited for two years for Our Baby to come home, and at the end of the first year, Tee had a major health crisis. Now, it didn’t occur to me at the time – but I really don’t know how we could have handled that crisis while also caring for an infant child. Emotionally, mentally, physically. We would have made it work, of course. But it would have been a big strain on our family at a time when we really needed to be focusing on attachment, bonding, and joy. (And, of course, that baby wouldn’t have been Teddy, who was 100% meant to be ours.)

We don’t know the end of the story, and making assumptions is rarely helpful. I do not have the detached nature that I imagine a Buddhist monk has. I do not allow events to simply happen, and then watch them, non-judgmentally, drift by as I mindfully contemplate the present moment.

I wrestle. I struggle. I try to bend circumstances to my will whenever possible.

But I strive for a little more faith, a little more trust, a lot less ego, and no more assumptions. Because we don’t ever know the end of the story – we just make assumptions and jump to conclusions and (if you’re me) forecast disappointment with the perverse aim of preparing yourself for the worst.

Which, in my experience, never works. Preparing myself for the worImage result for perspectivest to happen does NOTHING to make things better when the worst DOES happen. All it does is robs me of the joy and peace I could be experiencing in the present moment.

So – perspective. Shifting the way that I look at my circumstances so that I can see them in a different light.

And gratitude. So often I find myself reaching for what I don’t have instead of appreciating what I do have.

And TRUST. For me, it’s not just about trusting that most things usually turn out okay, or that the universe or my higher power or whatever will take care of me. It’s also just about having trust in others in my day-to-day life. I may make mistake and trust someone I shouldn’t trust. But overall, I am a much happier and healthier person when I assume good intention in others.

In closing – an amusing poem from Valerie Cox about the assumptions we make and how wrong we can be,

The Cookie Thief

by Valerie Cox

A woman was waiting at an airport one night,                                                                 with several long hours before her flight.                                                                            She hunted for a book in the airport shops,                                                                      bought a bag of cookies and found a place to drop.

She was engrossed in her book but happened to see,                                                        that the man sitting beside her, as bold as could be. . .                                                grabbed a cookie or two from the bag in between,                                                        which she tried to ignore to avoid a scene.

So she munched the cookies and watched the clock,                                                            as the gutsy cookie thief diminished her stock.                                                                    She was getting more irritated as the minutes ticked by,                                           thinking, “If I wasn’t so nice, I would blacken his eye.”

With each cookie she took, he took one too,                                                                       when only one was left, she wondered what he would do.                                                With a smile on his face, and a nervous laugh,                                                                      he took the last cookie and broke it in half.

He offered her half, as he ate the other,                                                                                  she snatched it from him and thought… oooh, brother.                                                  This guy has some nerve and he’s also rude,                                                                        why he didn’t even show any gratitude!

She had never known when she had been so galled,                                                         and sighed with relief when her flight was called.                                                            She gathered her belongings and headed to the gate,                                               refusing to look back at the thieving ingrate.

She boarded the plane, and sank in her seat,                                                                     then she sought her book, which was almost complete.                                                     As she reached in her baggage, she gasped with surprise,                                           there was her bag of cookies, in front of her eyes.

If mine are here, she moaned in despair,                                                                                the others were his, and he tried to share.                                                                            Too late to apologize, she realized with grief,                                                                    that she was the rude one, the ingrate, the thief.

self-care

Self-Compassion Reminder #soul #mind

Today I attended an art therapy training with the knowledgeable and wonderful Dr. Patricia Isis.

She told a little parable at the beginning of the training that I’ve been thinking about all day.

A mom is at the grocery store with a rambunctious four-year-old child in her shopping cart.  The child is antsy and bouncing, sometimes rising to the level of yelling and causing a ruckus.  The grocery store manager notices the mother and her daughter from a distance.

As the mother winds up and down the aisles, she keeps her voice calm and even.  “Just a few things we need to get, Monica, we’ll be done soon,” she says.  

The child continues to bounce and fidget.  As they continue their shopping, up and down the aisles, up and down, the mother again speaks in a calm and gentle voice.  “Just five more things to get, Monica, we’re almost done,” she says kindly.

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As they approach the checkout, the child is contained, but antsy and wiggling.  “We’re at the checkout, Monica,” the mother says, patient and compassionate.  “We’ll be on our way home soon.”

As they walk to their car, the grocery store manager follows them.  “Excuse me,” he says, “but I just wanted to tell you how much I admire how compassionate and kind and gentle you we’re with young Monica here.”

The young mother laughs.  “She’s not Monica,” she explains.  “I am!”

Wow. I love this. SO MUCH. What an amazing expression of the need to take care of ourselves FIRST.

I haven’t been able to get it out of my head all day. When I heard Dr. Kristen Neff speak, several years ago, she told a personal version of this story; she talked about being on an airplane with her son, who’s diagnosed with autism, while he screamed and tantrummed, and how she held him and took deep  breaths and just SHOWERED herself with compassion and love. Because, when someone we love really needs us – WE NEED  COMPASSION AND LOVE. We can’t take care of anyone else without it.

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self-care

Be Aggressive: A Self-Care Plan #heartsoulmindbodyspirit

Today was a really good day – a day of rest, rejuvenation, and grounding.

Lately, my self-care has been lacking. I feel like I run around all day and offer very little help to anyone. I feel like I am overworked and slacking off simultaneously. I feel overwhelmed, and when I am overwhelmed, I fall victim to my vices – coffee, soda, and candy.

I spent a lot of my time today reflecting and planning – reflecting on the kind of self-care I need, and planning how to rearrange my days so that I can take some action steps.

Tee has been teasing me all day because I’ve been proselytizing about my “Aggressive Self-Care” plan. I guess she thinks it’s funny to use such a feisty word for something as loving and gentle as taking care of yourself.

HOWEVER – I do feel like I need some energy, some fight, some spirit for these plans to have any hope of actually working! The stressors I am dealing with are not going to disappear anytime soon. Hence the need for AGGRESSIVE SELF-CARE.

The biggest task I accomplished today was this: writing out everything I want to do at the beginning of the day and at the end of the day to take care of myself. I got REAL specific – things like “get dressed” and “brush teeth” and “snuggle with Teddy” are on the list. I also added tiny things like “put on perfume” and “use lotion” – tiny self-care acts that I almost never do. These two lists are neatly written in my bullet journal for my reference; I think of them as my morning ritual and my evening ritual.

Next – in the midst of my crazy day yesterday, I started thinking about all the self-care tricks I’ve previously used, like drinking Yogi tea and sniffing essential oils. These items are in my house, but I nevereverever think to utilize them. Today, I emptied out one of the pockets of my purse and filled it up with essential oils, hand lotion, a tiny worry box, and a few tea bags. I’m calling it my self-care pocket. I also set a beautiful mini bread pan (an item we never use) on my desk and filled it with the same items – I’m calling it my self-cafe miniature bread pan, because why not?

I messed around with my phone, trying to find an app to use for mindfulness reminders. Part of my Aggressive Self-Care plan is AGGRESSIVE MINDFULNESS. When I get stressed, my ability to be present in the moment suuucks. So I’ve been trying to find a way to check in with myself throughout the day, to remind myself to be mindful, but I haven’t found an effective one yet. I’m going to ponder this for a while: how can I remind myself throughout the day to be mindful? Could I pick an object – when I see a dog, I remember to be mindful? A time of day? I really don’t know. That will be part of Aggressive Self-Care 2.0.

I took a few steps to simplify my day-to-day, to clear away some clutter – deleted a bunch of apps from my phone, cleared my Safari history on my phone, cleared out my bathroom cabinet so all my self-care items are visible and accessible. I’m going to keep pondering this, as well: how else can I simplify my life so that my mind and my soul are as clear and uncluttered as can be?

I tried my best to embrace healthy eating today. When I get overwhelmed, I either a) eat junk, or b) eat nothing and drink lots of coffee. NEITHER OF THESE PLANS IS GOOD FOR ME.

Lastly – this might be the best intention I’ve set today – I decided that I’m going to spend a few minutes every morning and every evening having a date with my planner and my bullet journal. This will be my time to check in with myself about the day(s) ahead – to BE INTENTIONAL, which was one of my new year’s resolutions, and is something I always struggle to do. I keep all of my notes and appointments for work in my planner, but I’m going to set aside a page in my bullet journal each week to think ahead about the week, to think about things like: What plans do we have this week? When I am going to do basic things, like shower? And – MOST IMPORTANT – when, on each day of the coming week, am I going to be able to accomplish the big three daily priorities I have set for myself? (The big three daily priorities are meditation, running, and writing. These are the three main things that I have committed to doing every single day. NO MATTER WHAT.)

 

I feel really good tonight – not over-the-moon fantastic, but strong and whole and refreshed. Ready to be AGGRESSIVELY MINDFUL and to practice AGGRESSIVE SELF-CARE. Starting with a delightful cup of bedtime tea.

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self-care

What Gets In The Way #mind

A few months ago, I wrote a post about feeling like my creativity, my writing, was bubbling up inside of me.

Today, I’m feeling frustrated, because I haven’t been very successful at maintaining this ‘bubbling’ and gettings my thoughts and words down on paper.

Today I am thinking about the things that get in the way of the bubbling – the things that crowd my mind and my heart and my soul so that the ideas don’t have the space or energy to congeal.

There’s a LOT that gets in the way.  There’s TV, for one thing. When I’Image result for do one thing that centers you every daym really hooked into a TV show, I don’t typically feel like I have a lot of ideas for things to write about.

There’s job stress and job seeking. When I am hunting for a new job, or obsessing over being unhappy with my day job, I don’t feel very “bubbly,”

There’s unhealthy eating. When I’m not taking care of myself physically, with healthy food and exercise, my head gets really cloudy and I don’t feel centered. I think I need to feel centered in order for creativity to flow.

Today I feel fairly centered and clear – not completely crystal-clear, but in the neighborhood. I’m praying that this stays with me so that the creativity can start to flow yet again!