Staying Positive

Well today’s the day. This afternoon I am going to be driving nearly six hours to go stay with my boyfriend for a few days. I can’t believe it’s finally happening. I’ve never driven anywhere close to that far before. I think the longest I’ve driven was two hours. It’s hard for me to wrap my head around. It feels like I’ve been somewhat disassociating from the whole thing. I’ve been trying my hardest not to think about it too much.

As I was trying to fall asleep last night, I nearly had a panic attack. I even considered calling the whole thing off. I always tend to overreact about things at night. I hoped that by the morning I’d feel better, and I do. I feel much better. Part of me is even excited. It has been a very long time since I’ve done something even remotely similar to this. I don’t really go on vacations or anything. This is going to be the biggest adventure I’ve been on in my adult life.

I forgot how exhilarating it can be to be in uncharted territory. It’s also interesting to see the way other people’s perceptions of the situation have effected me. True to form, my mother is losing her mind. She has been sick with anxiety over this since I told her. Her panic has made me much more fearful than I was originally. It’s no wonder I developed an anxiety disorder growing up with that woman. However, my more sane coworkers don’t seem to think it’s that big of a deal. Remembering their relaxed responses makes me feel more brave.

In the end, I get to decide how I feel about this trip. And I have decided that it is going to be fun. I am going to use this time driving to finally relax and unwind. Some people love long car rides after all. I’m going to call my mom and my best friend and maybe even my sister and my grandma. We can have long meaningful discussions about anything and everything while I watch the beautiful scenery pass by my window. I can also use this time to practice. I’ve bookmarked some mindfulness and meditation podcasts. I am always wishing I had more time to meditate. Here’s my perfect chance. What a magnificent transformation six hours of mindful breathing would unveil.

Any time I am faced with something daunting and stressful, I like to turn it into something I can be excited about. I tack on little incentives and rewards for myself to enjoy. It’s been literally years since I’ve given myself a true break. I am always doing something or planning something, trying my best to be as productive as possible. But today I have six whole hours to just sit and breathe. I get to make myself look and feel pretty and take a journey to see my darling boyfriend whom I miss so very much. Not only that, we are going to say “I love you” for the first time. I can’t wait to hold his precious face in my hands. We are going to spend a blissful little honeymoon together and hopefully by the end of it I’ll have convinced him to come back home sooner rather than later.

In addition to all of that, I am going to buy myself any kind of silly treat I see on the way. I can try new candies or drinks I find. I might even buy myself one of those delta-8 vape pens if I see any. I’m also going to make a point to stop every few hours just so I can stand up and stretch my body a bit. I can’t wait to try new vegan foods at the cafe up there. I also can’t wait to have three days off from working out! It’s been years. It will be so wonderful to forget all my worries and just enjoy myself for a few days. I’m hoping that getting away from my house and my normal routine will give me the space I need to drop a lot of the unhealthy habits I’ve adopted over quarantine.

Worrying about how this drive is going to be won’t do me any good. Getting anxious about something like this does not make you more prepared. All it does is deplete your mental and physical energy for no reason. I am not anxious about today. I am excited. I am strong and independent and capable. I am smart and filled with a deep inner peace that I can tap into whenever I want. I am overflowing with love and joyous energies. I can do anything. Today is going to be an amazing day.

12 Tips for Road-Tripping on a Budget | Mental Floss

Words I Need to Hear

I took a deep breath and listened to the old bray of my heart: I am. I am. I am.

Sylvia Plath

My silly, silly star child. Breathe deeply and let go. You have nothing to fear in this amazing world of yours. You doubt yourself at every turn. You move forward with constant backward glances, wondering if you still have time to turn around. Perfectionism at its most painful. You don’t need to be perfect. It’s okay to make mistakes. Stop asking yourself whether or not you’re making the right decision. Sit in silence and let your heart guide you. And in those moments your heart remains silent, be patient. Keep listening. Don’t take life so seriously. This is all just one big mystery after all. Just enjoy.

You’ve got everything you need, always. You are everything that you need. You can trust in yourself. You can love yourself. You aren’t going to get caught up in and weighted down by the little things today. Can you feel that rhythm inside your chest? Feel the warmth in your veins. You are a miracle made of stardust and loving energies. Your only purpose here is to be alive and to share what you are with the world. You were made for this and you will never fail. So keep smiling, keep moving. Do whatever it is that brings you joy in each moment. And if you don’t always know what that is, that’s okay too.

You don’t always have to know the right answer. Some questions have no answer. You can learn to live alongside the questions. What ever made you believe that happiness is found in finding all the answers anyway? Ignorance is bliss after all. Be grateful that there are still so many mysteries our there in the universe around you. What a beautiful, fascinating, massive world we’ve found ourselves in. What a blessing to be a small part of such majesty. Keep this humble gratitude close to your heart always and you will never go astray.

You don’t have to be afraid to speak from your heart, to speak your truth. It’s what you were brought here to do. Don’t be afraid of the words you find to express yourself. Honest, difficult words are more beautiful than all the flowery lies. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. That is how you grow. What wonderful things you may not have learned were it not for the mistakes of your past. Life is a delicate balancing act. Wobbling and falling is all part of the show. Trust the net that lingers below to catch you. You are the performer, but you are also the net. There is nothing to fear.

Today is going to be a lovely day. Make sure you are present for it. Give it your full attention. This day is all that you have to focus on. When you feel your mind drifting off into the future, gently guide it back to you. Keep asking questions to ground yourself. What does my body feel like? What can I see, hear, smell, touch, taste? What is this? Stay curious, even when the answer keeps changing. Even when there is no real answer to be found. Practice withholding judgement. Exercise your loving kindness.

Life is a lot like a game. Games can be fun. But they can also be stressful and aggravating when we become too serious about them. Today you will remember that it’s just a game. You will shake off all of that old stagnant energy from your soul. You heart will feel light. You will give love freely to yourself and others. You will smile and you will laugh, because you are so lucky to be who you are. So lucky to be here experiencing this moment. To love and be loved. Everything is as it should be. It’s just a game, so have fun.

Meditation girls | Yoga drawing, Yoga illustration, Yoga cartoon

Why I Write

I feel like I’ve been struggling to come up with anything to write about for quite a long time now. When I first started writing every day, it was something I looked forward to. Now it’s nearly become something to dread. I can’t think of anything that I want to say. Even looking up writing prompts hasn’t been much help. Today I’ve finally decided to just write about the reason I write in the first place.

I let myself get too caught up in the details. It doesn’t really matter what I decide to write about. It’s the process itself that I enjoy. Sure often a certain topic I’m passionate about in the moment makes it easier to get into that flow state, but it isn’t necessary. More than anything, I just like spending some quiet time alone with my thoughts. Writing gives my brain something specific to focus on. It’s a chance to let the rest of the world fade away for an hour or so.

I love the way it feels rapidly hitting the keys on my laptop. I love the sound they make. I love watching the words magically appear on my screen. It doesn’t matter what those words are or whether anyone will read them. There doesn’t always need to be a lofty purpose for everything that I do. Sometimes it’s nice just to do something anything, with focused attention. This is the real reason that I write. It doesn’t make a difference if I have nothing to say.

Living with anxiety for so long has taught me that most of the time those anxious feelings come from trying to live in the future. Anything that can consume your attention and ground you in the here and now is wonderfully calming. The hard part is getting yourself to sit down and focus when you’re worrying about something. I’ll often find myself desperately trying not to worry about something in the future. What would be more helpful is finding something in the present to give my full attention. I don’t spend time trying to find the most productive or important thing to focus on. I just have to pick something.

This is why intentions can be so helpful. It’s easy to lose your center as your move through your day. Today my intention is to be present and enjoy myself. Nothing more, nothing less. I don’t always have to take life so seriously. It’s okay to just be happy about the little silly things like seeing those baby geese by the pond on my way to work or snuggling with my dog for a few minutes on the couch this morning. Everything is just fine. Life is beautiful and I’m grateful to be here.

You Should Be Writing Every Day. Here's Why (and How to Do It)

5 Things I Love About Myself

In an effort to incorporate more loving kindness into my life, today I am going to write about five things that I love or admire about myself. I am always thinking about the flaws I have or areas in which I need improvement. I’m sure I could easily make up a list of at least a dozen things I dislike about myself. But when it comes to what I do like, it takes me much longer to consider. It feels very awkward even. I have always shied away from any type of praise, especially from myself. I am embarrassed and terrified that people will think I am conceited. But I’m learning that it’s okay to love yourself, and it’s okay to be proud of your accomplishments and your positive characteristics. I hope that by writing about a few things I love about myself today, it will make it easier for me to remember them and be kinder to myself.

Intelligence

Even since I was a toddler, I remember people telling me how smart I am. This has always been my most cherished attribute, the thing I am most proud of. I’m certainly not the smartest person out there, but no matter where I go in life, I seem to be recognized for my intelligence. Learning and knowledge are quite valuable to me. I have a consistent ravenous hunger for information that never seems to be sated. I am always looking for new interesting topics to read about. I’m definitely a firm believer that knowledge is power, and I must say, I feel quite powerful in that regard.

Curiosity

For most of my life, I didn’t think that my curiosity was anything special. I assumed that it was just natural to want to explore, learn, and understand as much as possible. As Ive gotten to know more and more people in my life, I’ve come to realize that this is actually a somewhat special characteristic of mine. I am very grateful for this aspect of my personality. I definitely wouldn’t have gotten to where I am today without it. Curiosity is one of my greatest motivators. It has guided me forward my entire life.

Compassion

Even though I’m not necessarily a very emotional person, I do consider myself to have extremely high levels of empathy and compassion. I just don’t always portray this side of myself outwardly to the world. I actually think I come off as cold and unfeeling to a lot of people. Quite to the contrary, I care deeply about all living things. (Occasionally even inanimate objects.) This is one of the main reasons that I have been vegan for nearly a decade now. I want to do all that I can to avoid causing suffering during my time here on this earth. I am constantly striving to do better for those I share this planet with.

Physical Fitness

Even though this one may sound silly and shallow compared to the other things I’ve listed, the health and power of my physical body is something that I really love. I have worked very hard for years to develop my current state of physical capability. I have an insane amount of stamina and cardiovascular strength. Most days I am able to breeze through my hour long HIIT workouts with ease. Often I’ll even be dancing around and singing along to my music instead of resting between moves. I am also quite proud of how far I’ve come in my yoga practice. My body can now do things that I never dreamed I’d be doing when I started. My body may not look the way I want it to, but overall it is still simply incredible. And I am so grateful for all that it does for me every day.

Humor

Last but certainly not least, I love that I am funny. You probably can’t tell that from my writing. I guess most people probably find themselves funny, but the people around me seem to agree. There is nothing more satisfying to me than having a witty back and forth with someone. Banter is probably one of my favorite forms of play. Laughter is the best medicine and I’m happy to be able to provide that to the people in my life. My quick wit and often dark sense of humor have gotten me through a lot of tough times.

And there you have it, five things that I love about myself. Writing that actually took me a lot longer than I’d like to admit. But it has put me in a slightly better mood and given me some things to consider the next time I am feeling unworthy. Along side my many flaws are an equal amount of amazing traits. It is only because of the combination of all these things that I have become the person I am. A person who is worthy of kindness, compassion, love, and understanding. I hope that this exercise will make it a bit easier for me to remember that and treat myself with the gentleness and respect I deserve. Try it yourself and leave me a comment with five things you love about yourself! I would love to find out.

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Practicing Loving Kindness

Most of the time I feel like my own worst enemy. I’m my own task master. It sometimes feels like I am just bullying myself around day in, day out. Only very rarely do I take a moment to pause and actually check in with myself, ask myself how I am doing, how I’m feeling, what I might enjoy doing. Instead my brain is reading off a laundry list of things I have to do and what I need to do next whether I want to or not. I’m constantly planning and preparing for a future that never comes.

For years I’ve told myself that I will be happy once I am different, better, skinnier, more productive, more organized. But not only does being harsh with myself make my goals even more difficult to realize, it also ensures that even once I achieve them, happiness will be as far away as it has always been. The craziest part is that this happiness I’m seeking isn’t some external destination I have to reach. It is already something I harbor inside of myself. I don’t need to change anything about my outer world to experience it. All I’ve got to do is give myself permission to just be, to give my loved ones, and everything around me permission to be exactly as it is.

A lot of the time I feel like the world would run much more smoothly if I were in charge. It’s easy to think I know best. Yet at the same time I see myself making the wrong choices in my own life. Would I really want the responsibility of managing others or this world? It feels much better to have humility, to accept that I don’t always know what’s best for others, the world, or even myself. And that’s okay. I don’t always have to make the right decisions or know all the answers. It’s more than enough to just be here, to witness, to be a part of this wonderous, messy, confusing thing called life.

For once I’d like to focus on simply being kind to myself. Even when it’s hard. Especially when it’s hard. When I’m already feeling happy and calm, it’s much easier to be soft and loving with myself. However, when I need that loving kindness most, I feel a strong resistance to it. Subconsciously I think I feel like I don’t deserve it in those difficult moments. I get angry and frustrated with myself for how I feel, for not being able to feel differently. In the past I’ve even punished myself instead of trying to make myself feel better. It reminds me of a child throwing a tantrum. Even once the moment has passed and there are opportunities in front of the child that they would normally be happy and excited about, often they’ll stubbornly try to hold on to their bad attitude. It’s fascinating to witness this phenomenon in others as well as in ourselves. It may change as we grow older, but this unwillingness to let go of negative feelings seems to be quite common.

Although I know I definitely need self-love the most when I’m struggling, it may be too great of a challenge to begin my efforts there. Sometimes it’s better to start practicing these types of things when you don’t necessarily need them. This way you can become more comfortable with them. You can form new healthy habits. Then these skills will seem more accessible to you even in your more difficult moments. That’s why I’d like to start by making a list of five ways I can show myself loving kindness:

  1. Say something kind to myself each morning when I wake up & each night before I go to sleep.
  2. Give myself a massage when bored or waiting for something, in traffic, etc.
  3. Make a list of things I like about myself/positive affirmations
  4. Set aside moments throughout the day to pause and take five deep breaths. (before meals, after going to the bathroom, when I get in/out of my car, in the shower)
  5. Smile and/or laugh, even if it’s forced at first.

These are just a few easy things that I can do for myself everyday that I think will make a huge difference. I’ve been trying to be kinder to myself for quite a while now. I’m hoping that writing down some specific ways of doing that will help me form regular self-loving habits. I am so excited to embark on this journey to show myself loving kindness. I’m ready to finally have a healthy relationship with myself so that I am able to allow myself to rest in the inherent joy of my true nature.

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Mixed Emotions

I’ve mentioned that I have a lot of unhealthy behaviors that I’ve been struggling with this past year in quarantine. Even though I’ve begun to feel utterly fed up with performing these behaviors, they still seem to persist. It feels like, despite all of my best laid plans to change, I always fall short in the end. However, yesterday the idea of letting all of those things go, my rigid schedule, my smoking, my eating habits, seemed possible. If you happened to read my post from yesterday, you may understand why.

This is not a new phenomenon, and I’m sure other people have experienced this as well. That special motivation and excitement from the idea of changing for someone else. I know sometimes that can be a toxic thing. You shouldn’t aim to change important parts of yourself for another. But the thought of improving your image in the eyes of someone else by finally changing things you’ve already been wanting to change seems different.

While I’m grateful for this new sense of energy and motivation, I am also wary of it. Curious about it. Last night as I contemplated my complete disinterest in the idea of binging on junk foods like I would have normally done, I wondered why exactly this behavior had no appeal to me whatsoever. Thinking of the shame I would experience if anyone I knew were to find out always seemed to just exacerbate the problem. No, this was something different. It was positive emotion that was guiding me. I finally settled on the idea that this newfound inspiration to turn away from negative behaviors stemmed from an overwhelming sensation of tenderness and self-love.

It’s been so long since I’ve really fancied someone enough to remember this feeling. Somehow being approved of by someone I really like always seems to flood me with not only the happiness of mutual admiration, but of self-acceptance. Everything seems so much more concrete and crisp when reflected back to you through another. And while I am still extremely grateful and happy for this rediscovered feeling, I am also somewhat upset by it.

Why do I need the attention and approval of someone else to finally love myself? I am still the same person I always was. I have always been deserving of this love. I have been trying (and mostly failing) to love myself for years and years now. No matter what I do, no matter how many positive affirmations I recite or automatic negative thoughts that I try to reframe, at the end of the day, I am always left with the idea that I’m simply not good enough yet to be worthy of my own love.

Yet someone I’ve only met twice comes along and suddenly I am capable of loving myself? Why? I doubt I’ll ever fully be able to understand it. Perhaps I am thinking about it too much. It feels like once again I’ve found myself trying to focus on the negative. True, I should love myself despite what anyone else in the world thinks of me, but I am still grateful for being given a helping hand towards that goal for the time being. Despite the initial catalyst for these positive thoughts and emotions, they are still much appreciated.

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Money Maker

I’ve been drawing something every single day for around a year now. It has been a great habit to start. It helps me spend some time being playful and creative each day. The only issue I’ve encountered at this point is running out of ideas. Well, that and the ever-increasing stack of drawings I’ve started accumulating. In an attempt to think of some interesting drawing ideas, I came up with the idea to start doing drawings for the children I work with. A few people had suggested that I make a collection of my sketches into an adult coloring book. While this was a great idea, given that I don’t ever like to color my art, I didn’t feel much inspired to do so. After thinking on it for awhile, I decided I would feel more passionately about putting it together if it were a coloring book full of positive affirmations for children and teens.

One day early on in my career when I still felt very awkward about waiting with the children while my coworkers spoke with their parents, I decided to make a drawing for a little girl while she was busy playing. Even though I was too anxious to go join her or carry on a conversation, I didn’t want it to appear that I was cold or disinterested. So I did what I could, in my own socially awkward, anxious way. I drew a picture of a cute Japanese-style dragon with cherry blossoms around it. I added a banner that said: You deserve to be happy. Before she left I crouched down by her side and gave her the picture. I told her that I drew it especially for her while she was playing. I told her what it said and that I wanted her to always remember that and believe that it’s true. Even though it took a lot for me to build up the courage to do that, it was all worth it when I saw how happy it made her. She was so eager to show her mom. I can still hear her precious mousey voice saying, “Look mommy, she made this for me!”

Just thinking about that day makes me tear up. That experience is what inspired me to make more drawings with positive affirmations for kids. The first few I drew made me so happy and excited. I couldn’t wait to show my coworkers and see what they thought about the idea. I already knew they liked my art, but I really underestimated how much they would love this new endeavor. They immediately started talking about copyrights and publishing, selling them to therapists and other child advocacy centers, all the potential money there was to be made. They urged me not to do anything with them until I put legal protections in place. I was excited and flattered and more than a little embarrassed. I never know how to respond to praise or compliments. Soon those feelings began to fade, though. They were replaced by hesitation, regret, anxiety, and fear.

I went from making a new coloring page every day to once a week, to not at all. It feels as if all the passion behind this idea has drained out of me. Now whenever I think about it I become lost in a fog of copyright law, fees, plagiarism, business plans, and marketing. I had only been waiting for my coworkers’ approval before happily handing them over to each kid that came in. Now it seemed like a much longer wait was ahead of me before I could start giving them away. All I had been thinking about was being useful to my advocacy center, to the children I see every day. I was excited about how this gift would impact them, if the words on the page would some day make a lasting impact on their hearts and minds. However, dollar signs were first and foremost for everyone else.

Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful that my friends at work thought so highly of my art that they want me to protect it and make a profit from it. I’m sure they have no idea how this business advice left me feeling deflated and frustrated instead of proud. I never wanted to make any money off of this idea. My only desire was to make children happy, to introduce them to the power of intention, self-talk, and positive thinking. Now I feel pressured to secure my claim to these images before sharing them with the world. I feel pressured to come up with a way to profit from this work. I feel as though it would be stupid of me not to do these things. That others would think me stupid for not doing these things.

It reminds me of a study I read about once. One group of children was told to do a fun activity, then rate their enjoyment afterwards. Another group was told to do the very same fun activity, but with the added bonus that they would be paid afterwards. This group surprisingly rated their enjoyment much lower than the first, non-paid group. You see once money becomes a motivator, it becomes work rather than play. When you shift your focus from intrinsic motivation to extrinsic, a task becomes much less fulfilling. Making art to positively impact the lives of children, means a lot to me. Making art to make money, leaves me feeling empty.

It all comes down to caring too much about what other people think of my actions and decisions in the end. No one is forcing me to guard these drawings and add price tags. I am free to give them away whenever I see fit. The only thing holding me back is the opinions other people may have about that. But I’ve got to trust myself and hold on to the passion that led me to start this project in the first place. This was never about money or even what other adults would think about it. This is about helping children. This is about making small, vulnerable humans feel happy and loved. That is what motivates me. That is what sparks joy in my heart.

Withholding Happiness

How we talk to ourselves is so important. Even though it can feel silly, talking yourself up can make a huge difference. Even though I have been trying to be more aware of my self-talk and frame things more positively in my own head, it is still very difficult. It’s hard to tell if it’s even getting any easier. The main thing I struggle with is feeling like I’m just lying to myself.

For most of my life I was a pessimist, but thought of myself as a “realist.” I wasn’t being negative, I thought. These are just the cold hard facts of reality. Only in the last few years have I truly embraced the idea that there is no hard cut reality. Two people can experience the same thing and describe their experiences completely differently. Neither one of these people are delusional. Both have just viewed the situation from a different perspective. Both interpretations are equally valid. I was just choosing to focus on the negative side of most things, rather than the positive.

It is really hard to escape that pattern of thinking. Some part of me still feels foolish for trying to focus on the good in every situation. When I try to repeat self affirming mantras such as I am worthy, I deserve to be happy, I deserve love, I am enough, some inner part of me quivers with revulsion. It is quite sad to realize that it’s because I truly don’t believe those things. It has always been easier for me to say everyone deserves to be happy, than I deserve to be happy. When I imagine anyone else not believing they deserve happiness, it breaks my heart. Yet somehow when I am the one that feels that way, it seems logical and true.

I know that a lot of people have a hard time speaking kindly to themselves at first. We are so used to being our own harshest critic. I’ve heard that it takes time and persistence. I hope that’s true. I just worry about that small voice in my head that counters every attempt at trying to speak lovingly to myself with a whispered “liar!” I hope someday that voice in my head will disappear or at least not bother me as much.

I realized as I was meditating the other day, that this self-rejection is part of the reason it is so hard for me to be present and enjoy the moment. I truly feel that I don’t deserve to enjoy the moment. If I had to put it into words, my brain is telling me: “You are not good enough to relax. If you don’t keep hassling yourself constantly, you are going to keep being awful, or even become worse. You can rest when you are a better person.” No wonder I am anxious and distressed so often. My soul is restless because I am constantly resisting who I am. I am always rejecting myself.

It is truly bizarre to look at the double standard I have set for myself versus others. Sometimes it helps a little to try to imagine a friend or even a stranger telling me they feel and think these things. That makes it easier to comfort myself, because no one should have to feel they are unworthy of love and happiness. And that includes me! Are you listening, brain? We deserve love and happiness too, god damn it! Everyone does. Even though they aren’t perfect, even though they have major flaws, even though they have done terrible things. And I say “even though” instead of “even if” because we are all human and we are all imperfect. We have all done things we are ashamed of. None of that disqualifies us from a life filled with happiness and love.

So even though it makes me squirm inside, I am going to keep speaking lovingly to myself. I am hopeful that it will get easier and that one day I really will believe the kind words I’m offering.

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