meet yourself

summer is my favorite time of year. i’m built for hot weather. i love to bake in a sunny window, sweat on a sidewalk. summers of years past often tend to take on a rosy tint in my memory; i smell my favorite summertime perfume and the years come rushing back. days by the seashore, nights by the backyard fire. oddly, the bug bites, hangovers, allergy eyes don’t figure quite as heavily into these memories; neither do my deepest darkest summertimes, the times i was so far inside my own body the sun couldn’t reach, the times everything looked perfect but nothing felt right, the long nights drinking alone, treading water in despair that i couldn’t see the bottom of.

and of course, i compare myself to those gilded women of those summers gone. why am i not as carefree, not as creative? not as ready to laugh, not as in love with the air i move though?

i’m not that girl (and i probably never was) but what i am is here. i’m packing up moving boxes and i’m making big plans. i’m working hard and wishing i was working harder. i’m moving through these anxiety attacks the only way i know how – by putting my head under and letting the waves crash over me until i can breathe again.  i’ll have another adventure in the passenger’s seat & a long night with the lightning bugs & a perfect, glittering afternoon that drips by with a good book and a sparkling drink. all that much and more is promised. right now all i have to do is be here.

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a morning routine: or an extra fifteen minutes

Morning people, please count your blessings, and trust that you don’t understand the eternal torment of a night owl in an early bird’s world. With all due respect, this one isn’t for you.

A month ago, after a bout of extreme jet lag, I spent about a week waking before the sun. As a night owl, this doesn’t happen often. (Full disclosure: this doesn’t happen, ever.)

I finally got to live as the morning people do. I woke up on my own, got out of bed because I wanted to, made myself some coffee, enjoyed the quietI wrote a few pages in my journal, took my time putting on makeup. One morning, I even had time to play some Stardew Valley! Oh my God, it was amazing. Instead of a hellscape of meetings and caffeine jitters, my morning at work was well-paced and unrushed. (And dare I say: productive?!)

While my sleep schedule has since shifted back to its normal rhythm, I had two lightbulb moments:

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photo by Myscha Oréo

First: Find something better than going back to sleep. (I know.)  I think what separates the snoozers from the early birds is that for some of us, when we wake up, there is nothing in this world we would rather do than continue sleeping.  I perform mental gymnastics to keep myself in bed for as long as humanly possible.

But with a really compelling reason not to go back to sleep, I find myself snoozing ever so slightly less. For me, that is 15 minutes with really good cup of coffee. I’ve found my perfect combo — Trader Joe’s breakfast blend and a slightly sweet coconut creamer. That, and that alone, pulls me out of my cocoon in the mornings.

 

Second: Think of the minutes you spend out of bed as bonus time. Extra, on top of the 24 hours you already get! What would you do with 15 extra minutes? What about 30? Once up I’m with a cup of coffee in my system, I get an extra treat: a few more minutes to finish up last night’s dinner dishes, wipe down the bathtub, read a chapter of my book, or spend some quality time bonding with kitty. An opportunity to cross one item off my to-do list before the day even starts.

Maybe one day I’ll be one of those people who gets up and works for a few hours before the rest of the world wakes up, but I come from a long line of late sleepers. If genetics are any indicator, things don’t look great for me. In the meantime, I am living vicariously by reading about other’s morning routines, and enjoying my extra 15 minutes.

what i needed to hear

the last few months have been terribly difficult for me. over the past year, anxiety has come to occupy a large, looming presence in my life. a large, invisible weight pressing on my chest in the mornings; a dark and suffocating cloud floating around my head, making it hard to inhale. i have worked hard to meet it, understand it, and mitigate the effect it has on my life, and i have made progress. but this last month felt like a huge step back, and that was really hard. i felt sad, i felt frustrated, i felt helpless in the face of this weight that follows me around, no matter how hard i work to shake it. no matter how far i think i’ve come, to be laid out on my ass by this invisible monster was damn discouraging.

this week, chani nicholas’ new moon affirmation hit me hard.

“I honor this new moon by honoring all the small steps that I have taken towards my own healing.

Major transitions rarely feel wonderful. New growth opportunities can often appear as a threat. I expect to be upended. Internally reorganized. Externally overhauled.

I give up being overly committed to any one version of myself.”

like a ton of bricks.

i took the time yesterday to acknowledge the work i have done to heal. to thank myself. for crying on the phone to a friend, for taking the morning off when i just couldn’t handle the world outside, for a trip to the gym when i knew it was for the best, for take-out when a night alone in front of the stove seemed unfathomable, for a home-cooked meal when my body cried out for it. i thanked myself for treating me gently, and with great care.

yes, i am transitioning. transitioning through stages of my life, through my roles in the world. from girl to woman, from woman to wife, from passive player to active. of course, of course, this change is causing me deep psychic pain. i don’t know what it is all in service of, but at some point i have to trust that it is all in service of growth. and a life without growth is not a life i want.

dear me: wherever you are, meet yourself. see yourself. even if where you are is running over the same anxieties over and over in your head and nervous energy pulsing through your body. take a look at yourself and say “okay, I see you. wherever you are is okay. let’s make the space we can to make room for you. tell me, now — what would help?”

treat yo self 2018

I was lucky enough to get a nice year-end bonus this year, which just dropped in my bank account this month. I spent the holidays fantasizing about a shopping spree at Anthropologie, Madewell or Barnes & Noble, but in the past week or so I’ve had a change of heart. Maybe it’s that my partner and I have been talking about moving — across town, this summer, and maybe somewhere else, more permanently — causing me to experience my material things differently, or just a desire to break my spend-shame cycle. (I talked about my January no-buy resolution here.)

So, I paid down some debts, tucked some money away, and had a little left over to treat myself. After the anxiety and health struggles I’ve gone through over the past year, it felt important to me to spend a little money in the name of self care. I mean, Donna said it best.

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But… how to treat myself without acquiring more shit? Here’s what I brainstormed. I hope it can inspire someone else!

  1. Instead of new shoes, book some time with a financial professional. A lot of my anxieties are money related. I’ve been blessed enough to move into a higher tax bracket over the past year, but as someone who did not grow up with a lot, or into a family with a lot of financial literacy, this has caused a lot of stress for me. I’m booking some time with a financial consultant and a tax professional, for some much-needed advice and peace of mind. A sanity check to help ensure that my life goals are on track is a better gift than any new pair of boots. (And I have my eye on some beautiful boots.)
  2. Instead of a Sephora splurge, treat yourself to more permanent beauty treatment. Listen, I get it. I’m a compulsive lipstick buyer. I want that new Fenty as much as anybody. But maybe instead of dropping over $100 at Sephora (how is it so damn easy?) you could invest in a permanent beauty solution whose effects will last past hot yoga? Laser hair removal, eyelash extensions, microblading, teeth whitening…  even Botox or a Kim K laser facial if that’s your thing.
  3. Instead of a pricey night out, get a deep house clean. A few years ago, a night out buying rounds of expensive cocktails for my friends would have been a thoroughly satisfying way to drop a few stacks. These days, the hangover isn’t quite worth it for me. I mean, sure, there’s a new speakeasy with $15 cocktails and an all-night dance party across town, but have you ever tried waking up to a clean house? Spend some money to have a professional deep clean your house, including all of those awful annual tasks you dread doing (oven cleaning, baseboard scrubbing…) That is self care.
  4. Instead of a shopping spree for yourself, go on a shopping spree for someone who needs it. I love a shopping spree. It turns out, it feels just as good — maybe even a little better!? — when it’s not for you! I went to a bookshop and picked out a bunch of books for a program I volunteer with that donates books to inmates, but there are so many ways you could go with this. Nice winter clothes for homeless shelters, toys for kids who need it, makeup and professional wear for women in domestic violence shelters who need to look nice for job interviews, etc.
  5. Instead of an expensive spa treatment… tbh, I’m still getting the spa treatment. Hey, I worked hard this year! Hot stone pedicure and detoxing mud wrap, here I come…

january no-buy

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I’ve written before about my relationship with shopping and spending. I wouldn’t call it an addiction, but I certainly don’t have the healthiest relationship with my disposable income. Like, there is a history of emotional abuse between me and my credit cards.

I struggle with this, in part because I do genuinely love beautiful things. I admire the craftsmanship of a well-knit sweater, the smell of a thick book, the pleasant weight of a nice new candle in my hand. But by the same token, I often feel shame afterwards — shame that I get such pleasure from a material item (am I shallow? vain?) and shame that again, I proved too weak for a shiny new trinket.

Growing up, I didn’t get a lot of new things. Now that I am doing well for myself, I worry that I am acting like a starving animal at a buffet – hoarding, high on the sensation of plenty. I worry because it’s not sustainable – financially and emotionally. This pleasure doesn’t last. I worry because I feel that I’m trying to fill a void with the wrong stuff. I worry what I’ll do when I no longer have the means to fill that void with expensive toys.

This month, I’ve made a goal to abstain from all clothing and beauty purchases. (Unless they are replacements for empty/broken things I truly use every day, like undershirts or foundation.) If I succeed, I get to buy one thing that tempted me this month. I’d like to see if I can do two months, maybe more.

What I hope to accomplish:

  1. Spend in a more intentional way. Things are not filler. I want my things to be honored, used and cherished.
  2. Find new ways to satisfy the craving to buy new things. So far, I’ve found that engaging in something creative — reading, journaling, sketching — helps to soothe the anxiety I feel when a new “gotta-have-it” craving kicks in. I also revisit old purchases that I’ve made, and try to appreciate them like I did when I fell in love in the store.
  3. Cultivate a less guilt-ridden relationship with money. Ideally, I would like to be able to buy good quality things at fair prices, and not feel any shame about it afterwards. Whether that means dollar-store cleaning supplies and thrift store jeans or a rare shopping splurge on a girls’ weekend and a beautiful date night meal. That sounds like freedom to me.

still getting the hang of Christmas

I’m spending this early December thinking of the role I want the Christmas season to play in my adult life. Cocktail parties with gold-speckled champagne flutes? My home full of lights and pine needles, friends, card games, Christmas music and mulled wine? Holding hands by the big Christmas tree downtown on the way to the theater? Or maybe an understated — and decidedly pagan — Yule observance spent by the hearth: soft, warm, quiet.

Christmas is rarely easy, isn’t that so? It isn’t for me, anyway. Expectations. (I guess, much like the ones I’m setting up right now.) Hallmark movies and glittering childhood memories that were never made to be lived up to. Our parents really set us up for a lifetime of disappointment with that Santa Claus thing, didn’t they? No December 25th could ever come close to the magic of a believer’s Christmas Eve, that transcendent moment before you bound down the stairs on Christmas morning. Every Christmas since feels like pressing on a faded bruise, landing on old injury that never healed right. The site of a child’s first betrayal, first broken faith. (If they’re lucky, anyway.)

And so I sit by the tree and nurse every heartbreak of mine that never quite healed with a glass of eggnog and bourbon. I do my best to smile through the stories and the familiar old movies and the platters of cheese. I watch the children and try to feel their joy. I tell myself I’m happy, and I suppose I am, but I am also so very sad.

What I do know is that I want music. Laughter. Warmth. The warmth of bodies, the warmth of a house to be welcomed home to, warmth of the food we share with the people we love. The people who love us in our party dresses the night before and the people who love us the next morning, undereye circles and coffee by the window. Bright white sky, early winter light.

This year, I don’t want to feel the ache of Christmases gone, but maybe that’s part of the deal. Living with the hole that joy leaves in your heart once it’s gone. Gently place a sprig of holly there, say a quiet thanks.

5 Things I’m Not Buying: October Edition

I’ve realized just how well retail therapy works on me. As a college student, it used to be a tube of nail polish at the end of a particularly hard day of classes, or a particularly gray streak of winter days. (By graduation, my nail kit needed two hands to lift.) Three or four dollars and an instant antidepressant was mine. A new shade of the rainbow now in the palm of my hands, I’d turn the tube of glass over and over again in the pocket of my winter coat on the walk home, savoring the feeling of it in my fingers while dopamine surged through my body.

Years later, lifestyle creep has reared its ugly head. First, I treat myself to an expensive lipstick every few months, maybe a pedicure. Then it’s a shiny trinket in the “sale” section of a website that I just have to have. A $40 thrill. A $15 tiki cocktail in a novelty glass on a weekday, and then another.  An expensive sundress that isn’t on sale at all. (But oh, it takes my breath away when I slice open the package on my doorstep. Linen and the promise of a better version of myself.) And still, it’s not enough. There’s always another bad day.

1. I don’t need a new dress for every wedding that I attend. I love buying a new outfit for a wedding. I take it as a style challenge, painstakingly crafting a new aesthetic for each event. A seaside wedding is an excuse for a coral off-shoulder A-line dress and pearl drop earrings, while the hip industrial loft reception means I pretty much have to buy a pair of vintage gold block heels.

I’m 25 – I attend a lot of weddings. Five this year. That’s five $50-$100 dresses, not including the one I had to purchase as a bridesmaid. That is insane. Someone else’s wedding is not a red carpet event. This weekend I attended a lovely, intimate New England wedding. I could have used that as an excuse to go full Moonrise Kingdom on Modcloth, but instead I wore one of the beautiful dresses already hanging in my closet — and I felt great.

2. There is no miracle skincare product to end all skincare products. Reading about the skincare routines of my favorite actresses and bloggers is one of my guilty pleasures. Suddenly, I’m talking myself into a Vitamin C serum, a turmeric scrub and a bee venom face mask that I ‘m convinced will take my glow to the next level. (Can I just say: Whoever started stealth-marketing face masks as a guilt-free purchase in the name of “self care” is a goddamn genius.)

3. Paying $100 for prescription-less glasses.  This is especially hilarious because I am still paying off my LASIK surgery. That’s right. I don’t even need glasses anymore! After years of coke-bottle lenses that warped my facial features and gave me headaches, I’m dying to pick a pair of glasses that are actually cute for autumn. I will not buy $100 frames just as an accessory. I held out for a sale on eyebuydirect.com, and purchased two frames for $40.

4. Fancy airport meals. I have started to treat an overpriced airport lunch with two glasses of wine as a necessary expense of traveling, instead of a fun treat for myself on vacation. I travel a lot, both for work and for play, and I want to recommit to my thrifty student travel days — pack snacks, and save the booze for happy hour.

5. Fall candles. Wood and spice scented candles are my kryptonite, and they are everywhere. I am still burning through some from last season! I won’t buy anymore until I’m out of the candles I already own, or unless I pay off all my credit cards in full this month.

meditation on virgo

Virgo is sexy and possessed. Woman-made lingerie while pouring a glass of wine and buttering a croissant with pesto from the garden over the sink.

Self-reflect. Summer winds down into its best, most dog-day iteration. Long, sweaty evenings watching dusk fade with a chill you haven’t felt in months. The perfect time to introspect.

Fall in love again. Not quite the same love as in the heat of summer (sweat making a tight tee a little see-through, a few too many Cuba Libres, a dance floor rendezvous), but the kind of love found in quiet companionship and things unsaid. Fall in love with your partner, fall in love with your sister, fall in love with your cat, fall in love with yourself.

I’ve felt the shift into Virgo so strongly — I feel more focused on work (both in my career and in my personal life), more productive, more able to visualize my goals. I feel a little more grounded, a little more present. I love an earth sign. Not quite on purpose, I had an earthy symbol tattooed on me as we shifted into Virgo. That feels right.

August was incredibly difficult for me, in ways I couldn’t have predicted. At a few points last month, I felt sure that I had been lost. I see now how the work I have been doing on myself steadied me, even when I didn’t realize it. Trust. I am learning to trust the process, trust my guides, trust myself.

water sign #mood

 

this year, i am reveling in cancer season. this is new for me — stubborn earth sun sign, impatient fire moon sign. maybe it’s my cancer partner (and he is oh so very cancer), but during this cycle, are falling into place through water, through outpourings of emotion, through indulging in nostalgia, through holing up in sacred home spaces.

i write this from the seashore, and it’s amazing how *new* i feel in the space of a few days. i ground in the sand while watching the little ones in the waves, the sound of the surf in my ears. the sun makes me feel alive, tired, radiant. my life in fluorescent offices and in the shades of high rises makes me forget that I feel most myself with a bronzed glow on my cheeks.

(come back  from the shore, take a shower, paint on coral lips and a little black dress for a night out. a live band, a glass or three of white wine and the shrimp and scallop pasta dish.)

am i fulfilled, am i content, am i free of fear and self-doubt and anxiety? no, no, hell no. but i’m feeling a little more present, and that feels like a gift right now. (a present? ha.)