2018: Self-Care & A Safe Space

I’ve been trying to write this for about a week now.

But every time I try to finish, life and work seem to interrupt … which, I suppose, is part of the theme of this post.

So if you’ll indulge me for a bit, let me get this out of my system — and I am a bit cranky, so you’ve been warned.

I’ve been feeling a bit overwhelmed for the past week and half.

December — which, if you celebrate the holidays, can be a stressful time for anyone — just felt more exhausting than usual.

For starters, my workplace has been going through considerable changes over the past few months. What I originally thought could be a chance to take on a little more work and improve my skills, has become a frustrating grind. It’s a struggle to keep up at times, and occasionally I’m finding it tricky to concentrate on multiple tasks at once. This could just be a bumpy adjustment period which still could turn out to be positive. But right now, it doesn’t feel that way.

I was also psyching myself up for Christmas … but when I wasn’t procrastinating, I was  rushing around and running errands. And it was also holiday party season, so I felt like I was pushing myself to be social – even on days when I wasn’t in the mood and preoccupied with all the tasks I had to get done before Christmas.

Then, add several days of jury selection to the mix. In hindsight, it wasn’t as bad as I thought, but it definitely threw me off schedule.

So I’m currently having a bit of mental fatigue. I’m genuinely wondering if I’m mildly burned out.

In an ideal world, I’d take some sort of leave of absence. But as a household of one, and with the cost of living continuing to rise, the economics to do so isn’t really in my favour.

So, how to deal?

Well … I wanted to start the year with a self-imposed social moratorium (excluding a previous commitment) for a week or two — just to collect my thoughts, rest and recharge, and re-organize. I need to start taking care of myself again, so I can get my act together. Perhaps this might be something I’ll have to do more than once this year. But we’ll see how this month goes.

Speaking of re-organizing …

From time to time, people ask me from time to time how my apartment is. I mean, it’s still in a good location, and it serves its function by giving me shelter and the things I need on days I don’t have to go out into the world. But when I look around, my surroundings aren’t exactly inspiring. A more fitting word would be “underwhelming”.

Recently I came across this skit (on one of my favourite late-night programs), and it’s giving me a bit of inspiration:

I like the idea of a safe space, of being able to escape the harsh, tiresome world — in real life or online — by turning my apartment key and opening the door to my own little oasis.

If you think about it, that’s what your living quarters should be – not just the space that holds your crap but your home and, what’s more, a safe space or an oasis.

Of course, part of having an oasis or refuge is having a space that’s relatively clean. I started 2018 with my apartment looking like this:

If cluttered spaces denote cluttered minds and cause stress, then it’s no wonder my apartment looks like what happens when mild anxiety vomits up Christmas.

Currently, it looks something like this:

Slightly less crap, but still very much a bit of a hot mess.

I’m not looking to redecorate (yet), but I think de-cluttering and purging, a bit at a time over the next little while, would be a practical start in helping me decompress.

Even putting on my big girl pants, getting on my knees and scrubbing my oven and fridge would probably make a world of difference.

If I’m going to be a little less stressed, then perhaps coming home to a cleaner space would help me decompress.

Baby steps.

 

 

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2018: Back to Square One.

So. That last year felt a little long, yeah?

As I mentioned a couple of days ago, I think my 2017 was pretty decent.

But where I excelled at and achieved some things, others – particularly the objectives that were of the “everyday” variety – I let completely slide off course.

It’s not a bad thing. But I could do better.

So, like a lot of people do every January, I’m hitting the reset button and starting again.

I don’t set resolutions because I know myself — the moment I say the word “resolution”, I’ve already played myself.

I like and appreciate the concept of a vision board. But if you saw the state of my apartment (which you will in my next post), you’d know why I don’t have one.

So, this blog will serve as the place where I’ll set my intentions. Based on personal experience, putting them out into the universe (or the ether — your mileage may vary) seems to have worked in the past — sort of like a cosmic Post-It. If I write them down, maybe they’ll settle into my subconscious.

**cracks knuckles**

I’m going to make a better effort to practice self-care when I need it, whether to re-group, rest or recover. And I’m going to create the safe space in which to do so.

I’m going to start taking better care of myself, health-wise. (I could lump this under “self-care”, but in this case, I won’t.)

I’m going to find another creative outlet, in addition to the podcast.

I’m going to find — and participate in — a special project at work. It will be something I enjoy, and perhaps yield some pleasantly surprising results/benefits. 

I will not travel anywhere this winter, but I will make the best of this harsh weather, and will make up for it later. (Don’t ask me where or when. I don’t know, and I’m going to let things happen organically.)

After a bit of a dry spell, I’m going to have a couple of breakthroughs in my family research. Perhaps it’s actual facts related to ancestors, or maybe a new resource that proves to be extremely useful. But it’s going to give me hope and set my brain on fire.

Whatever else that will be, will be. I expect to learn lessons that will be character-building (in a positive way), and I hope to still enjoy the year as it goes along.

Considering what might be coming down the pipe on parts of this planet (and I sincerely hope there are better things in store than in 2017), I need to find things that make me genuinely excited.

Here goes nothing.

2017: Where I’ve Been.

Almost a year ago, I took up my annual tradition of typing out what I wanted to do in the months ahead.

I had a freezer full of food. I had plans to go places. I was cautiously hopeful, but confident that I was going to be Doing The Things and writing about them as I went along.

And then … I ghosted.

Yeah. I’m afraid it’s become a trend for me the past couple of years.

So, what did I do with all that time away from this blog?

Well, to start on a positive note, I did go places.

The last time I posted, I was making plans to head to Montreal for my 40th birthday – and I did, with six of my friends. It was a low-key sightseeing-and-eating affair. No complaints here – at least, not from me.

A few weeks later, I took off to Cambodia for two weeks, seeing new towns and temples, side-stepping scooters, riding down long, winding rivers, taking in as much of Angkor Wat in a day and a half as was humanly possible, eating great food, exploring a cave or two, losing my handbag and getting it back — all while travelling in the company of six other human beings.

That probably would have satisfied my travel bug for the year.

But I also squeezed in a short hop to Las Vegas in May for a few days of drinking, slot-playing, canyon-hiking and club-hopping, and I finally visited Prince Edward County with one of my good friends — small towns, wineries and scenery packed into a few days.

What else?

Work’s been … okay. It’s been okay. I set out to change things, and over the course of the year, things have gone through their own set of changes. It’s affected what I do a little, but I’m fumbling along and trying to adjust like everyone else.

My main creative outlet turned out to be this podcast that I’ve done with my friends for the past couple of years. It’s still a work in progress, and we’ve come a considerable way from where we first started. But it’s turned out to be my only creative outlet. My motivation to write – which I’d hoped would catch fire, or at least start smoldering – was pushed to the back burner.

Okay, who am I kidding? I shoved it at the back of the freezer, next to that 8-month-old piece of apple pie I forgot to eat.

Speaking of freezers …

I did try to batch-cook a number of my meals ahead of time. But just as often – if not more – I was throwing my wallet at fast-food joints. Especially this month. I did exercise – and still try to – but it’s been in fits and starts. Sometimes, I’d hit a groove with exercise, but then strain something … which meant scaling back on the workouts … which then gave way to my disinterest regular in exercise.

And my sugar monster is enormous and just as present as ever.

One step forward, four steps back.

Well. I did say I was going to fail. Hell, I’m failing now.

But I’m not going to beat myself up over what I did and didn’t do.

Today, I’m going to get myself to work and try to take things one moment at a time, and do the best I can.

I’m sure it’ll be just fine. And if it’s not, I’ll just remind myself that I never have to repeat it.

After all, tomorrow’s a new day – and a new year.

 

Doing The Things 2017: Goin’ Places

It’s no secret that – if I have the time and funds – I enjoy travelling.

Last March, I visited Cuba (just after about-to-be-former President Obama, but around the time of the big Rolling Stones concert in Havana), touring the central part of the island with a small group.

Despite the crappy trip manager in charge of our group, it was a fun experience, and I appreciated both Havana and the smaller towns I had the privilege imag0897.jpgof visiting.

My next trip wasn’t until November, when I spent a weekend in Montreal – with a huge group of people I knew – for a friend’s birthday.

I’d been a couple of times before, but this time was different. It was my first time visiting Montreal in the fall. And we arrived the day after folks learned that Leonard Cohen died, so you could just sense the mood in the crisp November air.

It had been 13 years since my last visit,  but this felt like the first time that I actually walked around and took in my surroundings.

Which brings me to right now.

For the last couple of years or so, I always want my ideal travel intentions to be trips that take me out of the city, out of the province, and out of the country (not necessarily on the same trip).

So, I’m getting off to a running start in 2017.

On Friday, while events unfold south of the border, a group of friends and I are hot-footing it to Montreal.

Yes, I was just there. But months before my friend’s birthday plans – at my last birthday – I had already decided I’d be celebrating my 40th birthday differently.

Admittedly, I’ve found the whole planning/reserving process for accommodations and restaurants stressful. I’m used to organizing travel plans for myself. But I hope from here on in, it’ll be fun and easy.

Then about three weeks after that, I’ll be headed to Asia for a two-week tour. And by “Asia”, I only mean one country, which I’ll reveal later. But it’s somewhere that’s been on my travel list for at least 15 years. Let’s see how I handle finally being there.

As for my out-of-town adventure? We’ll see what the year brings. I’d love to check out an area like Prince Edward County, but where I’ll end up is anyone’s guess.

What are your travel plans for 2017? Will you be staying local? Are you knocking any destinations off your “to-go” list? Planning any road trips? I’d love to hear what you’ve got in the works!

**Photos posted above are mine. Please don’t use without permission.

 

 

 

Doing The Things 2017: My Well-Being

In the back of my mind, I earnestly thought I was going to start 2017 on the right foot, food-wise.

Who was I kidding.

What actually started my year was a ton of holiday leftovers: turkey, ham, shortbread cookies and homemade Jamaican patties from my mom …

And two sandwich bags full of homemade lemon loaf and French toast (which I normally never eat), brought home from a New  Year’s Day brunch I attended.

The post-holiday food festival continued with dinners out – my Kryptonite, because greasy restaurant food is soooooo tasty. Add to that a wicked sweet tooth, which is a challenge all by itself. So of course, my waistline is paying dearly.

I have to get my appetite (and bank account) in check. I also don’t want to encourage my body to start growing more fibroids so soon after my recent surgery, because of my eating habits.

And after two tiring days in supermarkets and my kitchen this is, I hope, the start of my rehabilitation:

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I want to give myself less of an excuse to hit the food court/vending machine/fast food joint when I’m at home or work. I don’t cook sophisticated meals, plus I hate the amount of time it takes to prep food for meals. But perhaps keeping my freezer stocked with something, anything, could slowly reduce (not eliminate, because that’s impossible) my terrible food habits, and help me to enjoy cooking, not see it as a huge chore.

(One future goal: to cook and freeze a meal or two before I go travelling, so that when I return, I don’t spend my post-travel recovery period eating burgers and pizza, as I have in the past.)

In the exercise department … my physical activity has been non-existent during the last five months (save for walks). Two or three of those months were due to post-surgery recovery (hence the walking). The rest was because of a complete lack of motivation (save for exercises during my physio appointments).

So last Tuesday afternoon, I got off my backside, put on my workout clothes, and trudged to a fitness class. Then on Thursday morning, I huffed and puffed my way through another class.

This is where I’ll start, to re-establish a routine. Upcoming travel plans will disrupt my exercise schedule until March, but some activity’s better than none, right?

It’s going to be tough. I’m going to fail. Hell, I’ve already failed this week.

But if, for each time I fall off the wagon, I can cut down on the amount of time it takes me to hop back on, those will be small victories I’ll gladly take.

2017: Do The Thing.

When I last posted, I’d just written about the latest in my family research, and had threatened to write about my latest travels.

The would-be distant relative never told me what he found out.

And then I didn’t write anything else for almost 8 months.

Oops.

So, here we are. Two days into a new year. And time to write about things I’d like to see happen this year.

Since I haven’t said much of anything for about two-thirds of the last year, I thought I’d first refresh my memory by re-reading what I’d written around this time last year.

I wouldn’t say that the goals I had were impossible to achieve. But given how many, man, was that ambitious.

I did end up visiting Cuba and Montreal, and went car-camping one weekend with friends, so that was okay, travel-wise. I did make more meals for myself, but also ate my fair share of fast food in equal measure.

The ukulele I had borrowed from a friend about 3 years ago (as a resolution-on-a-whim) only made into my hands a couple of times. I recently returned to it to its rightful owner – which she gifted to her 4-year-old son, who’s starting lessons this month.

And a number of my choices and intentions were affected by surgery I had in last August to remove fibroids (17 of ’em).

Exercise and food choices – for at least a few months – took a turn for the better … but partially (okay, mostly) prompted by the co-worker who asked me one day in May if I was pregnant. After some reading on my own, I decided to approach my exercise/food challenge as a way to prepare my body for surgery and recovery.

Meanwhile, things regarding my career took a backseat because of the amount of time I needed to take off work.

On the creative side, I did do a bit of writing (even if was mainly on this blog, and only for a few months), and worked on the podcast project with my friends did carry on for a couple of months, before a lengthy hiatus. We just recently tried to pick things up again, but it’s been much slower than last season getting back on the horse. We’ll see how things turn out for this new season.

All of this to say, there were some small successes, and some failures (or, perhaps, goals deferred).

Recently a fellow member of a Facebook group I’m part of, asked what our New Year’s resolutions/intentions were for 2017.

Some posted little things. Others posted bigger, more long-term goals.

I thought about it for a bit, then wrote: “If I tell myself I’m going to do something, actually *do* it — not say, “You know, I should really do x”, and then dither until I lose interest/don’t do it at all. Just do better, in general.”

Because it doesn’t matter if I say, “I’m going to finally de-clutter that box I’ve wanted to unpack for the last 3 years”, or if I say, “I’m going to volunteer for that soup kitchen whose mandate I admire”, if what then follows is inaction.

If I ever ask myself or my friends, “Do I want to go to the gym?” or “Do I want to cook instead of ordering take-out?” it means I don’t really want to do it. So I shouldn’t waste my time with the psychological dance.

But my goal/intention/whatever-you-want-to-call-it for 2017 is to Do The Thing – even if it’s the tiniest of tasks.

If I’m looking at a pile of old magazines and saying (either out loud or to myself), “I should really go through those and toss some out”, then what’s my next step? To keep staring at the pile, or get off my backside?

If I’m looking at myself in the mirror and think I should lose 20 pounds (like I did a few years ago), then how should I tackle how to get there?

Do I want to travel to, say, Ethiopia? Yes. So what I am going to do to get myself there?

Look, I’m not saying anything revolutionary. There will be days when I don’t want to do any of The Things. At all. But that’s fine. That’s the joy of being an autonomous adult.

But I hope I realize those are probably days to take a breather from Doing The Things and Take Care of Me.

As long as I don’t go overboard and take approaches to things that might get me closer to success to failure, then perhaps to Do The Thing is to finally succeed.

Even though none of us really know what 2017 really has in store for any of us, I hope this is the year that you finally Do The Thing you’ve been putting off, and that you triumph.

Best of luck!

D’s 2016 Travel Shortlist

As the new year unfolds and I sock a little money away in my bank account, my mind swims with thoughts of travel.

I want to be a little more ambitious with this year’s destinations. But given the direction the Canadian dollar seems to be sliding, I’m not sure how successful I’ll be.

(Eh. I’ve always had lousy timing.)

Maybe a series of fortunate events will lead me to a one-time gift from one of those Powerball winners? Ehhhh?  **shrugs**

Anyway … here are some places I’ve thought about visiting this year:

Sri Lanka. Very high on my list. I’ve never been to Asia, but a conversation with a friend who went there 7 or 8 years ago left me interested in finding out more. And why not? It would be a good place to start. I’d be aiming to go in the fall.

Cuba. I was last there in 2005. A friend and I stayed at an all-inclusive resort in Veradero in mid-July. (Never do that. Unless you really don’t mind feeling like rotisserie chicken.) It was nice getting away for a week. But when we booked a day-trip to Havana through our resort, the results were, well … mediocre. I felt a bit short-changed. I like to move around a country if I’m going to visit. Winter’s finally arrived, but it’d be nice to take a break in, say, March — maybe book a tour and go for 8 or 9 days — and see the sites before big changes sweep the island.*

Colombia. There’s been an uptick in travel here in the past few years. And I have this secret attraction to Fernando Botero‘s artwork and sculptures. Plus, I have a friend who lived there for a good year and a half. I always told myself I wouldn’t go to South America without properly learning some Spanish beforehand. But I’m willing to make an exception.

Washington, D.C. It’s not that far. I’ve never seen the White House in person (but know where its limestone came from), and the number of museums in one place is a nerd’s dream come true.

New Orleans. Other than visiting family in Florida, I’ve never really been to the South. Of the people I know who’ve been to NOLA, I can’t recall anyone saying they left disappointed. And it just seems like a really interesting place to visit, historically and culturally.

Louisville, Kentucky. Okay, this one’s a bit random. I first read about it a few years ago on a list of “underrated places to visit”. A couple of my friends took a road trip down to Louisville and they had a good time. Also: bourbon.

New York. Like Cuba, I’ve been here before. I never seem to get enough of it. There’s no such thing as “not enough to do” here, so it always seems like there’s unfinished business. If I went this year, it would be for these reasons: Hamilton (c’mon, wealthy Powerball benefactor) or Eclipsed, and a meal at Red Rooster Harlem. I’M NOT PLAYING.

Montreal. The last time I set foot in this city, I was 26, my friend Dave lived and worked there, and the Jazz Festival was in full swing. Montreal in the summer is magic. But honestly, I don’t need it to be summer for me to visit, and see some of the sites I missed last time. Added incentive: If you recall my family research  (no? start here), my mysterious, elusive great-aunt lived and worked here. It’d be neat to physically see some of the streets (and maybe some of the houses), perhaps do a day or two of sleuthing, in the flesh.

Vancouver. Straight up, I’ve never been to the West Coast or seen the Rockies. This would tick off both boxes.

Manitoulin Island or Pelee Island. One requires you to take a ferry called the Chi-Cheemaun to get to it. The other boasts the southernmost point in Canada. Both are beautiful, and are right here in Ontario. Visiting either location would be lovely.

There’s NO WAY I intend to knock all of these off my list. But if I manage to do at least two, even with a low loonie, I’ll be pleased.

*A recent check of some tour companies tell me this is probably not possible.

**Reminder: I’m part of a one-month writing challenge, as are my friends Renée and Kath – just click on their names to check out their excellent work!**