2020: A Re-Set, with Baby Steps.

Happy New Year, everyone.

Here we are again: a new year, and a start to another decade (if that’s how you choose to count it).  And now, we’re 20 years into this century. Holy crap. (Freaking out over Y2K seems so far away now, doesn’t it?)

Before I stare ahead into the abyss of a new year, I’ll briefly reflect on 2019. In short, it wasn’t bad.

I actually got off the continent and over to Sri Lanka in early spring, taking in the beauty of the island, the people, the food, the lush green, and the brilliant sunsets, just to rattle off a few things off the top of my head. (Despite the terrible attacks that took place after I left – a gut punch that lingered for days after – I think, if given a chance, I’d return to see more.)

I also had a second crack at writing an episode for the video game project I worked on in 2018 – the same episode for the same game, but re-vamped. Unlike last year, I think I felt a little less out of sorts with the deadlines this time around, as I knew I had to be disciplined with my time after work and on my days off. I’m sure there have been many changes and revisions, but it’ll be interesting to see the finished product, when it finally launches.

I did spend time with friends, although I felt I had a slightly subdued social life this past year.

Do I have the “whopping ennui” I brought with me into 2019? No … I don’t think so. But I definitely felt a little disengaged, and a bit drained, just trying to keep up with the daily grind.

I also feel as if I spent more time by myself in late November and early December. Which in a way, I think I needed.

In fact, now that January is here, I think I still do need a bit of it – at least for the next couple of weeks. Because sometime in 2019, there were just so many basic little things I stopped doing for myself.

I was reminded of this on the bus ride home from my mom’s place last night. I was listening to a podcast about how to help people tackle their problems, and I happened to be listening to the episode about how to make New Year’s Resolutions stick.

Funnily enough, the underlying point happens to be what I’ve been thinking of doing with myself this year: to pick something specific one wants to work on, and to come up with a plan as to how to tackle it, one step at a time.

And I’ve said this before – I’m not a fan of making resolutions, because I know what my degree of willpower and discipline are, and I know I would be absolutely lying to myself.

But there are some things I have in mind, that I really need to re-set and work on them slowly. Ever been at a concert where the musician creates a beat and accompanying vocals by using a looping pedal and adding their sounds, one at a time? That’s the approach I’d like take – just start with one thing, and once I’ve got that down, add another, and another. If one of those things fails? Then start that particular task again until I’m able to find a rhythm that works for me.

I’d also like to resume the little things that I used to do.

Like read books – and actually finish them. (I only read one book cover to cover, in 2019. Yikes.)

Or visit a museum or art gallery for a bit of culture. Maybe occasionally go to a karaoke bar, book a room and wail my face off. See the odd mediocre movie.

Or tackle that thing I’ve been meaning to do in my apartment for the past five, almost six years now.

All I know is that I need to get some mojo back, to have more pops of technicolor in my life, to remind myself that I’m still (relatively) young and need to find little things that give me life.

Whatever you choose to tackle in 2020, pace yourself. Be kind to yourself. Take time to do things you enjoy. And hopefully, if things fall into place (if they’re meant to), the payoff for your intended goal(s) will be huge.

Happy New Year, everyone.

 

2019: No Theme This Year. For Now.

I’m about a week late with the greetings, but Happy New Year, folks.

I know that by now, I’ve posted a long manifesto (having used the lull between Christmas and New Year’s Eve to have a good, long think), stating my intentions for the year ahead, and the things I’d like to see happen.

But if I can be perfectly frank, I simply don’t have one this year. Not at this point.

Last year, I worked. A lot. My full-time job, as well as a freelance writing job which – while new and challenging – also occupied whatever hours I wasn’t working full-time. So I was a bit frazzled.

Even when I took vacation days off work, I didn’t really feel as if I really had any time off. A lot of it was spent writing. It wasn’t until my freelance gig was put on hiatus that I was reminded that I could take some time to enjoy (the remainder of) my summer.

I realize, in writing those last two paragraphs, that I probably sound a bit ungrateful for the opportunity. I’m really not. But from a time-management standpoint, this was challenging and frustrating. And exhausted. And I lost my work-life balance.

Maybe that’s why I’m just drained from the year that just ended. Maybe I’ve got a whopping case of ennui. But I don’t really have any grand intentions for 2019.

On New Year’s Day, I got up, fixed myself my yearly stack of pancakes … joined a group of “urban explorers” for a neighbourhood walk downtown … ran home for a quick dinner … then back out again for a movie with a friend.

I’d say that was pretty good start to the new year.

But beyond that … there are wants and thoughts swimming in my brain, but it’s submerged in a soupy fog.

Perhaps my immediate strategy is to do the things I want, as I think of them.

Or maybe I’ll get some clarity in the next week or two, when I get some decent nights’ sleep.

But right now, no lists, no intentions, no goals.

Already, everyone’s making plans. But all I really want at the moment is a chance to re-calibrate and find my footing.

 

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.

 

 

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.