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.

 

Safe Space Check-in & Life with Plants (So Far)

In January, I mentioned wanting to make an effort with my living space which, if you recall, looked like this:

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I’ve been making slow steps here and there (and hitting you over the head with it), and as of several days ago, looked more like this:

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So, marginally neater. Most surfaces are still covered with paper clutter (my specialty), but I’m not stressed. It’s a marathon, not a sprint, right?

In clearing and tidying one space at a time, I’m reminded of another (tiny) issue: it looks a bit devoid of personality. Of course, it’s evident someone lives here. But who?

To perk up my apartment, I’m finally starting to invest in some indoor plants.

Apparently I’m not alone in this. The New York Times recently published this article about how millennials are filling their homes and workspaces with plants.

Until recently, I’ve only really owned a leggy dracaena plant (in the top photo) that I bought my second year of university. (I briefly had a baby aloe plant, but the lack of all-day sunlight – and no window sills – resulted in its unfortunate demise.)

The plant used to reside at my mom’s house. She had the space, the right type of light, and she’s got a super-green thumb. Then I moved, and she told me it was time to claim my friend.

Travel’s been the main reason for not having more plants. I didn’t want to wander off somewhere for two or three weeks and leave them to die from a basic lack of attention.

But since I can’t afford to go very far and my leafy companion looks bit lonely, I figured I’d try again.

I’d fully intended to start slowly – doing lots of research to make sure I got plants that were hardy, relatively low-maintenance, etc.

But one evening, my friend Renee offered me one of her spider plant babies — already a solid size with decent roots — and I happily accepted.

After I’d gotten it home and placed it in a jar of water, I briefly panicked. I had soil, but no small planters with drainage.

Enter YouTube. This enterprising green-thumbed spider plant owner was super-helpful and informative, and by the next night, voilà:

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I call my plant Val (for the cheesy Valentine Day-themed tumbler I bought from Dollarama to keep her in).

She seems to be doing well – she’s sprouted two leaves. So far, I’m doing something right.

Of course, this has now sparked a bit of an obsession.

Three weeks after bringing home my spider plant, I went browsing with a friend at Home Depot to get some ideas for other types of plants …

And against my better judgement, walked out with a lemon button fern.imag1601824270745.jpg

Now, some people say ferns are easy to care for; others say they’re among the fussiest houseplants around.

I’m doing my homework and trying my best, but let me put it this way: I don’t think I’m winning the fight to keep my fronded friend – dubbed “Vern the Fern” – alive. Vern currently doesn’t resemble the photo you see here.

Amid all of this, I’d been on the lookout for a plant that I thought was cute, but turns out to be one of the plants to own, according to Instagram and plant lovers: the pilea peperomioides, a.k.a. the Chinese money plant, missionary plant, pancake plant, etc.

When I started researching pileas, online information suggested that one’s best bet was to get a baby plant from another pilea owner, as trying to buy one can apparently cost you $30.

Thirty. Dollars. It’s like the Cabbage Patch Kid of plants.

However, one of the Facebook groups I’d joined had been (and still is) on pilea watch. The first time someone posted a sighting of baby pileas at Canadian Tire – for a fraction of the standard price – word got out and they were gone in almost no time.

The second time there was a sighting, I marched myself to the store the following afternoon and got one of the last three plants.

imag1611-1978273529.jpgFor now, I’m the proud owner of a baby pilea. About two weeks after bringing it home, bugs started emerging, so – thanks to some Facebook advice – I dumped out the soil, washed the plant and roots as well as I could, and re-potted it.

This is what it currently looks like. I’m watching it closely to make sure (a) it’s bug-free and (b) it lives. Keep your fingers crossed.

I’m currently on a break from plant collecting to make sure I can handle caring for my leafy new charges.

It’ll be a while before I successfully create my own private Wakanda – and I’m not aiming to own hundreds of plants – but I think I’m on my way to making my abode a little more homey.

 

 

Health, Adult Style

Last month, I mentioned wanting to try and do better in terms of my mental well-being, as well as the literal space I inhabit.

This month, I wanted to try to set my intentions for a few other things …

Starting with my physical well-being.

Late last year, my eating habits and physical activity spiraled. Big-time.

Instead of nourishing myself with home-cooked food — and, to be honest with you, good food in general — I ran to the nearest fast-food outlet or Starbucks, without hesitation. I treated my body like a trash can.

In the fitness department, I still went to my usual fitness studio … here and there. But I was inconsistent, at best.

And my sleeping patterns? Hoo, boy.

It’s not just staying up to watch late-night TV until I’m snoring into my chest, on my couch. YouTube is a rabbit hole I fall down on many, many nights.

In this respect, I am definitely my father’s daughter. My dad would stay up late all the time, falling asleep in front of the television, only to stumble off to bed in the middle of the night. But of course – due to some other factors (which probably wasn’t helped by his intentional sleep deprivation) – he’s no longer here.

Yes, women do tend to outlive men. But that still doesn’t mean I’m possibly not cutting my life expectancy a bit short – at least, with the things I can control. I’d like this to be the point at which my habitual path takes a detour from my dad’s.

A quick pause before I go further: This isn’t really a “I need to go to the gym and eat right and lose weight” post.

I do go to the gym (although I’m currently being booted onto class wait-lists by people going HAM on their New Year’s fitness resolutions). And when I put my mind to it, I can eat right.

My problem is, I fuelled last December’s stress with anything that was deep-fried, baked and sweet, or covered in cheese and meat. I’m pretty sure I can count the number of days that I didn’t eat take-out on one hand. But this has going on for much longer.

Also: I haven’t been 25 years old in a looong time. I might be setting the foundation for whatever health problems I could experience going forward. So I have to start scaling that back a bit.

I’m never not going to have days where I throw up my hands and empty my wallet for burgers, fries, pizza and lots of battered, fried chicken. (Mmmm. Fried chicken. **drools**)

But I think I need to learn how to handle my stress in a different way.

2018: Self-Care & Social Media

When I last posted, it felt good to write out what I was feeling. But I had no idea how many people would respond — on Facebook, through email, even in the comments section of this blog.

Thank you. It means a lot. I know I’m not the only one who has ever felt this way, but it’s good to be reminded that I’m not alone.

So … another reason that I think I’ve felt overwhelmed and a bit withdrawn, is because of some forms of social media.

Before Twitter and Instagram, I was solely on Facebook. I posted almost every day — sometimes multiple times per day. Articles I’d come across, photos from trips, the occasional funny video, whatever my heart desired.

But in the last couple of years (perhaps earlier than that), the tone … shifted.

As news events intensified, so did posts, discussions and arguments amongst people I knew and those I didn’t. Some things I’d read seemed sharp; others, almost scolding; others still, borderline mean.

So I’d manage it by muting or unfollowing for my personal mental health.

On a few occasions, friends would come into my DMs to espouse their opinions on a post where I’d left a one-word response … or vent about someone they’d locked horns with on a thread in my timeline … or intiate a conversation about a hot topic, out of the blue.

Here’s the thing: I know things can get heated, but I shouldn’t ever have to play referee in online chats. And sometimes I wish people sliding into DMs for opinion-based heart-to-hearts would check to see if I actually want to engage … not just because they need to unload their thoughts.

In this day and age, yes, we should have a more critical eye about what we read, and conversations should incorporate different points of view. Note the word “should”.  And some people do try to be civil in online discussions. But others don’t … not really.

I think things finally struck a nerve with me last spring.

One day, I posted a news article about something to a world figure. It was probably the second article I managed to look up. It didn’t take long for a Facebook friend to pipe up, asking why the media was so biased in its coverage of certain individuals.

Honestly, when I found the article, the thought didn’t even occur to me – only that the event had happened. And perhaps I misread the tone of the comment, but it came across as a bit harsh.

So after posting another article on the same subject written in a different manner and pointing that out to the critical Facebook friend (it’s a big planet, friend), something in my head simply said, enoughI’m out.

The online sniping, and having to be aware of (potentially) emotionally-draining news events as part of my job, had finally taken its toll. So last year, I posted far less. I don’t think folks have noticed, because friends still tag me in posts and photos.

These days, I find comfort in Instagram, where all I post are things I do, places I go, and occasionally things I make for myself.

Ironically, I also go to Twitter – which yes, can be more of a cesspool than Facebook … but also a place where lots of genuinely great people share fun, funny, educational, useful, poignant things — which provide some levity and perspective on days I feel more introverted.

But I know I’m not the only one who feels this way.

Last year, a couple of my friends scaled back on time they spent on sites like Twitter. At least one of them said they actually didn’t miss being online as much. Even recently, I’ve seen colleagues announce that they’re taking social media breaks.

Right now, I don’t think I need to take a break of my own. But the more I see people do it, the more I think it’s a smart idea.

As this year goes forward, I will try to remind myself that it’s okay to occasionally unplug from the chatter as needed, in the name of self-care.

Because things can get you down. And in times like these, my mental health is more valuable than any tweet, post or meme.

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.

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!