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.

 

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.

Let’s Go(al) #4: Try New Things.

I recently went to the bookstore and – on a whim – bought Shonda Rhimes’ book, Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand in the Sun and Be Your Own Person.

I hope to start reading it soon, but — according to the description on the inside flap — it’s Shonda’s account of what happens when she (an introvert) takes something her sister says to heart and spends a year saying “yes” to things she would normally say “no” to.

It’s getting me thinking.

Perhaps I should use this year to try different things, things I would normally say “no” to.

Compared to Shonda Rhimes, I’d probably describe myself as more of an extrovert. I do say “yes” to some things. And no, I certainly don’t think I need to read a book by a top Hollywood TV producer to just learn to say “yes” to things. It’s not a new concept; people the world over have — at some point — tried this exercise, with varied (and sometimes surprising) results.

Regarding the book, I’m a fan of Rhimes’ work, so I’m genuinely curious to see how things worked out for her.

But personally, as (relatively) good as my life is, I admit it’s getting a wee bit staid. Every once in a while, I need to shake things up, give myself a jolt, keep it interesting.

What kinds of things? Hmm. Good question. Perhaps it’s as simple as doing something that I haven’t done in a while.

For example: On Monday evening, I signed myself up for a 30-day pass to a yoga studio. I’ve done yoga before, but usually, it’s a one-time event. I want to see if I can do it on a regular basis, to help with some minor back issues I’ve had (which isn’t helped by long periods of sitting at work). If I stick with it, all the better. If it doesn’t, at least I’ve tried.

Oh, here’s another: My friend Renée found a set of writing challenges people can try to improve their writing, or get into the exercise of writing regularly.

She asked if I wanted to try blogging once every day this year.

You’ve all seen what my writing habits are like. But I’ve said yes. Truthfully I don’t know if I can do it, but I’ll give it a try (and I hope you’ll come and visit me here if I do do this).

But there are other things that I should open myself up to trying.

Maybe I’ll try another con like I did that one time in 2012 (scroll down that post to skim).

Perhaps it’s volunteering.

Or semi-spontaneously travelling somewhere for a weekend. (I’m not a spontaneous traveller.)

Or maybe it’s finding myself in the middle of salsa dancing …

These are purely examples, not real things I’m aiming to do. But who really knows?

At least once this year, I have to push myself just a little bit outside my comfort zone, say yes, and travel down a rabbit hole that isn’t virtual and doesn’t lead me to YouTube.

Whether the result is glorious or disastrous, it would be a life experience. (And those things also make for great stories, no?)

What about you?

Is there anything you’re trying or wanted to try, but never got around to it? Let me know in the comments!

 

 

Let’s Go(al) #3: Get Outta Here.

If you know me personally – or have visited my blog – you’ll know that I enjoy travelling. Especially if it’s off the North American continent.

Last year, I did a couple of short trips state-side and to Jamaica (respectively) — primarily to visit members of my extended family that I hadn’t seen in months or years.

It was nice. It was great to take a week or two off, and just get away from things.

But as much as I liked and appreciated seeing my family, there was something missing …

The sense of discovery. The act of going by myself to a place where I don’t know a soul. The feeling of being a bit uncomfortable or unsure of what to expect. The exercise of figuring out where I am, and where I’m going, without getting lost. Or even the ability of letting myself get lost and finding my way out of it.

It’s been more than two years since I’ve flown more than a few hours to get somewhere … and the itch is intense.

Add to that the fact that I’m part of an online group of black travellers, whose jet-setting ways put me to utter shame and leave me speechless.

If I what I have is simply a travel bug, then they have a full-blown travel syndrome.

They’re expert packers! They jump on glitch fares like cats on mice!  I’m simultaneously envious and in awe when I read their anecdotes and look at photos of their travels.

So, it’s time.

My goal this year is to:

Go on one big trip. Right now, it’s a toss-up between Sri Lanka, Ethiopia or Colombia, later in the year.

Go on at least one short-hop trip. Maybe I’ll go back to New York. Or perhaps I’ll stop in Montreal or another Canadian city that I’ve never been to. Or maybe I’ll finally get down to Washington. Or New Orleans! The possibilities are endless. (What’s not endless, however, is my bank account.)

Leave room for a surprise trip. I’m mulling one over as I type this. It all depends on the timing and the bank balance in my savings account. And that’s all I’m saying for now.

Your turn.

Have any travel plans? Is there a destination you’re considering this year? Are you looking to knock a city or country off your bucket list? Or are you just going with the flow and playing it by ear? Maybe we can inspire each other. Leave me a comment below!

 

Let’s Go(al) #2: Make More Things

So as I mentioned in a previous post, my friends and I started our own podcast in the fall.

(By the way, you can listen to our latest episode right here!)

It was mainly born out of a yearning to be more creative, and to have ownership over something that I helped create.

It’s been a lot of work, but it’s been fun meeting up with my friends once every couple of weeks to record our thoughts, peeves, discussions of issues, and my friend Kath’s movie reviews.

I’ve also really enjoyed the process of editing our episodes, so they sound a bit slicker. (That’s despite the number of hours it takes to edit those episodes. I’m hoping that I get faster with time.)

This year, I’d like to do even more creating of things … and sending those out into the world to share with others.

Perhaps that will consist of the writing I was supposed to do more of last year (but didn’t quite achieve).

Maybe I’ll finally, FINALLY carve out some time to learn how to play my friend’s ukelele. (I might need to try a one-on-one approach to kickstart that, rather than trying to concentrate on teaching myself on YouTube.)

Or maybe I’ll try making my own baked goods for a change, instead of just buying and eating them.

Whatever I end up doing, I hope that the end result can be to continue doing something I enjoy and appreciate when I’m not working.

And who knows? Perhaps my creative pursuits can help me out in other areas of my life.

What about you? Are there any creative hobbies/pursuits you might consider taking up in 2016? Any reasons as to what has prevented you from doing so before? Let me know in the comments!

2016: Let’s Go.

Hello. It’s me …

Calm down. I’m not going to type out entire Adele lyrics. (I love Adele. But still.)

But I do want to apologize for the very, very long silence.

First and foremost, I haven’t had any more breakthroughs with my family research – online or otherwise – so there’s been nothing to really write about. It seems I’ve hit a brick wall – or brick walls, plural. My dream of surprising my mom with a self-published book about her aunt’s life, is a dream deferred (if it’s fulfilled, ever).

My personal life – while relatively pleasant – has also been pretty mundane since the summer, so no inspiration for writing there.

Secondly: I’ve been working with two of my friends on a podcast!

I first made the suggestion to one of my friends back in the late spring of 2014, after an evening of drinking. She thought it was a great idea, and our other friend seemed mildly amused by the notion. But after a week or so of trying to encourage things to move forward, nothing.

Fast-forward to last summer, when out of the blue, my friend (newly – and, unfortunately – laid off from a job) said, “So, how about that podcast?”

You could’ve knocked me over with a feather.

We finally launched our conversational podcast, Sip & Bitch, in late October. We’ve got six episodes so far, which you can stream via Soundcloud or download from iTunes.

What do we talk about? Pop culture, movies, or whatever else tickles our fancy … while drinking.

Some topics are things we’ve thought or talked about, as women in our late 30s/early 40s. We’re still new to podcasting, so production’s basic and we’re trying to work out the various kinks. But we’re still learning and don’t mind a little feedback, so check us out! Our email address is sippers.bottlereturn@gmail.com.

(If you’ve got tender ears or an aversion to coarse language, you’ll probably want to skip it.)

As is my almost-yearly tradition with this blog, I usually start my first post of the year with a super-long screed outlining my long-term goals and wishes for the year (because I hate making resolutions I’ll break in less than a week).

But rather than bore you with 1,700 words in one shot – and in an effort to motivate myself to write more – I’m going to break things up, and share my goals over several entries.

So check back here in the coming days, and I’ll fill you in goal by goal.

I will say this, though: Things were relatively good, but in some ways, I did feel as if I spent part of 2015 stuck in second gear. I’ll be 39 (THIRTY-NINE!) in just over three weeks. It’d be nice if I could make this victory lap really count before I kiss my 30s goodbye. And, taking age out of the mix, I’m sure some of you have felt the same.

So while the dewy newness of 2016 is still on us, let’s pledge to do one thing: take that goal/resolution/however you define it – that thing or things you’ve been dragging your feet and avoiding for months, if not years – and do it. Or at least, take a crack at it. Success or failure means nothing if you haven’t even tried.

Let’s GO.

2014: Do Better.

Here we are again, kids. Another January of a brand-new year. And it’s a proper one, with cruel, biting cold and the whole blustery bit.

But as I reflect in the moments when I’m not pulling on my thermal tights, I think about 2013, and honestly, I can’t complain. It was pretty decent.

My health was fairly good, except for a period in the fall. I got to travel, both with friends and family. People gave me a couple of brief opportunities to pursue something I wanted at work (albeit, with mixed results).

But in terms of blogging about my adventures, I’ve been woefully inconsistent. And I only have myself to blame.

So, in the spirit of the new year, I’m going to try it again, this time with … an attempt at a bit more concentration.

And I’ll start by resurrecting my yearly “goal” list.

I have ideas of what I want to strive for, and even went to my last list – written in 2012 – for inspiration. I realize I seem to be hoping for things that are very similar to that previous list.

Oh, well. Screw it.

I need to pull up my socks a bit. Especially since I’m in less than a week away from my  37th (THIRTY-SEVENTH?!) birthday. I’m a grown woman. I need to do better.

Sleep better. I feel this might at the crux at a number of things. Not only physical and mental health, but perhaps something as simple as punctuality? I’m wildly inconsistent – sleeping anywhere between four and seven hours a night, five or six days a week. I should be crazed. (Who knows?  – I probably AM. I’ve already been called “weird”.) But I need to find a way to break the habit of spending late nights trawling the Internet and watching TV, for fear of missing out. I know I can find out about it on Facebook/Twitter/Tumblr/BuzzFeed like everyone else. We’ll see.

Find a better home. I’ve lived in my present apartment for over two years now. And for about the first 18 months, it was decent,  a couple things notwithstanding. But then, they started to visit. Cockroaches. Mostly they’d show up in my kitchen or bathroom. Then they’d turn up in random places. At the bottom of my laundry hamper. Or, as recently as a couple of months ago, perching on my forearm while I tried to watch a movie. To their credit, my superintendents have been trying to fight this problem like no one’s business. And for now, the almost-daily visits have slowed to a crawl, so to speak. But it’s only a matter of time before they return. It’s not the first time. I get that it comes with the territory of living as a renter. But before this, I lived 30+ plus years in a home (and student housing) where I’d never even seen a roach. People – not just me – DO deserve to live somewhere clean and relatively pest-free.

Look better. When it comes to sartorial matters, I feel my efforts fall around “that’ll do”, which really is only a step or two above “straight up lazy”. I work in an environment where jeans and running shoes are perfectly acceptable, and I don’t really leave the buildings for assignments all that much (and when I do, it’s right of the blue, so I can never properly anticipate). In winter, no problem. I’m wearing a sweater or layers of some sort about 90 percent of the time anyhow. And that’s fine. But spring or summer always awakens some sort of panic.  It would be nice that – by the time the snow finally melts for the season – I can step out of my abode a looking a little more put-together than the year before. This requires me combing my wardrobe and purging those things I don’t wear or use, despite me thinking they were a good idea at the time. Speaking of purging …

Get de-cluttering. I go through short phases of tidiness and order, which is eventually replaced by much longer phases of slovenliness. And did it ever rule my household of one this year! If the idea of having to pack up and move (or getting a confetti shredder from my dad for Christmas) isn’t incentive, I don’t know what is.

Eat better. By almost mid-year in 2013, I was slowly sliding down the scale with my combination of relatively sensitive eating and regular exercise. But somewhere between July’s trip to the Bahamas with friends and the holiday party season, my on-again, off-again relationship with my boyfriend Baked Goods was on like Donkey Kong. I also welcomed shameless flings with Salty Chips, Sweet ‘n Savoury Anything That Was Within Reach, and had dubious dabblings with burgers and Popeye’s Fried Chicken.  So, yeah – I’m not dealing with being Not 25 very well. The body-as-temple is swimming with wrappers, cookie bags, fast-food containers … and probably plaque. I’ll see what I can do about this. But it won’t be easy.

Handle my work/life balance a lot better.  I’m in the enviable position of working four days a week and being off for three. I work weekends, which means my “weekend” falls during the week, when people trudge back to work. I spend a lot of time cleaning, running errands, orwhen required – cooking meals for my work-week. Aside from pushing myself to exercise, I don’t do a whole lot. That includes writing. That needs to be fixed. Also, my work-life needs fixing. A change needs to happen – something longer than three weeks here or two weeks there. What that is, I don’t know – especially in this current economic climate. To be continued.

There are so many other things at which I could “be better”. But this is where I’ll leave it. And perhaps along the way, I’ll stumble across other things I need to improve and just DO it.

And if could get a “mic drop moment” here or there for incentive, that might help, too! (Are you listening, universe?) But we’ll see, right?

I hope you folks also find things to “be better” at this year – and succeed.

Onwards!