self care

Look for the Heart Shaped Pizzas

When I was in high school, I was part of my church youth group. On Wednesday nights, we would get together to worship, hear a sermon, and then hang out and talk. The boys liked to skateboard and play tag and do stunts that would make me say, “that doesn’t look safe.” And the girls would talk and shoot basketballs and try to figure out what in the world it meant to be a teenager.

I wouldn’t be unique in saying that, for me, being a teenager was hard. It was confusing and awkward and terrifying. Nothing felt normal or safe or easy. And on top of the things I was going through in my own body and mind, the world threw a few curveballs at me that really rattled my foundation.

Death, betrayal, and new levels of fear burst through the bubble I’d been living in, introducing me to dark parts of the world I wasn’t ready for. Every direction I turned had a new mountain to climb, or hole to dig out of, or an empty room to sit in that used to be full.

Each shot came at me and I took it, though I didn’t really absorb the pain, at least not in a way I was able to process. I was sad and angry and confused, but I was also 15 and 16 and 17, just trying to get that cute boy to notice me or to pass my Economics final. There were a lot of emotions competing for the surface, and the fun ones were more enticing.

One Wednesday, when I went to youth group, we met in the Fellowship Hall, which is like a banquet room. There were round tables set up and we were assigned seats. Heart shaped pizzas sat in the middle of each table. I sat down in my spot, nervous, but hungry, and listened for further instructions.

The theme of the night was love. It was sharing the hard parts of our lives so that we might be able to help one another work through, overcome, or at the very least talk about them. I peeled pepperoni off my slice of pizza and then took a big bite. A few people at my table shared before me. They talked about fighting parents, divorced parents, difficult relationships with siblings or friends. I chewed on my slice of pizza and then had another.

When it came to my turn, I took a deep breath and then started talking. I assumed it would be like giving an oral report—simply stating the facts. But once I started, I realized how heavy it had all been to hold.

“It’s just been really hard,” I said. And then I burst into tears.

This shocked everyone at my table, as no one before me had cried, or even welled up. No one at any of the surrounding tables was emotional either. But I was suddenly sobbing. My youth group leader walked over and scooped me into a hug. She rubbed my back and I cried in shuddering breaths and sniffles. I kept trying to stop, embarrassed at the scene I was making, but it just kept coming.

As I leaned into her chest, the boy beside me was asked to share. To continue the process so people would stop staring at me. I listened as he shared a story of an abusive stepparent and then I instantly stopped crying. The grief that had literally spilled out of me was instantly swallowed by shame.

I felt guilty for being so overwhelmed by what I was going through, because clearly it wasn’t as hard as what he was going through. I was embarrassed for crying. I went home exhausted.

For years afterward, I didn’t cry in front of people. I’m still not good at it. There is still a shame buried deep inside me, something that tells me that if I breakdown I will look stupid, ignorant of the realer, harder problems happening around me. It takes me right back to that moment in the Fellowship Hall, feeling like maybe I was just weak.

I say this now, with dots connected, though it took me a long time to figure it out. To pinpoint the when and the why. I used to say, with a sense of pride, “I just don’t really cry.” I used to brag that sad movies never got me. I felt tough, cool, unique. Kim doesn’t cry. She’s so strong.

But I wasn’t.

I was just burying it all. The same way I’d done in high school. And even though it’s what I wanted LEAST, I was walking around with all of that weight, all of that pain, looking for another table with a heart shaped pizza to lay it all down on.

I think for a long time I resented that day. Absolutely HATED that I cried and that I got embarrassed. I fizzled out on youth group after that, just slowly stopped going. Not only because of that night, but I think part of me was terrified it might happen again.

I spent the next decade of my life scared to cry. Scared to be vulnerable. Scared to be weak.

But more and more over the last few years I’ve realized how valid it all was. How justified. How okay. That night I needed to let it go. To let it out. To admit that what I was carrying was heavy.

And no matter what is going on in the lives around me, when something feels heavy to me, it’s heavy.

When something feels heavy to you, it’s heavy.

Being a teenager isn’t easy, but neither is being an adult. Let’s face it, as time goes on, life gets harder and things tend to just get heavier. But I’m learning now that I don’t have to run from the heart shaped pizzas asking me to sit down and lighten my load. I don’t have to pretend to be strong. Sometimes you just have to peel off a pepperoni, take a deep breath, and let it go.

It doesn’t make you weak, it just makes you honest. And when you’re honest, when you’re vulnerable, when you’re brave enough to let it go, you find strength, you find peace, and then you can grab another slice.

Permission to Stay Home

If you’re looking for it, or you know in the back of your mind that you need it, or if you’re just too afraid to ask for it, this is your permission to stay home.

Consider this your field trip slip, signed and ready to be turned in.

You can stay home. You can do nothing. You can just sit or lay down. You can zone out to the TV, or clean until your heart’s content, or read in bed, or marathon movies, or do a craft or a puzzle, or dance around to music that makes you feel good, or cry on the couch, or do anything and everything that you have not given yourself time to do because your schedule is too full, or you’re trying to do too many things at once, or you feel like if you sit at home you’re not “seizing the day” or whatever.

Sometimes you just need to stay home.

Sometimes you just need time to breathe.

Sometimes you just need to shut and lock your door and then stay PUT.

This past weekend, that is what I needed.

For weeks my brain had been jumbled. Jumbled with all of the things that I wanted to do, all the things I had to do, and all the things in between.

I made a to-do list, but every time I looked at it it seemed to be the same length. Nothing was getting crossed off. I was just reviewing everything I hadn’t done, only to then spiral into the same chaotic pattern in which I still didn’t do anything.

A big chunk had to do with my new apartment.

Having just recently moved, I had things strewn about my counters and furniture. Pictures waiting to be hung, boxes waiting to be unpacked, trinkets waiting to be displayed, organized, and, in some cases, glued back together.

I did not have that base yet. That foundation. The one where when you get home from work, you put your purse in one place and kick your shoes off in another; the one where you can sit down on the couch for a few minutes as you decide whether you want to exercise or if you’ll get started on dinner early; the one where, on your way to bed, you hang that one rogue jacket back up in the closet and toss the sock that missed the hamper on top of the rest of dirty clothes, knowing that those two things are the only ones out of place; the one where you go to bed tired, but not stressed, aware of your to-do list for the next day and even excited to add a few more things.

That is my happy place.

But as much as I wanted to get there, I didn’t know how to start moving.

When I got home from work, all I wanted to do was sit down. To take a breath, to try and figure out which thing to do first. But I had this appointment or that commitment, I had too many very fun but very back-to-back plans on the calendar.

Every day when I got home I had somewhere else to get to or something else to get done. And I didn’t have any energy or stamina to get anything done before that. I would just sit, dreading the ticking forward of the clock, and then I would sit up, get where I needed to go and then come home and collapse into bed.

As each day went by, the piles stayed piles, the boxes stayed boxes and the chaos stayed chaos.

For me, this is my nightmare.

And I felt the anxiety of disorganization stack on top of the anxiety of the new changes taking place, and I kept looking left and right, wondering if there was a way I could push pause on everything so I could try and catch up.

Well, that pause came this weekend. It came when I realized I didn’t have anything on the calendar, and when I remembered that I have the power to say, “I AM TURNING INTO A CAVE TROLL THIS WEEKEND.”

Or, in other words, I put my outside life on *do not disturb* and I locked myself in my apartment and got to work.

I sat on the couch when I was tired, I hung things up when I was inspired, I danced around my living room when a good song came on. I moved trinkets from shelf to bookcase to shelf to table to shelf to counter to end table, waiting for it to look “just right.” I ate gummy bears. I watched sports. I made myself dinner. I put my hair in a top knot and didn’t even look at my makeup bag. I wore slippers all day. I cuddled up under a blanket and caught up on the book I’m reading. And then I took a long, hot shower, and went to bed mercifully relaxed.

On Sunday, I did it all again.

And as I sit here, writing this, I feel like an entirely new person.

My calendar is still full, my apartment isn’t finished yet, but MY GOODNESS I’ve come so far in two days.

So, if you’re someone who just needs a *minute*, who is feeling like there are simply too many things being thrown your way or asked of you; if your to-do list is in a stagnant state of long or if it has become something that only gets longer, then you might need to become a cave troll.

Maybe for a night. Maybe for a day. Maybe for a weekend. Maybe for a while.

I don’t know your schedule. I don’t know your responsibilities. But I know that we all need a break sometimes. We all need some time to digest what on earth is going on in our lives.

So, this is your permission to take that time.

To say no to that thing. To clear your calendar of what is superfluous. To take advantage of that empty space. Sit. Lay. Read. Breathe. Do absolutely nothing.

Put the outside world on pause. It will be there for you when you’re ready—and maybe you’ll be a little more ready for it.

If it Weren’t for that One Crazy Hair

The other day I watched a YouTube video where Kylie & Kendall Jenner attempted to do their makeup while drunk. Regardless of your opinion of them or their reality show, the video is cute and funny and especially sweet if you have a sister or sibling that you love to laugh with.

At one point in the video, as Kylie is talking, I noticed that Kendall was looking at herself in the camera and trying to fix a part of her hair that (to her) looked off. She poked at it and combed her fingers through it, trying and trying to get it a certain way, while I was sitting on the other end of the screen wondering what is even wrong with it?  What flaw could she possibly be seeing?

Kendall, being an actual supermodel, whose job it is to be pretty and skinny and “perfect”, who was sitting on this video in clothes that fit her perfectly, with barely any makeup, promoting her brand-new tequila label, and undoubtedly raking in more than my annual salary by the minute. And yet, she swiped and swiped at her hair, distracted and frustrated, until she was satisfied.

At first, I wanted to think of her as shallow or vain, only focused on her appearance. But having watched the video and seen her personality, her humor and a little glimpse into her relationship with her sister, it was clear that there is more to her than that—just like there is more to all of us. But sometimes, even if it’s just for a few minutes, there is something that makes us feel like nothing else matters. Something about our clothes or our body or our skin or our hair or anything that stares back at us so glaringly in the mirror or in a photograph or on a video. Something that erases every other good thing going on and says, you look bad. This looks bad, and everyone else sees it too.

I know for me, I get especially self-conscious about my skin. I worry about when I breakout or when my skin is especially oily. I try to avoid pictures at all costs, and when one is taken it is all I can see. And while it might not be something that no one else sees, it is not something other people are focusing on. It is not a character flaw. It does not make me less of a person, less interesting or unworthy of spending time with. The same goes for that awkward way you’re standing in that one photo. Or the way your arm isn’t perfectly muscular. Or that those clothes aren’t laying perfectly on your body. Or the fact that your nails that aren’t painted. Or that your teeth that aren’t perfectly straight. Or that that one crazy hair just won’t stay in place.

None of these things discredit your heart or erase the goodness you bring into someone’s life. They don’t minimize the happiness in a photo or ruin the mood of a dinner shared between friends and family.

And while I know, depending on the day, that one thing can feel like a breaking point. It can feel like a good enough reason to call it quits on the day. To not want to leave the house. To cry or lean into bad habits or miss out on things you wanted to participate in. I also know that that one thing is not worth it.

It’s not worth your time. It’s not worth your energy. It’s not worth you missing the wonderful things going on around you. So let’s just leave it be. Let’s live inside the moments we’ve locked ourselves out of simply because we didn’t feel like we looked good enough to live them. Let’s not define ourselves and our lives on that pimple, or those jeans, or that sleeveless shirt, or that one crazy hair. You’re more than that. I’m more than that. We’re all made of millions of other colors and thoughts and dreams and ideas and memories that make us who we are and who we’re going to be, which is not and never will be defined by that one thing. So let’s put that thing aside. Let the crazy hair fly, and leave it be.

Find the Things that Fill You Up

At the beginning of the year I set out on a quest to find a morning routine. And while that process has been and might forever remain a process, I have recently found myself in need of an afternoon routine as well.

Seeing as many things are still closed and many activities are still limited, I often find my afternoons and evenings in need of filling. Unlike my morning routine however, I can’t necessarily say, “oops, I overslept, guess I’ll try again tomorrow.” I often get home at 4:00 p.m., and while occasionally a nap seems necessary, I’m not looking to become nocturnal and/or nap off the possibility of a great night’s sleep.

Still, it’s hard after a long day of work to find the motivation to do a lot. Sometimes I want to take a nap. Sometimes I want to watch a movie. Sometimes I want to clean. Sometimes I want to exercise. Sometimes I want to talk to friends. And sometimes I want to stay cooped up in my room and ponder the state of my life and/or the world.

In this mishmash of wants and hopes and goals and laziness, I have found that the number one thing to remember when setting yourself a routine—for any time of day, really—is to find things that fill you up.

Emphasis on the you.

For a long time I was putting so much pressure on myself to be productive, to be active, to only do things that would drive me forward. I was trying to check off boxes of successful people, and do things that would in turn make me (or at least make me sound) successful.  And sometimes I felt so overwhelmed by this pressure that I wouldn’t know where to start, and so I would just scroll on my phone for hours and do nothing, which made me feel worse, and would make the pressure to do “big” things the next day even greater, thus making the chances of me laying on my phone even greater.

It was a vicious cycle.

And so, I decided that my only goal for every afternoon and evening was to do things that make me feel good. Things that filled me up. Me. Not those I saw on social media. Not those who might ask me how my day was. Me. What made me feel like I had a good, enjoyable, and productive afternoon?

As of now, this:

When I get home from work, (time willing) I give myself about an hour to decompress on my bed. That might mean scrolling on my phone. That might mean taking a nap. That might mean finishing an episode of a podcast or TV show that I started earlier in the day. Then I will get up, roll out my mat, and do some yoga.  Then I’ll sit down at my desk and do a section of my prayer journal (right now I’m working through The Between Places by Stephanie May Wilson). Then I’ll grab whichever book I’m reading (right now it’s Fortitude by Dan Crenshaw) and I’ll read one chapter before heading into the kitchen to make dinner.

During dinner, I’ll watch an episode of a TV show (right now I’m watching The Boys on Amazon Prime) and then I’ll take a shower, get into some comfy clothes, and sit down on the couch to do some writing, or work on my counted cross-stitch (don’t come for me and my grandma ways).

Again that’s:

  • Decompress
  • Yoga
  • Prayer Journal
  • Read 1 chapter of a book
  • Dinner + TV
  • Shower
  • Write and/or counted cross-stitch

Obviously this isn’t carved in stone. Sometimes I’m not in the mood for everything on this list, sometimes I’m in the mood for none of it, sometimes I’m in the mood for more. The point is, each of these things fill me up. Each of these things provide me with a little boost of something good. And so when I have the time, I am motivated to do them because I know I will enjoy them.

So if you’re in need for some structure in your day—be that the morning, the afternoon, the evening, weekdays or weekends, look for the things that fill you up. Look for the things that make you excited to do them. Look for the things that help you pass the time rather than allowing the time to pass you.

5 Habits I Want to Implement into My Life

Last year around the end of September I had just finished reading Rachel Hollis’ book Girl, Wash Your Face and I was doing my usual round of Internet stalking. I wanted to learn all about the woman who got me so inspired and see if there was anything else I could immediately learn in order to jump start my way into badass-ery. In the process, I came across her “Last 90 Days Challenge” which encourages you to bring grit and determination to the last three months of the year so that when the New Year comes, you’re already in that motivated mindset. (You can check it out here.)

Personally, with my schedule, I couldn’t maintain the requirements of the challenge, but embraced the mindset as a whole. I am someone who, in looking at the last three months of the year, might want to just get them over with so I can get to that inspiring fresh start in January. So after reading about this challenge, I started last year and will continue this year to look at these last three months as equal opportunity months, that have as much potential as the first three months of a new year after that strike of midnight.

On top of that, I’ve made a list of five habits I’d like to implement into my routine for these last three months and thus carry with me into 2020. These are things that I’ve thrown around in my mind for a while as something I want to do, maybe that I finally want to put aside the time to finally, actually do.

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1) Drink 60-70 ounces of water per day

One of the cornerstones of the Last 90 Days Challenge is to drink half your body weight (in ounces) of water every day. I already do a pretty good job at drinking water, but I want to make it a habit to hit a goal every day (or as many days as possible). I usually carry around a 32 ounce Hydroflask with me, so I’m going to try and make it a habit to fill it up twice each day.

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2) Put lotion on every day

I keep a small bottle of hand lotion in my purse, but I have never been good at remembering to put on body lotion after a shower or before bed, or, you know, ever. I buy the lotion, and it sits on my bathroom counter like I’m some sort of consistent moisturizer, but I’m not. So, I’m trying to make a better effort. What can I say, I want to be smooth, y’all.

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3) Read before bed

This is something I’ve desperately been wanting to do in place of scrolling through my phone. Not only do I think it will help me fall asleep easier, but it will also help me fall asleep earlier. As hard as it is to admit, it’s way easier to close a book than it is to put down my phone. And since I’m trying to distance myself from my phone, I think this is a good place to start.

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4) DIY Projects

I probably have at least ten projects sitting around my room that I’m “going to get to eventually.” During the week, I’m too tired after work, and then on the weekends, I’m either busy or not wanting to do anything at all. So, I’m going to try and work my way through them one by one. I’m going to set one up on my desk, and maybe even pick one day a week to set aside time to work on it. This goal/habit is pretty vague, but I’m putting it on this list mostly as a commitment to finally start these bad boys. I know full well that I feel my best when I am being creative, so I want make more time to do that.

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5) Meditate a few times a week

I tried meditating for the very first time last year and while it was a little off-putting at first, I couldn’t deny that it was relaxing. Since then, I’ve downloaded the Headspace app to try to motivate myself to do it more, and while I don’t use it often, in the handful of times I’ve used it before bed, I slept like a baby. So I want to make it a habit a few times a week, either in the morning to start my day, or when I get home from work, or right before bed. Anytime I can just take five minutes to relax and block everything else out.

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Have any habits you’ve been wanting to add to your routine? Now’s the time to start! 🙂

What Prison Break Reminded Me About Myself, Wentworth Miller & Everyone Else

This past month I’ve been watching Prison Break for the first time which, if you’ve ever seen it, you know by “watching” I mean barely leaving my room to participate in society. I’ve been totally consumed by the storyline and the characters and have had ongoing battles of turning my “I need to help the guys from Fox River stay out of trouble” brain off and turning my “I need to focus at work so I can make rent” brain on. One such character that has left me daydreaming, who has undoubtedly left most of the world in a similar state of mind since the show was first released 12 years ago, is Michael Scofield.

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Portrayed by British-American actor Wentworth Miller, Michael Scofield is the heart of Prison Break. It is his mastermind scheme that gets him purposefully arrested and sent to Fox River penitentiary to breakout his brother Lincoln, who was wrongly accused of murder and set to receive the death penalty. Over the five-season story—which I’m only on season 3 of so far, so no spoilers!—we learn about the conspiracy behind Lincoln’s arrest, we watch the exquisite detail of Michael’s plan unfold, and we bite our nails as we watch the aftermath of both.

Whenever I get heavily involved in a television show, I like to look up the associated actors and actresses so I can get a better idea of where they came from. So you can imagine it took me all of about 20 seconds to want to know everything about Wentworth Miller. But what started as a joyful, heart-eyed exploration of my new TV crush, quickly turned into an eyebrow furrowing discovery of heart wrenching facts and fictions.

I found a post from 2016 on his Facebook page addressing a meme that had been created in light of a paparazzi photo captured of him hiking. I read through articles discussing his battle with depression, attempts at suicide, and the long road he took to come to terms with his sexuality. Comments flooded every post, many of them positive, praising Miller for his honesty and his activism. I sat teary eyed, reading through the words of strangers, wondering how much they would have helped Miller or any of the millions of others who have struggled with self-acceptance, during a time when they believed suicide was a viable option.

I thought of myself who, at the age of 14, while not struggling with thoughts of suicide, made a list of things I needed to change about myself in order to be attractive, well liked, and ultimately, happy. Little did I know, self-love is not intrinsic on a set of terms and conditions. You don’t have to look a certain way, you don’t have to hold a certain opinion, you don’t have to hide the things that make you different.

As I read up on Wentworth Miller and learned about everything he’s been through, all the successes and failures, triumphs and struggles, I began to appreciate and relate to him on an entirely new level. For it is what he’s gone through that made him the perfect person to portray Michael Scofield. It is who he is at his core that gave him the ability to make the character resonate with audiences for years to come. Without the true Wentworth Miller, Michael Scofield doesn’t exist.

We as human beings are all characters that make up this thing called life. And when we aren’t true to those characters, when we try to change them or prevent them from being exactly who they are meant to be, we rid the world of what they have to offer and the world is worse because of it.

In the simplest sense, a world without uniqueness and originality is a world without any of us. It is a world without color or beauty or wonder. It is a world without love or inspiration or compassion. It is a world without Wentworth Miller or Michael Scofield, and if there’s one thing I know for sure, I never want to live in that world.