I recently listened to an episode of The Next Right Thing podcast where host, Emily P. Freeman, shared a list of things that are currently “saving her life.” The list was inspired by a question Barbara Brown Taylor answered in her memoir Leaving Church.
At first, the question was startling to me: “What’s saving my life right now?”
To answer the question, it seemed, one would need to find themselves in dire circumstances and give answers such as: medication, oxygen, a rope that someone threw over the side of a cliff and asked me to grab onto, etc.
But then, when asked to consider how often we say that “______ is killing me”—whether it be work, school, a tough coworker, a moody teenager, finances, etc.—I realized this question is actually a way to bring attention to the good things in our life. The things we look forward to in the day to day. The things that allow us to breathe in and calm down amongst all of the stress and chaos that feels like it is breaking us down bit by bit.
And so, today I want to share with you the things that are currently saving my life.
1) My houseplants
I don’t want to say that my mental health hinges on the state of my houseplants, but there is a special kind of relief that comes when they are not actively dying. I have two houseplants: a ZZ plant named Ruth, and a Fiddle Leaf Fig named Figgy Azalea, both of which are currently thriving. And if you’ve read this blog post from a while back where I wrote a series of haikus about my pension for killing plants, you’ll know this is an absolute joy for me.
2) My counted cross-stitch
My calendar has felt full for the entire year thus far, and it shows no signs of slowing down. But on the nights when I’m home and able to sit on the couch and relax a little, I have found such joy in working on my latest cross-stitch. It makes me feel creative and gives my hands something to do other than scroll on my phone. I’m very thankful my grandma taught me how to cross stich all those years ago.
3) Phone calls with my friend Nicole
Last September one of my best friends moved to San Diego. On the last night she was in town, we decided that alongside texting and the occasional visit back and forth, we would plan to call each other (at least) once a month in order to stay active and up to date in each other’s lives. We also set up an emoji-based system that, should one person need an immediate phone call for various reasons, they can send that emoji like a bat signal.
Some of our emoji codes are as follows:
The suitcase 💼 which implies, there are things to unpack.
The bone 🦴 which says, I HAVE A BONE TO PICK.
And the dragon 🐲 which suggests: and I quote from our message, “there is too much going on and I feel so overwhelmed I think I’ve grown a tail and whiskers and just need to talk to a friend.”
These conversations have proven to be some of the highlights of my week. On our scheduled day I will pop my headphones in and go on a walk, and then we will talk (and talk and talk and talk) until our hearts are content or until it’s time to eat dinner.
Then, in the hours that follow, we usually send visual aids that relate back to the many things we covered over the course of our two-hour (or so) phone call, giving us each things to dive into and try out so we can reconvene and rediscuss later.
4) My mid-morning cashews
I know this one sounds silly. It is silly, but it’s true. Every workday I bring a small Tupperware container full of cashews to have for snack a couple hours before lunch. What started as a solution to mid-morning hunger pangs has become somewhat of a mile marker of my day. Once I have my cashews, I know I’m halfway to lunch. And, visa versa, once I’m halfway to lunch I get to have my delicious, salty, cashews. I try to savor them but always end up barreling through them like they are popcorn during a suspenseful movie. Nevertheless, they are always delicious and I always look forward to them.
5) My room in my parents’ house
You may have read this post back in January about the day we have since begun to refer to as “The Great Flood.” It was a very stressful, very ridiculous ordeal. But thankfully, when the time came to pack our stuff and get out so the repair process could begin, my parents offered to let me stay with them. Over the course of the last couple months, this room and their house has been a true blessing. It has lessened the weight of stress on my shoulders tremendously and it has allowed me to find a sense of routine and normal amongst so much chaos.
6) My writing class
I took almost a year off of pursuing my Creative Writing Certificate through UCLA Extension in order to work on a big writing project. But at the beginning of April I was able to sign up for another writing class—my fourth of six needed to complete the program. Almost instantly it put me in a good, creative headspace, and the presence of deadlines has helped me get back in a more consistent writing routine. I always love to see what kinds of essays and stories these classes can bring out of me, so I am very thankful to be back.
I grew up watching Dodger baseball, and the pandemic years of no fans and then limited fans were tough. So to have baseball back in full swing this spring has been magical. Plus, baseball season always seems to bring order to my world. It brings my family together and gives us something to root for, and it’s one of the perfect evening watches after a long day at work.
What are some of the things that are saving your life right now?
You can also find the podcast episode here.