Some Odd Benefits & Ways to Let Go

Photo by Dawid Zawiła on Unsplash

If you've been reading my blog for the past 6 months or so, you know that I've been working through some anxiety & depression issues.

One of my problems is that I feel like I have to be in charge of all the things. I am the Life Manager of Life. Everything is my responsibility, all the time.

There are a lot of reasons I can come up for regarding why I am this way, but for now, just know that I am that way.

So one of the things I am working on is letting go

Letting go of actual responsibilities, of preconceptions, of negative behaviors towards myself, just letting go.

And it has had surprising results. 

Maybe it makes sense to other people, but it's truly kind of shocked me.

For instance, we cleaned out our garage. And subsequently we had a large pile of stuff to donate to a local charity/Goodwill-type shop in town. As we were packing the car, Hubs said "Oh and don't forget to get the statement so we can submit it for our taxes next year."

This is something that feels like it got shoved on my plate at some point during our marriage without me realizing it. I did actually succeed in submitting these things one year...out of nearly a dozen. But it's not something I ever really cared about or wanted to be responsible for, and part of me resented the (seemingly) flippant way this was assumed to be my responsibility.*

Immediately I felt...anxious? annoyed? worried? Idk, something that didn't feel good.

I didn't want that responsibility and I didn't trust myself to rise to that responsibility.

So I took a deep breath, and said "Babe, can this be something that you take control over? Since you mentioned it, I assume it matters to you, and I haven't done a good job over the past few years with this. I think with the new tax laws itemizing isn't as important anyway, but regardless if you want this can you be in charge of keeping up with it?"

And he said "Um okay, sure." 

And then about two minutes later he said "You know, it's probably fine. It wouldn't make that big of a difference...I won't worry about it."

Which is exactly the decision I had come to, but I don't think it would have been as casual as if I tried to explain that myself versus just handing it off to him and him needing to weigh the responsibility versus the reward.

And this is a really small thing, a throw away conversation in the day-to-day habit of marriage.

But it felt big. 

That's part of anxiety and depression, for me- things get distorted. The weight and responsibility feel magnified, and I'm not good at prioritizing them logically.

I'm also not good at...separating things asked of me from my personal worth.

Not sure if that makes sense, but it's the best I can come up with. I wanted to say yes, because I wanted to help my husband. I wanted to be responsible.

But I knew...I have failed at this multiple times in the past. And to be honest, I don't want to expand energy in that direction. Inside myself, I just don't care about this thing.

So when he asked/reminded me about the statement, I thought through all of that in about 30 seconds. 

Literally as soon as he asked I had the thoughts of a) wanting to help Hubs and respect what he cares about, b) wanting to be responsible, then the reality of c) I failed at this so many times, I'm crap and will just fail again, which lead to d) Hubs is just going to be mad when I fail and I am signing up for a fight at this very moment, and also in there was e) fuuuuuck I do not care about this why should I have to care about this?!? 

I guarantee you that not all of these thoughts are logical or fair. And even if they are somewhat valid, probably not to the extreme that I felt at the time.

So there is a little insight into the way my anxiety works.

But really, the main point here is that I overcame that. And it was simple.

I never, ever, ever imagined it could be that simple.

And yes, part of me was annoyed at both my husband and myself that he dismissed something I had been feeling guilty and stressed about for years in the span of 2 minutes.

But again...I'm letting it go.

Because instead of holding on to a petty "Well that's not fair" attitude, I now get to feel a) validation that I was right to begin with and it wasn't worth spending energy on, and most importantly b) self-pride that I passed on responsibility instead of tasking myself with something that would cause me a lot of personal anxiety (logical or not, it's a fact). 

*annoying reminder because I do have guilt issues and the Internet is bad at looking at the big picture: I love my husband and he loves me and we have a great relationship. I use examples with him because he's the person I'm closest too and therefore naturally he's around while I work through my issues. It's not his fault if he does not know or understand my mental state all the time- that's one of the many things I'm working on, explaining instead of expecting people to understand my thought processes and feelings (since literally no one in my life had any idea about my actual thoughts and what anxiety/depression was telling me). 

Asheville, NC: An Anniversary Trip

Way back in the fall Hubs & I went to Asheville, NC. It's a favorite destination of ours, as it's where we went on our baby-moon too.

Only problem? It's always raining when we go! We just have the worst luck. However, there's still lots of fun stuff to do. and drink. And hike. At least, that's what we did.

We rolled in around lunch time, and dropped our bags off at our AirBnb. Then we hit one of the places that was on every must-visit list in Asheville- the White Duck Taco Shop. We visited the R.A.D. location.

We got the salsa sampler/trio- all of them were good, but I have no idea what they were called. Would recommend, though. For tacos, Hubs got the Jerk chicken and Korean bbq with kimchi; I had the Bangkok shrimp taco, and a Cajun shrimp and grits taco. I saw one review/complaint that these aren't "authentic Mexican tacos." Um, no. And that's okay IMO, because they weren't advertised as such. The Cajun was by far our favorite, and then I'd probably say the Jerk chicken. The kimchi wasn't really our jam, but some salsa from the sampler made it fine. I'd definitely go back and try more. 

We ended up downtown and visited the Battery Park Book Exchange and Champagne Bar. This place seemed like my dream...but it didn't quite live up to my expectation. It was a bit overcrowded, which isn't the fault of the management or set up, but I felt rushed. It wasn't really possible to just browse the books, and also there wasn't a super apparent order of the books. Plus it was mostly used books that were going for 20+$. Sorry guys, I'm not a collector. I'm still in the bargain hunting stage. Just a little crowded and pretentious...but GORGEOUS. 

And it's basically illegal to go to Asheville without visiting some breweries, so we started fairly soon. Our first stop was Green Man Brewery. Unfortunately, I cannot remember what we got. I got some kind of cider, because truth be told...I'm not a huge beer fan. So I tend to stick with choices like ciders, ginger beers, or sours. Believe they had tours but we just didn't time it quite right, or decided to enjoy our drinks instead. We sat on the outside area upstairs, and thankfully they had good heaters so it was enjoyable even with the cool, almost-raining weather. 

Next we visited the Wicked Weed Funkatorium. This is Wicked Weed's location dedicated to sour and funky beers. Guys, it was LOVE FOR A BREWERY! Soooo good. Apparently they also have a menu but I was so hungry that I just grabbed our waitress and said "Hey can we get those chips that everyone else has? Oh they come with crab dip? Great!" And it was as delicious as the beer. So 100% would totally go back, I could spend all day there. 

Next we visited Bahrimi Brewing Company. It was probably my least favorite, but it really wasn't bad. Just crowded and weird seating arrangements. Also they didn't have their own cider so the only option was the one I had already had at Green Man's. I opted for a Jack & Coke instead but after drinking beer all day it was way too strong for my empty stomach (guys we walked a lot and the chips and crab dip from the Funkatorium wore off quickly, OK?). The food was really good- like several places in Asheville, their menu changes to use local ingredients depending on what is available in season so I can't remember exactly what we got, but I remember both of us being happy with it. 

For breakfast the next morning we hit up another place that was on all the must-see lists, the Biscuit Head. It has a jelly bar, guys. I got the Cajun Benedict. wasn't as amazing as I wanted. But, it was good and it lasted me over a 8 mile hike so no complaints. And if I was trying to save my biscuit to taste all the different jellies, it probably would have been better. My coffee was also lackluster, I think it was the Carmoolita maybe? Just not as Carmel-y as I expected. But hubs got the Maple Bacon Latte and it was so damn good. The jelly bar was also amazing and I should have just ordered a few extra biscuits to really take advantage of it- and let me tell you, those biscuits are HUGE. We started out with bananas foster, sour cherry, and sweet potato chai jellies. But we went back for more and I can't remember- but one was something like peach and thyme? Something with an herb in that that I never expected but was so refreshing. I would go there every weekend- although we did have a 30-45 minute wait so be prepared. But totally worth it. Some things were out of this world and others were fine, but nothing was bad. 

Fully fuled up from our big breakfast, we headed to Pisgah National Forest. We decided to hike the Looking Glass Falls loop because it had a waterfall. However...we started on the opposite side and Hubs had no faith in me at all and really thought we were going the wrong way for like 3 hours. It was finally sunny and we got quite warm. Even though the leaves had already fallen off the trees, it was beautiful and we had a great hike. We even saved a family who got lost- towards the end of the hike a blonde girl, maybe early 20s, literally popped out of the woods asking if we knew how to get to the parking lot. Her group had apparently gotten lost and she sat on the ground crying for 20 minutes, because it was getting close to sunset and she thought she was going to be stuck there all night. Her dad did not seem as concerned- but the fact that a group with 2 ex-Marines ended up following a former soldier out of the woods Hubs chuckle. Ah, sibling rivalry. Overall it was a great hike, and we did eventually find the waterfall...although it was anti-climatic. We hit up two others on the way out though, that were much closer to the paths and absolutely breathtaking.

After this we went back to our AirBnb to shower before dinner. Can we take a moment and gush about AirBnb? This is our second time using it in the Asheville area and I love it. Our place was super cute, a little basement area, and had everything we could need. It was minutes from downtown and the Blue Ridge Parkway, so perfectly situated. Best part? For 2 nights we paid around 175$ in the area can cost 200-200$ a NIGHT. Swoon.

We then went to the Bavarian Restaurant & Biergarten because my hubby loves German food. TBH...I do not. Just not my preferred cuisine. We were wary because some reviews mentioned that they ran out of food and sometimes the wait was long. Both of which turned out to be true, even though it's a little hole-in-the-wall. They were out of schnitzels by the time we arrived. So we both got bratwurst. The German potato salad wasn't the best I ever had, but Hubs liked it. He actually loved everything, for me it was "meh." But be expected with me & German food. And the pattern continued for dessert. Sadly, my black forest sundae was lackluster- which was a disappointment because Black Forest anything is basically my favorite on earth. However, Hub's apple strudel was friggin' delicious. Plus the beer was great. Hubs walked out looking like the happiest man on earth, so ya know. It was worth it. 

I am hoping to go back this summer and take Babycakes. I have great memories of the Blue Ridge Mountain area in general from childhood; I would go on vacation there every year with my maternal grandparents, and have paternal family members up there also. Can't wait to build memories with my little one there too!

Prompt: Good Habit to Develop

(prompt found on Debbie in Shape via Pinterest)

A good habit that I am trying to get into...there are actually several!

But one of them is to put my clothes up sooner. I am pretty good about keeping clothes washed and dried, but then they sit around in baskets forever. There are two negative effects of this.

1) My clothes end up super wrinkled. TBH, I already end up covered with dog hair from my two monstrous, shed-y dogs. I don't need to be messy on top of that and look 100% bedraggled!

2) I end up rushing around in the mornings and starting my day off negatively because I don't have what I need to get dressed for the day.

We've come to realize in our house that my husband's thing is dishes. He doesn't care about literally anything else, as long as that is done.

Mine is laundry. It drives me freakin' crazy when there are no clothes, or dirty clothes are laying around on the floor/in front of the washer because the baskets are full of clean clothes that just haven't been folded or put up.

So, I'm making it a point to have all of my clothes put up. The other night I stayed up until 10:30 doing this, which is late for me! I made Babycake help me put up her clothes, and then after she went to bed I finished folding mine & Hubby's clothes. Then I put all of mine up.

And the next night I was in bed by 8:30...because all the chores were done and I was tired and I could.

Show Us Your Books: February 2019

Is it just me or is January seriously the LONGEST month of the year?! It must be, because I read way more than normal, so let's talk BOOKS!

Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis
I actually wrote a legit review on Goodreads, because my feelings were too much for this review. Basically, I understand the mixed reviews on this book. Some parts made me stand up and cheer and scream "YES!" And some parts made me go "Hmmm...making it sound a little easier than it actually was for me."  Definitely depends on your personality and place in life on how amazing this book is. Also, I am SO OVER the super long sub-title/whatever the crap it's called.

                                  Church of Marvels by Leslie Parry
This was a completely random grab that caught my attention while I was looking for another book on on the library shelves. It was an interesting puzzle, some parts of which I didn't figure out until way later than I probably should have. It was fun read but also super sad and touching in some parts...recommend for the right person. If you like multiple perspectives and how they tie together, along with the lives of outcasts, go for it. There are some dark and very sad, physical parts so please be ready.

Dreadful Company by Vivian Shaw
This was the second in a cute but creepy series about a human who is a doctor to all types of beings/monsters from horror stories. I hadn't heard of all of these creatures, but they were described well and I liked the story overall. I like that Greta is a very capable protagonist, but not necessary a perfect one who does it all herself. A lot of her personality is based around the way she treats those around her, whether sentient beings or not, and I like that trait being so central and positively viewed. It's kind of like cozy Halloween-ish type reading that's hard to explain but a fun and unique read.

This is the story of the daughter of a serial killer, who eventually becomes a suspect in a murder trial herself. I really enjoyed this and kind of quickly gobbled it down. Afterwards I noticed some slight things that others might have issues with, like (highlight) too many red herrings and some random facts there's no way I think we could have gleamed from the overall story. However, I'd totally read more about these characters because they were all kind of ridiculous. I didn't see the end, maybe I should've but didn' wasn't unbelievable but it wasn't my first guess. Honestly there was so much going on that I kind of wish I could have gotten more backstory on all of them.

Tell Me More by Kelly Corrigan
Pretty sure someone on the link-up shared this, and thank you. It's super moving and I teared up a bunch of times and read it in just over 24 hours. The subtitle is "the 12 hardest things I'm learning to say," so each chapter is a different hard thing. Like, Tell Me More-No-Yes-I was Wrong-etc. The author was raw and honest and selfish and supportive and loving and I felt it.

I wanted to like this book more than I did. It was actually kind of reminiscent of As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner, because it went from various points of view and some I really liked and others I kind of hated. It was hard to keep up with everyone, because the book also jumped in time as well as from person to person. We meet one sister as a twelve year old and then later meet her sister as a forty-year-old, and I just wish the chapter titles had included dates (and possibly times) along with the names. That alone probably would have bumped it up to four stars for me. But again, parts of it were super intriguing and it's great to have more Native voices writing, The idea of writing specifically about modern/urban Natives specifically makes a lot of sense in today's world and could fight against stereotypes, so that's really appealing. For these reasons I'd read him again because he clearly has an interesting story and the ability to write in a way that is enjoyable and education for me. That style just didn't make up the entire book, but the variety is impressive in it's own right.

Honorable kinda-DNF: 

I also randomly saw this on the bookshelf, and grabbed it since I love the Wizard of Oz! But...and I sound so old, it was so long and dense and the print was so small that I had to stop. I'd definitely consider going back to it when I am a) not in class, and b) not struggling through a ridiculous sinus cold that makes me need large print.

What have you been reading lately? 
Link-up & let us know!
Life According to Steph

Passion is Overrated (Does this Mean I'm Old?)

 Photo by Jose Aragones on Unsplash

I can't get on Pinterest or Facebook lately without some supposedly inspiring graphic quote about passion and fulfillment.

And quite frankly, I'm calling bullshit. 

I'm all for some passion in life. Really, I am.

But being passionate about everything all the time is just chasing burnout.

Be passionate about...what you are actually passionate about. Is it books? Is it movies? Is it your job? Is it your lover? Is it your family? Is it your faith?

If so, great. But it does not have to be all those things. 

Passion does not have to be in all parts of your life, all the time. 

I'm gonna use myself as an example, because this is my blog and I'm the one talking.

I like doing crafty things. I really do. But I have friends who are literal craft masters. Like, they do Pinterest worthy parties for their kids. And that's great for them. They have fun and enjoy it- and, they are stay-at-home-moms. They've built lives that allow them time to fulfill that passion. And sometimes it kind of makes me sad because I don't do nearly as much crafting as I used to.

However, I have a job that allows me to take mile-long walks at lunch or do homework or read. I've already decided what really matters to me, and made those things happen. Why do I make myself feel bad for not having other passions that match people around me?

So I'm going to go against the grain with my unsolicited advice.

Good enough is good enough

Stop chasing passion. 

If it's there, it's there.

Wait a minute. Pause. Look at your life.

 What parts don't make you nervous and stressed? What part leaves you feeling refreshed? It's probably not even the part that you are encouraging...but it likely should be.

Follow your passion, but don't waste your life chasing passion in general.

Self-Care: February 2019 - Home

 Photo by Nathan Fertig on Unsplash

I posted a few weeks ago that I wouldn't be doing any goals or resolutions for the new year. If 2019 was going to be about anything for me, it would be about restoration.

One reason I was nervous about this is because I am a person who likes to do things. I'm usually doing 2-3 things at a time. As I write this, I'm also working and watching a Netflix show. For years, I've hand goals and objectives that I felt like I must accomplish. It was always one thing after the other, with not long in between.

So I was nervous about not having a plan, because...what would I do? 

Apparently, right now I am getting my house settled.

So far this year, I've probably already organized more than I did all of last year.

I was constantly being driven crazy by the shoes piling up by the door. Both because they look messy, and because they were hard to vacuum around...a big problem since we have two shed-monsters. We have a coat closet right by the door, and I managed to do a little bit with that by hanging a shoe organizer on the back. But that only works for my smaller shoes, not my boots or my hubby's ginormous shoes (seriously guys, he literally has bigger feet than anyone we know). So I finally broke down and bought a shoe rack, which fits into the closet. TBH I wish I spent a little bit more and got a sturdier one because I did not take into account the weight of hubby's giant hobbit shoes, but it's still a massive improvement. My entryway is much neater and I am more likely to vacuum because I'm not fighting around shoes, and we aren't digging through a pile of shoes at the bottom of the closet anymore.

I also re-arranged my bedroom a bit. I switched the dresser from our guest room/office into our room- it's white and our furniture is cherry, so that's a bit weird...but it is more functional because the one I was trying to use is older and starting to break down. It just makes more sense for the newer one to be used most frequently, since no one is using the other one at the moment.

When we first moved in to the house, around 5 years ago, we set up one of those "command centers" you used to see all over Pinterest. It's actually really helpful, but- Hubby & I each have a little pocket folder that often overflows with paperwork. It's supposed to be where we put mail for each other, like if I check the mail I can throw my stuff away and put his in there for him to go over later. This does not happen. It's kind of become a catch-all place for any paper that we might want to keep. But we don't clean it out so it looks ridiculously messy- but I cleaned mine out! It looks so neat and only things I will need to access in the next 1-3 months are there (now just have to encourage Hubby to go through his...).

Next I cleaned off our kitchen counter. We have this little area that ended up with several little jars holding random bits of...stuff. In theory it was supposed to hold pens & scissors, because for some reason I need those things a lot and that is a central area in our sort of open spaced home that makes sense. But lots of other things built up I threw half of it away, put half of the remaining things where they actually belong, and ended up with one jar left- with only pens and scissors. Clutter free for the WIN!

And perhaps the most important...I bought a centerpiece!! For some reason, this just screams "actual planned, peaceful adult home" to me. Our kitchen table is another place that has a tendency to get junky fast. It's a fairly long rectangle, and we only use one end of it. So the other end gets filled with...junk mail, baby wipes and toys...literally anything we lay down when we first come out of the house. I bought a runner years ago, but it was a pain to clean around and moved too much...I never gave up on the dream, though, haha! I had wanted a centerpiece box for a while but never got around to it. I went to Marshall's and found several trays and succulents. Actually went back and forth to Michael's also, which was within walking distance, like a crazy person. After about an 40 minutes of trying to put something cute together with individual pieces and stay under budget, I reminded myself to keep it simple. I purchased a tray and some pre-styled greenery. Not super unique, but looks great anyway. And it keeps the runner from sliding around. I'm hoping that we've matured a bit and the fact that there is something on our table will make us stop piling crap there.

The kitchen chairs also finally got those little pads on the bottom so a) Babycakes can push her chair out easier and get down herself, and b) they don't make a noise and scratch up our floor. I'm a little worried these will collect hair more (again, shed-monsters) but...I need to vacuum more anyway so I'm working on that.

Oh, and I cleaned off the counter in the main bathroom/Babycake's bathroom. Thankfully, she is doing awesome with potty training so some things can are slowly going away- baby wipes, small training potty, etc. It's nice to have some room back. 

I managed to get hubby to watch Marie Kondo on Netflix and he is willing to at least give it a try in the garage- for some reason this is the area he always worries about. So that will be happening soon.

Other areas I might try to touch up soon include- bathroom closets (still have Babycake's baby bath/etc that she hasn't used in ages), Tupperware and junk closet. These are all things that really won't take long but will make a huge difference.

I'm not putting deadlines or anything on these, but this is where my mind and body are going without encouragement so I'm just running with what feels right for the moment. I could probably analyze it and make some grand conclusion about symbolism, but action is feeling better than thought at the I'm going to just congratulate myself and enjoy the peace these changes are giving me.

Currently Watching

The Great British Baking Show
Finally jumped in. These British people look nice, but this show is savage. They give the contestants instructions with no baking temperatures or times. It makes me want to cry for them! I have a soft spot for the young girls who are still in school, and the older bakers who stick with traditional recipes.

Spirit: Riding Free
Some kids shows are better than others. Y'all, my husband and I watch this and I will fight anyone who says it's not good. I have had the worst cold I've had in years and totally Bad Mom'd it up with Babycakes this weekend. It was days of screen time and eating lots of peanut butter. Oh well. And after hours of comparison, I can tell you, this is the best kids show. Love some Doc McStuffins in a lot of ways, but it's more traditionally little-kids based and there were some reoccurring things that just bugged me, an adult, after a while. Not so with Lucky! (Spirit is the horse, Lucky is the spunky 12YO-ish main female character, Babycakes refers to the show as Lucky after the character). 

 Tidying Up with Marie Kondo
 I haven't read this book, but now I'm going to. First off, Marie is so damn tiny and adorable. I can't even think of a comparison but to look at this person makes me smile. Hubby is even into it. He really only cares about our garage, but fine. We'll start there (out of her order, but whatever) and I'll use that to get him around to the rest of the house!

Personal Identity

Recently I was listening to the Armchair Expert podcast episode with Mark Duplass. Mark and Dax (Shepard, the host) were discussing their different roles within Hollywood. They have each acted, written, and directed movies at different points in their careers. And I believe it was Mark who made a comment that his problem is thinking that whatever thing he is currently doing at the moment is his identity for the rest of his life- ie "I'm a director now. That's my identity. Oh now I can't get a job directing so I'll write something. Okay I guess I will just write movies for the rest of my life. That's my new identity."

And then a year later he gets the chance to do something different and has to re-adjust.

I think this is a big part of my anxiety and general life stress.

I've talked endlessly about how my identity was tied into being a good student. This was by far my defining characteristic from elementary school through undergrad. It was my thing, it was what everyone knew about me.

So when I didn't get into my chosen program for grad school, I was thrown. And I never super replaced that identity. This is partly because I realized that tying my identity into any one characteristic was dangerous.

Instead I tried to sort of fulfill all these different aspects of my identity all at once. And that's dangerous too. 

 This is sort of especially applicable when it comes to motherhood.

B & I talked about how we didn't want to become those people whose lives are all about our kid. We don't think it would be healthy for us as individuals, us as a couple, or our child. And I stand by that.

However, in my head it was like I needed to keep myself the way I was, but go through the motions of motherhood. Which is ridiculous.

Life events change people. Those close to us change us.

And that's fine. It would be insane to say otherwise.

Thanks to my husband, I have a love for Boondock Saints and whiskey that I might not have found on my own. Thanks to me, my grandpa knows what toe socks are.

The people in our lives, and our relationships to them, change us.

And it isn't bad if motherhood changes me, or changes my lifestyle.

It's only bad if I don't want to change. 

I was listening to the Unladylike podcast about Being a Bad Mom and while I completely identified with some things said, I also was thanking God. Because I wasn't jealous of their decisions or sharing regret for having a child.

I like being a mom.

I'm don't like the thousands of different expectations that come with that role (from people who are not my child), but I love actually being Babycake's mom.

Not all the time. It was super hard in the beginning. And yes, I am now on anxiety medication. But so are tons of other people, both parents and non-parents, and it might have happened anyway (I kind of have a theory that now that once Hubs had worked through a lot of his demons re: military service, my mind has kind of gone "Okay my turn," and that just happened to coincide with parenthood for a jolly anxious time).

I always wanted to be a mom, and Babycakes is a fantastic and wonderful little person that I love in a unique and passionate way*. Like, if I could duplicate her I'd have several running around (but I keep hearing that's not actually how having multiple kids works...).

*This is not to say that non-parents don't know love or love just as deeply- which is a complaint I've heard from non-parents about how their friends who are parents treat them; but I do think it's a different type of love. And that's okay. I didn't grow up with siblings in my house, so that's a unique type of love that I don't know. Not saying any one kind is better or more important, just that what I have with Babycakes is certainly not like any other relationship I've ever had in my life before or could expect to have with someone who is not my child.

Anyway. The AE episode made me realize that it's okay to have all these little identities inside.

I don't have to try to give them all equal distribution all the time. It's okay if these little pieces of me take turns and if my identity is more of a continual wave than a static monument.

Sometimes I will be a Mom. Sometimes I will be a Student. Sometimes I will be a Friend. Sometimes I will be a Reader.

And that's okay, because I'm always a mom. And (well, sometimes) a student, and a friend, and a reader.

I'm always Brittany.

Prompt: Word of the Year

(prompt found on Debbie in Shape via Pinterest)

Being honest guys, I've had some trouble lately with blogging. I want to stay connected with the (few) bloggers who stick around, but I'm just not coming up with topics that I actually feel motivated to write. So, I'm going with some prompts.  I won't be doing these for 30 days straight, but think I will make it my go-to when I'm feeling a little uninspired.

60) My word of the year

Restore: to bring back to a state of health, soundness, or vigor.

I haven't made a big deal about my word of the year this year, but the thing I am working toward is restoration.

Last year was a bit of a mess for me. I finally hit the point of exhaustion, of confession, of pulling back and facing reality.

And I'm glad about it, really. I needed to just stop. You hear so much about hustling and growth and improvement- and I believe in all of those things! Truly, I do. But the pace I was going at was unrealistic.

And sometimes when you go too fast, too soon, you crash.

So this year is not about growth for me.

It is about restoring myself to a place of health. Because I have been mentally unhealthy for a while now, and I've run myself ragged. So right now, I can't think of being better than I ever have before.

I can only focus on getting back to a good place. And that involves...taking some things slow. And removing some things all together.

Current Thoughts: January 2019

I've stopped using Twitter over the last few months, because it's so political. I understand- there is so much BULLSHIT in current American politics that someone has to be on guard at all times. And if there was a way to sign up for shifts, I'd 100% sign up for a shift. But with social media it's like every individual has to be on guard every second of every day and I cannot do that. I don't want to give up completely and be complicit, but I can't handle thinking of it all day long. That does something to me mentally that makes me feel hopeless and desperate and angry, and those things make me a bad ambassador for the causes I do believe in. Some people can use those things as fuel for positive change...I have never been able to take larges amounts of negativity and use them for good. It just doesn't work for me. So I am trying to find the balance between staying knowledgeable enough to know where to direct my voice and energy, and staying out of the actual fire.

Babycakes is growing up so fast. Yes, I'm going to be that mushy mama for a minute. We went out to dinner the other night, and I was just sitting there looking at her eating. It's so basic, but she looked so grown! She had a regular cup (with a lid & straw, but not a sippy cup) and was using a regular fork fairly well (some rice on the floor, but not terrible). And I was just so proud. It sounds so little but it's a big sign of growing up and officially being out of the baby phase. Also, we weren't carrying a diaper bag because she's officially potty-training (and doing amazing, thankfully, because I was so not looking forward to it).

I ended up registering for a Spring semester class last minute, partially due to...reasons I will explain later. Probably. Anyway, this professor has a reputation for being pretty "chill." Apparently to the point where I am now freaking out because we are about 2 weeks into the class and I've done almost nothing. It feels like I am missing something, but I got a "kudos" from some program he uses to provide feedback so...I guess it really is that chill. I'm thankful but also a little nervous. I am a big fan of the idea that if it feels too good to be true, it probably is.

I've read 8 books so far in 2019, which is pretty good for me. Normally I average 2-4 a month. Plus I've enjoyed all them, haha, which is the main thing. Yay, for enjoying your hobbies again.

I'm watching the second season of Friends from College...and I have a love/hate relationship with it. So many of the people are freakin' awful and do such stupid things, but there are also moments where I'm nodding going "Yep, I'd respond exactly the same way." So it's relatable but disappointing. However, the Marie Kondo show is freakin' adorable and lovely and makes me feel like the world will be just right as long as people learn to fold their clothes vertically. Never read her book, thought it all sounded dumb, but now I'm in.

Finding Little Bits of Happiness

 Photo by Ethan Kent on Unsplash

This title sound cheesy AF, and I fully get that.

When I was a dealing with my anxiety, I thought it was just anxiety. But you hear "anxiety and depression" a lot, and I'm starting to think I was actually depressed.

I have a decent walk into my office each morning. It's roughly 5-10 minutes, and on the walk my coffee gets cold. For months I would just deal with it but it was kind of sucky...not the actually happy coffee time that I like.

But recently, I started reheating my coffee with the microwave that's maybe 7 feet from my desk. Guys, it's ridiculous how happy I get over this hot coffee. And it's such a simple fix. I didn't have to buy a new coffee maker or new coffee cups or anything extreme...I just put it in the damn microwave for 30 minutes seconds.

Another super simple thing that has improved the quality of my life- like putting books on hold at the library. There are lots of books I want to read, but I don't have a ton of time. So the easiest thing for me to do is go online, request a book I want, and go pick it up when it is ready and waiting (versus just browsing, which is fun but not the best use of my time right now). My library holds things for about a week so that is amazing. Plus it means I eventually read the super popular books that everyone else wants...better to get on the wait-list as #15 than forget about a book and never read it.

Are these ridiculously simple changes? Yes.

But they have helped, and for months I didn't realize how much those little bits would help.

You hear about self-care, but sometimes you don't know what that looks like- at least, I didn't always know what it looked like for me.

It may not be a facial, or a massage, or a shopping spree, or a bubble bath, or those fun but kind of superficial things that have become somewhat cliche*. It may be heating up old coffee for 35 seconds. It may be spraying wrinkle release spray on your clothes instead of ironing.

*I mean, I love those things, but they aren't always the best things I can do for myself.

So, if life is hard, and you are tired, and it feels like the gray darkness is surrounding you...don't wait on a spotlight to suddenly shine on you. Find little cracks and slivers of light, and move towards them.

Show Us Your Books: January 2019

Man, that title felt weird to type! It's time for the first Show Us Your Books Link-Up of the year.

I looked back at my Goodreads Challenges over the past few years, and for several years now I've read 50-55 books. Not sure why I continually underestimate my ability and put my goals around 40-40...but this year I'm acknowledging my average and setting a realistic goal of 55. My first book of 2019 is Let It Snow, everything before that I finished in December of 2018.

I started reading this months ago during my summer class, and I just couldn't focus. That was because of my personal issues, and I'm so glad I finally picked it back up because it was exactly as great as I knew it would be. Adeyemi built a wonderful magical, African-inspired world and I'm all in. Pre-ordering the second book, Children of Virtue and Vengeance, which comes out in March. 

Not sure what I was expecting when I went into this story, but it's not what I got. Spoiler in white, so highlight if you want: THERE WAS TIME TRAVEL. I WAS NOT PREPARED FOR TIME TRAVEL. However, it was an interesting story and I think it was done fairly well. The ending wrapped up a bit too nicely for me...but that happens. Overall a solid read. 

We Are Never Meeting in Real Life by Samantha Irby
Think I got this recommendation from someone on the link-up a while back. It was...okay. Irby is a blogger/internet famous apparently, so if you already know of her, you'll probably REALLY like this. It was funny, but I felt like I was missing some of the backstory that could have really made this a great read.

This book totally lived up to the hype! Such an interesting look at age and culture and community. I wish there had been a little more specific info at the end regarding The Brothers (highlight again). But overall a great read.

Let It Snow by John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle
I read this after Christmas, but close enough and still winter-y. Cute YA stories by some great authors- recommend if that's your thing.

This is my first 5 star read for 2019. Guys, I FREAKIN' LOVED THIS BOOK! It's a bit of a post-apocalyptic story, but not in an opressive "We must overthrow the government style." The world is built in tiny little pieces and hints dropped here and there throughout the plot in a way that made me hunger for more. The main character was so inherently herself and good at her job and self-aware, but in a way that felt natural and not "All hail this amazingly perfect unicorn female" way. It was intriguing in an almost quiet way, very similar to Circe IMO, and I loved it just as fiercely as I loved Circe. Apparently that is my current jam. Go read it, now.

From Here to Eternity by Caitlin Doughty
I enjoyed this a lot more than I enjoyed Doughty's first book (comments on December's SUYB). This one studied several different cultures and options for dealing with dead bodies, including one in North Carolina! I really like that she acknowledges the way geography and time and culture intersect, through the lens of death.

This is a modern re-telling of Pride & Prejudice, set in Brooklyn and told by a young Black girl of Haitian & Dominican heritage. It is so damn cute and good and thoughtful. Plus the main character writes poetry and I loved her poems sprinkled throughout the story (and I'm not normally a poetry person). 

Link-up & 
share what you've been reading!

Life According to Steph

Personal Commandments from Always Brittany

A few months ago I read The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin and I loved it.

Self-help books really depend on my mood- I usually either love or hate them, rarely do they rate in the middle for me. And I'm all about it at the moment.

 Basically, this woman decided she wanted to be happier so she came up with a plan and put it in motion over the course of a year.

Part of this plan includes having personal commandments to live by. You can see and read about about Gretchen's commandments here, but like all aspects of The Happiness Project they vary between individuals.

Gretchen states:

These aren't specific resolutions, like make my bed, but the overarching principles by which I try to live my life.
It's a creative way of distilling core values.

She says it took her months to come up with hers and there is no rush. But of course I wanted to jump right in; here is what I have come up with so far. It's only 9, whereas she has 12...but there is no one way to do this and these feel like a strong start for me.

1. To thine own self be true. 
This is basically the same as Gretchen's first commandment of Be Gretchen. But I like this wording better. When I think of Be Brittany, I get confused. Part of my life trouble comes from the fact that I am not always sure of who I am. Thinking of what feels true is more natural and calming and strengthening. 

2. Be generous in action and thought.
 This one is something I've been thinking on and striving towards for quite a while now. It's partially a Biblical inspiration, and partly from what I could have sworn was a John Green quote but I can't confirm online. But it basically was something about the best marriage advice he was given was to be generous. I specify in both actions and thought because I do want to be generous when giving of my resources to those in my life. But the thought portion is to help my relationship with other people. Almost always, when I am having trouble with someone and have talked to them about it, they almost never meant whatever hurtful comment I was brooding over the way I took it. And you know what, even if they did...they could have just been having a bad day. I'm certainly not perfect, and I need grace. I can walk around assuming the worse about people, or I can be generous in my thoughts about them.

3. Accept your limits; only Christ saves.
 This is a big one for me. That's a big part of my anxiety, because I tend to think that EVERYTHING is my responsibility. But that is bad for me and also not exercising my faith. This is not a disregard for the things that I can do and the responsibilities I do have, but it is the realization that I am human and have limits and that's okay.
4. Little by little.
I tend to have big lofty goals that intimidate me to the point of immobility. Take for instance, Hubby's 30th birthday. I wanted to make it a big deal but we didn't have the money and I wasn't sure where to find the time and I was tapped out of energy. Within an hour the other day, at work, I had planned his and Babycake's next parties. Simple but cute. I have plans to make/purchase decorations/etc piece by piece over the next few months so when the time comes, I'm ready and have the supplies to put into action. If I had been able to take a step-by-step approach originally, I wouldn't have gotten so overwhelmed that I ended up doing nothing.

5. Promote what you love.
 There is a lot of bad in the world. I get that. And we should strive to minimize it. But my personal mental health is dependent on surrounding myself with positivity and hope. It's not my natural inclination- which is exactly why I have to make it a priority. I want to show support and spread good.

6. Just ask/say/do it. 
 Finally talking to people about my anxiety has made me realize that being honest and just saying I need help has massive positive effects. And it's the same with many other areas of my life. If I just suck it up and spend 20 minutes cleaning, I am happier because my environment is clean. Joining my workout group was intimidating as an introvert who never placed value on physical health or exercise before, but it's been a massive blessing. Just doing it, even if it is a failure, is almost always better than sitting around stressing over the idea of doing it.

7. Take people at face value. 
 This kind of ties into #6. This relates partially to my decision to be honest and actually tell people how they can help. For instance, I have a friend who is super crafty- not only is she good at crafts but she enjoys them. So I asked her to help make our Halloween costumes. I didn't have the money to blow on purchasing from a Halloween store, because those prices are ridiculous. But I don't have the time/energy/skill to make it myself. She said yes, that she loved doing stuff like this! Normally I would brood over whether it was too much to ask, but I'm believing her when she says it's okay and even enjoyable.

8. KISS: Keep It Simple Stupid. 
 I've been thinking of these commandments for maybe a week and this one has already become a saving grace. This was my frame of mind when I planned the parties mentioned above. This was my thought when I was tempted to spend way longer than necessary finding a new icon to use in my Bullet Journal key, and what I'm reminding myself during my search for a desk for our soon-to-be-office. I'd love to be the type of person to get a cheap desk off Craigslist and DIY it up, but usually the cheap-o just sits in the garage for's more sensible for ME to buy something I can just throw together quickly and start using right away.

9. Prayer First. 
This really should be my first one, but it's my last. You can see why I need to make it a commandment. I want to get better about truly centering my life around my faith.

These are all pretty standard things to abide by in life. But again, I'm human and imperfect. Mantras and reminders help me live life in a way that is both enjoyable and useful. So I'm excited to have this reason to sit down and come up with some specific coping mechanisms and rules to live by that are helpful to me.

Do you have an personal commandments, or just sayings you keep coming back to?