Author: Lillian

Self care for mopey days

Greetings, dear reader. If, by some miracle, you’re still following this blog (given my super infrequent updates), then… DUDE, THANK YOU!

Anyways, things are moving along here: we got to Colorado about a month ago, and I’m getting as settled in as one can be when 90% of one’s belongings are still in storage.

On one hand, I’m so, so happy to be in Colorado — I’ve been waiting literally years for this, y’all — and I don’t miss DC at all. I’ve been hiking as much as possible (my IG is basically an ongoing documentation of my hiking adventures), and just seeing the mountains every day makes me happy.

Today, though, is a mopey/hard day for, like, a veritable cornucopia of reasons. I knew today was going to be hard, and my inner monologue has involved a lot of “Self, no. We are not going to lie in bed being depressed. We are going to get up. We are going to do things.

Knowing this, I decided to bust out most of my self-care arsenal in an effort to soothe myself — and happily, they appear to be working!

Buzzfeed had an awesome article recently about making an emergency self-care kit, and I decided to add to it with a flow chart that I recently made for myself. When the sads come calling, I ask myself the following questions:

  • How long has it been since I ate, had some water, or exercised? It it’s been more than 90 minutes since I had food or water, and if it’s been more than a day since I had a good sweat session, that’s my first objective.

If that’s not the issue, then I call upon the self-care toolkit:

  1. Deploy happy-warm-fuzzy sensory things. For me, that means a candle I love (from my happy place, AKA Marshall’s), and jazz music, which always helps keep me from sliding into that sneaky, heinous downward spiral of grossness and misery.
  2. Do something productive. I find that my mood often follows action, and that doing something productive — laundry, cleaning, organizing, anything — helps me feel like I’m not just, y’know, a pile of flesh that lies in bed and fucks around on Reddit and social media all day. Not doing anything makes me feel useless, and feeling useless fuels my depression like woah — but the reverse is also true, so even when all I want to do is lie around and be sad, I make myself do something. Today, knowing that I needed to be especially distracted, I did all three: laundry, organizing, and cleaning. They definitely helped.
  3. Do something creative. When I’m doing anything that involves my right brain, my mood magically lifts. I don’t know why this is true — maybe it’s distraction, maybe it just requires using a different part of my brain than the part that is so talented at ruminating — but holy hell does it ever help. I decided to hop on Word Swag and make some quotes for Instagram (to be posted later today!), and it felt… wonderful.

I was also really happy to get this toolkit in place — so, overall, I’d say today was a much bigger win than I’d anticipated.

Nine Days

Hola, y’all — it’s been a crazy couple of months, but I’m pleased to say that the countdown to Colorado is now in the single digits: nine days until the movers come, and then we’re outta here. Nine days, Ferris. Niiiiiiiine daaaayyyys. (Huzzah!)

In the meantime, when I’m not frantically helping my parents pack up their house, I’ve been playing with some recipes to see if I feel better by cutting out eggs and dairy. I’m bone-tired, like, allll the damn time, and I have a touch, just a soupçon, of subclinical hypothyroidism. But, given my body’s tendency to be allergic to, or at least intolerant to, basically everything, I figure it can’t hurt to see if being gluten-free, dairy-free, and egg-free helps my plight. I feel like it’s entirely too many things to be -free of, but if it helps, I’ll work with it.

Adding to which, it’ll give me something to experiment with, test out, etc., once I’m back to having a kitchen of my own. Basically, Virginia Woolf had it partially right: a woman needs a room of one’s own, but this woman also needs a kitchen of her own too. (In the meantime — please hold for a moment shameless self-promotion — feel free to check out my Insta for some of the things I’ve tried recently. We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming.)

I’ve also been basically pining for all my stuff. It has been, happily, all delivered to Colorado, so it’s no longer split between DC and various points to the west — but, like, I really miss my belongings. I know we’re all supposed to be minimalists these days, not have any attachments to things, and all that jazz, but…I can’t do that. We moved a lot when I was growing up, and my stuff helps me feel centered, safe, and at home. I’m attached to it. It’s also stuff that I’ve carefully curated/selected over the years, because I’m totally obsessed with design and aesthetics — so it means a lot to me, both psychologically and aesthetically.

Basically, I 💖 my stuff. And I miss it, so I might cry when I’m reunited with it. (Don’t judge me.)

But, what all this means is that my life-renovation is actually making ~progress~, which is super exciting and has been soooooo long in the making. Yay!

For now, I can at least say this: the countdown to Colorado is on, and I’ll catch y’all on the flip side.

Malingering

Here’s the thing about being unemployed, living with your parents while waiting for your divorce to go through, having all your stuff in storage, and generally having very little to do until you move to Colorado and can begin legitimately looking for gainful employment: it’s boring.

This leads to a lot of lying around, spending too much time on Reddit, listening to alllllll the podcasts, and immersing myself in heaps of both Netflix and reading. In other words, malingering.

I know there are better ways to spend my time, but there are also worse ones. Like, i know it’s not at all productive — but the fact is, I’m not lying on the floor, immobilized by the unexpected turns of events and moaning like a deeply aggrieved member of the undead, about how unfair everything is. When I malinger, I’m just…trying to make time pass a little bit faster while I wait for June, which is when I’ll permanently come to Colorado and can finally dive into rebuilding my life. I’ll also be reunited with my stuff, which means I’ll be able to do things like cook and paint (which I’m very much looking forward to, and I might be, like, on the brink of breaking into hives because I miss it so much?).

Anyways, that’s the bad part. The good part is that I’m currently in Colorado, networking like mad and trying to lay the groundwork for job hunting in June. This, happily, means that I’m not at all bored, I get to see my friends (gaaaaawd, I miss socializing!), and I have access to hiking trails (which is one of my favorite activities). I’m not excited about returning to Houston next month, but alas, that’s the way the cookie crumbles.

Anyways, that said, if any of you are among my fellow horizontally-inclined brethren (depressed? Pregnant? Chronically ill? Temporarily ill? Just super fucking tired for no readily identifiable reason?), and are in search of some quality entertainment, here are some of my current faves:

Books:

My most recent reading adventures have been focused on 1) true crime, and 2) Buddhism, because why the hell not? No one has ever accused me of being normal, so this maintains my longstanding tradition of being super weird.

Anyways, I’ll Be Gone in The Dark — Michelle McNamara’s posthumously published novel, is supposed to be incredible. It’s also supposed to be terrifying, so I figure I’ll read it now, while I’m surrounded by other people and very much not living by myself (yet). I may become physically incapable of sleep afterwards, but I feel like it may well be worth it?

I’m also enjoying the bejesus out of Tara Brach’s True Refuge and and Pema Chodron’s WhenThings Fall Apart. If you’ve ever had your life suddenly go totally sideways and have found yourself struggling to make it through, these books are invaluable. A blogging friend also recommended Storms Can’t Hurt the Sky: a Buddhist Path Through Divorce, and it’s has been a lifesaver in recent months.

I’ve been dually entertained by fiction, too, and I just finished Always by Sarah Jio. She’s one of my favorite fiction authors, and Always, which is her latest book, was fabulously fun to read (and wonderfully distracting! #winning #thankthelord #pleasedistractme).

Netflix:

Grace and Frankie 4-ever, y’all. I just love them so damn much. They also bring me hope that I, too, can bounce back from an unexpected divorce. It’s also impossible not to love the hell out of Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda. Like, really. If you don’t love them, please talk to your doctor about the possibility that you may actually be dead inside. Or a cyborg. Either way, it’s a sign that something ain’t right.

Podcasts:

I maaaaay have recently developed a habit in which I fall asleep listening to podcasts. It sounds weird, I know, but here’s why it’s great: the vast majority of my insomnia is fueled by the fact that I cannot. Make. My brain. Stop running. It just bounces along, running a million miles an hour and abjectly refusing to give in to my need for sleep. But when I listen to podcasts, my brain focuses. It stops its shenanigans, listens intently, and actually quiets down. It’s distracted. It shuts up long enough for me to actually fall asleep. Anyways, this is miraculous and revelatory.

My faves lately have been:

  • My Favorite Murder
  • Pod Save the World
  • The Global Politico
  • The Ezra Klein Show
  • Vox Worldly
  • The Science of Happiness
  • Terrible, Thanks for Asking

In other news, I’ll be in DC next week — getting my stuff out of storage, seeing my medical team, and running very, very slowly in an 8k with some of my besties. It’ll definitely help time pass a little bit faster, so hopefully I won’t spend the next two months like dear old Cookie Monster.

Cake, cake, cake

The last week has been…intense. There have been some low lows (and, let’s be real, quite a few crying jags), but some damn good moments too.

Yesterday was my birthday, and while the days leading up to it were hard — and I didn’t feel much like celebrating, which is really saying something since I usually love birthdays — but my family and friends rallied like the champions they are and pulled me out of my funk. Oh, and much of this involved gluten-free angel food cake (with strawberry icing, because hell yes) for breakfast.

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My mom got sprinkles on the sides through sheer force of will, as well as straight-up sorcery.

Basically, my goal these days is to keep myself busy, entertained, and as far from the Sneaky Downward Spiral of Depression and Doom (which I’m hereby declaring both a thing and a proper noun) as possible. My most heavily-relied upon tactics? Reading and Netflix, and trying to stay the hell off my phone, which it turns out is a lot like trying to run uphill while wearing roller skates and carrying Mr. Snuffleupagus on your back.

What? I never exaggerate. And I’m totally not exaggerating now.

Anyways, rediscovering engrossing forms of entertainment helps me keep my Facebook screen time to a marginally (and I do mean marginally) more reasonable level. What does this entail, you ask? Well, lately…

I’ve been binge-watching Grace and Frankie, which is totally a national treasure. I’ve always loved Lily Tomlin, and she and Jane Fonda are a riot together — and I have to admit, I kinda have a crush on Bud.

I’ve been reading:

Fiction:

A Wind in the Door, by Madeleine L’Engel. A Wrinkle in Time is my favorite book — and holy shitsnacks, I can’t wait until the movie comes out — but for whatever reason, I’ve never read the rest of the Time Quintet. I figure that there’s no time like the present (see what I did there?) to rectify this problem, so I’m diving right in.

Non-Fiction:

Sacred Contracts, by Carolyn Myss. I’d read Anatomy of the Spirit almost ten years ago, and I thought it was fascinating — but man, applying Jungian principles to the whole thing takes this to a new level. (I, um, happen to think that Carl Jung was The Man. All that and a bag of chips. The bomb diggity. The cat’s pajamas. I don’t know why cats would ever have pajamas. But whatever, I just really love Carl Jung.)

Option B, by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant. I loved Sheryl Sandberg’s original Facebook post about kicking the shit out of option B — she wrote it around the time that my endometrial cancer came back, so it’s been an incredibly helpful concept in the years since. I haven’t gotten very far, and I’m trying to keep from reading 80,000 books at the same time and never finishing any of them (this is one of my worst habits), so this one may take me a while.

Internets:

Why Is This Flu Season So Deadly? (The Science of Us) Okay, so it’s not exactly uplifting, but please heed this public service announcement to get your flu shots and wash your hands, like, as often as humanly possible. (Please! For the love of god!)

Why Everybody’s Obsessed With Skincare Now (The Cut) I happen to be utterly on board this cultural juggernaut du jour, and this quote summed up exactly why:

“[Skin care makes me] feel like I’m somewhat in control of my own destiny,” Alison Roman, author of what might be Instagram’s favorite cookbook, explained to me. “Every time I put on my Vintner’s Daughter serum I feel like I’m going to sleep extra well and when I wake up I’m going to look really beautiful and my skin’s going to look super glowy. Whether or not that’s true, I have convinced myself that that is a part of me having my shit together.”

Girl, preach.

The 6 Steps of Turning Setbacks into Advantages (New York Times) I want to print this article and hang it over my desk. And get it tattooed on my forehead. Well, okay, not on my face. But maybe on my arm or something. And y’all, that book is so getting added to my reading list! (Which is already, like, miles long. I have a problem.)

Nutella ‘Riots’ Spread Across French Supermarkets (BBC, with a clever pun in the title) The old adage says that everyone has a price, and just so we’re all clear, mine absolutely involves Nutella and I would 100% participate in a riot over this.

But also: cake. Caaaaaaake.

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Creepily photobombing the cake. 

For the Love of Micro-Goals

As some of you may have learned, I, uh, don’t usually make rapid, astonishing progress towards any of my goals. That reality really, in the words of the incomparable Phyllis Neffler from Troop Beverly Hills, frosts my cookies. I so wish I was the sort of person who could see dramatic, super-fast progress in, like, pretty much any area of life — and knowing that I usually have to keep slogging away at stuff is super annoying. Maybe it’s because I’m just an Xennial whose brain was molded by the internet and instant gratification, but hey, we can’t all be perfect.

Instead, my progress tends to be slow but usually steady — and thank god, because if it weren’t for that part I’d lose my mind — and it tends to require a lot of work on my part to stay motivated, productive, and on task.

Like, a lot of work.

Like, an obnoxious amount of work.

Like, I should probably feel mortified and personally victimized by how much work it requires.

But the fact is, my slow progress is still progress. And even if I do things like 1) break a task into wee little tasks like “open the folder” or “put the receipts in the envelope,” and 2) write down tasks I’ve already done just so I can have a sense of accomplishment when I cross them off, it’s still productive. And at least my ability to be a functional adult hasn’t deteriorated to the point of being featured on an episode of Hoarders, right? (Please tell me I’m right.)

Anyways, all that being said, I felt super vindicated today when I read The New York Times’ Smarter Living column on how micro-tasks can help people gain productivity momentum when they’re struggling to get started with (or to finish) a task. Guys, my love of putting already-accomplished mini-tasks on my list has a basis in actual science!

Enter micro-progress.

Pardon the gimmicky phrase, but the idea goes like this: For any task you have to complete, break it down into the smallest possible units of progress and attack them one at a time. … What’s so striking about applying this law of motion to productivity is that once you shift your thinking into this frame — I’ve started being productive, sI’m going to keep being productive — you achieve those micro-goals at what feels like an exponentially increasing rate without even realizing it.

YOU GUYYYYYS. This actually kind of works, both in day-to-day and big-picture, grand strategy contexts: on a day to day basis, my goals tend to be pretty small, but each small step helps me move forward. It may be at the pace of a geriatric snail in a lake of molasses, but whatever. It’s still progress.

So, with that in mind, here are the mini- and not-so-mini steps that I took, and things that made me stop and really think over the course of the last week:

  • I’m applied for a job that asks candidates to have “a defensible position on the Oxford comma,” and I basically started fangirling as soon as I read it. I haven’t put in a formal job application anywhere outside of the federal government for almost ten years, so this was a big deal for me. I don’t know if I’ll even hear from them, but I was at least excited and encouraged to find that there are, in fact, jobs that I can get excited about. UNICORNS ARE REAL, Y’ALL.

Fangirling

  • I tried a couple of new and awesome face masks, courtesy of a dear friend who sent me an incredible care package. I have this burgeoning love of skincare, which comes at an inconvenient time since I’m unemployed — all the more reason to still be giddy about said care package — and I was super excited to try them out. The kaolin clay mask made me look like the Babadook when I had it on, but it detoxed the bejesus out of my skin and was therefore 100% worth it.
  • I also spent a lot of time adulting this week: reviewing my finances, organizing and filing the papers that I haphazardly threw into a bin when I was rushing to get packed and moved out of D.C., etc. It was the total absolute opposite of glamorous, and I required a ton of popcorn to sustain me through these trials, but I was super relieved to get it all done.
  • I installed two new apps on my phone — that’s not a big deal, since I tend to get a bit app-happy (Me: Ooooh, that looks cool and possibly useful! Also me: But do you need it? Also, also me: Screw it, this will be useful somehow!) — that are helping me stay accountable to myself. (And, apparently, to my phone. Because apparently I care about whether or not its judging me.)
    • The first, Momentum, is a habit tracker that helps me keep track of all sorts of good stuff: you can customize the list, so mine includes flossing (my least favorite hygiene task in the history of my existence), drinking enough water, meditating, journaling, creativity, and reading. These are all things I want to do more of, but I tend to put them off until everything else is done, at which point…I zone out on my phone. (*Womp womp wommmmmmmp*)
    • That brings me to the second app, Moment, which runs in the background and tracks the number of times I pick up my phone in a day, the amount of screen time I put in, and which apps I use the most. Fun fact: I spend entirely too much time with my face in my phone, and most of it is spent on Facebook (AKA: The Official Social Media Platform of Old People). I figure that Moment can keep me apprised of how ridiculous my screen time has become at any given point, and that Momentum can help me reincorporate the other things I love to do, like reading, journaling, and art.
  • I’m doing a lot more running and biking these days, too — and good lord do I need it. I mean, yes, we all know about the physical benefits of exercise and blah blah blah, but you guys, it’s increasingly clear that my mental health depends on this. On days when I don’t exercise, I’m stabby and agitated. I have a short temper. I don’t like pretty much anything.lord is testing meBut once those endorphins hit my brain, it’s like a whole new ballgame. I don’t hate everything! It doesn’t all feel like a cosmic joke! Granted, my face is usually so red that people wonder I’m going to keel over and die at any moment, but that’s not the point. Endorphins are the point, and they’re my homies for life. #selfcare, y’all.

I’ve also noticed that since leaving my job last fall, my chronic pain and fatigue issues have gotten dramatically better. I still get a little achy from time to time, but it’s nowhere near as bad as it was a year ago. I never noticed until recently how much better I feel, and I suspect that this, too, was a case of micro-progress: the improvements were so incremental that I didn’t notice them until they really started adding up.

Fingers are crossed that my other life-improving efforts follow a similar trajectory, amirite?

More Renovation Than I Planned

So, hey, it’s been a minute! (Or, like, 849,173,946 minutes. But whatever.)

There have been some major developments since I last posted here, including the fact that I left my job and had been planning to focus on freelance writing and building other streams of income — but due to some other events that I can’t discuss here, those plans have dramatically changed. The upshot of all this tumult, though, is that I’m currently staying with my parents in Houston while I start looking for a job in Colorado.

Sooooo…greetings from Texas!

I’ve been trying to figure out how to approach all this change, as well as my rebuilding efforts, when it comes to the blog — and when I say “thinking about,” what I really mean is “ceaselessly ruminating about” — but I think I’ve finally developed a plan: I want to do one thing every day that either 1) helps me rebuild/improve my life, or 2) that helps me heal, whether that healing is physical, psychological, spiritual, or emotional. And then I want to, y’know, write about it.

My Instagram account will reflect the whole “one thing a day” thing, and then I’ll recap them here once per week — in addition to other (hopefully) good stuff like money diaries (a la Refinery29), links to articles I’ve enjoyed reading, and the occasional inspired rant (hey man, when the spirit moves me to write, I gotta roll with it).

So, stay tuned for more!

In which I opine about Starbucks

Ok, so. I’ll provide a longer update later, but for now, I have some Very Important Opinions (okay, these are actually exceptionally trivial opinions, but whatever, we’re going to pretend that they’re important) about Starbucks.

Look, I know I spend waaaaayyy too much time staring into the void of caffeine consumption — but the reality is that I’m deeply, profoundly basic. Ergo, my veritable cornucopia of Starbucks opinions. Anyways. Behold.

1) As much as I love PSLs, I’m certain that eggnog lattes are even better. Are they approximately eleventy bajillion calories? Yes. Do I need all that sugar and dairy in my life? Not even remotely. Does any of that deter me? Nope.

2) Mobile ordering is the best thing since, like, the invention of the wheel. Anything that allows me to skip the line while clandestinely customizing my drink (look, I get embarrassed when I’m ordering in person and I have an absurdly long and complicated drink; I can feel people’s judgment drilling into the back of my skull) is a huge win.

3) Mobile ordering also is the only way my name gets spelled correctly. Nalin/Sillian/Luann/Lorraine/Lauren/Hillian/Killian/ is funny at first, but it gets old quickly.

And thus, I have spent my Sunday morning opining about a coffee chain.