Self-Care Sunday

For this week’s Self-Care Sunday, I took a trip out to the Palisades to visit The Self-Realization Fellowship at Lake Shrine. My goal while visiting Lake Shine was to focus on the present moment and minimize any thoughts that involved my past and future. It wasn’t easy. I kept thinking about getting home before it got dark, and that I had to grocery shop before I got home or I wouldn’t have anything to eat.

This task wasn’t easy, but I’d say 95% of my thoughts while at Lake Shine were present-oriented. I really took in my surroundings. The lake. The ducks that were on one and couldn’t stop quacking. The tourists and other visitors. I even brought my library copy of The Power of Nowthat I read some pages of while I was there. Such a perfect book to read in the most peaceful place in Los Angeles.

It’s amazing how you’re instantly alleviated from stress and anxiety when you just live in the present. It was refreshing to know that I didn’t have to look at my phone to check the time. I had a whole day to spend on myself, and time simply didn’t matter.

Afterward I made an impromptu visit to the beach. It was the perfect way to cap off my trip. I’ve never been to the beach while the weather was so warm out. I was sun-kissed and loving every minute of it. I mean, aside from the fact that the sun cancerous.

I also received a gift from my mom today–a cute little mini backpack I had on my Amazon wish list. It was a great bag to have with me on my trip this afternoon.

Oh, and it’s my cat Dupree’s eleventh birthday! Ever since the day we met, we’ve been inseparable. We just belonged to each other instantly. Dupree is a big ball of crazy and I’m so happy I’ve gotten eleven wonderful years with this baby. I’ve never known love so unconditional (on my end, at least), and even though he’s kind of a jerk, I know he loves me at least a little bit.

A great quote I read from The Power of Now:

Accept — then act. Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as is you had chosen it. Always work with it, not against it. Make it your friend and ally, not your enemy. This will miraculously transform your whole life.

I’m going to do my best from now on to accept before acting.

Please enjoy a photo set from my Sunday!

How did you spend your Super Bowl Sunday? Did you take a moment this weekend to do something kind for yourself?


Segue Saturdays: A Segue Into Routine

Every Saturday, I will post an excerpt from my weekly newsletter, A Segue Into Certainty. If you like what you’re reading, consider subscribing.

I know it’s been awhile since I’ve sent out a newsletter, and I promise that this time I plan to make this a weekly ritual. I’ve wasted too much time trying to provide my readers with the “expected stuff” (book reviews, career updates, etc.), only to figure out that all the expectedstuff felt wrong. While being a young adult writer plays a big role in my life, writing young adult doesn’t even touch the surface of how I spend my time. Pretty much all of 2017 was dedicated toward self-improvement and cultivating self-care. I was forced to grow in uncomfortable ways. I know these changes were critical for me, but change at any magnitude is hard, and I’m finally in a place where I can talk about it and attach a lesson to the struggle. That is the stuff I want to share with you. So for my first revamped newsletter, I want to talk about the five things I try to do each day to bring joy and fulfillment into a life filled with too much existential awareness and a little bit of anxiety (which is getting better).

1. My Five Daily Tasks

After reading The Gifts of Imperfection by Bene Brown, I 100% agree that the best we can do is find joy and fulfillment in the everyday small stuff. Happiness, even contentment, is so temporary that it’s useless to chase either of them down until we’ve finally “snagged” them for good. It’s just like chasing after a guy who’s not that into you (which, I’ve been there many times, so I can provide this analogy to you with confidence). So, I’m not dating that incredible good looking improviser I asked to be my practice group coach in order to get him to ask me out (but I was this close to sealing the deal), and I’m also not happy all the time. However, I’m glad that I’ve found these five things that fill me with the proper dose of gratitude each and everyday:

1. Meditation

Meditating has become the best part of my day. I try to do it as soon as I wake up. I’m still a relative beginner, and only meditate about 10 minutes a day, but this is the one task I plan to make a daily habit out of. I just feel the mental and physical benefits of meditation. I’m calmer under stress, more compassionate of myself and others, and am so much more aware of my body’s needs. I’ve dabbled with both guided and open-ended meditation and love them both. If you’re new to meditating, I suggest guided practices to start out, then you can transition into open-ended meditations if you want. I started out meditating for two minutes a day, and now those first two minutes fly by during my sessions. I like the Calm app and Insight Timer with Andy Hobson.

2. Yoga

Yoga with Adriene has become my go-to daily yoga practice. I am definitely not a handstand yogi, probably never will be. But Adriene is a humble instructor who’s turned me into a yogi for the mental and emotional benefits. She has hundreds of free videos on Youtube and provides her viewers with a monthly calendar with a “practice of the day” to make finding the perfect video all the more easier.

3. Writing

Back when I wrote A Fantastic Mess of Everything, I wrote 3 days a week (Monday/Wednesday/Friday) at the same time every morning and had optional editing/writing days on Tuesdays and Thursdays. These days I keep to a similar schedule (I write Mon/Wed/Fri as soon as I make my morning coffee), and I work for no more than two hours to avoid burnout unless I’m having a rare breakthrough that morning. I still keep my Tues/Thurs as optional days as to not feel guilty if I have too many errands to run or I prioritize rest to writing. Surprisingly, I get a LOT done on this schedule. Plus, it’s totally realistic and attainable.

To read how I’m incorporating exercise and journaling into my daily routine, please consider subscribing to my weekly newsletter, A Segue Into Certainty. Delivered to your inbox every Monday.

Do you have any daily rituals that bring you joy and fulfillment? Share them with me, I’d love to hear them.

Leaning Into Discomfort

I was hoping to get my blog post in before midnight, but since I was busy working all day I will allow this one slip of my 28 days of blogging. (And so early on in the month, too! 😫).

I’m going to keep this post brief. Today I found myself especially irritable. On Thursday I had negative experience at work that left me distracted and jeopardized my ability to coach well and to have fun while teaching. Instead I felt on guard, insecure, and most of all ashamed. Then today I felt that my time had been disrespected by an employer who showed up twenty-five minutes late when they knew I had a hard out time. On top of that I’m worried about my family’s health and well being and my own financial stress.

I felt angry. Frustrated. Hopeless. Anxious. Like I attract very specific people and behavior and this is all my fault. I brought all of this upon myself. Even the things that didn’t have anything to do with me. Somehow I found ways to feel guilty because of them.

Thankfully, instead of blowing up, I vented to my therapist about the way I was feeling. I confided in a couple of friends. None of these people provided me with answers, but I didn’t need them. I just needed someone to listen and relate.

Thanks to The Craving Mind, one of my February reads, I refrained from my usual food binge or compulsive Amazon purchase. I simply forced myself to sit with and EXPERIENCE the emotions that were coursing through me. As excruciating as it is to acknowledge the awful inside of you–we can all agree it’s far easier to distract ourselves with instant gratification–it’s when we confront our fears and pain head on that the most progress can be made.

As great quote I read recently by Jonathan Fields goes:

“The butterflies always fly when you’re pushing into something that matters deeply and that requires growth. The reframe is to learn to experience the sensation as a signpost that cool things are happening and lean into it, rather than as a signal to run.”

It is so important to walk toward the scary parts of life. If we aren’t uncomfortable, we aren’t growing.

And you know what happened when I sat with the pain? The jumble of negative emotions inside of me disappeared. I’m still affected by all of this week’s events, but my mind is clearer and I’m ready to tackle it all with reason and compassion

As Fields says, I’m ready to lean into it.

February Goals

Happy February!

I don’t typically create monthly goals for myself, but I feel compelled to create fun, 30-day challenges every month this year. For February, I have a few goals in mind:

1. Blog daily for the next 28 days

2. Dive deeper into my meditation & yoga practice

3. Start paying off credit card debt

4. Establish a sustainable work-life balance

1. 28 Days of Blogging

If you’re subscribed to my newsletter and blog, you may have noticed that this is my third consecutive post. I really want to be more active on my blog and share my self-care journey with, others with the hopes that maybe you can take what I’ve learned and implement some self-care for yourself.

I’ve never had a set blogging schedule, so it’ll be interesting to see if I can do it!

2. Deepen My Meditation & Yoga Practices

I’m super excited that I’ve finally returned to a daily meditation routine, but I can feel my body craving more. I haven’t quite decided how I plan to incorporate more meditation into my day. I may do both a morning and evening session, or challenge myself by sitting longer in my practice. It would be fun to work up to 20 minute sessions that don’t lead to falling asleep.

As for yoga, I try it fit it in daily, but only in 20-30 minute practices. This month, I want to dedicate 2-3 days a week to some challenging, hour-long sessions.

From back backs to hip openers to mastering the crow pose and handstand, there are so many things within yoga that I want to improve. I know it’s all a matter of picking one and sticking to it.

3. Pay Off that Debt

Last year was an amazing year for me financially. I had eliminated my credit card debt and had the credit to get myself a new car. Unfortunately, I was in a toxic living situation that I knew I was emotionally ready to leave. This last minute move put me back into credit card debt that I’ve been putting off paying off until I had more money put into savings.

So in February I want to begin paying that off debt using the snowball method.

4. Design My Ideal Schedule

I’m terrible at putting myself before others. For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been concerned with disappointing others, so I agree to do things I don’t really want to do to avoid conflict. This has carried over heavily into my work life. I gave so much of my time and energy to others and wasn’t taking care of myself.

I daydreamed about what my ideal work schedule would be when I finally had the money to work less and when I finally was in this phase of my life, etc. One day, I just asked myself: If I want more time off, why do I have to wait for a future that may never come? Why can’t I just ask for what I want?

I’ve worked hard last year to create a schedule that allows for time for rest and self-care. I’m already reaping so many benefits from working less. My days are slower and I’m able to appreciate them more, which is what life is all about, right?

I have one more freelancing gig to part ways from to achieve my ideal work schedule and I’m ready to take the leap of faith and put in my notice this month. It’s a bit of a scary venture, and as much as I’ve loved the freedom of freelancing over the past two years, it simply isn’t stable and is usually just plain stressful. I’m retiring my days of chasing checks in exchange for a few extra hours a week of stable work. I’ll anticipate a regular paycheck arriving right on schedule, thank you very much!

Do you have any goals for 2018? What are you doing to center your work-life balance?

A Return to Fun Fitness

Like the other areas in my life, I’m starting to question if an intense fitness routine is beneficial in my self-efforts. For the past few years, I’ve beaten myself up physically and mentally all in the name of “strong is the new skinny.”

I constantly felt drained and in need of a nap. I felt heavy and uncomfortable in my body. My jeans stopped fitting me, but when I went shopping for new clothes, I discovered that jeans of every size stopping fitting me. I hated what I was doing, but worried what would happen to my strength and the respect my clients had for me if I took a step back.

Here I thought that my desire to move away from intensity was my body dysmorphia at work and that I had to cast these feelings aside. “I should want to be strong,” I thought. “This is healthy!” Thankfully my therapist assured me that my feelings were reasonable. It’s okay to choose feeling comfortable in your body over beating it up.  It’s okay to perform exercises that give you energy, rather than drain you, even if it means sacrificing your ability to do Rx in a WOD. And it’s okay to want to fit into your clothes, as long as you aren’t trying to fit into an unrealistic size.

But man, if pushing ourselves to the limits every day is what good health has become, why is it devoid of any fun? Are we all supposed to stay on this track, feeling depressed and obligated for the sake of doing what’s best for us?

I think getting involved in an intense program could be good for you if you continue to love what you’re doing. If it’s helping you feel empowered for the first time in your life and allowing you to foster a healthy relationship with your body, you should totally do it. But if you’re doing it because you don’t like who you are and you’re filled with high exceptions for future you, then maybe you need to take a step back for a moment and ask yourself if this is what your body really needs, or if something deeper is causing this unnecessary self-pressure to occur.  

And while it’s okay to diet strictly and workout intensely, it’s important to ask ourselves if we’re doing this for our health, or because it’s become another fad. It’s perfectionism and shame telling us what we’re doing is good for us because we aren’t good enough now. It’s skinny, repackaged as strong.

Now that I’ve made this realization, my newfound calling as a coach is to remind people that true mental health is being mindful of our body and what it needs day to day. That a balanced lifestyle is one that is sustainable, gives you energy, makes you feel good about yourself now, and prioritizes happiness and longevity. That physical results are a bonus to sustained health. And that the part of ourselves that keeps saying that we aren’t good enough doesn’t serve as motivation to “hit it hard at the gym,” but instead needs to be told to shove it.

Personally, I’ve scaled back my more intense workouts to three times a week. On those other days, I’m going to do whatever feels best. Whether that’s cycling, yoga, or nothing at all. Gone are the days where intensity is my only option.

And you know what? For the first time in a long time, I feel strong again. I feel amazing about myself. I feel like me. And I’m better for it.

Have you ever found yourself in a fitness rut? What do you do to stay centered and happy in your fitness regime?

Meditation Journaling Exercise

This is a great exercise to try if you’re new to meditation and/or journaling, or if you want to try to merge the two together. 

In your journal or on a piece of paper, set a timer for 10 minutes and begin writing with the prompt: “Today I…” From there, do NOT think about what you want to say. Just write. What you write does not have to even make sense! You’ll be surprised where your mind takes you when you release the desire to censor yourself. 

When the timer is up, reread what you wrote and highlight, circle, and/or underline reoccurring themes, feelings, or anything that stands out to you. 

You can do this for ten minutes or one hundred. Just spend some time with your uncensored thoughts. 

Let me know how it goes in the comments! 

I used to speak of love 

I used to speak of love

When love didn’t speak of me

The times he’d never call

I waited patiently. 

A single ring would sting: 

The shattering of dreams. 

I used to speak of love

When love didn’t speak of me

The endless scrolling of my phone

To see where he could be.

For every smile that I bring:  

A mask for Agony.

But now I see that love

Comes at slower speeds 

The current never rocks the boat 

And keeps me on my feet.

To fly so high with stronger wings: 

I’m happily set free. 

How I Outline My Stories

Outlines play a moderately critical role in the writing process for me. I like to begin a story with a blank page and just start writing what’s in my head. Then when I feel like I’ve found a storyline that’s worth running with, I’ll begin my outline. 

I’m not a strict planner when it comes to storytelling. I only outline a few chapters at a time because I know that I have the tendency to stumble upon new ideas organically as I’m writing. I don’t worry too much about organization or abiding by the outline like it’s canon. I like to let the story flow freely and getting lost in my own words is why I write. Sometimes that means I have to scrap ideas that simply don’t work anymore, even if I initially loved where the story would have gone. I think that’s a positive, though, because as an artist  I try to avoid falling too in love with my ideas. Marriage in the drafting stage is artistically limiting. Don’t get married to your work until your work has committed to you and has assured you that you’re the only writer in its life; that there is no other writer who brings out the best in it like you do. 

Okay, enough of that. Here are some shots of what my outline for A Fantastic Mess of Everything looks like. They’re messy and disorganized, but that’s how I like them. 

If you’re read A Fantastic Mess, you might notice that some things from the outline did not make it into the book (Fran never gets a dog, nor does she drop out of college), but that was originally the plan. Outlines are great tools to to use as guidance when writing, but that’s what they are to me: just helpful guides.

Do you use an outline when you write? How strict are you with it? 

Listen to the ‘Or Best Offer’ Music Playlist 

Music plays a big role in my ability to be a productive, creative person. Sometimes I like a song because it’s fun and contagious. Other times the lyrics inspire me to write exactly what I need to say. 

Here’s the official playlist for Or Best Offer, my short story that’ll be available to my newsletter subscribers for free on April 20th. 

You can listen to it on Spotify

Wow, That’s Cool! Episode #1 – Being Persistent

-Wow, that's  cool!- (2)

The first episode of my podcast catered toward working artists, “Wow, That’s Cool!” is now live on Soundcloud. In this brief episode I discuss the amazing writing schedule that I stuck to while working on my first novel A Fantastic Mess of Everything, my not-so-great writing schedule during All the Stars on Fire, and more.