Wordless Wednesday (Dec. 10, ’14)

I’ll be starting a new series of posts to give you all a peek into my weekly life. All photos are taken by me. Captioning varies.

Day 34 Mantra: “Look past your thoughts.”

grilled cheese onions

lunch before driving back to school

harry potter and the sorcerer's stone

rainy day movie of choice.

 being touristy and looking at all the fancy store windows.

Katie and April at the Plaza

enjoying the Christmas decorations at the Plaza

rockefeller center christmas treebeing even more touristy and going to Rockefeller Center (still, a must-do.)

positivity signs

“Look past your thoughts so you may drink the pure nectar of this moment.” -Rumi

&

“If you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.” -Roald Dahl

Does This Optimism Make Me Look Positive?

I think this week was a reality check. I never really thought about how hard it would be to change my ways. I joke around that I’m a total old lady — complete with a get-off-my-lawn attitude — but now I’m realizing how much of that is true.

I’m a bit set in my ways. Even when I’m consciously keeping this blog on the back burner in my mind, I find myself slipping back to negativity and incessant worrying.

Most of the time, I win. But sometimes, I find myself thinking just the way I’m determined to move past — they’re thoughts without optimism, without authority or self-confidence.

I know I have those things. On some level, I’ve been coasting on the minimal amount of effort. And as someone who takes comfort in structure, the structure of my negativity-filled life looks almost appealing from the outside.

What could possibly be appealing about re-listing the negatives in your head, you think? It’s familiar. It’s known.

I have known I am my own worst enemy for a long time. It’s so easy to internalize events that may have nothing to do with you, and apply them to your own self-worth. And when you do this often enough, it feels normal. You internalize it, make it this ideology — and you don’t realize how false it is. For all you know, it is the truth. It’s just how you exist. There is no problem — there is only existing.

But I thought I was past this part of my life, this stifling viewpoint, or at least, that I would always recognize when I succumbed to its mantras once more.

I thought I’d thrown away my negative ideology and embraced the truth — that my life is fantastic, that I have so many supportive family members and friends and loved people in my life — but that’s not always what happens.

Examining the truth in your life changes everything. Suddenly, you’re faced with this new ideology that makes you laugh at your old ways. You see how wrong you were — and how hopeful the future can be.

But adapting to this new lifestyle is not so easy.

You would think that the positivity would be  primarily comforting — but its most prominent characteristic is its unfamiliarity.

It’s like trying on a new dress for the first time, really. You want to like it…but it’s so different. And no matter how many people compliment you, or even when you see yourself in a mirror once in a while and smile at the fit — it still takes a while. It doesn’t quite feel like yours until you’ve worn it a lot.

I’m going to wear out this positivity until it’s mine. I just have to keep trying.

Day 7 Mantra: Wear out your positivity. It might feel weird at first, and that’s okay.

Also, it is totally impossible not to smile when listening to this jam:

Confessions of a Control Freak: Sometimes, I’m a Hypocrite

Today is Day 5 of the Worry-Free Challenge.

I didn’t post at all yesterday. I’m not going to b.s. it — I wasn’t having a very good day, and sometimes, it’s awfully hard to practice what you preach.

Refocusing today has been good.

Day 4 Mantra: Make your positive thoughts a reality.

Day 5 Mantra: Forgive yourself when it’s not possible.

I’m not going to make excuses, but just for a laugh — here are some of the worst excuses compiled by CBS News on why people missed work.

 

The Pursuit of Happiness is Futile (It’s More Optimistic Than You Think)

Lucille Ball quote via incompletemagazine.com
Lucille Ball quote via incompletemagazine.com

Somewhere along this past year or so, I felt like I lost a part of myself. I could never put my finger on exactly when this happened, but this loss — my mojo, my juju, my passion — chipped away at me slowly.

Some days, I missed it more than others. Most of the time, I tried to stay so busy that I didn’t feel its loss at all. It’s hard to be introspective when you’re hustling and studying constantly.

I love learning. I’ve always thrived in school. It was my thing, the way other kids has sports and dance. I immersed myself in reading and knowing all the right answers. School gave me this kind of power, at a young age, that I could never achieve in any kind of (coordination needed) sport.

Yet, I couldn’t understand why this schedule was making me completely miserable. I was doing well in my classes and enjoyed the subject material — but every day felt the same. I felt like a total drone. I’d felt like I’d lost my sense of purpose — and it felt like  more than senioritis. I didn’t know how to deal with falling out of love with school.

It was burnout at its finest.

Now that I’m taking some time to reflect (truly reflect) on what brings me contentment. I’ve always chased after success, thinking success is going to make me happy (spoiler alert: it won’t!) or at least catapult me to the next level of contentment.

I’ve realized some things, chief among them: the pursuit of happiness is futile. I may be a realist, but I don’t think this is necessarily a pessimistic outlook. The fact is, life just happens, and you’re not so much pursuing it as you are just flying by the seat of your pants, trying to adjust before life shifts and you have to deal with the Next Thing.

Maybe I should rephrase this. Chasing after what might make you happy is like a lottery ticket. You don’t really know. But the things that make you happy right now? Those are a sure bet. And I’m not talking about the instant gratification of someone liking your photo on social media, or even the joy a sale at your fave shop (New York & Company, I’m looking at you…) can bring.

Confession of a control freak here: I’m all about finding a path. Toss me some sort of Life Plan and I get all excited about how bright my future will be. But life doesn’t work like that — the prospects of a future might excite me, but it’s so important to stand back and take notice of the good in your life right now before life takes me to a different place.

Day 4 Mantra: Don’t wait for happiness — experience contentment right now.

Little parts of today that made me happy:

  • Finding a quiet corner of the cafe to read with a cup of coffee
  • Strolling down the street, enjoying the last bit of good weather before winter settles in
  • Bumping into a friend
  • Listening to a thought-provoking podcast (I’m binge-listening to Radiolab, and today’s episode was Translation)
  • Inhaling the scent of fresh laundry
  • Journaling
  • Cleaning my room
  • Lighting a coffee-scented candle
  • Watching the sky turn dark
  • Gulping fresh water
  • Flopping on my bed and taking a moment to stare at my ceiling

What made you happy today? What are some things that ground you and reignite your mojo?

 

Step Off Your (Metaphoric) Mountain

It’s easy to say “Don’t sweat the small stuff,” but sometimes, my problems feel gigantic. They’re anything but small in my mind.

It’s hard to deal with a mountain of a problem when you can’t see the top, the peak of success. All too often, the molehill-sized problems in our lives look like mountains. But we’re simply viewing them from the bottom, and from the bottom, it’s hard to get perspective.

I think it’s similar to the way in which after you’ve faced a Difficult Life Challenge, some mountain of life’s issues, you emerge stronger. Admittedly, sometimes you’re not even scaling the problem, not even moving forward — it’s all you can do to just hang on, knuckles clenched, gasping for breath and praying that you’ll get through this. Those times are hard, but on the mountain, they’re just one small part of the bigger picture.

But for me, during those moments, it sometimes feels like time stops. It’s like the world is frozen in place. Anxiety and worries can weigh you down from catapulting over this monster of a mountain.

If only I could ditch these heavy worries, you think. Then I could finally scale the mountain. And if you ditch a worry or two, sure, you feel better immediately — but you still feel the need to cling to this mountain. Even if you optimize your environment to be as worry-free as possible, there is still something there. You’re not quite free.

Now, hold up a second.

What if I told you to just step off the mountain? You know, the one that’s practically running your life because it’s so ginormous?

You’d think I was crazy, right? Like, there’s no way in hell I’m stepping off a freaking mountain. I must hold on and grip it until my fingers ache deep into my bones. I must have it become the focus of my life — because without it, I would not exist. I would fail — I would fall off the mountain. How else can I succeed at this challenge if I don’t think about it constantly? (This is my train of thought more than I care to admit, but here I am, admitting it, because I think it is really important to talk about worry and anxiety in a way that’s accessible. In a way that feels real. This blog is not a psychological self-help book. I’m not qualified to do any of that. But I do hope you can read this, and think of yourself – or a loved one, or a friend – and try to understand where these thoughts are rooted and how to acknowledge and move past them.)

This is how it feels when people tell me to stop worrying about whatever challenge I’m facing. It’s not that I believe worrying will help me (I do recognize, on some level, that it is detrimental to my goals and my health.) It’s just — at the time, it is the center of my life. The mountain feels like the pillar of me. In a way, it feels like a part of me, a foundation.

Here’s the kicker: I see the mountain as the Challenge. I see clinging to the Challenge as a way to survive, as a way to hang on to the hope that I will scale it.

But the mountain is not the Challenge. The mountain is only the Worry.

Wait, what?!

It took me a long time to realize that I was not clinging to the Challenge. I was actually clinging to the Worry. When I faced an exam, I thought the insurmountable height of the Challenge was paralyzing me. But I had prepared, studied my butt off, and worked hard. It wasn’t the Challenge that gave me anxiety — it was the Worry, perceived as the Challenge. It’s not that I can’t do it — I’m just perceiving my worries as part of the problem I need to take on.

And this is hardly ever true. I’m more than qualified to tackle anything life throws at me, and I’ve proven this again and again academically, socially and in my career. But this separation between what I need to overcome to succeed (the Challenge) and what I need to overcome in smaller increments (the Worry) is crucial. You don’t need to do both things at once. You don’t even have to think about both things. Success in both will come eventually. You just need to step off your mountain and realize the worry is a separate entity from the challenges in your life.

It’s only now that I’m slowly realizing this shift in perspective is so integral to my life. Relabeling what I struggle with — hardly ever the actual Challenge — as struggling with the Worry instead is a huge step. It’s not easy. Sometimes it takes time. Sometimes you might screw up a little.

But it’s okay. You can climb mountains.

Day 2 Mantra: Scale back your perspective.

Will this matter a week from now? Will this matter a year from now? Are you looking at the mountain as the Challenge? Jump off from your worries. Breathe.

Confessions of a Control Freak: How I’m Renouncing My Ways

I’ll be the first admit it: I have a hard time relaxing. Ever.

You could stick me on a beach in paradise and I’d still be thinking: What if I forgot to lock my hotel door? What if I was supposed to do an assignment before I went on vacation? What if…?

This stream of worrying never shuts up.

Even when I’m hanging out with friends, I tend to be a little high-strung: I want to know all the details: where, when, how long and who’s going to be there. I’m detail-oriented, and that makes me great at getting the scoop in journalism, but as a person — sometimes it makes me a little depressed. It’s hard to admit that. I really enjoy making other people happy, and I tend to keep my worries inside. I’ve always thought — I can’t help it, I’m just a private person — and no one wants to know that I deal with this.

But part of the scary part of worrying yourself to death is the feeling that you are so alone. And truth is, you’re not. People struggle with worrying, anxiety and even depression all the time. Being alone couldn’t be further from the truth. But it’s easy to get wrapped up in this repetition of worries. At first, the worrying is relaxing, soothing, like a repeated prayer. As if repeating the words enough times will make your problem go away.

Worry smothers you, makes you less likely to reach out, makes you feel like you’ve lost your connection to others.

But that’s not true. It just appears to be true. And worrying about problems won’t make them go away — only your attitude can help you deal.

I have a hard time realizing the world won’t end if one new person shows up at a party — or someone who’s promised to show ditches instead. I have a hard time with standing my ground for fear that people will disagree with what I say (um, haters gonna hate anyway?!)

On the outside, I feel like I really  have my life together, but on the inside, I struggle every day with worrying and trying to project happiness into my life.

It’s time for me to stop this. For real.

I’ve been a total control freak every day of my life, but it’s time to stop worrying and start living.

That’s why I’m beginning my own 40 Days of the Worry-Free Challenge. I’m going to identify exactly what is making me stressed, tackle it, and move on with my life. To hold myself accountable, I’m going to talk about it here. No filter. If I have a bad day, I’m not going to b.s. it — everyone has a bad day every so often, but we need to unite to cope with them. I don’t expect every day to be completely worry-free (after all, I’m trying to undo 21 years of social conditioning and anxiety here), but I do expect to be able to deal with it better at the end of this experiment.

Why the sudden change of heart? After all, I’ve managed to successfully live like this my whole life. Why now?

I finish my undergraduate college education at SUNY New Paltz on December 16th, 2014. This is exactly 40 days from now. I’ve heard it takes a month to form a habit — but just to be sure, I’ll do so for 40 days. There is no running from this — I’m always on the move, but doing something every day and actually (gasp!) talking about it openly and honestly is bound to make something happen.

I’m going to blog every day about stress management, my life and things I’m learning along the way. Taking care of yourself is such an important priority — but it’s never been my main one. Now, it has to be.

 Mantra for Day 1: Just do it.

I’m taking a cue from Nike here. I tend to obsess over absolutely everything I’m doing. Eggs for breakfast? Maybe I should’ve had yogurt. Handed in the essay in Times New Roman 11.5 point font to fit within the page limit? Maybe I should’ve left it at 12, after all.

Seriously, it gets that silly. For a person who prides herself on her logic, my worries have no logic. In the long run, none of these things matter. Today, I’m focusing on not second-guessing myself and simply flying through my to-do list. Just do it.

I believe I can. I’ll report back tomorrow.

Stress less and smile more,

April

Resolution Recap

In lieu of making New Year’s resolutions, I made resolutions just for January. With January coming to a close, I think it’s a pretty good time for reflection.

Exercise three times per week:
I’ve been doing great with this! Except for one week, when I was sick, I swam, biked, and ran my way through January. I loved taking advantage of swimming almost every day while I spent time with my family in Florida. While I love the campus gym, nothing beats running through sunny days and swimming when it’s 80 degrees out. It was a great time!

I’m hoping to continue the trend by participating in a campus fitness challenge with my roommates. Participants earn points by attending exercise classes, rockin’ the cardio equipment and weights during open rec hours, and receiving free health assessments and personal training. I’m really excited. Working out with other people is always motivating and I love combining socializing with exercising. My two favorite things in one go? It’s a necessity for every time-pressed person.

Eat a little bit better: Although I admit I fall back on sugar for an energy boost sometimes, I only had two cups of coffee for all of January! I’ve also been eating yogurt almost every day and slurping down orange juice (well, sipping, in polite company). I’ve also become quite creative at the dining hall. Today, I had a hummus wrap with spinach, romaine, honey mustard, cucumbers, and grape tomatoes. It was fresh and satisfying, and definitely a new favorite in my rotation.

 

Work toward completing 50 push ups:

Okay, I admit one incomplete resolution. I was so psyched to complete push ups that I overdid it and advanced too quickly through the program with poor form. I only made it to week two before my back was killing me and I had to stop. I’m signing up for personal training sessions (free! I love student perks) in February to learn how to do things properly. The Internet is a wonderful resource, but sometimes you need a real live human to make things work.

Some January photos courtesy of my snazzy new iPhone:

Image

I went for some bike rides with my dad. It was just as cheesy as it sounds, but I love hanging out with my family. (We also pledged to eat healthier together and ate tons of yogurt and spinach that week.)

Image

My parents dropped me off two miles from where we were staying on my birthday. (At my request, of course!) I sprinted back and finished just as the sun was setting. It was a perfect end to my twentieth birthday after mini golf and classic 50s burgers and fries for a late lunch.

January was great, and I hope 2013 continues the positivity and energy that flowed in for me this month.

 

Sidetracked

I’ve been sick for over a week now, and I still have a persistent deep cough. Frustration!

I was doing well and chugging orange juice like I was a sponsor for Tropicana, so most of my symptoms have gone away.

(And in case you’re wondering, Googling “is it safe to exercise with a cough?” over and over does not change the search results. I tried.)

I have asthma, and regular exercise has been a great way to strengthen my lungs. But once I’m stuck with a cold, I feel like it’s forever before I can work out again. I jogged to the dining hall and it felt like an awfully far distance. I told myself to stop being so stubborn and to listen to my body (ignoring my body has brought me trouble many times before).

Even though I can’t be exercising right now, I’m still trying to be mindful and healthy. I cram my meals with whole grains and orange juice. I’ve been researching new treadmill workouts to try (love this one from FITNESS!)

On the bright side, I have plenty of time to enjoy all the goodies from the 2012 Student Communications Career Conference! It was a wonderful experience thanks to the New York Women in Communications Foundation.

Image

Do you have any get-quicker-faster tips?

I try to sleep so much that my roommate tells me I resemble Rip Van Winkle.

Class registration just ended! What’s the coolest class you’ve ever had?

I’m super excited for my Evolution of Women’s Magazines class next semester!
 

The Universe Gives Answers, Maybe

I’ve been having a rough time lately.  This is through no external problems (I love my family and friends), I’ve just been going through a weird headspace for about two weeks now, and lately it’s especially hard to deal with. 

I swam laps to work off the frustration with myself, but it wasn’t helping.  I swam hard and fast, but I still felt like crying (okay, I did cry) underwater.  I shouted under the water, I floated and tried to relax, I blew bubbles; nothing seemed to help. 

Now, I love water.  Being in the water always, always helps me, even better than a run, sometimes.

When I couldn’t take being so frustrated any more (I had a feeling somewhere between feeling like I was going to implode and like I was going to disappear…simultaneously), I swam to the side.  I clung to the brick wall and said, “God, please.”

Now, I’m not religious.  I’m not sure I believe in a specific god, or if I believe in the universe, or something, but sometimes, when I’m lost, I just need to say something, to just blurt out a cry for help.  And that was what came out.

I swam half of another lap and stopped at the edge, contemplating getting out.

Then I saw a frog floating in the water.

It was brown; its eyes were closed.

I screamed.  My dad was nearby:

“What?”

“Aaagh!  Frog!  A frog!  I think it’s dead!”

The frog opened its eyes and started swimming.

I scrambled the hell out of the pool.

Don’t worry, we fished it out with a net, and it was fine.  It hopped away.

It was small, and it looked like a young frog (its legs looked newly formed), but to be honest, I don’t know much about frogs, so I couldn’t say for sure.

My dad had it trapped under the net, and I said, “What are you doing?  Just let it go.”

Just let it go.

I don’t know if this is just some sort of metaphor for my day, or what, but the whole thing shocked me into laughter and now I feel like I might not implode or disappear.

That’s always a good thing.

In Which I Finally Leave the Hotel Room

We went to the public market at Granville Island yesterday.  We found a cool little music shop that had a bunch of instruments I’d never even heard of before.  One of them was a sound cradle:

Image

The owner was incredibly nice and demonstrated several of the instruments.  With one person sitting in the sound cradle, another stands behind them and plays the strings on the sides of the cradle like a harp.  The effect is a soothing, breathtaking surround sound.  It was very, very awesome. 

He also demonstrated singing bowls, a giant gong (which had to be one of the coolest and scariest sounds I’ve heard in my life…completely mystical), and explained various instruments’ healing powers.  The sound cradle, for instance, is used in Germany to wake up coma patients.  He told us that in one study, a man who had been in a coma for 6 months woke up after 30 seconds or so of sitting in the sound cradle…how cool is that?!

Since my current project is a manuscript regarding healing music, I found all of this especially interesting.  Here’s the link to Gandharva Loka.  I can’t stress enough how awesome the man (owner?) was.  He told us he spent several years traveling and encountering people who were looking for specific, exotic instruments, so he decided to start a shop to cater to them.  Looking at the website, it says the shop will be featured on June 25th on House Hunters International!  (Which I spent about four hours last night watching…House Hunters can be addicting).  Thumbs up for a cool business.

After wandering around the market (where I splurged on a 3-section notebook from Paper-Ya), we took a photo of the Vancouver skyline:Image

There was a cool art show around the market using recycled art, so of course my mom and I took a silly photo.  Traditions.

Image

There were cool art sculptures everywhere:

ImageImage

Image

We then headed to Chinatown, where I bought some flipflops (I forgot to pack mine!) and a cheap notebook (no way was I going to scribble in my very pricey notebook, which is becoming a nice, neat reference book for two manuscripts).  I’m writing in pencil, too, just in case I decide to change some details.  I’m ridiculously excited about the graphing section.  I can finally draw some (accurate!) maps and not lose them!  This is going to be so great.

After Chinatown, we headed to the Empire Landmark Hotel to go to the Scotiabank Vancouver Half-Marathon expo.  Even though I wasn’t running the race, I still wanted to check it out. 

Whoa, this expo was super tiny!  I nabbed some (Canadian) running magazines, a free smoothie, and the good workers from The Stick had me roll a little on my head.  Yes…on my head.  It did feel nice, although I don’t know if it helped with the concussion or if the Tylenol just kicked in….

We walked back to our hotel and stopped at A&W for some burgers.  (By the way, my entire family is STILL on East Coast time, so we ate dinner at like 3 pm…the time difference to Vancouver is just enough to be frustrating, but not enough for our bodies to sync up with the new time!  Days feel sooooooo long (we’ve been getting up early and going to bed early…going to bed at 11 last night felt LATE!)Image

Image

I thought the fries in mini fryers were super cute!

Mmm, I love root beer.  I don’t usually drink soda, but root beer is my exception.  It’s my “it’s going to be a fun time” drink.  Really.  So going to A&W was a novelty; I’d never been.

After watching several hours of House Hunters, House Hunters International, and House Hunters Great Escape, I headed to bed.

It’s off to the cruise (and Alaska!), hurrah!  No internet for the next week or so…do you like being cut off from the internet on vacation? 
I enjoy it sometimes, it’s nice to take a break occasionally, but I like keeping in touch with back home.  (and calling internationally is sooo expensive!)

I’m sipping complimentary chai tea and feeling cool.  Tea: yay or nay?