5 small things / january

Happy New Year! Wasn’t it 2016 like six months ago???? Time is weird and dumb.

Last year I spent several months making myself work out like crazy and obsessively counted every calorie I consumed. I even started to get abs, which is truly insane for a lifelong couch potato/The One Picked Last in Gym Class. I was also miserable and having to deal with my mental health issues from the ground up. Lately I’m working on accepting the 5 pounds I’ve since gained and the softness that’s returned to my body. If I have any resolutions at all in 2019, I mostly care about tackling my sugar addiction (it’s bad, y’all), moving more every day and really appreciating the good, little things in my life.

So from now on, at least once a month, I want to write a roundup of my favorite foods, clothes, hobbies, art, music, whatever — things I appreciate that I think other people might appreciate, too. Here’s January’s list:

collard greens with vegan bacon

I made way too much food (what else is new?) for a New Year’s Eve party, including these sweet and tangy collard greens — one batch with real bacon, another with tempeh bacon. Holy hell, they’re delicious, and super easy, and there was virtually no difference in taste between the two versions I made. I’m making them again this weekend, and also maybe like, at least once a month from now on? They’re that good. Collard greens are also inexpensive and super healthy and apparently have special cancer-protection properties. I plan to make them again this week to serve over vegan cheese grits.

this little corner in my office

Because it’s perfect.

midi skirts in winter

My Brilliant Friend Fernanda was telling me the other day that her new aesthetic is “Amish chic,” and I realized that’s exactly what I’ve been channeling since the temperatures dropped in October. Longer skirts over tights with untucked sweaters, turtlenecks, other modestly cut outfits — it’s all I’ve been wearing. I recently got this gingham pleated midi skirt from ASOS and I’m obsessed with it. (Is gingham too 2017? I don’t care. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ ) I also got this super cute, subtly-leopard-print skirt with buttons up the front and a little bit of a slit up the side.

the Pittsburgh Christmas bus

Our transit system debuted a couple of buses and trains for the holidays that look like Buddy the Elf vomited all over them. I didn’t manage to catch a ride on either of the Christmas buses until January 1st, and it made my whole day, especially after spending most of Christmastime feeling like a little bit of a Grinch.

new rituals and routines

I’m a hermit to my core. If I’m left to my own devices, I’ll choose to stay in or do something alone almost always. But, like most people, I don’t actually know what’s good for me, because that preference for solitude and quiet can be a huge damper on my mood. (It doesn’t help that I work nights and Joe works days, and so do almost all of my friends.) Luckily, I live a few blocks away from a great coffee shop with gorgeous natural light, a hot oatmeal bar and the occasional dog tagging along with its owner. On one of my days off each week, I’ve been waking up, grabbing the newspaper and immediately walking over for breakfast. I read, do the crossword, maybe write in my journal. I love our apartment and cats, but the change of scenery does me a lot of good.

Here’s to recognizing more of the little things this year and beyond.

it’s hard even when you’re lucky

Happy Monday! Last week kinda sucked.

It was mostly because of the world being shit and my anxiety, and also my anxiety being worse because of the world being shit. But the leaves were really pretty and I saw reminders all over the city that love and good people still exist, even if the bad ones are screeching at us from every angle right now. Also, goddamn I love fall. All weather should be fall weather.

I cried in therapy for the first time in at least a couple of months, I think. It happened as I told my therapist how I spent six hours Tuesday paralyzed on my couch worrying about the midterm elections but also worrying about every other thing in my life, which tends to be how anxiety happens for me. It just hadn’t been that severe in a while, which scared me big time. All of this was also mixed in with a good old fashioned depressive spell I’d been in for a couple weeks. Wooooo! Love when my mental illnesses get together and throw a party.

My therapist is awesome because she’s a social worker, so she gives me worksheets and anxiety management strategies but we also talk about politics and social justice and the steps I’m taking to eventually get my master’s degree in social work (which is at least, like, 5 years in the future). This time we mostly talked coping strategies though cause, as I said, I was not great last week.

She told me to write down the things we talked about me doing this week to keep the bad brain juju at bay. They are:

  • make a list of fun activities to do in the mornings before work, and schedule them the night before (I already try to do this but I slack off when I’m depressed)
  • wake up with Joe at 7 a.m. (lol kill me) so I can enjoy the morning and nap before work if needed (this was his suggestion and it’s a really good one! He’s the sweetest and I love him a lot. Mornings are my favorite but never get to experience them fully because I work nights and it bums me out.)
  • take drop-in yoga classes (only if I can drag a friend along cause group classes scare me and I can never relax :/)
  • keep journaling (doing that now. yay!)
  • start up the daily gratitude practice again (a thing I really enjoyed that I stopped for no good reason)

Sometimes I get really frustrated that I have to do things like this to make my brain hate itself a little less. I hate that I have to do so much every day just to feel a little bit normal, and that sometimes it doesn’t even work. What the fuck?!

I’m super duper thankful to have good health insurance and a good therapist and people who love and support me, but goddamn it gets tiring sometimes. And then I feel guilty for being frustrated because I know I have it easier than so many people who have seriously physically debilitating chronic illnesses.

But then I stop and remind myself that my chronic illnesses are debilitating physically, because Jesus, I just sat on my couch rocking back and forth for six hours with my heart racing the entire time because I was so anxious. But it’s not the same, right? It doesn’t feel like it should be the same thing. I dunno. That’s still something I struggle with a lot — how to think about my mental health in the overall context of chronic illness and disability.

I know chronic mental illness is a serious thing, so I don’t want to discredit my own problems, and I’d never do that to anyone else. But also, I can walk and talk and see and hear and exercise and eat most things without getting sick. I can get up most days and do what I need to do, even if my brain is yelling at me the whole time. I’m one of the lucky ones. I think I just get sad knowing that even when you’re lucky, it’s still so hard.

The whole point of me starting this blog in the first place was to document the things that fuel me and keep me mostly sane, so I’m aware that it’s not exactly productive to think this way. But life would be way too boring if we didn’t shoot ourselves in the foot sometimes, I guess.

Anyway, I’m gonna finish The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina before I call it a night. Here’s a picture of my own familiar from back before the leaves changed. She was almost certainly angry that I wasn’t inside feeding her at that very instant.

This is Chloe. She’s cute and mean and I love her.

P.S. Joe and I went to the Lord of the Rings festival at a local indie movie theater on Friday and watched all four hours of the extended edition of Fellowship of the Ring. It reminded me how much I love and identify with Hobbits and also of this eerily apropos-for-our-society bit of dialogue:

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”