Thoughts and Inspiration

Lately, I’ve had a few things get stuck in my head that I just want to write about, or even just share with someone – anyone. And what do I love more than a good list? So today, we’re putting the two together. (Also, I’ve missed my Wednesday Things for the last couple weeks from the holidays, so I’m just writing things out instead of saving it all for Wednesday).

  1. I’ve lost track of the link where I originally read it, but one of the more powerful (and effective) strategies to judge others less that I have ever come across is this: next time you find yourself starting to judge someone else based on their looks, imagine that person standing in front of you, looking you in the eyes, and saying “I’m beautiful.” Just like some say doing this to yourself makes your brain start to believe it, you will begin to start seeing it in others. 
  2. I just finished reading The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty for Bon’s monthly book club  (lovely gal! I love that she runs a book club through her blog!), and I didn’t really expect to love it when I started it. However, as things progress (especially into the last half of the book) I knew it had some amazing observations of and questions to ask human nature. At least to me, it did. 
  3. When my grandmother passed in October, the core strategy I’ve clung to is to drop all my self-criticism – about how I feel like grieving, about what I feel, and in general. I feel like, initially, I used this escape from my own self-judgement as an excuse to procrastinate, indulge, and overspend; but right now I feel as if this break has naturally come round to a state of mind where I feel genuinely motivated for self-development and self-improvement goals in contrast to the years I’ve spend trying to shame or guilt myself into “fixing” things about myself. I’ve got goals, plans, and a support system. I’m good to go.
  4. Speaking of self-improvement: thank goodness New Year’s started in the middle of the week, am I right? I got four or five days to flesh out my resolutions, set up my plans, and indulge in the last few treats (sweets, not going to the gym, not keeping my room clean, etc.) that I’m limiting a little more in this coming year, starting Monday. These last couple days have also been especially restful since the holidays really didn’t offer too much peace or time to relax. Thus is the life of a server. Now that the holidays are done, we’re in one of our slowest months for the restaurant industry, and even though the nights I do have to go in are slow, part of me feels that they are a nice reprieve from the crazy holiday shifts and hours I’ve worked this past month.
  5. One of my resolutions is to try and take the extra moment to do a little more for others. I find that, when one suspects someone else needs help or someone to talk to or encouragement, it’s so easy to assume some one else will be there for them, and so we aren’t. In reality, this often leads to no one being there for them. It’s another demonstration of the bystander effect.
  6. I know I mentioned this before, but I am absolutely loving audio books! Gone are the days where I have to sit still and read and feel like I may be giving up time to do something else more productive. I listen to books whenever I’m in the car. I drive a lot. In the last two months, I’ve gone through 7 books (that’s almost a book a week!), They make my frequent hour-long commutes go by so quickly, and I’m never scared of being too sleepy to drive home late, and I’m excited about seeing if I like using them while I work out. I’m currently using Audible, but I recently discovered that there’s an app call Overdrive that lets you select a local library, sign in with your library card, and download free audiobooks to your phone or computer (here’s one link for more information).
  7. Um, all I’ve been eating lately is Thai food and yellow curry? One of my resolutions is to start making it myself. Buying it daily is… expensive. Whomp whomp.
  8. I’m watching the series House of Cards on Netflix. I did not expect it to be my thing, but holy crap, do I find it exhilarating. It’s so different than anything else I usually watch, but the story and characters are amazing and at the end of every episode I always find myself wanting more. Let me know if you watch it so we can talk!
  9. For years and years, I’ve pictured “the girl I want to be.” Heck, I’ve even made lists and plans on my computer of how to become that girl. However, this year is about realizing I already am that girl. I’m already exactly who I want to be, but sometimes some bad habits of taking the easy route or worrying too much or losing perspective get in the way. This means that, instead of seeing some perfect goal I hopelessly aim to obtain, I tell myself I already have/am it, and I just have to to choose not to fall prey to an obstacle and stay true to me. Helllloooo perspective change!
  10. Another resolution/goal? ORGANIZATION. I want to go container- and label- and file-crazy this year. There’s no way being organized can hurt, and it does so much for my psyche knowing that I know exactly where to find things I need. Committing to making organization a habit now only strengthens my ability to continue on with it for the rest of my life.

All in all, I feel excited, positive, and confident for 2014. What are your resolutions? What are some thoughts that have been sticking in your mind lately? What are you excited about?

you go girl.

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2014 & Weird New Things

Happy New Year, everyone!

Last night, everyone kicked 2013 out of the way to welcome 2014. It’s been a long while since I’ve had a good New Year celebration. Actually, I don’t even really remember having a specifically nice New Year’s, like, ever. I remember New Year’s Eves spent sitting on the couch and web-surfing with my parents while the news showed the ball drop in the corner of the living room as casually as if it were just another night on which we were letting Star Trek reruns play in the background. I remember another year, in high school, I was being an angsty teenager for not being driven to celebrate the coming of the new year with my first serious boyfriend. The year I met my fiancee, I was home alone because my folks were at a party with their friends. The next year was spent with some friends, which was fun but also somewhat socially stressful. Last year, I was working all day on New Year’s Eve, and only managed to get out of work by 11:45; the new year came while I was in my car, speeding to a friend’s place, where Luke was celebrating with friends until I could get there.

This year, I was expecting the same situation as last year. I worked all day New Year’s Eve, and was fully prepared to be there for the restaurant-wide champagne toast at midnight. However, we were actually pretty slow (extremely so, compared to last year) because of various reasons, and I was cut by 8:45 (which is early to be cut, even on a normal weekend shift). I was able to get out of work with enough time to stop at home and change into normal clothes before heading to where Luke was celebrating. This year, he was at his grandparents’ house with a lot of family. I didn’t tell him I made it out of work and could be with him at midnight, so it was a surprise when I turned up. When I arrived, I got lots of welcoming hugs before finding Luke playing a game (of course – what else?) called Munchkins with his brothers and cousins. I quietly settled next to his chair and started rubbing his back, and after a minute he turned to see who it was and just about fell out of his chair when he saw it was me (he comically repeated his double take – ridiculous faces and all – to play off just how surprised he had been). Obviously, a giant bear hug followed. Happy.

I got there at around 11, and had time to grab some grub and socialize before we all gathered in the main living room to watch the ball drop and cheers with sparkling juices. At the end of the countdown, we all cheered, sipped our drinks, and the room began churning and stirring from everyone going around hugging absolutely everyone else. I grew up separate from all of my extended family, and it’s just my parents, my sister and I here in Michigan, and most family gatherings included stuffy road trips and a fair share of personality clashes. Luke has at least a hundred members of his family (read: clan) here. They get together all the time. Seeing the entire room of family so relaxed and comfortable and happy was really new. And really great. 

Shortly thereafter, we all migrated to a different room to take a family picture (also not as long, stressful, or exhausting as the ones I grew up with!). However, there was one thought that hit me hard: this is the first year that Grammy never gets to see. The already-heightened emotions in the room definitely gave way to a wave of momentary crying. I told Luke and he just hugged me and soon everyone was back to chilling and playing games. 

2014 is going to be a huge year for me. I’ll be leaving the restaurant I’ve been at longer than any other, I’ll be getting married, moving out of my parents’, finding a new job, and starting a new education program (massage therapy, probably. Maybe grad school. I’m still picking which to start first). And, I get a huge new family (and brothers! which I’ve always wanted). Lots of new, weird things to do and responsibilities to have. 

All weird stuff. Stuff I’m sure I’ll get used to at some point. Hopefully, I can learn to be super organized, responsible, and tragically domestic and actually do those meal planning things and decorate a home and have a cleaning schedule and such. How else will I get along without my mom nagging me to empty the dishwasher? We’ll see what obstacles I can conquer. I’ve seen a lot of statuses about being glad to leave 2013 behind, but I feel like I can’t help but be aware that the things I want to leave behind in 2013 (grief, stress, homework,  etc.) will all carry over and find me in 2014. The only thing I can hope for is to face these things with more flexibility, resilience, and positivity.

And now, I’m going to get all list-makey and organize, clean, sort out schedules, appointments, resolutions, and to-do lists.

Happy New Year!

 

Stress and Resilience

(First of all, I may or may not be writing this post as a break from cramming information into my head for a final that is in one hour because if I don’t I just might explode.)

I can’t even believe this semester has passed so quickly. I feel like I’ve worked ridiculously hard to get through it and also feel like I didn’t really even do anything. It’s hard to believe that my first and last year in my university’s Chorale is halfway through, and even harder to believe that I have ONE SEMESTER LEFT of my undergraduate education ever. 

This is awesome and scary. I have lots of things coming up and I can’t even imagine what 2014 is really going to be like for me. I now have to get started on actually fleshing out my “career plan,” including applying to graduate programs and myomassaology institutes and dealing with whatever becomes of my personal life. It’s all exciting, and it’s all daunting. 

But isn’t that at least a little bit of what keeps us going, as humans? Being excited and scared at the same time – what else would motivate us to do anything? This is a condition I need to become better at embracing. I want to. Technically, this “good stress” is termed “eustress.” Did you know that people who perceive stress as a good thing/positive motivator actually had no physiologically harmful reaction to stress? All that adrenaline stuff, the cortisol and narrowing of veins and rising of blood pressure and increase of heart rate and all sorts of hormonal reactions and autonomic nervous system stuff either doesn’t happen or doesn’t negatively affect you if you embrace what stress can do for your life.

More easily said than done, I know, but it’s a great concept. It’s possible to make stress healthy for you. My favorite resource of this information is this TEDtalk by Kelly McGonigal. In it, there is a quote that I just absolutely adore and want plastered all over everything I own:

“When you choose to see stress as helpful, you create the biology of courage. And, when you choose to connect with others through that stress, you create resilience.”

 

Just something about the idea of “the biology of courage” is terribly poetic. Resilience is a fundamental concept in my studies as a Wellness Promotion and Personal Development major. It is the capacity to recover quickly from difficulty; it is toughness; it is elasticity. I strive to be resilient. So many times in my life I have claimed myself a victim of the consequences of stress and fear and depression and anxiety – if I can crack the whip and make my physiology work for me, and not allow myself to claim helplessness in the face of stress, then I don’t know what can stand in my way. 

 

One of my final projects for an 8-credit monster class. Appendices A-T (should have even more – I left out a couple things). Finally complete!

 

 

New Kids on the Block

Last night was the most dramatic night I’ve had to deal with at work in my life. First of all, I had a section full of tables requiring lots of attention and maintenance. From reasonable high-maintenance requests (bringing in a birthday cake for your son for me to present, cut, and serve – reasonable, but it takes a lot of time away) and those that were not-so-reasonable (grown men yelling at me that the strawberry lemonade we made him “didn’t have crunchies,” leaving me to figure out that what he was talking about were strawberry seeds and had to go bug the kitchen for real strawberries to mix into his lemonade, just to watch him chug it and pick out the strawberries with his fork from the ice left in the glass, and then proceed demand another all over again), I was already quite overwhelmed. I wasn’t behind or in the weeds (as we servers call it), but I was definitely to the point of asking for help from servers who weren’t busy at the time. I was in focused “go” mode. The moment I actually had a chance to stop for a second, I got caught up on some drama that was occurring among some of the people I work with. However, I’m very proud of myself because I actually stood up for myself against one of the managers regarding an (unrelated) issue that has happened more than once before and hadn’t been addressed. It wasn’t easy but I stood my ground and was ultimately commended for the way I handled the situation from him and my friends there. Personal victory: Check!

However, there was a whole bunch of “he said, she said” junk going on immediately after (again, two unrelated events). What was particularly difficult was not knowing some of the new hires that were involved very well at all, and therefore had no relationship or rapport with them already. We didn’t have any trust built, didn’t know each other’s character, nor what kinds of things are or are not just typical behavior of the other. I actually didn’t even know two of their names.

I’m currently the new kid in my university’s chorale. (This will tie in soon, I promise.) At work, I have seniority, I know people who have come and gone, and I’ve seen a lot of changes throughout my time there. In choir, I’m the new hire. I’m not even a music major, but I’m working to find my place in the group and become a real part of the team. Although everyone has been very sweet, supportive, and excited to have me there, I still feel the “new kid” awkwardness enter the scene when others tell stories about old choir members who have graduated, other music department faculty and events, and when hearing about the great times they had together over the weekend.

Know that I am in no way complaining or blaming them for the “new kid syndrome.” (How could I? There’s absolutely no justification for anyone claiming a preexisting group should revolve around the new kids or pretend they didn’t have an awesome time and group before we came along. In fact, celebrate it with them.)  Auditioning and getting this opportunity is the best chance I’ve taken in my entire college career. What I’m getting at is that it is that newness is weird and scary for everyone. At work, I am one of those people who reminisce about coworkers that have moved on or how things used to be, and it’s hard figuring out how to connect with new hires and figure out their unique place in the team. It’s hard finding myself on the opposite side of the situation, being the new choir member and figuring out how to relate to people who have had such a strong and familiar family for years before I showed up, and are now adjusting to new members. I know it’s hard for the new kids at work, and I know it’s hard for the others in choir. It’s weirdness, for all of us.

This juxtaposition just recently occurred to me, and I can’t help but to find it odd just how different the emotions and the responsibilities are from one situation to the next. In one, I have to decide to put effort into getting to know the newbies; in the other, I have to put effort into speaking up and showing people I really totally want to be their friend.

My tagline for this blog is “just for today, everyone be 10% less cool & 10% more open-hearted.” As the big kids on top, it’s easy to really enjoy just how cool we are. In any situation this is true. Heck, even as a new kid, it’s natural to use how cool we are to hide our fear of being inadequate and our awkwardness. If we can remember to just step outside of that, at some point we could find people, connections, friends, experiences, knowledge, that we hadn’t anticipated. The important thing is that we don’t have to “turn a new leaf,” or have some life-changing existential experience, or decide to become a whole new person. I’m just asking for 10%.

(However, I will admit that when you think about how freaking awesome YOU are, 10% less cool is still a lot. And just that bit can make a huge difference to some one else.)

 

On Motivation

For some people, motivation is automatic. I’m sure there are people out there in the world who never hit snooze, never skip a workout, never let the house get messy, never let the dishes pile up before putting them in the dishwasher, and never skip classes.

I am not one of these people.

I do not possess the self-motivation for any of that. This piece from the Thought Catalog most accurately describes my daily inner dialogue regarding self-motivation. And just look at the title: “Self-Motivation for Losers.”  So, yup, that essentially summarizes it.

At this stage in my life, I am primarily motivated by money and not getting yelled at. I do my homework because if I fail, that’s such a waste of money on my education. I go to work because if I don’t, not only will my bosses yell at me but also my parents and boyfriend and anyone who doesn’t yell at me for getting fired for just not showing up to work would be silently judging me for being that person.  Also, I go to work because there are people there who are going to give me their money. Work’s a double-whammy.

When it comes to finding motivation, I tend to seek help from others. Namely, I tell people to tell me to do stuff. My boyfriend, Luke, can attest to this. “Luke, tell me to go to class tonight” and “Luke, tell me to clean my room” are common inclusions in our conversations. One time I even posted a picture of my messy room on the Facebook of my best friend and told her to yell at me about letting it get that way.

Ultimately, the best (and worst) person for me to go to for motivation is my mother. Mothers have the ultimate yelling ability. Mothers raised us. Mothers yelled at us when we did something stupid or were about to do something stupid or were about to ground us for three weeks for being stupid. All of this conditioning has lead to my mother possessing the most powerful ability to motivate me.

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