Self care, relationships, and the constant struggle for balance.

I’ve been analyzing myself a lot lately, in an attempt to figure out my own motivation for things.  As a counselor, I think it’s important we all try to do that from time to time.  I spend much of my day trying to figure out what other people’s motivations are, it’s certainly a different feeling to turn the spyglass inward and see what you find.  I’ve uncovered some facts about myself that I find interesting.

One thing I’ve noticed is that I’m motivated by my relationships…friends, co-workers, romantic partners, siblings…all of them.  Much of my own behavior is in direct response to others, either reacting to them, trying to change my life in ways that allow me to spend more time with certain people, or even arranging my time in ways that help me avoid other individuals (I don’t have many of those people, don’t worry!).  It’s not inherently a negative way to live, but it can easily get out of control for someone like me, who can vacillate between self imposed isolation and over socialization.  It’s a fine balancing act, playing out in my head as “I know I should take a night off, stay home, and rest…” but quickly rubber banding back to “But I REALLY need to spend time with this person!”  This is why looking inward is so important to my own self-care.  If I don’t look regularly and check in with myself, I might not recognize signs of self neglect until it was to late.   Maybe I’d be exhausted and frustrated, or worse, blame the other people in my life for making demands on my time.

I’ll admit, I’m not always the best at self care but it definitely makes it onto my ‘to-do’ list.  More often, self care doesn’t make it onto many adult’s lists at all, which is what I see much more regularly with therapy clients than I’d prefer.  I hear many adults say “My children always come first.”, which is a fine concept…I’m not going to argue that children are time consuming and need LOTS of attention, often at the expense of adult’s fun and pleasure activities.  However, self care isn’t selfish and putting your needs before others.  It doesn’t mean that if you stop neglecting yourself, someone else will get neglected.  It’s about finding the balance in your life that keeps you mentally, physically, and spiritually healthy.  If you are paying attention to the little things, the big things won’t stress you out as much.  You can take care of others much better if you are taking care of yourself.

My words of encouragement to everyone reading this is that you can do things for yourself without being selfish, without neglecting anyone else, and I PROMISE there is enough time in the day to do SOMETHING good for yourself!  Please don’t think I’m talking about grand gestures like spa days.  Those are nice, but again, self care is about balance.  Self care is going to mean different things to everyone, and can be as small as making sure you drink more water during the day, or it can be as big as using up your vacation time at work because you need it.   Take some time, make a list, start doing the things that help your state of mind.  You won’t regret it.

Via http://skeletorislove.tumblr.com/

A little bit of peace.

Peace is hard to find in the current state most of us live in.  We are constantly connected to devices, with myself as no exception to the rule.  There are currently 3 devices sitting near (or on) me.  Laptop, iPad, and iPhone.  I can be reached by anyone who knows me, and even by people who don’t know me, at any given time during my day.  It’s a constant barrage of notifications from Facebook, Twitter, emails, Etsy…it just doesn’t stop.

I have had multiple conversations with people I know about the down sides to the constant connectedness that we human beings currently experience, but I can’t deny there are positives.  It is so much easier for me to stay in touch with others via text message since I have always hated having phone conversations.  I am able to get updates regularly from family members on Facebook that I haven’t been able to visit with in a long time.  I see friend’s career successes and life events (babies! houses! vacations!) social media and am able to celebrate them, even at a distance.

Sometimes, there are major negatives to being so connected.  I find myself checking my phone for no reason…it hasn’t gone off, I just want to make sure I didn’t miss anything.  I’ve gotten into the bad habit of sending a message (text or Facebook) and checking back later to see if the receiver actually read it.  That little check mark or read timestamp is a relief, then annoying if someone hasn’t responded.  I like feeling validated when people notice my posts, and often feel a little disappointed when they don’t.  When I browse Facebook sometimes, there is a sense that something is missing from my life, as I see friends and family taking vacations, being seemingly happily married, having babies, etc.  No one really talks about the fight they just had with their boyfriend, the fact that their kid threw a 30 minute tantrum and they want to pull their hair out, or even that they have massive credit card debt.  It’s a constant barrage of other people’s highlight reels, which isn’t necessarily healthy for us, mentally or emotionally.

But even with the obvious down sides, there are different ways that people use social media, and my philosophy has always been as long as you feel good about it, keep doing it.  If it drags you down and makes you feel heavy, make a change.  If it uplifts you and brings you joy, keep going.

I went to Walden Pond yesterday, the site where Henry David Thoreau wrote his book Walden while contemplating living simply in nature.  It was interesting to watch people and how each individual interacted with the pond and surroundings.  I watched a guy spending a significant amount of time to take a picture with his phone near the shore.  He was bending and crouching at different angles, trying to get the lighting just right, I presume.  He didn’t look up for some time.

Personally, I made an effort to experience Walden as much I could, keeping my phone in my pocket and attempting to absorb the surroundings.  I wanted to record the moment in my brain, not in the digital universe.  I did take a few pictures, but mostly I made note of the warm sun on my skin, of the smells of the water and woods, of the sounds of the birds and lapping of the water, of the light filtering through the clouds, of the conversations and people around me.  It was relaxing and peaceful, even surrounded by people.  I was not concerned about getting the perfect shot for my Instagram account, and I feel like my day was better for it.

The few pictures I did take, I’ll post here.  Mr. Thoreau would not have approved of the first one.

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Sometimes it’s the little things.

Yesterday I was finishing up my unpacking. I really am done now except for breaking down the last of the cardboard for recycling. I spent the whole weekend unpacking and organizing. I’m not done organizing but there’s a significant amount of relief in box removal.

I also decided to clean the windows a bit. It wasn’t warm enough to open them, but why not let the light shine in on a sunny day? While I was cleaning the windows in my bedroom, I looked up at how blue the sky was. At that moment, a big foil birthday balloon drifted by on the breeze, above the neighbor’s roof, right in my field of view.

It was one of those moments that happened in an instant, but somehow boosted my mood immediately. Some might look at it as a sad omen. “Some kid lost a balloon somewhere…” or “Oh boy, more litter on the planet…” Those are valid points, but it’s all about perspective. I saw the balloon as being free to live unencumbered by gravity.

Silly, probably. Even so, I think those moments where you find humor and lightness are invaluable in a world of heavy things.

I choose happiness. Every time.

New job, new challenges…

There have been wonderful and terrible things about starting a new job.  Currently, I have been transitioning from working extreme part time for the last year, to working a 40 hour a week job.  It’s not been the easiest thing to get used to.  I’m frequently tired and trying hard to stay present for clients, but that will pass.  I have adult clients for the first time, as well as children.  There’s also the issue that I’ve been exclusively working with kids on the autism spectrum for the last 2 years, and now I have no ASD clients.  There are certainly growing pains.

There’s also the issue of how my employer deals with the fact that we are all salaried employees.  We have to meet a minimum of 25 productivity units a week, which equates to 25 sessions a week.  That isn’t that bad, but it adds a layer of pressure to not get your pay docked, particularly when you have no control over whether or not a client shows up for their scheduled appointment.

On the plus side, I’m happy to be working a full time job for once in my post master’s career.  The productivity stuff is annoying but it’s manageable and supervisors are understanding.  There are tons of opportunities to fix the problem, and as long as you’re doing everything you are supposed to, they really won’t dock your pay.  I think it’s just easier for them to create a harsh sounding policy to ensure that people don’t slack off.

Even with challenges, I’m excited.  I’m happy with how things are going.  I drive to work in a good mood for the first time in a long time.

I’m definitely settling in to routines in both work and home.  For home, I bought a desk and a chair at Ikea this weekend and I’m slowly setting it up.

My new #ikea desk is together😅 thank goodness. Lunch & #tea break is deserved!

A photo posted by Kat A (@porkyporkerton) on Mar 15, 2015 at 10:48am PDT

Hopefully, I’ll be able to reopen my Etsy shop in the next few weekends.  I have a lot of ideas for items and I’m pumped to start working on them.  New desk, new items, new photos, new starts!  I love it all.

I did it!

I moved in to my apartment last weekend and I start my new job on Monday.  I’ve been settling in and unpacking boxes as much as possible while I’m off.   It’s all gone relatively smooth, and it’s definitely seemed to happen in lightening speed.  I can’t say that it hasn’t been a stressful process.  This is the first time I’ve moved to another state where I’ve been a certified, card carrying adult, with things like cars, insurance, bank accounts, etc to worry about.  There have been a few little things popping up that I hadn’t even considered, like the need for parking passes for the street in my new neighborhood…but I’m chipping away at it.  The minor stress is manageable, and I’m taking time to recharge when I can, getting lots of rest, drinking lots of water, and eating healthy.  I’m working on establishing new healthy routines as well.

I thought that it would feel weird to be living in Massachusetts.  I’ve lived in Virginia for the majority of my life…I’m getting divorced…I don’t have any family or friends here…I’m starting a new job that’s slightly out of my comfort zone…I could go on.  And yet it doesn’t feel strange at all.  I feel good in the apartment that I found, I like my roommate and her family, who live downstairs, I’m pretty sure I’ll enjoy my job.  The transition has felt very natural for me and I feel like I’m supposed to be here.

There is a quote I came across recently that really resonated with my current state of mind.

“Ten years from now, make sure you can say that you chose your life, you didn’t settle for it.” – Mandy Hale,   The Single Woman

I was just not prepared to cope with 10 more years on the track my life was on.  There wasn’t anything inherently bad about it, it just wasn’t what I wanted or needed for my optimal happiness long term.  What worked for me 10 years ago, wasn’t compatible with where I am now.  I think that sometimes you just have to make hard decisions about what will make you the happiest in life.  Don’t settle for just “not bad” or “manageable”.  That isn’t good enough, not for me, not for you.  Everyone deserves to find their “awesome” and “blissful”.

I got fed up enough with my life to push outside of my comfort zone.  I pushed the reset button on my life, I’m alone in a state I’ve never lived in, with potential everywhere.  It wasn’t easy, but I’m here on a shifted path.  I did it.

Procrastination in full effect.

I’m doing it right now by writing this post.  I have a million things to get done this week, I’m in the middle of packing for a huge move to Boston.  I’m transitioning to a new job as well, so in addition to filling out new paperwork before my start date, I’m working to complete any additional paperwork that was left from the previous job.  I’ve been organizing paperwork needed to get my personal stuff (car registration, insurance, etc) prepared for the move to another state.  Wowza.  It’s not optimal to have so much on my plate,  It’s SO EASY to justify putting off things you don’t enjoy doing.  However, I am aware that procrastination is not a simple issue, and this is no exception.  There are multiple factors at play here.

One influence is the emotional issues that come up when you’re packing up your home.  Not only am I moving, but I’m also getting divorced.  (I apologize if anyone reading who knows me, didn’t know this, it hasn’t been something I was keen on advertising.)  These are two of the most stressful life events that a person can deal with in their lifetime, both are within the top 5.  No matter what the circumstances of a divorce, no matter who initiated or how caring you try to be to each other, there is still an emotional minefield to trudge through.  Needless to say, deciding who gets what stuff out of the home we created together, or sorting through happy and sad memories, isn’t high on my “I would love to do this” list right now.

Another factor is how easy it is to put off unpleasant tasks if you don’t have structure or a dedicated work space.  I had a few clients last week, but I’ve been off since Friday, and while I have had spurts of productivity, not having a schedule really impedes my ability to get things done.  I’ve also never had a really awesome work space in the home.  My desk chair was always amazingly uncomfortable for me.  I’m sitting here on the sofa, typing with my laptop, curled up with a heating pad and cup of tea, and wondering why I can’t seem to focus on the typing to get the work done.  Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Google are all just a single click away, beckoning every time my mind wanders from the task at hand…and oh, how easy it is to get sucked in and realize that an hour has passed with doing nothing on social media.

The last issue that keeps sapping my will to sit and type, is the fact that it actually hurts to sit for long periods.  I’m still dealing with the aftermath of an SI joint issue that started over the summer.  While it’s mostly better, I get a distinct burning sensation in my left butt cheek (that’s a technical term, folks) if I’ve been sitting too long and need to get up and move around, do some yoga, etc.  And then you can imagine that dirty dishes or towels needing to be folded are more noticeable when you’re up and about moving around the house.  Somehow, in those moments, it seems so much more desirable to do those daily chore activities than to sit back down and type boring client related material.

I definitely need defined space to be able to focus, I just can’t get as much done typing from bed or sitting on the floor.  I need a tidy desk and mostly tidy room.  I prefer earplugs or mellow music to block out some of the distractions.  In my new job, I’m going to have a computer and private office.  I’m not going to need to take my work home with me unless I want to (which I don’t, at all…).  I have a feeling it’s going to be glorious.

Food, food, food…

I’ve been thinking a lot about food lately, but this isn’t new for me.  I’ve been involuntarily thinking and talking about what I eat since my Celiac diagnosis in 2012.  In addition to my usual gluten free nonsense, I spent the majority of the past year making some form of dietary modification and/or weighing & tracking everything I ate.  While it hasn’t always been easy, the time investment was worthwhile overall.

Here’s where I started:

fat Kat

I topped out at 167lbs, and I’m a little less than 5’6″.  Not obese, but definitely not an awesome size for my frame. Going gluten free without replacing too many processed snack foods prompted a 12 lb weight loss over the course of a year.

The first major dietary shift was to low carbohydrate.  For anyone who hasn’t done low carb, it can be a pain in the ass.  To do low carb most effectively, you have to calculate your optimal carb to protein to fat ratios based on your weight, height, and speed of desired weight loss.  Then you proceed to weigh and track everything you eat…and I mean EVERYTHING.  There’s no standard size for a piece of fruit or a particular veggie, so calculating carbs by weight is best.  This level of accuracy ensures that you achieve the right balance and don’t accidentally knock yourself out of your optimal weight loss range.

Tracking aside, the hardest part for me was that I actually enjoy fruit and vegetables, most of which were off limits.  I found I’m sensitive to the lowest carb veggies (cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, etc, because they are also high FODMAPs) and can only eat them in moderation (I won’t get into the symptoms!).  I quickly tired of salads with certain toppings and dressings only.  I tired of the overly rich dairy and meats that were needed to make sure I got my fat and protein quotas right.  I don’t like artificial sweeteners, which were my only option for treats during this phase.

Even with all the downsides, there were a number of positives.  I felt my blood sugar levels stabilize within a few days, and I no longer experienced that afternoon slump around 3 pm.  I still needed significant amounts of coffee to keep plugging along, but I was evened out much more than I had been.  Since I didn’t enjoy artificial sweeteners to begin with, I gradually phased them out and now I don’t take honey or sugar in my coffee and tea. All together, I lost about 25 lbs from April to September without exercising…at all.  I continued on in my sloth-like habits and the pounds just came off.

I was so burnt out on tracking and measuring that I took a break in October. I already weighed a lot less, but I still had lingering health issues I wanted to tackle.  Enter Auto Immune Protocol (AIP).  I will get into more about this in another post, but the basics concept is to reduce systemic inflammation and heal your body, through eating a modified and strict paleo type diet for weeks or months, before attempting to find trigger foods through reintroductions.  So far, so good.  I have less headaches, more energy with less coffee, and I haven’t reacted to the few foods I’ve reintroduced so far.

Here’s a more recent picture after the bulk of the weight loss:

skinny kat

I’m finally maintaining at a much healthier 130 lbs.  Now what?!  Here’s what I’ve learned and what I need to keep working on:

  •  I’m coming to the realization that I need to stay vigilant about portion control.  There are some days I KNOW I’m not actually as hungry as the amount of food I’ve eaten would indicate.  I have not been tracking anything on AIP because of a knee jerk reaction to the whole low carb ordeal.  It wouldn’t be as difficult with AIP, so I’m probably going to start.
  •  I need to stay very aware of my sugar intake.  I have a wicked sweet tooth, and just the tiniest bit of sugar on a regular basis makes me crave sweets like you wouldn’t believe.  I’ve been eating minimal amounts of processed anything for almost a year and I STILL get huge cravings in the grocery check out line.
  • I need to exercise and make it count.  I do some yoga every day, but it’s minimal and I definitely don’t sweat most days.  Now that my SI joint isn’t quite so much of a pain in the butt (get it?!!!!), I need to ramp it up with some cardio and weights.

So with moving in less than two weeks, I look forward to establishing new daily routines for eating and exercising around the new job and new living situation!

2015 is here, let’s do this…

Well, we are coming out of the first month of the new year, giving us enough time to settle into the thought that it’s now 2015.  New blog for the new year…blogspot version will be discontinued, but I wasn’t using it much anyway.  I’d like to start the year documenting the changes in my life.  2015 has no where to go but up, considering the challenges of the last few years.  I felt so OVER everything, speaking of financially, emotionally, and physically.  My equilibrium emotionally tends toward happiness and joy naturally, and I was beginning to notice a constant feeling of flat, annoyed, and sometimes angry.  I knew that I needed to make some major changes in my life and simply coming to that realization had brought back some of the spark.

I spent the last half of 2014 shaking things up.  I spent a significant amount of time and energy on sewing costumes and planning for Comic Con NYC in October.  I attended with my sister, who was also a huge part of planning along with our mom.  Parts of preparing and attending were fun, but the experience was layered with financial worries, health issues, and personal struggles.  Even so, it was one of the first big things I had done just for fun in a long time.

I went on a low carb diet early in the year in attempt to lose excess weight gained before my Celiac diagnosis.  I succeeded in losing over 30 lbs.  While prepping for Comic Con over the summer, I came down with Hand, Foot, & Mouth disease.  Fun, but I wasn’t out of the woods yet.  My SI joint decided that it wanted to act up for no apparent reason.  Chiropractic care became a regular part of my life, causing more financial strain, but was definitely a necessary part of my physical healing.  I’m currently experimenting with the AIP diet to reduce systemic inflammation and things are going well so far.

The biggest change is the most difficult.  During the last six months of 2014, I gradually came to the realization that my husband and I had grown apart to a significant degree.  After lots of arguing, a brief stint in couple’s therapy, and tons of discussion, he began to see what I had realized sooner than him…we probably weren’t the best for each other in a romantic relationship.  There were significant personality differences that no amount of discussion or therapy was going to make us feel good about.  I am thankful I married the man I did, because overall we have been maintaining a friendship and attempting to engage in the process in a caring way.  This doesn’t mean it’s easy for either of us, but we are living by the concept that neither of us is, or wants to be, an asshole to the other.

The dark cloud over my head is beginning to move away.  I’m feeling hopeful for the future, and this time when I say it, I’m not just trying to convince myself of the feeling.  Good things are in the works.