14
Jul 17

The Transformational Practice of Singing Out Loud

Singing out loud is my favorite. I’ve always been a singer. Regardless of how others feel about my singing, singing out loud is what I do.

Singing Out Loud

Hell, when I was in elementary school, I wanted nothing more than to be a Broadway singer. My parents didn’t encourage that dream, maybe envisioning the crazy success I’d have someday as an underpaid academic with heartburn and a terrible caffeine addiction.

Thanks, Mom and Dad. It’s not like I’m hella multiethnic and would’ve made a fantastic addition to the cast of Hamilton or anything.

The Transformational Practice of Singing Out Loud Click To Tweet

But even so, I never stopped singing out loud.

I would like to state before I get any further that I’m not particularly great at singing. In fact, one could probably make the argument that I’m on the not-so-great end of the spectrum. And truth be told, I don’t think I’m that fantastic either. But that’s not a big deal to me.

BECAUSE I LIKE SINGING OUT LOUD.

See, I have this terrible problem where my self-confidence is always round about 200% higher than it should be. Generally, this enables me to do things that should be out of my comfort zone, but are not because I’m so incredibly full of myself.

(It’s worth noting here that it also leads to some pretty earth-shattering lows as well. For example, I think I’m the most brilliant person in the world. Then, when I say something incredibly stupid and I’m called out on it, it’s a very big blow to my ego. Similarly, I have a very particular type of body dysmorphia that makes me think I’m super hot. Then, I find myself trying on bikinis under the florescent lights of a fitting room only to realize that I’m not, in fact, photoshopped.)

But even so, I still love singing out loud.

And since I now officially live alone, my love for singing out loud has tripled at the very least. In the morning, when I’m putting on my makeup, I sing along to singer songwritery-types. When I walk Rosie, I sing what I can only imagine Freddie Mercury intended to write — “Some puppy to love.” When I do laundry, I really enjoy yodeling into the back of the dryer. (If you haven’t tried this, please do so  immediately.) And, of course, when I’m grading papers, I sing every last song from West Side Story. (That’s my grading soundtrack. I don’t know why.)

Have you ever yodeled into the back of your dryer? Click To Tweet

But I’ve been thinking about singing a lot lately, about how I spent a lot of years in choir trying to make my voice blend in, and about how I spent the majority of my life not singing out loud because so many people have criticized my general inability to hit, like, 80% of the notes in any given song. (Freakin’ haters.)

But then, I think about how happy singing makes me — like 2.67 times happier than I would be without it — and then I just don’t care how others feel about it.

(I realize there are a lot of numbers and percentages in this post. Please take these with at least 4 grains of salt. I haven’t done any actual calculations. But I’m sure you could easily do a Google search and find that someone has done the scientific study that proves singing is just good for you.)

So here’s my challenge to you this weekend:

Sing.

Just anything. Anywhere. At any given time.

(Don’t be like me and accidentally find yourself belting out a supercut of all The Hold Steady songs in the cereal aisle of the grocery store while a confused old lady watches. That is level two of the transformational practice of singing out loud. You aren’t there yet. Start small.)

I promise you’ll enjoy it.


07
Jul 17

Building Healthy Routines When You Want to Eat Potato Chips and Drink Wine at 11 AM

Building Healthy Routines

Disclosure: The FTC requires me to disclose that I received free product and compensation from Naked Granola in exchange for social media and blog posts. All opinions regarding Naked Granola are my own, because you straight up can’t buy me.

Oh hey, did you guys know that I recently went through a breakup? Well, I did. And because of that, I find myself in a new place starting all over again. And because I’m one of those assholes who is absolutely obsessed with fresh starts and new beginnings, I’m building healthy routines that I can use to anchor my day.

Some people may scoff, but I love a good routine. Yes, I’d love to be spontaneous and and do fun and fantastic things at the drop of a hat. But there is so much of life that has to get done, and well, if you’re hella spontaneous, then you neglect doing dishes and working out and washing your hair.

That’s why I’m focusing on building healthy routines for the things in my life that I want to autopilot. That way, I can be a flaky space cadet when it comes to the sort of things that matter.

(I’m aware that sentence makes absolutely no sense. But you’re following me, yeah?)

I'm building healthy routines so I can autopilot the mundane stuff. Click To Tweet

Anyway, today I’m sharing how I’m building healthy routines so I can autopilot the mundane stuff and make space for more excitement elsewhere. And with that, I give you five ways I’m building healthy routines.

Building Healthy Routines: Walk your dog

001: Make Exercise Easy.
Admittedly, I didn’t do this. Rosie did it. She’s become a bit of an anxious dog since the move, and at first, I was taking her for a lot of walks to soothe her. But now, she’s not so anxious. She just expects the same number of walks. And while I have cut it down to 4 walks a day (yes, that’s the reduced number), we’re both still getting our exercise.

And while I do plan to spend July getting back in the habit of running, I definitely won’t be beating myself up not getting a run in. And that is because I’ve already got my workout built in for the day because Rosie absolutely has to sniff every single smell in our new neighborhood. And I’m along for the ride.

002: Do Not Become a Recluse.
While I would like to go full-on Salinger (as a shut in, not someone who objectifies and sexually abuses young women) when it comes to my #writerlifestyle, I know that isn’t good for me. While being single definitely has it’s perks where artistic output is concerned, I know that I can’t shut myself in my office all day typing like a fiend.

One of the reasons I chose the house I did was because I knew it would keep me social. It’s close to all the bars and restaurants I like, it’s incredibly walkable (something that you don’t get very often in Oklahoma), and if ever there is something happening in my city, it’s going to be within half a mile of new place.

And I have to give a little shout out to my friends who have been keeping me very social. It’s like they remember that time I stopped talking with everyone when I started grad school the first time around. In those two years, I lost 40 pounds, became an alcoholic, worked 40 hours a week while going to school full time, gained 50 pounds, and then just re-emerged with an advanced degree in writing that the recession economy didn’t want. So, thanks to them for not abandoning me, even though I’m not that much fun to hang out with.

003: Make An Effort to Eat Real Food.
If I’m being completely honest, I’d gladly live in a bleak future scenario wherein we are all given our monthly freeze-dried rations. Sure, they wouldn’t be great, but it’s food and you just eat it. That’s kind of where I’m at with eating right now. If I’m not going out with friends, then I’m at home eating Lean Cuisines on my couch while I watch stuff on my iPad. I know that there are many of you who shudder at the thought of a person not eating real kale from Whole Foods, but trust. We’re out there.

Anyway, because I know that this isn’t ideal, I’ve been working on incorporating more real foods into my diet. Fruits are an easy option, and so is Naked Granola. I really love the different mix options they offer. And if you’re the least bit skeptical of the healthiness of granola, Naked Granola is the company for you. It’s low fat, pretty low calorie, high fiber, and you can easily pronounce all the ingredients. What more could you want?

004: Make Bedtime Sacred.
There is nothing I love more than going to bed early. So I’ve been finding ways to wind down my brain a couple hours before bed time. That means no screen time after 8 PM — this includes TVs and phones. (Admittedly, I need to be better about adhering to this.) I brew me a nice cup of chamomile tea (shout out again to Nicole for supplying me with the Taylor’s of Harrogate assorted tea sampler because it’s delightful), pop a Xyzal to keep my seasonal allergies in check, and then I read.

Rosie also likes this time because we’re both on the couch and in full-on cuddle mode. I scratch her ears and massage her arthritic legs while I slowly make my way through whatever I happen to be reading. Then, I’m generally in bed by 9:30, and asleep before 10. That may seem early, but know that I have to get up before 6 AM to get in a pre-work dog walk.

005: Create Dedicated Spaces.
I think an important part of building healthy routines is having dedicated spaces for everything that you do. That way, you don’t watch TV in the same place that you sleep, or read books in the same place where you get work done. It keeps your brain focused and on the task at hand, and also helps when you’re trying to build routines.

I’m super lucky in that I live in a college town, and places to live are relatively cheap. So, I’ve got me a two bedroom, one bathroom house. And that means I have a bedroom specifically for sleeping only. And another room I’m able to use just as my office. The living room is where I do entertaining/am entertained, which means it’s where I watch TV or read or have friends come over to hang.

And while I know this isn’t super important to everyone, it is to me. I know that I sleep a lot better when my brain knows that the only option in that room is to sleep. And I read a lot more when I know that there is a dedicated space to do it.

What's your best healthy routine/lifehack to keep you in tip top shape? Click To Tweet

So, what about you? How do you go about building healthy routines? What’s your best healthy routine/lifehack to keep you in tip top shape?


25
Apr 17

Meditating with Insight Timer: 5 Things I’ve Realized About Myself

If you follow me on Twitter, you’ve probably noticed my updates from the free Insight Timer app. I’ve recently gotten into meditating, and I’ve been meditating with Insight Timer to help me get into the practice. Meditating with Insight Timer has been a crucial part of creating space to breathe.

Meditating with Insight Timer

I have to say that when I started, I kind of assumed that I’d be super good at it. Like, my brain would shut off and I’d concentrate on breathing and the affirmations for the day. And then, when I was finished, I’d be one hella balanced person.

So, yeah. That ain’t the case.

I've been meditating with @InsightTimer to help me get into the practice. Click To Tweet

But even so, I’m enjoying the process of meditating with Insight Timer. And in that process, I’ve learned a few things about myself and how I meditate. That’s what I’m going to share with you today.

001: My brain is noisy.

Generally, I try to shut my head up. But it’s hard. See, I’ve got 60 things on a to do list that’s constantly on my mind. And oh, I just realized I haven’t looked at my phone in 6 hours, gee I hope no one is dead. I really need to buy some lunch meat to make sandwiches. When was the last time Rosie had a bath? Do you think my plantar fasciitis will go away on its own? Did I remember to track my water for the day? Do you think my friends with kids know how bad iPads are for really young kids? I hope I don’t get audited this year. I wonder what happened to my space pen. Mad Pierrot is such a sad character. Are the eggs in the fridge still good? How does international postage work? How much have I spent on pedicures in my life? How many members of the ENHS class of 2004 are now in jail?

And on and on it goes.

When I’m awake, that’s the inside of my head. It’s like flipping through channels on a staticky cathode ray tube TV. (For younger readers, TVs used to be big squares with a tube inside.) Meditating with Insight Timer only magnifies this. The goal of meditation, or at least, the goal for my meditations is to become aware of these thoughts and let them go. I don’t think I have the brain chemistry that would ever let me completely push all thoughts away. So, I’m just trying to hit the down arrow on the volume for now. Because for real, my head is noisy, and quieting it just a bit by meditating helps a lot.

002: There is no such thing as a quiet place.

I usually meditate first thing in the morning. That means that the only people awake in the house are me and Rosie, the dog. (I guess she’s not a person. But she sure does sit on the couch like one.)  I pick a meditation I want to do from the Insight Timer app, and then I sit down and start. I usually have the coffee maker brewing while I meditate, just because I think the sound and smell really enhance my experience. Also, it’s nice to know that right after I’m done meditating, I can have a hot cup of coffee.

While I generally try to get rid of distractions, there is no such thing as a quiet place. Right now is mosquito season, and I find that in the middle of a session, there is invariably a mosquito buzzing around my head. And Rosie, though generally the best dog in the universe, has managed to align her genital licking schedule with my meditation schedule. So, while I’m trying to breathe deeply, she’s making the grossest sound you can imagine.

But whatever. I let it go.

Mostly.

Sometimes I stop mid-session to tell Rosie to knock it off.

003: Apps can make it so much easier.

I first heard about the Insight Timer app from Jackie Wolven, and I’m so glad I did. For me, it’s hard to meditate because I’m new to it, and I want some guidance. It’s kind of like how I prefer yoga class to just practicing on my own. With guided meditations for whatever you’re feeling, meditating with Insight Timer is a beginner’s best friend.

I highly recommend any of the guided morning meditations, as well as some of the sleep meditations. For me, I like to meditate at the beginning and the end of the day, so these are perfect. I’m also thinking of adding a small mid-day meditation, so if there’s a guided meditation on Insight Timer you’d recommend for that, let me know in the comments!

004: I need so much more practice.

Sometimes I get mad that my head won’t clear. I know that isn’t productive, but I’m human. And I also know I just need more practice with meditating. For a while, I was getting really good at being present and focused on breathing in shavasana at the end of yoga. But if you don’t use it, you lose it.

So I’m working on getting better at taking a more yoga approach to my meditation practice. But I don’t think I’ll ever see a day when I feel like I don’t need more practice.

005: Breathing can feel amazing.

At the end of a stressful day when I’m so anxious that I’ve bitten all my nails off, meditating with Insight Timer has been a game changer. On those nights, I used to regularly have night terrors. Now, I meditate quietly in bed before I go to sleep. And I have to say that it’s made a huge amount of difference.

(The night terrors aren’t completely gone, but mostly so. And let’s be honest. Night terrors are probably caused by supernatural beings messing with me in my sleep and not so much my anxiety, right? I mean, probably.)

The best part of meditating is focusing on breathing, and noticing how good that breathing can make you feel. Seriously. Try it right now.

Have you ever tried meditating with Insight Timer? Click To Tweet

Do you have a favorite way to meditate? Have you ever tried meditating with Insight Timer? Any meditations you’d recommend?


19
Apr 17

If It Ain’t Yours, Don’t Carry It

If it ain’t yours, don’t carry it.

Simple enough.

If it ain't yours, don't carry it.

Don’t pick it up. Don’t offer to help. Don’t open up your bag and let someone else drop it right in there.

Because if it ain’t yours to carry, you don’t need to carry it.

But what about the stuff that others can’t carry? You know — the things they’ve picked up along the way. The extras and the afflictions and the little nonconformities that make it hard for them. If you know their story, it makes it hella hard not to carry something for someone else.

Whatever it may be.

But you can’t.

You’re supposed to be here, but you’re not here to carry what’s not yours.

Pretend I’m coming at you like an angry mama who found her toddler crawling on the floor of a public restroom, and that toddler also happened to pick up several things and shove them in her mouth.

NO NO NO, I say to you.

Not yours.

Don’t pick that up. Don’t put it in your mouth. Leave it there, it’s yucky.

Because if it ain’t yours, don’t carry it.

Because if it ain't yours, don't carry it. Click To Tweet

(This is as much a reminder for me as it is for you, you know.)

(I’m sure you know.)

(If you’re here, you know.)

But what about when, you ask, brow furrowed in consternation, what about when someone leaves what’s theirs with you? Then, are you not obligated to carry it?

Hell no.

If some well meaning asshole approaches you with with what belongs to them, and drops it at your feet, that is exactly where it stays. You don’t pick that up, and you sure as hell don’t carry it. And if they look at you expectantly and wonder why you ain’t carrying it, you don’t have to explain shit, because it’s not yours.

If they come back later and ask if you’ve got it, remind them that you don’t carry it if it ain’t yours, and they can go pick it up just where they left it.

You have to take care of yourself, because sometimes the Universe is conspiring against you.

The secret is that you’ll gladly carry for some. Some truly deserve it. Those people who are inextricably linked to you by a force that pulls and magnetic coincidence — you’ll carry what belongs to them because you know they’ll carry what belongs to you.

But here’s the rub: You can’t carry theirs if you’re carrying someone else’s. And just imagine how foolish you’ll feel when you realize you’ve been schlepping what’s not yours to carry when you could’ve carried something better all along.

But that’s the thing. If it ain’t yours, don’t carry it. And if you’re going to carry it, best outline the carrier-carryee relationship upfront. And honestly, let them know your policy on carrying what’s not yours.

Oh, and make sure you uphold that policy.


03
Apr 17

Slow Living: What We Have Time for

For me, slow living is all about figuring out exactly what it is that you have time for.

As I write this, I should be grading. Hell, before I started writing this, I was walking the dog. And during the time I was walking the dog, I should’ve been grading too. I’m a college instructor. There are precious few hours in the day when I shouldn’t be grading.

Slow Living: What We Have Time For

And as a writer, there are precious few hours in the day when I shouldn’t be writing. Even if I count every idea scribbled on a Post-It, every notebook bleeding ink, Word Docs filled with rambling prose, and every last stolen minute I took to write, I still wouldn’t write enough.

But that’s the thing of it, isn’t it? Whatever we do isn’t enough, and we always feel like we’re running out of time.

Whatever we do isn't enough, and we always feel like we're running out of time. Click To Tweet

I had this thought on the dog walk, and knew I needed to get home and write it.

For me, I don’t feel like there aren’t enough days left in my life. I’m 31, which is relatively young. I do worry about the hours in the day, though. How is it already 3 PM? How did Tuesday pass me by? I swear, I need a weekend to recover from my weekend. Even though I still feel like there is plenty of time left in my life, I can easily see how it’s all slipping away, and getting me to a point where there won’t be enough time.

So I slow down. I don’t wish days away. I don’t live for deadlines or benchmarks. And even though I feel like I should be further in my career right now, I’m very content with where my life is.

I think we all see what’s possible and we want it immediately. We all see what others were able to accomplish with relatively little time, and we think we should do that too.

I definitely used to feel that way. I’ve been slowing down a lot lately. I’m obsessed with slow living, especially as I see others scrambling their way through life.

(Slow living, for those who don’t trawl the blogosphere/podcastosphere for content about how to take a chill pill, is living life at a slower pace. It’s taking a step back and enjoying life. It’s refusing to be manic, even when every other aspect of daily life would have you believe that you need to keep up. If you want to learn more, I highly recommend checking out The Art of Simple and No Sidebar.)

I’ve stepped back and realized that I’m supposed to be here. I am embracing the marathon mindset, because I know everything is a slow burn. I’m making time for picnics. I’m saying no to things I don’t need. I’m creating space to breathe when the rest of the world is underwater. I refuse to choose busy. I’m setting my own agenda. I’m living my own damn life, y’all.

This got me to thinking about the things I value, and the things I have time for. It made me realize that the only reason I want to be further in my career is because I want writing to be the day job, not the side hustle. It made me realize that I’ve been valuing that paycheck and health benefits more than I have the very thing I was meant to do with my life.

And while I can’t very well quit my day job (unless some rich benefactor wants to pay for my existence while I hole up in my house and write my butt off), I can focus more on what I have time for.

Even though I know what I want, I haven’t made time for it. I have, however, made time for Netflix, fast food, too much social media, and Tetris. I’m shocked by how much time I’ve spent zoning out while staring at the TV, or poisoning my body with garbage or just scrolling through my phone, or just rotating those little tetrominos. (That free app is killer. I’ll delete it, but add it one afternoon when I want to shut my brain off — usually after grading like a fiend. If there’s a way to completely block an app from your phone, I’d love to know because I don’t have that level of willpower.)

Even though I’m not happy I’ve spent time doing that, I know why I have. It’s easy to shut down your brain. It’s easy to zone out. It’s easy to consume. But that’s the thing about slow living. It’s hard. It’s deliberate. It’s focused.

For me, slow living is figuring out everything that is important and vital to my existence, and letting the other things fall away.

This realization is one thing, taking action is another.

So for today, I’m starting. I’m taking stock of the things I have time for.

I have time to write. I have time for Chris. I have time for family. I have time for dog walks. I have time for daydreaming. I have time for deep conversations about magic and spirituality. I have time to listen to my favorite records over and over and over. I have time to read poems in the middle of the day because that’s what I need to do. I have time to cook a meal made of real food that won’t put me in the hospital or give me a heart attack.

I’ve been taking stock of privilege lately. I have benefited immensely from the privileges I possess. And yet, I’ve operated as if everything I have will someday be taken away from me. I’ve been overly hungry. I’ve been like Smaug the Dragon laying on my hoard. I’ve been manic. I’ve believed that I needed to work myself to death. I’ve believed that I don’t have time to take care of myself. I’ve believed that I needed all the things that were being sold to me.

This is all fairly woo woo and vague. But if you’re here, then I have to believe that 1.) you know that’s who I am and what I write about, and 2.) you’re here for that.

I’m here for that too. This is what I have time for.

Slow living is what I have time for. Click To Tweet

P.S. The whole time I was writing this, Non-Stop from Hamilton was running through my head.

Have you ever stepped back and wanted to slow down? Why do you write like you’re running out of time? What do you have time for?