Why Examining Your Past and Accepting Pain are the Best Things You Can Do For Yourself in 2021

I am in full acceptance of this moment, right here, right now. The past is the past. Be here now. Be present. That’s the goal, right? Be present and don’t worry about what’s in the past because it’s over? But isn’t is also important to examine the past, in an effort to understand who we are today and how we got to this (oh-so-important) moment. Don’t you wonder about what your parents were like when they were your age? Or what it was like around your house when you were a baby? 

In a similar way that who our parents and siblings are as people has an effect on who we are today, so do all of the people who you’ve spent significant time around over the years. All of your experiences have shaped you, whether you want to think about it or not. When you delve in and dissect certain situations and relationships from your past, it can give you insight into who you are as a person and what led you to this moment. 

I’ve found myself reflecting a lot lately. I’ve been feeling some guilt over it. Like, “stop worrying about what’s happened, you’re missing this moment.” To a certain extent, my inner voice isn’t wrong, being here in this moment is incredibly important, but my past matters too.

So yes, it is important to be present, but where do we draw the line? When does it become important to understand our past? When do we leave the past in the past? 

Why you shouldn’t burn bridges

Are your past mistakes, relationships, and friendships just things you’re glad to forget about? Or are there people you don’t speak to anymore that had an incredible impact on your current situation? Catching up with those people can sometimes be beneficial.

I know I have a lot of friends and acquaintances whom I don’t speak to at all anymore. Occasionally I think of one of these people and reach out. It can be really nice to catch up with old friends because for me, it gives me a window into the person I used to be and can help bring back old memories.

I recently caught up with an old friend. We hadn’t spoken in close to 10 years and it was.. really interesting to say the least. It brought back memories that I had previously lost, some of which are very cringe, others that weren’t. The whole experience was a little weird. I had anticipated it with nervousness for sure. What if we ran out of things to talk about? What if it’s extremely awkward?

It definitely wasn’t extremely awkward. So it was good but again, really strange. I’m so glad it happened but I could have easily walked away saying, “thanks for meeting me, I hope I never see you again.” Just that one encounter was enough to give me the closure I needed.

Sometimes it is required to remind yourself that you’re exactly where you need to be. Facing your past can be that reminder. I’ve been tempted to burn bridges in the past. I’ve gotten bitter about old friends whom I hadn’t spoken to in years and acted like I wanted to have some type of upper hand by refusing to speak with them again. That’s pretty dumb of me honestly. Unless a person has actually screwed you over in some way, why write them off entirely? Sure, maybe they hardly ever reach out but if they did one day, would you be willing to catch back up?

If your answer is no, just think about it like this. You’re choosing to live life feeling animosity that is mostly constructed from assumption. You assume that since you haven’t seen a person in a while they don’t care about you or don’t want to make you a priority. You honestly just never really know what a person thinks, until you ask them. They might have assumptions about you too.

You’ll never get any answers to your questions if you refuse to ever speak to the person again. So burning bridges doesn’t help anyone. Forgiveness is always a good answer. 

Its like facing a fear

Facing your past can be like facing a fear, and we all know that facing fears is good for us. Seriously, have you ever been afraid of something, and then taken that leap of faith and faced it, and then had regrets after? I know I haven’t. I know that every time I have faced fears in my life, I have not only grown but I learned that the fear itself wasn’t nearly as bad as what I had anticipated. When you’re looking your fear in the face its not at all what you had imagined it would be. In hindsight you’re like, “what was I even worried about?”

I think it can be easy to block out your past because you’re afraid. I know I’ve done it. Some memories you’ll never get back, and that can be a tough pill to swallow at times. Memories are really strange though. You can completely forget that something ever happened, then one small reminder from a person who was also there (a photo, a story) and it comes back. Or you could have what you think is a good idea of what your relationship or friendship was centered around (we just hooked up, all we did was get drunk together) and then you see or talk to that person again and you just think, “wait, we have similarities, I can see why we were friends.” 

So if you never face relationships, stories, trauma, pain that you still think about, you might just worry about it forever. I guess it’s always possible to just forget about something or block it out, but are the unresolved aspects enough to cause subconscious damage that you’re not even entirely aware of?

The reality is, if a person or memory is continuously popping into your head, there is some reason for it and it might not be a bad idea to reach out to that person, or reflect on the memory and dissect it a little more. It might help you uncover insight into who you are as a person and help you live a better life. 

Accepting Pain

So maybe I’m sounding pretty contradictory but I stand by my point (also, I’m a gemini if you didn’t know). Although being present is important, I have no problem with examining the past and if a memory from the past is continuously popping into my head, I’m going to address it. 

I accept this moment right now — imperfect yet perfect. Sometimes we try to make our lives look and feel perfect, covering up the blemishes, pain, bumps and bruises that make us human. We try to deny these things (kind of like having a dark past and running from it). But facing your past isn’t the only way that staring at something ugly in the face can make you a better person. Understanding that pain is a part of life is another great way to grow and practice gratitude and acceptance. Here’s why. 

You Can’t Have Pleasure Without Pain

We recently got our first jogging stroller. I had the pleasure of taking it onto the beach the day we got it. This was a big upgrade from our small-wheeled, travel system stroller we’d used for the last 15 months. Although our old stroller hadn’t been meant to be pushed through sand, we took it on the beach anyways.

So, when I arrived to the beach access that day with the new stroller, I really hadn’t realized just how satisfying it would be, to push those big tires with ease through the soft sand. I have literally not been that stoked in a really long time. It was SO satisfying. You know what it made me realize? Had I not experienced the difficulty of pulling the old stroller through the soft sand, as the wheels refused to turn because they were completely overcome by powdery sand, had I not experienced getting stuck in that powdery sand with my 3 month old daughter in the stroller and having to accept help from a random stranger who helped me lift the stroller and carry it across — I might not appreciate this new stroller just as much.

It had me thinking about something a friend said to me recently. It was something along the lines of how sometimes we strive to live in complete comfort. We do everything we can to avoid challenge, pain, discomfort, but is that the way life was meant to be lived? Without the pain, where and how do we find the satisfaction? Without a screaming baby, we don’t appreciate peace and quiet the same way. Without a lack of sleep, we don’t appreciate those restful moments nearly as much. 

If you just always feel good all the time, do you keep feeling good? Or do you reach a point where you’re nearly numb to feeling good, since it’s just how you’ve felt everyday? It is important to feel uncomfortable in life. Without discomfort, we cannot grow.

How are you facing discomfort this year? Do you feel like you’ve come to terms with your past, or are there aspects that need to be addressed? What would it take for you to burn a bridge? 

Let me know in the comments! 

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Simplify Your Life: December

I started this series last month as a way to document the steps I’m taking to live a more intentional, simple and purposeful life. Here’s how things are going in the month of December.

What I’m Doing

Finding Stillness

December has been a crazy month. I think we can mostly all relate on this. It’s hard not to get caught up in the holiday hectics and end of the year hustle, whether you finished a semester, had a bunch of work to wrap up before taking time off, or travelled to visit family. I ended November, hoping to find some stillness and to be entirely honest, I was anything but still most of this month.

I took on a lot of new writing work this month and it’s been great. One of my ongoing goals that I have been focusing on strongly is to start making a full time income as a freelance writer. This time last month, I wasn’t making much at all (if anything). Now, I’ve made enough to pay my bills for the month. I might not have made much more than that, but it is a huge jump from last month and I believe that it is just going to keep growing and growing. By this time next month, I’m excited to see how much more money I’ve made.

So basically, I’ve been hustling which is great but I have been falling back into my workaholic ways a bit. I’ve found myself feeling some heavy stress some days but I’m doing a good job at managing it. Mind you, I have been at home taking care of my 15 month old daughter 7 days a week still. I have been managing to complete all of my writing work during a combination of nap time, meal times when she’s in her highchair, sometimes sporadically while she’s playing, in the evenings when Ray gets home from work, and even late at night after everyone in my family has gone to bed. 

It’s been hectic for sure but I feel super grateful to have this work at all. So, I’m still searching for that stillness and working on finding a balance but it’s all a work in progress. 

Cleaning Out

I have definitely achieved some of my decluttering goals that I mentioned last month. Last month I mentioned that I’d be placing bags in every room to slowly fill with items I didn’t need as I noticed them. I also said how I was hoping to carve out some time and mindfully clean out as well. I’ve definitely done that and it feels good to chip away at some of the clutter in my life. 

I cleaned out one of the messiest parts of our home: the tupperware cabinet. I cannot begin to explain how satisfying it is to open that cabinet and not be knocked back by an avalanche of baby bottles, breast pump accessories, and random tupperware lids. I filled a bag with plastic containers that we no longer needed, an old sauteepan, our old kettle and few other kitchen items and sent it to the thrift shop. 

I also got rid of some old baby items that were taking up a lot of space but were no longer in use. I started to utilize the consignment shop and I’m not sure what took me so long! They bought all of our old baby stuff, although for a pretty low price. But it’s so worth it to support a small business and potentially help other parents buy my used items for an affordable price. Also, when the holidays rolled around and I realized I didn’t have anything festive to dress my daughter in, I stopped by there and was able to get a second hand holiday dress with my store credits from my sold items. That felt like a win and a lot more sustainable than buying a brand new outfit from target that she’d wear once. 

How I’m Feeling

Feelin’ good these days, thanks for asking! Honestly though, not everyday is a good day but having enough time to focus on myself and my daughter is literally filling me with the life that I had been drained of before. As I mentioned before, I noticed that I can have some workaholic tendencies if I’m not careful. I had a few moments of feeling pulled in multiple directions again and it was stressful. It gave me flashbacks to my nursing days and the intense stressors I faced back then. This reminded me that it’s always a work in progress and no change happens overnight. 

What’s Next

Although I’ve got a whole slew of goals for 2021, I’ve also got some smaller ones that I’m focusing on for the month of January specifically.

Finding that stillness.

That stillness I mentioned earlier? I’d still like to find that. I tend to be an all or nothing type of person and when I first quit working as a nurse, I got really grounded and focused. Now that I’ve been working as a writer I’ve been throwing myself into my work a little too much at times. So I’m working on finding a balance with that and I’m working on being still more often. I’m also trusting the process and being patient with myself.

DIY more.

I’d like to make some homemade items this month to replace things I’d buy at the store. Some of those items include: candles, lotion and lip balm. Making your own stuff is a great way to reduce waste, acquire nontoxic items with minimal ingredients and save money.

Digital declutter.

This is a big daunting one but it has to happen. My storage is full yet again and I think it’s finally time to sort through, print photos, transfer some onto a hard drive, and delete, delete, delete. Seriously, I have an email inbox with 75,000 emails and I’m so embarrassed to admit that.

My goal is to sit down one day soon and delete all of those emails, sort through the photos, and upload a lot of my writing work onto an online storage system such as Google Docs.

Dry January.

And lastly, I will be doing a dry January. Last January I did Whole30, which is a 30 day detox for anyone who doesn’t know. Whole30 involves cutting out alcohol for 30 days as well as a number of other food groups. Although I’ve learned that I don’t respond very well to restrictive diets like Whole30, I believe it is extremely beneficial to take chunks of time off from drinking alcohol as an adult. Think about how easy it can be to drink almost everyday for years and years if you’re an adult who enjoys drinking casually. I think it’s really good for the mind and body to take some time off and take a step back every once in a while, preferably once a year.

So those are some steps I’ve taken to simplify my life this month and my goals moving forward, as always, I’ll check back at the end of next month to see how things have progressed.

Xx

“A Bump Abroad”

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Modern Monogamy

I’d heard him talk about how he had some big expenses coming up in 2020. When we finally got the chance to take a weekend away without our baby since she was born over a year ago and he was adamant about a walk in the park, I knew what was coming. Although I was wholeheartedly expecting it, that moment when he pulled me close and said, “I have something to ask you,” wasn’t anything short of magical. 

The ring was not at all what I would have imagined (although, I’m not exactly sure what I would have imagined) but it was perfect, just like the man who held it out to me, while kneeling down on one knee. 

So, the proposal wasn’t a surprise but you know what was? The emotions and thoughts that consumed me prior to that weekend away. Let me explain.

As the weekend approached, I continuously thought about it. What would I wear? Should I get my nails done? Nah. Does he actually have a ring? Where would he be hiding it?

Okay, okay, I didn’t look for it. I considered checking his coat pockets but I didn’t. And had I found it I wouldn’t have dared to look. Anyways, regardless of whether I wanted them to or not, thoughts about the proposal filled my mind. But then, thoughts about something else started to pop up, at moments when I was least expecting them. 

Examining Past Relationships

I was out for a walk with my daughter that week when out of nowhere I thought to myself, “I wasted 4 years of my life on a shitty relationship.” I know, it’s harsh and the word “wasted” isn’t exactly warranted here because this time wasn’t actually wasted. Mistakes bring us to lessons learned, so although I wouldn’t wish 4 years of discontent on anyone, I wouldn’t personally do it any differently if I could. Every little moment has led me right here and this is exactly where I want to be.

Anyways, this thought was more about me wrapping my head around that four year figure than anything. That’s a large chunk of my time that I’ll never get back, during which I was unhappy. This was also right at the start of young adulthood for me, a typically transformative time in our lives. I spent this valuable time with blinders on and being held down. I was unable to reach my full potential and unable to be the person I wanted to be. I could have been this happy all along had I made better decisions. 

But I refuse to let myself fall down the rabbit hole of “what if”. Because hypotheticals don’t mean a damn thing when they’re in reference to the past.

Also to note here is that I’m not trying to point the finger and if I was, “the finger” can easily be mine pointing at myself in the mirror. I’m not trying to play a victim. I chose to be in this relationship, no one made me. But I had fallen into it when in a young, immature, and vulnerable place, leading to some poor decision-making.

This realization of valuable time lost was a painful one, that I previously thought I’d made peace with. It was tied to multiple emotions and additional thoughts.

“What do I teach my daughter? How do I prevent her from making these types of decisions?”

“How do I help other people who are still making poor relationship decisions?” 

I already have the answer to that last one: I don’t. People almost always have to learn these things on their own (I know I did) but the right environment can definitely help jumpstart some realizations.

For example, when I was in this toxic relationship, I worked with a lot of people who were 5-10 years older than me. A few of them were engaged or married. I witnessed some healthy adult relationships. I witnessed people who were really in love and happy together. I could tell that my relationship at the time wasn’t the same. I could tell that that was the type of relationship I wanted to have when it was time to get married and have kids.

It just took me time to realize that if the guy I’m with right now isn’t someone who I can imagine myself marrying then I might as well be alone. Seriously, it 100% isn’t worth anyones time to be in a committed relationship with someone that you know you wouldn’t want to settle down with.

Okay, maybe you don’t want kids or believe in marriage, that’s fine, you don’t have to. But if you know that the person you’re “committed to” isn’t someone you imagine a future with or want to grow old with. Why are they worth your time now? If they won’t be worth it later?

Unhealthy relationships can cloud your vision, distract you from accomplishing goals, and take your valuable time away from taking care of yourself. The most important thing to do during your young adulthood prior to settling down is to focus on yourself. That way you can figure out exactly what you want in life and know how to put yourself first when you do meet someone. 

Seeking Closure

Later that day I was in the kitchen while my daughter was eating lunch in her high chair when another thought came to mind. It was a simple thought about a different ex entirely. “I wonder how he’s doing”. We hadn’t spoken in years and I was just genuinely curious to know. 

This thought kind of took me aback and concerned me at first. Why am I thinking about him? Why am I worried about his life? I sat with it for a while.

I think about old friends in this context all the time. The only difference in this circumstance? This friend happened to be of the opposite sex and someone whom I had a bit of a “past” with. 

I later realized that this desire to reach out was entirely healthy. I also knew that my current boyfriend (soon to be fiance) wouldn’t have a problem with my reaching out because he trusts me, he feels confidence between us and we both know that we are in this.

It felt empowering to know that I could make this decision without feeling guilty because I was naturally inclined to after having dated jealous guys in the past. I had totally thought it was normal back then to let the person I was dating have an influence over the decisions I made independently as a person. 

So anyways, I messaged the guy and it was a super reassuring conversation. We discussed the fact that although we had a past relationship, we were also close friends for a while and our friendship had ended abruptly. This left me feeling a lack of closure. Letting each other know that we’re cool seemed to be pretty restorative and helpful on both ends. I’m so glad I did it.

There are healthy (and unhealthy) ways to give up parts of yourself in a relationships.

When a woman gets married, she may choose to give up her last name and take that of her husband. She may also choose to have a baby with the man in question, leading her to use her body and time to meet the needs of that child. Once you’re in a committed relationship with someone, both parties will probably run into times when they need to make sacrifices for the needs of their partner. 

When you reach the point in your life when marriage or any type of serious commitment (having kids, living together) is happening, you might end up giving up some parts of yourself, for the sake of your relationship. I think it’s about realizing that the person you’re with is worth those sacrifices.

If you’re like me though, you might have already started this process of giving up parts of yourself, only much earlier on in life and in a much less healthy way. In my specific circumstance, I let myself be totally absorbed in unhealthy relationships with boys throughout transformative times in my life such as my teen years and young adulthood. I also let the pain that came along with these relationships become a part of who I am. 

So this was my next realization that stemmed from marriage being on the horizon, I had now reached a point in my life when it would be normal, acceptable and okay for me to give up parts of myself for my relationship. But, since I had already allowed past relationships to shape me in an unhealthy way, I was feeling fear.

I realized I had already given up parts of myself in the past, to people who didn’t at all deserve me. Have these relationships shaped me forever? Had parts of myself been taken that I’d now never get back? How much damage has been done by past relationships and in what ways am I changed forever? 

This one was a hard pill to swallow.

Here I was, in love and ready to marry the father of my beautiful child. Yet, there was potential that issues could come up in the future of our relationship because of my own biases, issues, and scars from the past. Also, who am I had I not had these relationships? Are they a permanent part of me? That totally freaks me out.

That’s when I realized something else…

Messaging that ex actually had to do with an entirely different relationship.

So to offer a bit of a back story: regarding the ex that I messaged, we were friends up until the point of me starting to date someone else. When I started dating that guy, he was extremely jealous and a little controlling. He caused me to cut off friendships with a couple of different guys whom I was friends with at the time.

That other ex just happened to be one of a number of guys friends who I’d lost in this process. But he also happened to be the only one that I had been friends with for years. Messaging him wasn’t entirely about him, it was more about me getting back something that had been taken from me a long time ago, that I still hadn’t gotten back. It was about gaining back more of my independence. More of my identity.

So let me get this straight, there were parts of myself that a guy I had dated had essentially taken from me (whether he meant to or not, whether i realized it or not) that I to this day, as a grown woman with a child and fiance had still not gotten back!? And I hadn’t even realized it until now!

That blew my mind. And motivates me to share this message for everyone: 

NO level of jealousy is healthy in a relationship.

There ya go, I said it. I’m sorry, but I’m also not sorry at all. If your significant other is jealous to the point of having control over your decisions, that isn’t healthy or normal. If you have a hard time enjoying outings away from your significant other, that isn’t healthy or normal. If you’re consistently spending time with a person, doing more than just hooking up and you don’t see yourself settling down with them, they are not worth your time.

Think about it this way: you could be doing damage to yourself right now without even realizing it. You could be damaging or holding yourself back from a future healthy relationship with the right person. As soon as I decided to put my foot down in relationships, I met the man who I’m going to marry and I really don’t think that’s a coincidence. 

Take a minute and ask yourself what you want in life, relationships, your future, everything. Evaluate if you’re taking steps right now to get there. What better time than now to start advocating for yourself and get the most out of life?

Happy Holidays

Xx

“A Bump Abroad”

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Running With Headphones Vs. Running Without Headphones

Almost exactly two years ago, I ran my first marathon and I crushed those 26.2 miles without listening to anything. That’s right, no headphones, no podcast, no guided meditation, and not even any Drake music (I know, crazy right!?) 

Although I’m not running 20 miles a week anymore, I’ve tried to keep up with running on a somewhat consistent basis. Typically, I don’t listen to any music when I run — an unpopular choice, I realize — but for some reason, I had the urge to pop some headphones in this week for a 3 mile run.

In doing this, I noticed some benefits as well as some challenges that this music to my ears created for me.  Seeing as how most of the people I’ve talked to about this topic find even the idea of running without headphones appalling, I decided to break down some pros and cons that I’ve noticed throughout my years as a runner. 

My Background as a Runner

I was never really into running until my junior year of high school. A friend of mine was trying out for soccer and track and convinced me to join her. Shout out to any soccer players out there — that game is not easy. What I learned from trying out for both sports was that, physically I was fit enough to do both and possibly even a natural when it came to running. But I was wholeheartedly incapable of kicking a ball in any such way.

So I started my running career on my high school’s varsity track team, meaning I never ran with headphones in. Basically, I learned to run without music, so I never really knew anything but. 

Back then, my furthest distance was a 6 mile run that we did once during practice. Other than that, my main event was the one mile run. 

After high school, I would go on periodic runs but never pushed further than a mile or two. I wasn’t very motivated as a runner so I started listening to music to hype me up. 

On Thanksgiving of 2016, I ran my first 5k. This run reminded me how much I loved the environment of a race and motivated me to sign up for another race.. and another and another. About a year later, I tackled my first 10k and at the time this felt like a huge feat. 

Training for my 10k involved a 6 mile run every Sunday and these consistent 6 mile runs were a big deal for me. In order to get started with them, I would listen to music or a guided meditation. But somewhere along the way of training for this race, I finally popped those suckers out of my ears and remembered the lightness of running without any wires attached or electronics weighing me down. 

Six months after my first 10k, I ran my second 10k.

About 6 months after that, I ran my first half marathon and felt surprisingly good after, so I decided to go for it and sign up for a marathon.

Two years after my marathon, I’m still getting back into the groove of running regularly after becoming a mom and completely falling off of my running routine. I try to tackle one longer run a week. It doesn’t sound like much, but I’m patient with myself and focusing on the little victories. 

Running with Headphones

I’ve yet to figure out if running with headphones makes me faster, slower, or neither. I have a hunch that it makes me a bit slower though. Full disclosure, I don’t wear AirPods, so I’m still dealing with the archaic issue of wires attached. Don’t attack me though! I’ve tried wireless headphones in the past and they still weren’t cutting it for me. 

Con: My phone weighs me down

I don’t feel like I know what to do with my phone while I run. Again, I haven’t tried the arm strap thing, which I’m sure makes life easier but I still just feel weighted down by my phone. Often, I resort to shoving it in my sports bra or waste band and I can’t get past the feeling of it bouncing around the whole time. 

I dream about owning one of those old iPod shuffles that clips to you, but I don’t think they exist anymore.

Pro: Music hypes me up

Back to the question of whether music speeds me up or slows me down, when I started my run this week with music playing in the background I was running super fast. It definitely creates a whole vibe when you’ve got music playing in the background and I’m here for it, but I do feel like it causes me to go out super fast initially. This tires me out early on and makes it harder to run at a steady pace.

Con: I can’t hear myself breathe

One of the most important aspects of long distance running is focusing on the breath. Focusing on my breath helps me go into a meditative state (more on that later), causing me to let go completely. My mind goes blank and I’m almost unaware of how far I’m running or any discomforts that my body is feeling. 

Con: It messes up my posture

Having a phone the size of a book shoved in my bra causes me to hunch my shoulders forward while I run and one of the other most important aspects of long distance running is posture. I’ve realized that when my shoulders are relaxed back while I run I can take deeper breaths. It makes sense when you think about it. Having your shoulders relaxed back helps your lungs open up even further when you breathe, ensuring deeper breaths. When you take deep breaths during a run you’re oxygenating your whole body, including the muscles in your legs. 

Running without Headphones

Pro: Better breathing

I’m kind of being redundant here but when I don’t have Today’s Rap Hits blaring in my ears I can hear myself breathing. This helps me focus on my breath, breathe more steadily, and…

Pro: I go into a meditative state

Again, being a bit redundant. But, one of the reasons I fell in love with running is the benefits it has for my mental health. When I can hear myself think during my run, eventually my mind goes quiet. I fall into a meditative state and I feel so at ease. Often, my thoughts dissipate, I have some revelations, and I tend to come up with writing ideas (I wrote this entire blog post within minutes after returning from a run).

Also in this meditative state, I speak to God and there have been a few times where I’ve felt Him speak back. With headphones in, this aspect of running just doesn’t exist.

Pro: I run at a steadier pace 

I run at a steadier pace when I don’t have headphones in because I’m more aware of my pace and my breath. Also, without the music hyping me up, I’m less likely to go super fast, then slow when my energy runs out. 

Pro: You’re more aware of your surroundings

This kind of goes without saying, but running without headphones is probably a bit safer given your heightened awareness of your surroundings. 

Final Thoughts

Overall, I run better when I don’t have headphones in but on occasion, its nice to hype myself up a bit and jam out to some of my favorite music while I wrack up the miles. In my opinion, if you’re trying to improve your ability as a runner, cut the wires and give music-free running a try. Just hype yourself up with the music you love before and after your run. You’ll most likely run better, especially if you’re focused on hitting a further distance. 

Xx

“A Bump Abroad”

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10 Reasons I Loved Being a Nurse

Today, I finally cleaned out my nursing backpack. Feeling a weird combination of liberation and sadness, I unpacked all of my old nurse supplies along with the heavy emotions that are tied to them. I felt some sadness and uncertainty as I stood there asking myself if I’ll ever use these items again. I honestly don’t know if I will. I still feel confident that I am exactly where I am supposed to be in life. I don’t have any doubts about quitting my job but I do feel a little sad about this change in identity. Feelings of liberation stem from a place of no longer feeling tied down by a corporate-like job title. I feel free to be exactly who I am meant to be. At times, working as a nurse made me feel suppressed.

I feel sadness about closing this chapter in my life but I think it’s normal to feel sad about walking away from something while simultaneously understanding that walking away is the right thing to do. As the layers of an old identity shed, I can feel myself mourning that loss. So, today I am here to talk about some of the aspects of nursing that I love, some of the ways that nursing shaped me in a beautiful way, some of the reasons why I am grateful to have experienced this wild, crazy, and interesting profession, and some of the reasons why I will forever have respect for nurses on a much deeper level than I ever did before I became one myself. 

1. It connected me with people from all walks of life.

As a nurse, I cared for inmates, drug addicts, people with severe mental health issues, homeless people and the list goes on. I didn’t just care for them, I built friendships with my patients. Being a nurse made me feel a sense of friendship with the confused 50-something-year-old man, who’s stroke left him with severe neurological deficits and constant falls led him to be restrained to the hospital bed. I restrained him myself one day with the help of a couple of coworkers and he twisted my arm while I was holding him down. We later laughed together as we chatted and I spoon fed him his meal.

2. It taught me to judge people less.

Being a nurse showed me that we’re all human beings. At the end of the day, we all live and die in a similar way no matter our story. We all live a life of love, heartache, joy and pain, we are just born into different environments and make different choices, landing everyone in a different situation because of it. Before I was a nurse, I was quicker to judge another person based on their appearance. I might have seen a person who looked strung out on drugs or homeless and immediately assumed they were a threat. Or maybe it would be the opposite end of the spectrum — seeing someone with designer clothes and assuming their life is easier than mine.

Either way, being a nurse showed me that we’re all human. That dirty looking wanderer is probably harmless and that nicely dressed person might have just had the worst day of their lives. You honestly just never know who a person is and what they’re going through. At the end of the day, we’re all going through something. I have a lot more empathy now.

3. I bonded with my coworkers on a deeper level.

I’ve met some really great people at all of the jobs I’ve had in my life but I have never connected with any coworkers in the way that I did with my fellow nurses. Something about performing an enema together just really bonds you with someone (I’m not even kidding). It was hard not to get close with the nurses who have trained me. After multiple twelve hour shifts together, you just start to notice all of a person’s qualities and you really get to know each other. The true difficulty of being a nurse is something that I wouldn’t fully understand had I not been one myself. A mutual struggle can really connect people and working in healthcare is definitely an incredible challenge. 

4. It strengthened me and gave me confidence.

Nurses are badasses. It’s impossible to do this type of work without letting it harden you a bit. After a while of working as a nurse I realized that I never really knew what I would be walking into on a given day. I didn’t know if I’d discharge six patients and admit six more in the same day. I didn’t know if I would be running around nonstop, sweating profusely. Or maybe I would have a nice, calm day, with a perfect work flow. Then again, I could also have a day where my patient falls in the bathroom and five people have to help me pull her up off of the floor. You honestly just never know. Every day as a nurse is a complete wild card. It teaches you to feel like you’re prepared for anything and makes you feel unfazed in the face of absolute absurdity. 

5. It is interesting.

Working in a hospital is so genuinely interesting. There are so many different things going on within a hospital at any given moment. As a nurse, I learned about all types of medical conditions I had never heard of, I met some very interesting people (patients and coworkers), and I sat with some people in some of the hardest times in their lives. A new born baby could be taking their first breath, while someone else takes their last just a few floors down.

6. It gave me a different perspective on life.

I’ve gained a lot of respect for healthcare workers but I’ve gained a lot of respect for hospital patients as well. These patients are so incredibly sick and to add to that stress of fighting an illness or recovering from a serious injury, simply being in a hospital tends to make people feel even worse. All hospital patients have a complete lack of privacy and they rarely get to breathe fresh air or see the sun — and let’s not even get into hospital food…

Patients also lose the ability to sleep through the night without regular interruptions. Whether they’re a perfectly healthy adult, just here for the night because one of their lab values was off after coming into the ED with diarrhea or a patient who’s come from a nursing home with hardly any ability to even communicate, bound to the bed and barely responsive with no family involved to advocate for them — being in the hospital sucks. 

Seeing these patients fighting their own battles gave me a new perspective on my own life and my own struggles. It was a constant reminder that no matter how bad things may feel, the sun will rise again tomorrow

7. It made me proactive.

When working as a nurse, you are forced to be proactive. If something doesn’t seem right with your patient or a lab value or vital sign is off, it is expected that you take action immediately. At some jobs, nurses are so busy that if action isn’t taken immediately there’s a good chance it could get forgotten about because there is so much going on at once. So basically, whether or not it intimidates you to call that doctor, you’d better do it ASAP because it’s now or never. I’m so much more proactive in my day-to-day life now because of this. 

8. I gained professional skills.

Becoming a nurse showed me what it is like to work in corporate America. I learned to speak up in a group setting, give presentations, introduce myself to a room full of strangers, and the difference between professional attire and business casual. Nursing has shown me that I’d rather not work for someone else but if I had to do so again, I’ve got the professional skills in my back pocket. And honestly, professional skills are beneficial to have in life whether you own a business or work for a corporation, so I’m super grateful to have gained these skills. 

9. It taught me to advocate for myself.

Being a nurse showed me how important it is to ask for help. If you’re drowning at work and you don’t let anyone know, they can’t help you and drowning as a nurse is a whole other level of feeling “in the weeds”, trust me. The simple concept of asking for help during a busy day at work is something I’ve started to apply to all aspects of my life and it is having a profound effect.

I’ve realized that the most difficult conversations are the most important ones to have. The day I called my boss to quit my job, was one of the strongest moments of my life. It was so intimidating and so scary to make that call, but also so liberating and one of the most important decisions I’ve ever made. I’ve been continuing to advocate for myself since, speaking up about what’s on my mind and saying what needs to be said. I’m not going to lie, it feels really damn good and has brought me so much peace.

10. It showed me that I can do anything.

Aside from being a mom, working as a nurse is the hardest thing I’ve ever done.  

Honestly, I once thought I didn’t even have what it takes to apply to a nursing program. I thought it was only for straight A students and that has never been me. But then, I got into nursing school. During nursing school there were so many times when I thought I’d fail out. I constantly questioned my ability to make it through such a rigorous program. Then, I graduated. After I took my board exams, I was sure I had failed it. Then, I passed.

The reality is, you can accomplish literally anything if you apply yourself (as cheesy as it sounds) and becoming a nurse is how I’ve proven this to myself. Whether it be conquering a crazy shift, transferring an obese patient back to bed by yourself, passing an insanely challenging exam, running a marathon, it is possible. If there’s a will, there’s a way.

I’ve realized that every job I’ve had has helped me gain something. I’ve noticed a point at every job at which I said, “I’m finished here, I’ve gotten what I need and I’m done.” The day I called my boss and took that uncomfortable step to act in my own best interest, was the day I felt that closure in regards to nursing. I will always hold the time in my life when I experienced this profession close to my heart.

I still think about a lot of my patients, and wonder where they are or how they’re doing. I think about all of those patients that I’ll never meet, that are in there fighting as we speak. I think about my past nurse coworkers all the time too.

To nurses and patients alike, I say: I love you all, I’m wishing you the best, and most importantly, thank you for having me. 

“A Bump Abroad”

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Simplify Your Life: November

It’s been one month since I walked away from my job as a registered nurse. I was struggling with anxiety and I felt an undeniable pull to clear more space in my life. I’ve been taking a closer look at my life and striving to live with more intention. Here are some of the ways I’ve simplified my life this month, how I’m feeling, and my plans moving forward.

What I’m Doing

A bag in every room/Slowly decluttering

I’ve placed a large paper bag in every room of my house including my bedroom, my daughter’s room and the kitchen. As I notice things that can be donated or sold, I add them to the bag. That way, I can declutter and organize as I go without having to put aside time to do so. 

I’ve also realized that the key to having a decluttered home (and probably the most difficult aspect too) is maintenance. Even if you have the time to spend a whole afternoon, just focusing on cleaning your whole house (which no one does anyways), you have to maintain the cleanliness in order to have a consistently clean home. I’m definitely still working on it, but I’m trying to get myself in the habit of just putting things back where they go as soon as I’m done with them, rather than letting them sit out. I’m also taking a closer look at the clutter in my home and finding ways to organize items if they do in fact need to stay out all of the time. One of the things we always have laying around is chargers and headphones. So, I got a cute basket from the thrift shop to put them in and it looks a lot nicer than just having them laying around all the time.

No one’s house is clean all the time and continuously decluttering definitely takes some time to master, so I’m being patient with myself on this one.

Less online shopping/Creating a wishlist

Impulsive, online shopping was definitely a coping mechanism of mine back when I was working as a nurse. Originally, when I quit my job and realized that I would need to start budgeting, I told myself I would do away with online shopping altogether. Later I realized that cutting it out entirely just wasn’t very practical for me. As a mom, Amazon Prime is just too convenient and I’m not sure that I could find a lot of the supplements that I use in store where I live. So, my Prime account remains but I am much more mindful about the things I buy when I purchase online.

Another method I’m using to cut back on my online spending, is creating wishlists. I have a couple of different lists in my notes app on my phone (home wishlist, clothes wishlist, etc.) and whenever I think of an item that I want, I just add it to the list. That way I can be actively shopping around for a good deal on the items I need. Before I would impulsively just buy the first thing I’d find online because I was so busy, I felt the need to purchase ASAP out of fear I’d just forget about whatever it was I needed to buy. Having a wishlist also helps me visualize the items I want and prioritize whether or not I actually need them.

Basically, I’m shifting my thinking from I need these $50 floor pillows from Urban Outfitters to I don’t need the $50 floor pillows right this second. I love them, still want them, and they’re staying on my wishlist. I really look forward to when I own them but they aren’t a financial priority and that is okay!

Less takeout/simplified diet

Back when I was working as a nurse, I was spending a lot of money on restaurant food. We probably got takeout twice a week and sometimes even more. Half the time, it didn’t even taste that good. The reality is, I can make better food at home for half the price and now I finally have the time and energy to do so. Most restaurant food is made from the same frozen ingredients purchased in bulk from giant corporations anyways. So, this month we got takeout a total of three times for the entire month. The times we did get takeout, I actually appreciated it a bit more since we’ve done it so little.

Overall, I’ve simplified my diet. I’ve been cooking a lot of simple, healthy meals at home consisting of fresh veggies, sometimes rice and sometimes organic meats. As someone who’s toyed around with diets like Whole30 and veganism, I’ve realized that placing restrictions on my diet just isn’t good for my mental health. These types of diets work great for some people but for me, they cause me to get way too absorbed and be super hard on myself if I derail even slightly. I’ve been striving to eat a healthy diet but also just eating the foods I want and enjoying everything in moderation.

How I’m Feeling

Well, to be quite honest, I’m feeling really good. All of this time with my daughter is exactly what I’ve been needing. My writing career is (slowly) coming together, as I’ve begun to find some work as a freelance copywriter and editor. My hope is that with time, I’ll eventually make a full time income as a writer so that I can make my own schedule and travel with my family. 

Something I’ve noticed is how as I’ve reduced and minimized my life, it feels as though my mind is depressurizing. It’s as if before, my brain was so filled with all of these thoughts (obligations, schedule coordination, prepping for the work week, anxiety/stress) and they were just ping ponging around in there as I panicked internally. But now I’m slowly clearing more space in my life, literally and figuratively, and as I clear more space the thoughts in my mind are slowly releasing. This clearance of space in my mind has been making it easier to focus and be more present and I’ve even had some revelations. 

I’ve also realized that my anxiety had gotten to the point of causing me to feel afraid of being alone with my thoughts. A couple of months ago, I would dread getting in bed at night because I knew I would just be overwhelmed with stressful thoughts. My mind was so wound up all of the time, even if my body was completely exhausted. One night recently, I laid down to go to sleep and realized that I no longer felt this fear. I actually felt excited to lay in the silence for those few moments before falling asleep and I was happy to be alone with my peaceful mind.

What’s Next

In the month of December, I’d like to put aside some time to really clean things out. I’ve got the bags in each room ready to be filled, so now it is time to fill them up and start clearing more physical space in my home. My goal is to eventually go through every room of my home and get rid of all of the extra items I don’t need. While doing this, I’d like to pay attention to my belongings and question why I purchased them in the first place. This will help me pay attention when making future purchases. 

Also in the month of December, I’d like to try to find more stillness in my life. Now that I have started to make some money from home, it can be easy to want to rush over to my laptop every time I get a free moment and tackle my work for the week. Although it’s awesome that I have the ability to work from home, I need to find a balance. Sometimes I try to work for just 30 minutes, then I get way to absorbed and can’t relax after. I just recently took a full day off from all writing for probably the first time since I started this blog 6 months ago! So, I’m trying to find more stillness in life, master the art of doing nothing, and learn to shut my mind off every once in a while. 

I look forward to checking back in a month to see how things are progressing. Thanks for reading, friends!

xx

“A Bump Abroad”

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Sustainable Beauty Tips

 If you’ve been following my blog, then you know that in recent months I’ve been taking a closer look at my life and paying more attention to how I spend my time, money, and energy. Today, I’m examining my beauty routine and sharing some tips on how to simplify your beauty regime and make it more eco-friendly. 

Reduce where you can.

I’ll be the first to admit that I could probably be DIY-ing a lot more when it comes to my beauty routine. I went through a phase a couple of years ago where I got really into DIY skin care and beauty. At the time, I made my own skin serum, toothpaste, lip balm, deodorant, face wash and more. I’ve since gotten away from it quite a bit. Unfortunately, my homemade skin care products just didn’t work as well as I needed them to, since I do struggle with some acne. I still use my homemade deodorant and I’m due to make another batch of lip balm. Maybe this post will inspire me to get back into making my own products. It truly is the most sustainable practice because you get way more for your money and you can easily reuse the containers that you make your products in. 

One way that I reduced my waste in terms of my daily rituals is with reusable cotton swabs. A couple of years ago, Ray and I were exploring Brooklyn when we stumbled upon Package Free Shop. I was stoked to check it out since I’d been following them on instagram for quite a while. Package Free Shop is an amazing company that is doing exactly what our planet needs from more businesses, by promoting sustainability, intentional purchases, and overall helping preserve our planet. Package Free Shop sells tons of products to help people reduce their plastic waste from reusable coffee cups to bamboo straws to biodegradable poop bags for your fur babies! They’re seriously so awesome.

Anyways, I bought some reuseable cotton swabs from there and have been using them for years now. I use them to apply toner to my face and to remove makeup. I keep a little container of clean swabs in the bathroom and I have a separate container where I place the used ones. When it’s time to wash them, I simply put all of the used ones into a mesh laundry bag and wash them with whatever other laundry I have for that day. This is a simple, small step but overtime it makes an impact. Back when I visited Package Free Shop, they didn’t yet have an online store. But now they do, so here’s a link for $10 off!

Make little changes that go a long way.

I recently made a couple of swaps in my life that overtime will improve my hair and skin quality, in turn causing me to require even less products. I switched our pillow cases to satin and have gotten in the habit of changing them at least once a week. Satin or silk pillow cases can help reduce wrinkles and can give hair a smoother and shinier texture. I also bought some extra face towels and filled a drawer in our bathroom. That way, I can use a clean towel every time I dry my face, helping keep my skin even cleaner and reducing breakouts.

Find your favorite brands and stick with them.

Lastly, for the products that you just can’t (or would rather not) DIY or eliminate, find your favorite, sustainable brands and just stick with them. I used to buy all types of products from Ulta. I would order certain products that came with free gifts and free samples, causing an accumulation of mini-sized bottles of tons of different products, none of which I actually needed. I’ve realized that you don’t need a million different products.

If you know what brands you like, you can figure out the specific few products to use by them and you don’t have to be constantly testing out new products. Although, the higher quality products are going to cost more per item, they tend to last longer and when you know exactly what you need you won’t be buying a bunch of different things to test them out. Lastly, being more particular about your products helps you have less clutter. My beauty cabinet in the bathroom is a large source of clutter that I look forward to cleaning out in the near future. Here are my favorite, essential brands (and some discount links!)

  • Essential Skincare: Youth to the People

I use YTTP for skin cleanser, moisturizer, and an overnight moisture mask. Their products work great for my skin and are made with sustainably sourced, natural ingredients. They also use glass bottles for all of their packaging and their products are cruelty-free and vegan. In my eyes, they are a great brand to support, so I gladly give them my money. 

Here’s $15 off your first order from them!

  • Daily Sun Protection: COOLA

Applying a daily sunscreen to your skin is a really great way to keep your face looking vibrant and healthy (especially if you live in a sunny place, like I do.) COOLA uses 70% organic ingredients and completely plastic free packaging; they use mostly glass bottles and their plastic looking tubes are actually made with 100% recyclable sugar cane resin.

  • Hair Products: Rahua

Rahua is a sustainable and natural hair product brand. They use pure, natural ingredients and were founded by environmentalists. Rahua has preserved over 37,000 hectares of land in the amazon rainforest. Currently, I use their dry shampoo daily and I’ve also used their detangling spray and volumizing spray. I look forward to the day when their shampoo and conditioner fit into my budget because all of their products that I’ve tried have been high quality and make my hair look great. Also, they offer refillable packets for their shampoo and conditioner so that you don’t have to keep buying more and more plastic bottles. 

Follow this link to get 15% off Rahua!

  • Essential Makeup Items: Glossier 

And lastly, for my few makeup essentials, I typically turn to Glossier. Their products are high quality and affordable. I’ll be honest though, I’m someone who doesn’t wear much makeup (mostly because I’m not the best at applying it). So I know some of the women out there who take their makeup game more seriously, might be buying a bit more in this area. 

Heres a link for 10% off Glossier!

Knowing exactly what brands I love and reducing as much as I can makes my life easier in so many ways. Also, taking a look at lifestyle choices helps me reduce even further in the beauty and skincare departments. I don’t spend hours shopping around for one thing, I don’t buy multiple items for the sake of testing things out. I simply get what I need, and since I use trusted, high quality brands, I always know what I’m signing up for. 

I hope these tips can help you reduce a bit and as always, thanks for reading!

xx

“A Bump Abroad”

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How Being too Busy Can Cause You to Lose Sight of Who You Are

When someone asks you about yourself, what aspects of your life do you use to describe who you are? Is it your job, your college degree (or lack there of), what your significant other does? Do these factors actually make up who we are, or is there more to it than that?

If you ask me, a person is defined by their values, beliefs, and hobbies. The aspects of my life that make me feel like the truest form of myself and the way I spend my time when no one else is around, those are the aspects of my life that define who I am.

So, today I am here to ask you, what defines you? Who exactly are you? Do you regularly review this with yourself? Are you paying attention to your values and making sure to honor them? Or are you losing site?

It wasn’t too long ago when I started to lose site of who I was. I started to compromise some of my beliefs and forget who I was because I was focused on a paycheck.

It is possible to be too busy.

I used to think that when people said they were too busy it was just an excuse. A lot of times, it is but not always. In a world where managing a hectic schedule is the norm, it can be hard to determine when to draw the line. Let me take you back to when I was working as a nurse. 

First thing in the morning, I’d catch my reflection in the mirror and I’d see blood shot eyes accompanied by dark circles underneath. I’d get ready for the day by covering both with eye drops and concealer. My skin was desperate for the sun but I covered that too, with self tanner.

Back when I was in nursing school, I started to understand what it meant to live a purposeful life. I began questioning all of the products I used from skin care to makeup to cleaning products. I started to check ingredient labels of not only foods but the products I was putting on my body as well.

I also started to pay closer attention to the amount of trash I was sending to the landfill. I would take a closer look at the items I was getting rid of and strive to find a new purpose for them. I paid attention and tried to get the most use out of things as I could. I started to understand the true satisfaction of making a small impact in helping preserve our planet. This way of living intentionally became a part of my identity. 

Then, I got pregnant and I started to pay a little less attention. Maybe it was the brain fog of pregnancy, or that the intense food cravings were causing me to overlook the packaging and ingredient labels of my food. The desire to prepare for the baby also made me a bit impulsive about buying things that I thought we needed.

I still had purposeful goals though. I wanted to use cloth diapers so we wouldn’t be creating tons of waste, I wanted to have a natural birth free from medical interventions, I wanted to keep using natural/nontoxic products into motherhood. 

Then, the diaper sprayer we needed to use for cloth diapering wasn’t compatible with our pipes. Then, I ended up needing a C section. Then, I started working in a hospital and I realized that if I worried about the harmful chemicals in the hand sanitizer that I was slathering myself with (or all of the other toxin exposure), I would make myself crazy because I had no other option. I noticed all of the waste that is produced at hospitals for the sake of preventing infection. This caused me to feel defeated and let go of reducing waste in my personal life because I realized how little control I had. Little by little, my goals were slipping away.

I started to understand the satisfaction of spending the paycheck that I was working so hard for, it was a type of coping mechanism. Impulsive clothing purchases, makeup/skin care items that I didn’t need, completely random subscription boxes. I was so busy that I was making more online purchases and simply trying to live in the most convenient way possible. I was not only letting go of values I believed strongly in but I was losing myself and filling my life with more and more clutter. 

So, that’s how I reached this point of looking in the mirror and not knowing exactly who I was looking at. My job didn’t align with my values, making it impossible to live my life in the way I wanted. I was giving up the freedom to decide on the life I would live, all the while clouding my vision even further by buying things. The impulsive purchases were also fooling me into believing that my job was worth losing myself.

Convenience ≠ simplicity

There is so much irony in the concept of convenience. Often, we tell ourselves that by doing the more convenient thing, we are simplifying our lives. But the reality is that convenience does not equal simplicity. By living a “convenient” life, we are actually adding more clutter to our lives.

Convenience can also cause you to lose control in life because you’re no longer buying an item because you need it, you’re buying it because its the easiest option and you feel like you have no other choice.

Do more of what makes you feel human.

As it turns out, quitting my job was exactly what I needed to do to regain my sense of identity. It’s been almost three weeks since I quit my job and slowly but surely, I have been feeling more and more filled with life. At the end of my days, I often feel tired but it is the best feeling of tiredness. Rather than feeling completely drained, dazed, overly stimulated, I feel fulfilled, content, satisfied. I feel like I am exactly where I am supposed to be. 

Quitting my job was what I needed to do because being at home with my daughter and writing are the things that make me feel the most human. Being able to live and raise my daughter on my own terms is what fills me with life. 

I am starting to feel my health improving again, the chronic stress I was under for so long was honestly doing a number on me. Now, I’m getting lots of sunlight and fresh air everyday. I’m moving my body regularly and drinking enough (filtered) water. When I look in the mirror, I no longer see that shadow of myself, drained from life like a deflated balloon. I see a glowing face, filled with life and hope, because I’m living life exactly how I’m supposed to and it shows. 

When I think about the fact that I’ve only got one shot at this life, the thought of living in a way that doesn’t fulfill me seems ridiculous. So many people are living in this way and might spend their whole lives like this, never finding their purpose. My heart breaks for those people. I’m not sure how much unresolved pain would have continued to bubble up inside of me if I had continued life as I was and how that would have affected my health and my family.

Pay attention.

I understand, sometimes we have no other choice but to focus on that paycheck. People need money, have bills to pay, mouths to feed. This is why it is important to pay attention. Pay attention to what you believe in and how you are feeling everyday. That way, even if you have to stick it out and stay at your job because you truly need the money, you’re aware of the fact that once you have the means, you need to re-evaluate. If you’re aware of the fact that you need to make a change ASAP, then you can start stashing money away now and plan for a future of freedom and living with purpose. 

I know it all sounds so cheesy but trust me, when it comes to life, you get one. Just think about that for a minute. You have one chance to live the life you want. Don’t waste it.

xx

“A Bump Abroad”

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Book Review: Maybe You Should Talk to Someone

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone is a book by Lori Gottlieb, a psychotherapist. Gottlieb dissects the stories of some of her clients while telling a story of her own, during which she found herself seeking a therapist when faced with crisis in her own life. I’m going to share a couple of quotes from the book and the ways in which they resonate with me.

Hierarchy of Pain

“There is no hierarchy of pain. Suffering shouldn’t be ranked, because pain is not a contest. Spouses often forget this, upping the ante on their suffering — I had the kids all day. My job is more demanding than yours. I’m lonelier than you are. Whose pain wins — or loses?”

Lori Gottlieb

I’ve found myself at times, feeling a sense of resentment towards my significant other because I was feeling a lack of satisfaction at my demanding job. It was draining my energy and robbing me of my ability to be the mother I wanted to be. All the while, he was doing a job that allowed him the flexibility of working from home. I knew better than to compare myself to anyone and to feel envious (especially in regards to the person I’m building a life with), but for whatever reason, I was doing it anyways.

This sentence is a reminder that we all suffer in our own way and there is no real way to compare your suffering to that of someone else. No one can ever feel your pain, and vice versa. So, making the assumption that someone else has been granted the courtesy of feeling less pain than you or having an easier life is wildly counterproductive. Although, taking the high road and choosing a healthier mental approach is often easier said than done, so be patient with yourself.

Attempting to compare suffering isn’t always in the context of assuming that your life is harder than someone else’s, sometimes it’s the opposite. Sometimes you get angry at yourself for feeling upset because you believe that there are other people who are suffering much more than you. You feel ungrateful, selfish, guilty even. This is also a false assumption.

“—by diminishing my problems, I was judging myself and everyone else whose problems I had placed lower down on the hierarchy of pain. You can’t get through your pain by diminishing it, he reminded me. You get through your pain by accepting it and figuring out what to do with it. You can’t change what you’re denying or minimizing. And, of course, often what seem like trivial worries are manifestations of deeper ones.”

Lori Gottlieb

Don’t deny your pain. Strive to face it and figure out where it’s coming from.

Seeing our parents as flawed humans

One of Gottlieb’s patients is a mother with adult children who made some pretty major mistakes in raising them. All of her kids have cut her out of their lives. She’s faced many unhealthy relationships in her life and now, at the age of nearly seventy, she meets a man who is head over heels for her and simply wants to love her in the way that she always deserved to be, but never was. Due to her fear of opening up to him, and confessing her mistakes in life, she pushes him away. Later on, she writes him an open letter, telling all of the painful details from her past. After she reads this letter, explaining all of the mistakes she made as a mother, Gottlieb draws a comparison between this and her own relationship with her mother.

“So, like Rita’s children, I went through a period where I shut my mom out. And while that had long passed, as I sit with Rita and hear her story, I have the urge to cry — not for my pain, but for my mother’s. As much as I’ve thought about my relationship with my mother over the years, I’ve never considered her experience in exactly the way I am now. I have the fantasy that all adults should be given the opportunity to hear parents — not their own — rip themselves open, become completely vulnerable, and give their versions of events, because in seeing this, you can’t help but come to a newfound understanding of your own parent’s lives, whatever the situation.”

Lori Gottlieb

This line spoke volumes to me. My relationship with my mother has been complicated, to say the least. As a teen, we always butted heads but as I grew older and matured, I learned to let her in a bit and we have grown closer over the years. Now, after becoming a mother myself, I found myself criticizing her choices as a mom and distancing myself yet again. I have been having a tough time finding a balance with setting boundaries in our relationship but also not being too critical of her.

Recently, I have had the revelation that I am still dealing with an unhealthy amount of anxiety in my life. It started over a year ago, after I gave birth to my daughter. It has been happening on and off, and I’ve been incredibly distracted by the demands of my job. This combination has caused me to avoid facing these issues, allowing them to go on much longer than they should. When I would have a good day, I would tell myself, “it’s over, I have nothing to worry about anymore, I’m healed.” Unfortunately though, I was not healed, and beneath the surface, the anxiety had been deepening and deepening.

I realized that it was time to quit my job. It was a difficult decision to make because my job was not the root of my problems but it was causing me to avoid facing the problems by keeping me so busy. I’ve realized that I’m incredibly lucky to have the opportunity to quit my job and focus on my mental health. I have been smart with my money over the years and if we budget accordingly, my family and I will be okay financially for a while, while I figure my life out. So many moms aren’t given this choice. So many moms are thrown into motherhood and never have the support that is needed to adequately recover. So many moms, have to work like crazy, making them unavailable to their children, mentally and physically — because they simply don’t have the financial means or support from their spouse/family to just quit. These moms might never face their mental health issues, and these issues will never go away until they’ve been dealt with.

My mom was one of those moms. She had to work full time to support three kids, and she didn’t have a supportive spouse. Who knows how long she could have been struggling with mental health issues that continuously went unresolved. Comparing my struggles as a mom to my mother’s and putting myself in her shoes — seeing her as a flawed, imperfect human just like every human is — prompted this empathetic revelation. If I were in her shoes, I might not have the option to just stop working and focus on myself. I would have to keep on going, living life in this perpetual state of anxiety. I hope I can help my daughter understand this principle one day as well, when she begins to dissect the choices I made in raising her. 

Final Thoughts. 

I could honestly dissect this book in its entirety and never get tired of Gottlieb’s words. But if I did that, you would have nothing to read! I’m sure I will reread this one day. I’m still asking myself if I read this book at the perfect time in my life or if it’s just one of those books that tells you everything you need to hear, regardless of where you are in life. I’m thinking it’s the latter. Here are a few more quotes from the book, just to get you thinking!

As always, please share any thoughts in the comments & thanks for reading. 

xx

“I thought about how many people avoid trying for things they really want in life because it’s more painful to get close to the goal but not achieve it than not to have taken the chance in the first place.”

Lori Gottlieb

“The inability to say no is largely about approval-seeking — people imagine that if they say no, they won’t be loved by others. The inability to say yes, however — to intimacy, a job opportunity, an alcohol program — is more about lack of trust in oneself. Will I mess this up? Will this turn out badly? Isn’t it safer to stay where I am? But there’s a twist. Sometimes what seems like setting a boundary — saying no — is actually a cop-out, an inverted way of avoiding saying yes.”

Lori Gottlieb

“A Bump Abroad”

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A lesson in letting go: quitting my job as a nurse

This is an open letter, to whoever needs to hear it. Maybe you’re like me, and you feel empowered when you witness another human, revealing their humanness, their vulnerabilities, their imperfections, freely and openly for the whole world to see. Maybe you’re just curious, looking for entertainment. Maybe you’re tired of seeing the false narrative of perfection being told on the internet and you need a reminder that we’re all in this together. Regardless of who you are, this letter is for you and I hope it finds you well.

In the year of 2020, I made the most money I ever have. I put over $1,000 in my personal savings, began saving for retirement, nearly paid off my car, and bought all kinds of things that I thought I needed. I also experienced some of the most severe anxiety I ever have, felt a complete loss of identity, and compromised (and even forgot about) some of my strongest beliefs. I walked away from making nearly $4,000 a month and from a career that took me 5 years of work to build for myself. This decision to quit weighed heavily on me and still does. I’m still trying to decide exactly why I’m here telling this story, but I am. So, here it is: the story of walking away from my career as a nurse.

The start of my nursing career

I started my first job as a nurse on a busy and understaffed med/surg unit. I knew going into this job that it would be extremely stressful. I told myself it wasn’t forever, I’d get some experience, then move on.

Here’s a little glimpse into what my days were like: Most of my shifts were insanely busy from the moment I walked on the floor until the moment I left. Personally, I like to stay busy at work, but this was a little over the top. I would run around nonstop and if I ate lunch before 3PM, I was lucky. I often barely had time to drink water all day. I had to rush away to pump three times a shift so that I could continue breastfeeding my daughter; she was two months old when I started this job. I’d have to drop what I was doing in the middle of it in order to go pump, or I just wouldn’t get a chance to pump at all because there was never a true “stopping point” where I could take a break. My days at this job were messy, chaotic and disorganized. I would look forward to my days off and imagine relaxing at home, doing nothing at all with my family.

Then, a day off would arrive and I’d wake up with my daughter at 7AM feeling completely drained. I’d look around my messy house and see an overflowing laundry basket, a dishwasher that needed to be unloaded, and clutter everywhere. It would drive me crazy and give me anxiety. I felt like I had a lack of control in my life. Even if I wanted to have a clean house, I wasn’t able to, because I simply didn’t have the time or energy to maintain it. 

I’d think of 100 different things I needed to do. All the while, I was too tired to even process what those things were, much less how to go about doing them. On top of that, I actually wanted to spend time with my daughter, but my time with her felt ruined because I was too busy being stressed about all these other things. Then I would get angry at myself for feeling this way and fall into a negative mindset. 

Prior to getting pregnant, I still had a lot of responsibilities. I worked part-time and was a full time student going through nursing school. I maintained multiple friendships and social obligations and stayed on top of keeping my bills paid. I definitely felt overwhelmed at times, but I could always get through it. I knew what I needed to do to manage my stress. I felt good, I had a handle on my life. So, this wasn’t the first time I was attempting to manage multiple things at once but for some reason, this time was so different.

I think there were a number of things at play that were causing the anxiety I was experiencing. My difficult experience giving birth to my daughter was something I was still trying to process. The stressful nature of my job was causing me to feel like my nerves were shot. Putting my daughter in daycare after doing little research and just feeling like I had to figure something out last minute wasn’t helping. But most importantly, I think I returned to work too soon after giving birth and overall, I wasn’t fully recovered. I was antsy about making money again, I wanted to rebuild my savings and I wanted to feel financial security and use the degree I had worked so hard for. So, I rushed into my career as a nurse and I don’t think I ever stopped rushing around until, well, now. 

It felt like every day off I was facing the same exact issues: feeling pulled in multiple directions, feeling overwhelmed, not knowing where to start with my tasks, having an endless to do list, and overall wanting to spend quality time with my family but still not feeling capable of doing so because I was so hung up on my own issues. 

My boyfriend was working from home, so he could help and even spend time with our daughter to give me a break. But that became another source of anxiety. While I was at work missing my daughter, I would dream about rocking her to sleep even if she was screaming, or changing her poopy diapers. I didn’t care, I just missed her. I wanted to be around her, even if that meant doing the things that sometimes stressed me out about being a mom. But then the days would get there and those little stressors felt like huge stressors and I just didn’t feel like I could handle it. I’d feel like I was crumbling and my boyfriend would have to come relieve some of the pressure. Then I would get even more upset and think “I finally have time off with my baby, and I can’t even handle being a mom. I’m constantly requiring some type of support”. This would make me angry at myself yet again, and the anxiety would continue to spiral. 

Deciding to quit job #1

At the time, I blamed my job for my anxiety but I was failing to see that it was so much deeper than the stressors I faced at work. The stressors I was facing at work were still too much for me to handle though, so I made the decision to walk away from this job. At first, the idea of quitting scared me; I had less than one year of experience in my career and most other hospitals required a full year of experience. Also, I didn’t want to just not work. I needed to make money and I wanted to stay busy. The idea of not finding another job scared me. 

I had a plan in mind. There was another hospital, at which I had spent a lot of time as a student. I knew that a lot of things were different there. The employees seemed happier, there were more resources. I sent out multiple applications in the weeks prior to my giving notice at my job. 

My last day of work was approaching and I hadn’t heard anything yet. The pressure of finding a new job was setting in, so I sat down to do some brainstorming. 

I remember my last day working in retail when my manager said to me, “If nursing doesn’t work out and you want to come back, you’re always welcome!” I laughed so hard about this later, like, yeah right, I’ll never be back. I felt so high and mighty with my nursing degree. Well jokes on me, because here I was, just a few months into my career and thinking to myself well, retail doesn’t sound too bad right now.

Regardless of my open mindedness, I didn’t end up having to return to retail because when I sat down at my computer that day, I had an email. I was being invited to interview at the hospital where I had been wanting to work. 

I’m sure you can guess what happened next. I got the job. There were a lot of benefits to this new job, the only downside was that it would be a one hour commute each way, but I was okay with it. I knew it would be more than worth it.

Starting Job #2

I remember nearly having a panic attack the weekend before I started. I had 4 days off in between my last day at job #1 and my first day at job #2. During which I had to print and fill out paper work, drive an hour to the hospital to do blood tests, provide urine samples, etc. I was remembering how intense starting a new job can feel, especially in nursing. Since nurses have such serious responsibilities, we have to give up a lot of ourselves to start a job. Here I was, feeling the same thing again; pulled in multiple directions, too many things to do. I told myself it was normal to be stressed about a new job and to just keeping pushing, it’ll get better. 

It did get better, in a sense. At work, I was feeling genuinely good. My coworkers were happy, I had a good workflow, I was interested in my work. It wasn’t nearly as negative an environment as where I had come from. But at some point, the anxiety returned. The same exact feelings as before but this time, it felt so much worse. I feel like it was God trying to get my attention.

When the anxiety returned this time around, it was even more intense than before because I would end up feeling so defeated. I had gone out of my comfort zone and advocated for myself, I had gotten my dream job, but still, I just couldn’t manage. I couldn’t handle all of the responsibilities I had in my life. And even though my job was so much better in so many ways, now it was so far away that I was giving up even more of my precious time and the car lag was making me even more tired on my days off. I would wake up at 4:30AM to drive an hour to work and get home and 8:30PM. I’d have less than an hour to shower, wash my scrubs, eat dinner, and pack my lunch for the following day before I needed to rush off to bed so I could do it all over again the following day.

This is when the panic attacks began. My stress would lead to the realization that I needed to quit my job and that realization would cause my anxiety to spiral even more. I just started this job, I can’t just quit. What will people think? This is such a good job, if I walk away, this opportunity won’t come back. Will it cause staffing issues? I don’t want to hurt other people in the process. So many questions, fears and worries would flood my mind when I considered quitting. It was getting to the point where I would just shut down.

I don’t remember what started my first panic attack but I remember it ending with me crying uncontrollably, curled up in a ball on the floor of my kitchen. Something has to change, something has to change. 

Then about a week later, I had my first day off after working three shifts in a row. That morning, I could feel the anxiety creeping in, but I tried to just accept it and let it pass. We decided we would take our daughter to the pumpkin patch and then to a park to swing on the swings. The anticipation was causing me to stress about minor details. Where would we park? What order were we doing things in? Would we get lunch too while we’re out? I was trying hard to be present but I couldn’t stop anticipating and wanting to plan everything.

We were in the car and I was verbalizing these thoughts to my boyfriend, “I’m trying to be present, but I can’t stop worrying about the minor details,” I told him. Then my heart started to race and I could feel it happening again. I was panicking. There were a lot of people out and about walking and a lot of cars on the road. I felt like everyone in traffic could see me and I just needed to cry. I wanted to sink into the car seat and disappear. My boyfriend pulled over into an empty parking lot. I leaned forward, putting my head between my knees and completely lost it. I was crying uncontrollably and gasping for air in between sobs. I felt like I couldn’t catch my breath. I didn’t even know where any of this was stemming from. It all started with me worrying about our agenda for the day, but it was so much deeper than that. The hardest part was knowing that my daughter was sitting right behind me in her car seat, listening to it all. 

Quitting Job #2 

This second panic attack made me realize what I needed to do. I needed to quit my job and not get a new one for a little while. Although it’s scary to not have a plan in mind, I needed more time in my life, more space to figure everything out, more time with my daughter. More than anything though, I needed less. Less obligations, less responsibilities, less people to please, less distractions from my mental health issues that I needed to face. 

So, the following Monday, I talked with my boss and told her exactly what had been happening. She was supportive and understanding, and that was it, I was done. I expected to feel an intense relief afterward, but instead I felt scared for the future. Regardless of the fear though, I knew in my heart that I had made the right decision.

What now?

The future is unknown and I’m definitely a little scared. I don’t have a plan but I have faith. Writing this was difficult, because it caused me to relive my panic attacks and that was one of the worst feelings I’ve ever felt. I never want to feel that again, and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. I know that I had no other option but to walk away from my job because it was the only way I could open up more space in my schedule in order to focus more on myself. 

When I got pregnant, I was finishing up nursing school. I remember saying, “I’m always going to put being a mom before being a nurse.” I feel like all this time, I was making nursing more of a priority, without even realizing it. It is time to take a step back, hit pause. I’m taking a closer look at my life, working on simplifying things, and living with purpose.

I don’t have any regrets. I may never return to nursing and I spent 5 years of my life working towards that goal but I’m learning that it takes trial and error to find your purpose in life. This is a lesson in letting go. Letting go of the opinions of others. Letting go of how you’re “supposed to do things”. It’s also another example of trusting the process. It’s not about the end goal because we may never reach the end goal. It is about what happens in between; that is when real changes occur. 

xx

“A Bump Abroad”

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