I like to believe I have a lot of control over my own happiness. Sometimes I think this is good. Other times, I think it is naive.
It’s good because I don’t think there is anything wrong with being a “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” kind of gal. I also think truly believing that I can pull myself through the dark times is instrumental in actually making it happen.
It’s naive because…well…sometimes I can’t.
Because obviously there are a lot of things that happen to a person that are outside of our control. And there are a lot of things that happen inside of a person’s head that can negatively affect happiness beyond the limits of our control.
And when I fail at controlling and activating my own happiness, then there’s an added layer of, “Well, why can’t you just fix it?”
You know how people with severe depression always comment on how pushy relatives or well-meaning folks will tell them to “just get over it,” but they really truly can’t and telling them to try just makes things worse? Sometimes I think I am my own pushy relative.
Anyway. That was a long way of saying that, while I feel fine now (promise!), recently I was in a low place. And in an effort to pull myself out of it, I started making a list of all the things I could do to make my life better.
BECAUSE OF COURSE I DID.
And, what LUCK, I also have about a week of working from home ahead of me, so I will have more time to tackle projects. Hooray! Here’s brief recap to keep me accountable:
We’re planning to move apartments in April. To help simplify the process, I want to start whittling down our belongings now. I’m planning to clean out (and properly organize):
– The linen closet
– The front closet
– The trunk at the foot of the bed
– The file cabinet
I truly believe that getting rid of tangible clutter helps me clear my mind. Is that weird?
2. Finish decor projects
A few weeks ago, I purchased a new rug for the living room (because my roommates have destroyed the cream and brown rug we have now). I’m also planning to sell our green accent chair and get a navy one, plus rearrange the frames on the walls. I might also rearrange some furniture. Who knows? Things are getting crazy!
3. SECRET SIDE PROJECT.
More on this later. Because I’m a terrible tease.
Anyone else planning on crossing a few things off the to-do list over the holidays? Am I the only one who derives deep personal satisfaction from crossing things off to-do lists?
In general, I try to steer away from topics where I am basically giving you guys advice. Because, I mean honestly, I consider myself okay if I can get MYSELF through the day. I would never assume responsibility for your guys.
But, if you’ll indulge me, there’s been something on my mind lately that I’m curious to hear your perspective. And it has to do with DIETS.
I’ve said before that I believe in all things in moderation, but lately I’ve been experimenting with removing certain elements from my diet and then analyzing their effect on my mood and emotions.
Before I get into it, I feel obligated to remind you all that I am not, in fact, a medical professional. This is not meant to serve as advice of any kind. This is purely an examination of my own experiences and a request to hear your own. Do you need me to include an asterisk disclaimer? Because I will. I am not a doctor.*
As I was saying.
For the last couple of months, I’ve removed a couple of things:
1. Diet soda
I mean, I’ve had the occasional glass of wine here and there, but in general, I’ve been trying to limit the amount of excess sugar I consume, and alcohol is obviously a big source of sugar.
One of the things that prompted me to start playing around with what I eat was my gut itself. I noticed that I was getting stomach aches often, or just feeling general discomfort. (GLAMOROUS!) When I went a week without drinking and tried to avoid desserts, I noticed, almost magically, these problems seemed to go away. It was especially helpful when I was training for a race or just working out a lot in general.
Not surprisingly, an hour-long spin class is much easier without a tummy ache.
I had a similar response to dairy, and as a result I rarely consume anything that come’s from cow’s milk. (The occasional Greek yogurt or scoop of ice cream is the only real exception.)
Beyond the purely physical benefits, I’ve found it kind of fascinating to see how limiting sugar has affected my mood. When I’m limiting my sugar, I feel more even-keel in general, rarely feeling anxious or overly sensitive. When I’m not, I have more stressful days or moments when I feel like my anxiety is harder to control.
The changes I noticed when I cut out caffeine were more predictable: Sure, that first week sucked, but since then, I feel like I’m sleeping better and I don’t feel any more tired than I did when I was drinking several cups a day.
Again, I’m not sharing these observations in an attempt to guilt or pressure anyone to do the same, I’m just curious: Has anyone else tried something like this and noticed similar results? Are there certain foods you don’t eat because you notice they contribute negatively to your mental well-being?
Basically, I find the psychology of food really interesting, and I want to know your experiences. SHARE WITH ME! (If you want…)
*No, seriously. Not. A. Doctor.
I don’t know about you guys, but there is nothing quite like going to the doctor to make me feel like I’ve committed a crime.
I think it has to do with how they welcome you. You walk innocently in the front door and BAM! Paperwork. And not just any paperwork. Invasive paperwork.
Do you smoke? Drink? How often? What kind? When was the last time you were here? WHERE WERE YOU ON THE AFTERNOON OF OCTOBER 26TH?!?
And the third degree doesn’t end after you hand in the clipboard.
Oh no, now it’s time to sit on a pedestal and be prodded. Oh sure, just lean back in this reclining dentist chair. Comfy? Good.
NOW I WILL POKE YOUR GUMS WITH A METAL HOOK NOT DISSIMILAR TO THE KIND SERIAL KILLERS HAVE INSTEAD OF HANDS.
During consultations of any kind, I always find myself trying to sit “casually.” Do I lean back? Or will that make the good doctor criticize my posture? Do I hold my hands in my lap? OR DOES THAT LOOK GUILTY?
I also find my voice comes out sounding weird. Like I’m hiding something.
ALL RIGHT ALL RIGHT, I’M ALLERGIC TO SULFA AND I TAKE A MULTIVITAMIN, OKAY???
On the upside, there is nothing more satisfying than being able to give the doctor healthy answers. “Actually, I’ve never smoked before. Nope, no recreational drugs, not a problem.” (She preened as she smugly smoothed her hair behind one ear.)
But no matter how much of a healthy specimen I believe myself to be, I always breathe a sigh of relief when it’s finally time to leave the exam room. I’ll give a little wave, hop off the table, and try to ignore their ominous calls of “see you in six months!”
Am I the only one who feels this way? Am I just too tightly wound? ARE YOU FLOSSING REGULARLY?
I tend to get the same response in New York (and really, most places) when I tell people I grew up in Iowa.
“Wow, that must have been some kind of culture shock, huh?”
“Iowa? IO-wa? So you grew up on a farm?
“Where is Iowa?”
In general, I shrug, duck my head with a Midwestern humility, and reply, “Well, it’s different, of course, but not as different as you would think.”
Because, really, I’m from Iowa, but I didn’t grow up even close to a farm. Unless you count the research powerhouse DuPont Pioneer, which did technically grow acres of corn a stone’s throw from my front door and high school. (I, obviously, do not.)
To their credit, though, these curious non-Midwesterners do have a point: Life in New York is pretty different from life in Iowa. But probably not for the reasons they think.
Here, in no particular order, are the things I miss the most about my Iowa life:
1. Drive-through Starbucks
Drive-throughs in general are much harder to come by in the city, most likely because only the certifiably insane (and/or taxi drivers) bother with cars in the city. I do, though, wish the drive-through coffee shop would make its way to the outer boroughs.
If you’ve never experiences the utter euphoria of getting to stay in your warm car during the dead of winter while you scoop up a latte, all I can tell you is that it makes you feel like you’ve done something right with your life.
2. Big parking lots
If I go the rest of my life without ever circling for street parking, a blaring brigade of cars barreling up behind me, only to break into a cold sweat as I try to maneuver into a parallel parking spot just a couple of inches too small for my car, it will be too soon.
You know how we handle those situations in the Midwest? WE DON’T. We just swoop into the entrance of the nearest sprawling parking lot and take our pick of spots. Our biggest stress? That we will have to walk and extra 20 feet because all the “good” spots are taken.
Here’s something I’ve learned in New York: ANY parking lot spot is a “good” spot when the alternative is a parallel parking spot next to a heap of yesterday’s trash.
3. A convenient Target
Now, we do have Target in New York. You just have to trek to Brooklyn or Long Island or a distant mall in Queens to get to it.
Do you want to know how far I had to travel to get to Target from my parents’ house in Iowa? Five minutes. It was literally on the same street as their neighborhood. In fact, you had to pass a few OTHER superstores to even get to the Target. (But we all know the Target was what you were really after anyway.)
And once you got there? You just cruised into the giant parking lot, found a spot, and grabbed a latte from Starbucks on your way in the door.
What I’m saying is, yes, moving to New York was a lifestyle change. But I’m not always sure which city is winning.
I tell you what, you guys. I have literally started four blog posts this morning, to then just delete the whole thing because I felt it was too boring/self-centered/blahhhh.
How on EARTH have I kept this blog going so long with such an uninteresting life?? WHAT ARE YOU EVEN DOING HERE READING THIS?
Just kidding. I love you. Please don’t leave me.
But seriously, I think I’ve lost some of my blogging mojo.
I debate all the time just giving this thing up. Seriously. Like, has it served it’s purpose? Am I old and boring now? Are you all just reading this to be polite, prim smiles plastered on your faces as you quickly scroll through my words in an attempt to just make me feel better?
I hope not. That would be embarrassing for all of us. (AND YOU KNOW HOW I FEEL ABOUT EMBARRASSMENT.)
The thing is, I’ve grown attached to my little blog in the last (almost) seven(!) years. I don’t really want to throw the ol’ gal by the wayside. Which means there’s only one thing left to do.
StellaJustine has to get her groove back.
I started by reading through some of my old posts (from the way, way back, like 2010). The biggest difference between 2010 Justine? (Besides a new address, job, marital status, and NAME.) That girl just did NOT take this that seriously. Which isn’t to say I take it seriously now (this is and will probably always be just a fun side project), but I didn’t put so much pressure on my posts. Sometimes they were just a sentence or two. Barely more than a tweet. But they were fun.
I want things to be fun again. I want to think more about the silly things I’ve started to ignore and take for granted. I think I lost sight of what I set out to do with this blog (aka, a weird diary of sorts), and I want to get back to that. But, you know, hopefully with better photography.
For all of our sakes.
Next week, you guys. Next week is gonna be good.
It’s raining in New York City today.
Correction: It has been raining in NYC for the last 36 hours, and it’s supposed to continue at least through to tomorrow. Nothing like a soggy group of city-dwellers to get your morning started right.
But you know what? I’m actually not that bummed out about it. And I actually have this lil’ blog to thank for it.
The other day, someone commented on this old post of mine. Y’all remember that one?
I mean, of course I didn’t 100 percent stick to all the goals I outlined in that post. In fact, I even told you I wouldn’t at the end of it. But about a month ago I really let my mood slip.
I lost perspective. I got complacent. I stopped focusing on what’s important.
The person who commented on the post isn’t someone I’ve ever met before, and she had no way of knowing that I wrote that post a long time ago and hadn’t thought about it for a while. But I want to thank her, and I want to thank this rainy day, because they both brought me back into focus.
I also skipped writing out my goals for October — which, for a goal-oriented gal like myself, is like sailing into the ocean without a rudder. Let’s kick things off by correcting that for November, shall we?
November 2014 Goals:
1. Bake three things from scratch.
I mentioned before that I want to bake more this fall, but I’m getting more specific. I actually have baked a couple of things recently (pumpkin scones and salted caramel coconut blondes), but both of them were from either a mix or a premade-homemade mix. Next time, it’s all on me.
2. Rearrange the art in my home.
I’ve made a few small changes to the apartment in the last couple of months, which means that some of the art I had previously hung needs to be adjusted. I also feel like this will be a good way to refresh everything without spending any money.
3. Bring my lunch at least four out of every five workdays.
I’m not going to lie, I slipped on this big time the last couple of weeks. We’ve been busy, groceries haven’t been bought, and as a result, I’ve spent more money on food than I should have. But we’re getting back in a groove (I cooked on Monday this week and Joey cooked last night, meaning lots of tasty leftovers to choose from), and that’s also helping me refocus on our financial goals.
Three goals seems reasonable, right? We’re also going to be in California next month for about nine days, which I could NOT be more excited about. Stay tuned for a tip-packed vacation post!
What are your goals for next month?