Sleepy Time

Happy New Year, Readers!

My consistent wishes/ joke has been that I hope 2018 is more amazing than 2017 … which should not be hard given the bar is so low.

So how did you celebrate?

Both myself and my really good friend, Beverly, realized that both of our beaus were doing their own thing. Hers was hunting and Maciej is visiting his family in Europe. Upon this realization, we thought it would be a great opportunity to have a “girls night in” as well as officially engage in wedding things as she is my co-maid of honour.

When her train arrived, we went shopping and I started looking at wedding bands (and finally found one that I really like that has a fun significance!), she tried on bridesmaid dresses (and we finally settled on one) and I tried on my wedding dress again because … what can I say … I am so excited!!! It was such a fun day and definitely one of my most memorable New Years celebrations.

After we went to the cinema and saw Pitch Perfect 3. I really enjoyed it despite it being a hokey chick-flick. The plotline is in no way deep but when you are out with your girlfriend(s) and are around my age – as I found the context was very much targetted to us who are veering close to the 30 mark but not quite yet – it was a funny movie.

After the movie, we came back, I iced a homemade chocolate cake – which I cheated with a gluten-free box because I am recently over being ill LOL but I did bake it in my oven!! – and I made homemade vegan baked nacho dip for dinner. Confession: For a box mix, this cake is legitimate. Often with gluten-free, there is a weird aftertaste due to the use of potato starch or rice flour in the mix. With this mix, you cannot tell the difference between the gluten-free and a real cake … at least that is what Beverly said because I have not eaten gluten in almost three years.

We drank wine and I evilly introduced her to Drop Dead Diva on Netflix. Like an old person, I took a nap a few minutes before the countdown and when the clock struck midnight, we took pictures, blew noisemakers and then we … are you ready for it *Taylor Style* … went to bed!

With the advent of a new year, many people discuss their resolutions and goals. Some are opposed to this and others use this calculation of time as an opportunity to make lifestyle changes. I personally have eight areas I am working on in 2018. One of the lifestyle changes I am trying to make is ensuring I get enough sleep! I think this is an “I am almost 30 and all-nighters are not cool anymore because I turn into a raving bitch erm … crazy lady” situation. The reality is, I am very productive in the mornings and I genuinely enjoy sitting in my favourite chair before people have started texting and e-mailing as I watch the sunrise and sip on my coffee. It is a truly hygge ritual that I value.

In the past, I have overworked late into the night and I would often sleep through alarms, become short-tempered and extremely anxious with physical symptoms. During my undergraduate degree (oh the dawn of your early 20s), it was not uncommon for me to be at school at 6:00 AM reading and drinking a coffee in the library, doing courses/ lectures until 2:30 PM to 5:00 PM, getting back on the bus home and writing papers until 11:00 PM, sleep until 4:30 AM, continue working then go in for my part-time government job for 9:00 AM and occasionally attend an evening course from 7:00 PM to 10:00 PM that night! Insane … I know! I really have no idea how I pulled this off except maybe my age made the onset of the physical repercussions sneak up on me a bit slower. During this break, I have started turning off my alarm and resting up. At this point, I feel caught up on sleep and am slowly going to be pushing back to earlier bedtimes so that ultimately I am able to wake up well-rested by 5:30 AM.

One thing I am incredibly guilty of is sleeping with Netflix streaming on my iPad. I have read a lot about the negative effects of blue light on your circadian rhythm and I know this bad habit needs to be broken. Some of the effects include: a) suppression of melatonin production; b) not feeling rested after sleep due to a lack of REM cycles; and, c)  poor overall quality of sleep. The full recommendation actually indicates that devices should be shut off 30 minutes prior to sleep. I would love to get into this habit! 21st century me is already toying with what I could be doing if all devices are off for 30 minutes. Some ideas include reading a paper book and meditation/ yoga. But I recognize this is going to be a slow transition if it is going to work.

Truth Bomb: In my final year of high school, I was extremely anxious as I (thinking worst case scenario) did not want to return to high school for a “victory lap”. Complete nonsense, I know. As a result, I suffered from chronic night terrors for months! And these were vivid and terrifying. One of the times I was so scared I jumped into bed with my sister. This is when the habit started because I found that sleeping with the TV on stopped my night terrors. I did this for years – far longer than necessary; however, I was scared that my night terrors would return if I did not sleep with the TV on. Has anyone ever experienced this? Now I am at a point where I cannot sleep without the background noise.

So what do you think? Have any of you ever tried eliminating technology and ensuring you are getting a routine 8-hour rest? What were your strategies? How about night terrors? Have any of you experienced this?

Let me know and may 2018 be amazing to all of you!

Steph xoxo

What the flu can teach you and new year’s resolutions

Well, I have been taken out for the last week by the flu. Note the sickness and the “crazy eyes” as Maciej puts it below LOL.

As I mentioned in my previous post, a 7-year-old from the army of children engaged in biological warfare on me when she coughed on me. I have been living on a variety of smoothies because they are an easy and quick way for my body to get the nutrients it needs to fight this flu bug. A couple favourites include: a) All Natural Cough Remedy Smoothie; b) Classic Strawberry and Banana Smoothie; and c) Classic Green Monster Smoothie.

This holiday has been a tough one. On the one hand, I am trying to celebrate and on the other, I just need to sleep!

We often get caught in this dichotomy, particularly during the holiday season. When is it okay to say “no” and really put yourself first? I am guilty of this which I blame as to why this illness has been so prolonged. A few years ago, towards the end of my undergraduate degree, I remember listening to a Byron Katie podcast or YouTube video and she said something along the lines of letting the body be sick so it can fight it rather than trying to fight the sick and making your body too tired to fight it. At that point I had an essay due but I was not feeling well. Instead of pushing through that essay that night, I went to sleep and let my body feel sick. I did not fight it. I woke up strong and wrote the essay in a matter of hours that morning. I cannot say I was as wise this time around.

This being said, part of my New Year’s resolution will be looking after myself. I have started doing it now and the effects have been astounding (including, weight loss, and the reduction of physical anxiety symptoms – I sound like an infomercial!). Some of the actions I have taken include time for daily exercise (shout out to my good friend P who has been doing Jillian Michaels with me – until I got sick as well as my dad for bringing me the treadmill), time for things I enjoy (like writing on the blog and reading books that I enjoy with a cup of herbal tea on my special chair) and telling people “no”. I have learned within the mess of wedding planning, you have to say “no” to so many things *sigh*. But when you do it establishes better boundaries and in reality, it is your life you are living. If we have one shot at this, then say “no” to anything that conflicts with your values without any regrets. Trust me, it feels great!

What about you? Do you have any New Year’s Resolutions? Do you not believe in them? Comment below!

Cheers to welcoming 2018 with open hearts and minds. I have a feeling this one is going to be a memorable one!

Steph

 

 

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

Well, here we are! We are in the last days of 2017 and I am sitting in my living room reflecting while listening to Christmas music with a bunch of candles lit.

So I am just going to come out and say it. For the most part, 2017 was a challenging year for me. I have choice words! Now, some people who know me are going to think to themselves “but Steph … this year was a life changer!” and my response to that is: YES! Finally, I caught a break … ON DECEMBER 3RD!! There were 11 heinous months prior to that! So let’s begin story time, shall we?

Remember when I went rogue in August? I was initially hesitant to share about this but I am ready now. At this time, I spent three weeks in Europe and learned three very important lessons.

Lesson #1: Self-Care

To begin, I needed to figure out how to take time to look after myself. This manifested itself to me as I sat in my future mother-in-law’s living room the first afternoon after flying to Dublin … catch that? … not yet? okay, don’t worry, it’s coming. Anyway, I was in her home and she was at work. Maciej’s mom lives very humbly in the countryside. Her internet access is extremely limited and being abroad, I do not have cellular access. The walk to the nearest town is 2 hours by foot. I did have some tasks to do – which I worked slowly on – but I was horribly jetlagged. Instead of engaging in virtual overstimulation, I opened the door where I could see the lush Irish fields, and I read a book. Despite not having the internet to contact people, it was the first time in months I did not experience the physical symptoms of anxiety. I was so calm. The air was fresh and my MIL – did I do that again? – has exquisite taste in coffee … and in hard liquor but that, my friends is a selective tale I will not share on here because what happens during girls night, stays with girls night! I digress. Sitting there reading while not even anticipating a phone call, text, e-mail, push notification … whatever … was the best peace I had experienced in months. It was time to take it easy.

Lesson #2: Work Better, Not Harder

The second lesson was that I needed a professional kick in the ass. I am guilty of overworking and feeling like I am getting nowhere in the process. After spending some time this weekend reviewing my portfolio in preparation for upcoming applications, I realized that for someone who has a few years before reaching the grand “30” mark, I am accomplishing more than average. Furthermore, I learned I really need to not rush through these processes! While having an end-goal in mind is important, I need to stop being so bloody anxious about the process and find a way to enjoy it because when I finally accomplish that end goal, then what? Retirement? That means I have spent the bulk of my working life in a panic when really, I do enjoy the work I do. The World Happiness Report (2016) expresses that,

Most Americans sampled daily in the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index Survey feel happier on weekends, to an extent that depends on the social context on and off the job. The weekend effect disappears for those employed in a high trust workplace, who regard their superior more as a partner than a boss and maintain their social life during weekdays.

(Helliwell, Layard & Saches, 2016 p. 30)

While working hard is great … commendable even … balance is paramount.

I am currently tying up some loose ends; however, come the new year, I intend to make it a focus to be more deliberate and organized with my time and tackle my endeavors in smaller chunks rather than adrenal binges followed by exhausting crashes post-completion. This will allow for more time to do things that I enjoy including this creative writing project and spending time with good people.

Some recommendations:

  1. The Little Book of Hygge: The Danish Way of Living Well by Miek Wiking
  2. Rushing Women’s Syndrome by Dr. Libby Weaver
  3. Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things (Available on Netflix)
  4. The Minimalists Podcast

These are a few of my favorites, I’m sure more will come to mind.

Lesson #3: Don’t Forget Your Love for Others

The last lesson that really took me and shook me was while I was lost in selfish “Me-Land” – which I needed for a while; however, overstayed my tenancy – is that while Maciej can be stubborn (so am I), I needed to transition from being my own frantic mess and his girlfriend to loving him as my evil sidekick … too personal? Yea, I’m uncomfortable but I have lingered with the “appropriate language” long enough. It’s not that we ever stopped loving each other, it’s just that when chaos reigns, it pours! I have to remind myself a lot that when he is trying to take me away from my work, it is usually because he wants to just be with me and that is not bad.

So, while 2017 started with me wondering who pissed in it’s Cheerios ( … sorry), it was a closing chapter in the middle of my life’s story.

That can’t be it? Can it?

No, I save the best for last.

On November 18th, 2017 I stood in Costco comparing coffee choices while Maciej was going bat-crazy wanting the latest, greatest iPhone X. His phone was binging as he frantically tried to place holds for pick up crying out in a panic “WHAT TIME CAN WE GET THIS!?” and I was like “WHAT COFFEE ARE WE CHOOSING!?”. This ended up with me in a large shopping plaza on a Saturday. Like the masochist I am, I simply love driving in shopping center parking lots on a Saturday afternoon. It’s my favorite. I kicked this man out of my car and told him to get out and head to Apple while I park as far away from civilization as possible. When I successfully found my spot, I walked in. He get’s his phone and I decide at that moment, he is not winning after that show! No, no, no. On our walk back to the car, I saw Michael Hill. I grabbed this man by the arm out of nowhere and proudly stated that this man was going to buy me a $10,000 engagement ring.  Tell me how he goes along with it and the poor customer service representative is like shouting “GET THIS WOMAN A BIGGER DIAMOND”. We, of course, were not going to buy, I just wanted to make him uncomfortable. Well let me tell you, Maciej was a little too comfortable. So in the car, I told him that I did not want a ring out of our budget and especially since I work in a job where my hands are exposed to the elements …. you know … finger paint … markers … boogers … the works. He calmly responded that the next week being Black Friday, perhaps we could get something nice in our budget. I worked that week and come Friday, I was getting hasty so I asked him as soon as I walked in the door, “Honey? Can we go shopping?” he said “sure”. We found a small jeweler who had the whole store on 50% off (*Bonus!*) and I sat while he put a couple on my finger and held my hand close to his face until he found the one. It needed to be resized and I have the car so that Wednesday I received my call that it was ready and I was there. Now, in the store for resizing, they have to check to make sure it fits properly. So I let them. I also told them that they should just leave it on there because I wanted to make sure it did not fall off as I drove home. And on my drive home, there was a bridal shop. So obviously I tried on a few dresses. Leave me be!!

When I arrived home, I put it back in the box and left it on his desk. This man played hard to get! But that Sunday, he was pretty insistent on a hike so I took the bait. We stopped for lunch and the outlook was beautiful. He stood up and reached into his pocket. I thought to myself, “This is it!” … and he pulled out a tissue to blow his nose … lovely. We continued hiking and finally, after having to climb uphill, Maciej asked me to marry him. I personally told him …

Yes! Actually, I will be honest I was nodding my head because like, I don’t even know, apparently I lost my words? Which seems unlikely, he had to ask me … “are you going to say yes?” LOL, I did! And I am thrilled. I get that some people hear the story and respond that “Oh so it was not really a surprise??” to which I am totally fine with because they aren’t invited anyway … sooooo. This proposal is who we are – two people who exchanged CVs on our first date. And I am thrilled for 2018 to be a very special year! And I know that 2017 was the year I learned that we are well matched.

So that being said, why does 2017 invoke such choice words from me? Because it was uncomfortable even though it finished off perfectly. What can I say, I’m a wimp! And no offense, but the cosmos totally owed me after that Saturn Retrograde crap! Would I redo this year again? Nope. But I am so happy with the outcome!

To you and your families, I wish you the best Holiday Season and may 2018 bring many great experiences, memories and as the Danish say, Hygge.

Steph xoxo

The Milestone Race

What is life!? LOL

How is the work week going, readers? We are just over the “hump” so to speak. I have been productive at both working to complete my master’s thesis and doing some data management for one of my (many) jobs.

A topic that has resonated with me lately is the idea of, what I am coining, the milestone race. Humans are competitive by nature and in a variety of different ways. Many women (of course not all women) in their 20s are in the “family” race. You guys totally know what I am talking about: get some post-secondary education, find a partner, get married, buy your forever home, have 1.8 kids … the works. In fact, some people go to the extent completing the race within 10 years! All the by the age of 30! Now, let us consider this for a minute.

To be clear, the above chart is meant to be humorous, not offensive. What I am doing is poking fun at the prescribed decade that is your 20s … (I heard your 30s are better? If not, keep it to yourself, I need some hope LOL) and with that being said, I question this notion. I question rushing through so many of life’s joys in the quick span of your first decade as an adult! We are socialized as young girls to believe that this is happily ever after. We have seen it in the millions of minutes spent watching our Disney princesses find their prince, our rom-com protagonists finding love in the most apropos way and do not get me started on 50 Shades of Grey!

While there is nothing wrong with hitting these milestones, and flourishing happily – I congratulate you if this is what you needed – consider the flower children who make different choices. What about those of us who do not follow this pattern. The problem I have come to notice is that while there is nothing wrong with “settling down”, this prescription is not a prescription for happiness and it does not define your worth as a person.

Furthermore, while you are busy running the marathon of your third decade to hit the finish line quickly, you miss all the fun and joy that comes from the blunders, processes and lessons you are forced to learn as you navigate your transition into adulthood. Take for example the ample arguments on paint colour and design I watched my parents so passionately argue about growing up. I swear, being on the brink of bloody divorce over the colour of wooden spoon (I am exaggerating, my parents love each other going on over 30 years now LOL) – has brought many hilarious memories when we look around their house and the warmth that colour brought into their home. In addition, those whose families were built out of order and in different circumstances has brought forth my most favourite little spider-nephew as I watch my sister so confidently flourish in her career and raise her son with no remorse nor care to rush into a marriage because “that is what you do”. She is confident and is in the process of raising a beautifully smart, confident and silly little guy.

And with that, I come back to me – the overworked and exhausted overachiever who looks forward to one day marrying my partner, but keeps up the hustle! I have not achieved “marriage” (1000 XP right?? LOL) and there is some time until I will. I am nowhere near being able to afford a house. I live in a 1 bedroom apartment in Toronto and love every quirk that comes with it. The fact I decorated my home, my kitchen sucks, and my bedroom is my sanctuary of calmness – but I do not own it – I still love these moments. Looking on social media, one can see that I have a handsome partner who is going to have a fabulously successful career one day. In addition, I have worked so hard and my career thus far has been pretty successful, I am independent. This, however, is deceiving because while I have had some amazing successes, people are not seeing the not-so-glamourous stress I put on myself to cultivate my passion. Have any of you spent 16 hours consecutively editing and eating your quick leftovers at your desk all on 3-4 hours of sleep? If you have, I send you all my empathy – you are amazing!

Furthermore, when analyzing my life using the above “milestone race” (which I get often in an attempt to diminish my successes), of course I do not come up to par! We all make the story of our lives. It is not up to other people to assess our stories in accordance to one prescription. As so famously stated by Aerosmith: Life’s a journey, not a destination. And with that, I leave you my readers with a vote of confidence and wisdom. Consider your life and every single thing that has not worked out the way you think it should. What has happened instead? What have you learnt from it? Are you happy? If you are not, what can you do to try? Is it by removing yourself from the milestone race? Wishing you joy as you make your history.

Feel free to comment below or connect on social media. Every one of you is going to have the story of a lifetime, I promise.

Cheers and enjoy the rest of your week!