"Journal writing is a voyage to the interior."
- Christina Baldwin
Quiet time spent scrawling mostly nothings with the occasional something gets to my bones. It is a form of meditation for me, except instead of trying to clear my mind through breath work and imagery, I can purge these thoughts onto a page. Often it is nothing more than a mind dump, a way to clear out garbage and unhealthy/unproductive thinking; other times it wades me through the incessant inner chatter, fleshing out ideas, priorities, and the whys behind my goals/actions.
I am reworking my whole life it seems in subtle yet powerful ways; writing it out clarifies what otherwise stays muddled in my brain. This space needs reworking too, some clearing out and sorting where it fits. These pages are a place for me to play with my voice, yet I'd like to be more than a personal journal. I hope by sharing the strong parts of myself, the not-so-strong parts - exposing too much at times - I might make it relevant on occasion to even one other person out there.
I fear I am driven by the need to be everything to everyone else. Even when I'm uninterested. Even when I'm uncomfortable. Even when I'm tired. Even when I'm overwhelmed. Even when I'm on the edge of burnout.
A series of untimely and unfortunate circumstances (combined with poor management) at work left quite the strain over winter break. I took much of this workload upon myself.. I've been there less than a year, it has caused severe conflict in other areas of my life, and my main focus was meant to be school not a part-time "office" job; but if not me, then who? I stacked responsibility after responsibility onto myself, until I felt depleted, resentful, and inadequate.
"No" is a more offensive word than fuck to me. It's failure wrapped up neatly in a single syllable.
Mere weeks into the new year, I was on the brink of burnout. I pulled back, rallied to complete what was meant as a three-week course in a matter of two days, then skipped town for a long weekend. Hours of driving through the desert offered space and time - a sliver ofclarity - for a soul check. My priorities were misplaced. I know most people like to think of priorities as an abstract measurement of our values. In truth, our priorities are simply how we spend our time - not how we'd like to spend it, not how we try to spend it - how we actually spend it.
When I am unable to say No to others, I am unable to say Yes to myself.
I thought a beautiful, spring weekend in Phoenix and quick assessment was enough to get me back on track. I've made progress in establishing boundaries, but there are underlying themes I haven't been able to shake. Where do I end? Where do others begin? How out of sync with myself am I? Who have I been for the last eight months?
Being what everyone else needs causes me to lose sense of my own needs and desires. It leaves me isolated, detached from my authenticity, unable to genuinely connect even with those I please.
This season of transformation has revealed the most beautiful and the ugliest versions of myself. My emotions have bounced from elation to apathy to contentedness to frustration to shame to happiness. Despite decent into dark, internal landscapes, I know my life is a good one. It deserves my truest self.
What is my why? What are my passions? My core beliefs? What is my reason for doing any of it? School? Relationships? Work? Life?
I'm not giving up on serving others. I want to contribute to the world but from a different center. Instead of operating from this obligatory sense of pleasing, I want to be able to see clearly where I end and others begin. I want to serve from a place of love and passion, to be able to set boundaries, know/protect the parts of myself at stake, and practise self-love, self-care, and self- respect. I want to know my value and capabilities, and understand "where the needs of the world intersect" with what I offer (so eloquently put by Justine Musk**).
I can make an impact rather than navigate the impact of others**.
These darker days offer a punctuation, a pause as the light waits to expand. Quiet moments allow us to see ourselves from the inside out, as people who can "make an impact on the world", rather than simply "navigate the impact the world has" on us.
(excerpts from Justine Musk)
The morning we drove into the hills to a small lake to watch the sun rise, a fog settled in, washing away all but the palest palettes of slate. It matched the hues of my heart, austere and somewhat sullen - not bleak - simply quiet and contemplative.
I know most people are off to the next holiday, but my mind has settled in a sea of gratitude. Thanksgiving morning, Dave and I shared these often overlooked things to be grateful for. (The template can be found at A Life Less Bullshit.)
Something my body can do. Climb. Isn't it easy to get caught up in how we'd like our bodies to change? More of this. Less of that. Stronger. Leaner. Better. Our bodies are incredible. I am thankful my body can meet the challenges and training I ask of it. A recent (minor) hand injury has been a poignant reminder to be grateful for a healthy body and both the amazingly grand and seemingly small feats it can do.
People who help without knowing it. Kathryn Budig inspires me as a woman who has achieved an enviable career, evolving her passion into a successful business, all the while remaining playful and utterly approachable. Kelly Starrett. Because he isn't afraid to challenge long-standing notions concerning human movement and athletic performance, he is revolutionizing the way athletes and practitioners approach both. To become a practitioner on par with his level of expertise is a worthy goal I've set. On a similar note, Jill Miller's expertise is not due to any particular school of training; her years of hands on experience and astuteness led her to evolve modalities and innovate practices to fill the gaps she perceived. Sheena Jibson reminds me often to get real, get outside, appreciate my life, and thrive in it. Justine Musk has recently crossed my radar, but I am deeply inspired by her writing and voice.
Something that changed in the past year. Do you ever stop and assess how you see yourself? Currently? It was deep into summer when I realized I had designated myself to little more than a burnt-out working student / overwhelmed, nagging wife. The descent into this dark place was more gradual and subtle than depression I had experienced in the past. I made quite the mess climbing out, learning several harsh truths and causing pain. If I ever want to lose my sense of self, I need simply to become complacent. Now I am feeding the aspects of my life that need to be nourished - using journals, vision boards, & my "life architecture" as constant reminders - in order to thrive.
A shitty experience that taught me something.
Close your eyes. Find love. Stay there. -Rumi
Heartache and love and passion have cut to the marrow of my bones. Tears seeped from every pore until I felt the hollowness of my skeleton. To feel intensely is a blessing, but we cannot isolate emotions. Heartache digs out your insides leaving behind a shell that feels too fragile to nudge forward. But within vulnerability is a sort of space and expansion. I had never known the ferocity of love and passion until now. Perhaps it is the fear of loss, but I am grateful for the awareness and vigilance it awoke. I see the strength, beauty, awareness, and commitment of the man standing next to a me. I am blessed.
I have enough. Time...to do the things I enjoy. We all claim at some point - maybe even often - there is too much to do and not enough hours in the day, but how much of what we do is truly necessary and how much of our time is wasted? Also, I have enough resources - be it monetary or emotional - to live a comfortable life, to feel supported in my endeavors, and to pursue my passions. My life feels pretty luxurious.
Buttermilk Custard for Two
Sheena made a pie I couldn't stop thinking about. I didn't want to hassle with a crust, so I tried my hand at a custard instead. I love the way the surface crystalizes subtly as it bakes. This is especially perfect with a glass of Lillet Blanc. I suspect orange pairs very nicely with this as well. Rice flour makes this gluten-free, but most flours should work fine. I prefer brown rice syrup as a sweetener because of the minimal amount of fructose, but feel free to use maple if you prefer.
zest from one Meyer lemon
3 yolks (preferably local or organic, mine were from duck eggs)
2 T brown rice flour
1/3 cup brown rice syrup
1 cup buttermilk
½ tsp vanilla
scant ¼ tsp sea salt
Preheat the oven to 325 °F. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together zest, yolks, and flour until smooth. Slowly add the brown rice syrup while stirring. Stir in the buttermilk, vanilla, and salt. Divide between two 4-ounce ramekins and place them in a deep baking dish. Place on the oven rack and make a water bath by pouring hot water into the baking dish high enough to cover the ramekins halfway up the sides. Bake for about 1 hour until set. Carefully remove from the oven and place the ramekins on a cooling rack. Serve at room temperature or chilled.
Prep time: 10 min - Cook time: ~1 hr
I am drawn by the growing stillness of winter to simplify and de-clutter my life, literally and figuratively. A good portion of our closet's contents rest in a pile on its way to Goodwill. Dave created a beautiful yoga space in our home. I am etching out bits of my mornings and evenings to care for my body and mind: stretching, rolling out, tuning up, mobilizing, thinking, meditating. Mediums for contemplation and introspection are finding space in our weekday nights together: TEDtalks instead of sitcoms, books, pens to paper, conversation. Don't we each desire simply to be heard - to be seen - authentically and genuinely? Do we really make the effort - because it does take effort - to truly see those around us? Our neighbors and friends, family and strangers? Do we even see ourselves?
Though the outside world is hibernating, this time of year can be noisy. We don't have to partake in all the festivities; we can be intentional, genuinely choosing those activities we want to embrace fully. We can even make time for ourselves. I am playing with my vision board and scanning my life architecture regularly to assess my goals (what I want to accomplish) and commitments (how I actually spend my time). Not every festivity needs to be FESTIVE and brimming: simple, elegant dishes might leave more time for conversation and connection; an attentive ear over a single, drawn out cup of coffee might carry more meaning than a package tied with a bow.
I have never cried so many tears as those shed these past months.
It has never taken such effort to simply Breathe.
The summer I finally felt at home in my own skin is also the summer I lost myself. The months to follow were drenched in the most challenging, heart-breaking, frustrating moments of my life. With this pain and ache and sadness has come the purest joy as well. Through these tears I found my focus again. Clearer than before. Laughter is plentiful and richer. I feel deeply. Love deeply.
I started typing this as part of a "senses" series, but it was lighter than what I feel. It felt seemingly empty and not quite authentic to my current state of mind, my entire state of being actually. I am not ready to go deep. I am not at a place to put details out into the universe. This space I carve out to write and share bits of my passions has morphed into a journal more so than any sort of "health" or "fitness" or "food" blog. Notes to myself float out from this virtual space more often than recipes or clever ideas. In sharing - in trying to write - I unfold. These wounds are exposed - too fresh to be unraveled - but I want to continue to unfold, to find my words, and share here...
I am happy. I am whole. I am intentionally trying to live deeply. In each moment.
So more of these moments have been spent offline in introspection and in savoring simple joys. Every day is filled with more intention, using tools to guide how I want to spend my days and then actually spending them this way. Escaping into the desert. Camping. Climbing. Yoga. Trainings. Turning pages. Filling notebooks. Weekday outtings. Weekends hikes. Conversations.
A lot of conversations.
Talking. Listening. Depths unrealized until we're in it, opening ourselves into safe spaces. Into each other. Unfolding intimacy through words, passions, attentiveness, and receptivity.
We are making a table together. As "bare" and open as we choose to keep our home -- as content as we are to sit side by side at the bar -- we are learning the value of sitting across from each other. Eye contact. Expressions. Body language. Connecting. It is quite the simple act, yet such a profound thing really.
Meaning in simplicity. My daily mantra.
No gluten. No cane sugar. Avoid most nuts and even seeds. No yeast. No dairy. There are others, but these are the biggies. These are foods I feel much better avoiding, if I am being completely mindful and honest with myself. Especially gluten. Especially cane sugar. A food sensitivity test confirmed what I had been wondering for some time: I have several food sensitivities. Quite a few more than I expected. Some were not surprising: gluten, almonds, sugar. Others took me for a loop: chicken eggs, goat/sheep dairy.
It is interesting how difficult adjusting and committing to the last two mentioned has been, considering I have eaten "vegan" over extended periods in the past. A couple months ago, I amped up my vegetable intake, cut out gluten and sugar, and started to feel amazing; I thought I had figured it all out. I wasn't expecting a whole slew of forbidden foods, especially foods I had continued to eat (eggs, goat cheese) when I was feeling really good.
On top of this, I also started a nutrition / fitness plan recently. I have never been one for counting calories or aiming for a particular weight, but this is geared around my climbing goals. It's more than looking a certain way; it is performance based and measurable. Lose a couple pounds. Increase lean muscle mass. Decrease body fat percentage. Reduce the fat in my middle and build up my legs. If I'm lighter in my midsection - working from a more solid "core" - I feel stronger as a climber and less prone to injury. It seems like a fairly aggressive four-to-six-week plan; I'm near the halfway mark and might actually be on track. Because my goals are measurable, it's a good time to reassess and see where I am.
I know I haven't been focusing on my legs enough, so I doubled those efforts starting Friday. My waistline fluctuates slightly - as I think is common among women - but overall my core feels stronger and more solid. I do not feel as heavy or hindered as I did only months ago. As I transition away from primarily bouldering and "get back into" climbing routes, I am trying harder grades sooner than I normally would without feeling the typical joint and tendon concerns or recovery pain.
As far as the nutrition aspect goes, I am learning a few things about myself. I feel better on days correlating with a high ratio of quality protein. I also find it easier to eat more vegetables on these days, and other cravings decrease. I expected to miss nuts and nut butter, but I don't. I did not expect to struggle without cheese. Eating out is a HUGE pain but not impossible. It is most helpful to focus on what I can eat. I am striving to be less obsessed about/with/over food and still remain intentional. This is making me happiest and healthiest of all.
Limiting and then all together eliminating cane sugar has made the biggest difference on several levels (physiological, fitness, psychological, emotional...). I'd like to share more about this - my process, helpful resources, tips, etc. - with the hope it will help others. If you have specific questions, struggles, or concerns, please post them here or shoot me an email through my contact page.
The last couple weeks have seen an ebb and flow in my mental state: the much embraced exhale of finishing out a strong semester before diving into a three-week course on Islam and struggling to keep overwhelming and looming agendas at bay.
It was not a conscious choice, but these weeks became a transition of sorts. Certain projects and tasks were set aside for the time, which freed up a lot of the anxiety I had been holding onto. Initially this felt like procrastination and shortcomings on my part, but establishing priorities and recognizing my own limitations was actually a gift to myself. I wasn't overloading again, forcing myself to wait to start living more fully. Rather than obsessing over additional "should-be-doings", I have found myself integrating the basics - climbing, exercise, yoga, cleaner eating - into my everyday. It was an actualization of realizing when something is not working and changing it now, rather than waiting for...the course to end...Monday...next month...and the myriad of other time-lines we give ourselves for delaying healthy change.
This isn't so much a bucket list of monumental actions or as contrived as 30 things (one each day) in June. It is more like a subtle manifesto of intentions, most of which I have already begun cultivating.
so full of life and sunshine,
to foster new habits or strengthen current passions.
explore the desert + play outside. Nothing centers me like nature does.
yoga and/or mobilizing every single day. I feel significantly better when I take this time geared toward self care. I am such a fan of self mobilizations - verses stretching - which might be a fairly vague concept to many. It is not necessarily an innovative concept but certainly worth sharing my thoughts in a future post.
swim in a pool. I suspect a playful dip will be easily accomplished with my niece and nephews later this month, but I'd also like to keep easy laps going just once a week.
grill. We threw lemons on the grill last night, and that is happening again. We've done the typical so far - burgers, salmon, etc - and want to stretch our grilling skills - and patio time - this summer.
wine tasting. This has become one of our favorite weeknight pasttimes at a local wine bar. Last weekend was our first vineyard experience, and I am looking forward to making another day of it in the Verde Valley again.
finish (at least) two books. I started The Hours during the semester, so it's been a slow bedtime read, but has become one of my favorite books. I am also currently devouring Red: Passion and Patience in the Desert by Terry Tempest Williams and rereading the Yoga Sutras. When Women Were Birds is top on my list of nexts, as well as Supple Leopard...and I'm not sure what else. Aw - I love books!
climb a V5 outside // throw myself at a V6 // and finally send this roof without ripping my fingers to shreds.
road trip (on the books). Plenty of camping and climbing time to be had.
homemade/home-enjoyed lunches. Pausing midday to make myself a wholesome meal, however simple, feels like such a treat.
There is so much more - like weekly farmer's markets! - but tell me, what are your intentions for June?
**all photos taken & edited with my iPhone.
I sit here with wet, moppy hair half-hazardly twisted onto my head. It's quiet. I am acutely aware of the water drawing my skin onto my bones, tightly, as it dries. There is lightness again.
It wasn't an hour ago I sat in this same seat feeling the unsettling pounding of my heart. I woke feeling grounded with a sense of lightness - this is how I have felt this week - but soon I was bogged down with questions about insurance, finances, assignments, errands...
A succession of short moments left me feeling overwhelmed.
I turned to the pool only as a way to complement climbing: an active rest day activity to mobilize joints and encourage bloodflow through tissues stressed on the rock. It is not meant to be strenuous or challenging swimming but fluid and seamless: a way to aid recovery after the previous day's hard climbing or deadlifting session. (This is based only on my thoughts and intuition.) I am realizing efficiency in training and proper attention to recovery are becoming ever more important to me.
This morning - though I nearly talked myself out of going - it offered something more. The rhythmic motion of crawling over the water washed my noisy worries away. It is not only strenuous exertion in the gym, on the trail, or on the rock that clears my mind. Moving my body with ease - walking, swimming, yoga, mobilizing - can offer the same thing. The "healthiest" groups of people - those who tend to live the richest, longest lives - do not necessarily "exercise". They simply avoid stagnancy and move often (see this fascinating TEDtalk on "blue zones").
As I return to basics, I find myself wanting more movement in simple forms. More hiking, more yoga, more midday strolls outside...
Each morning, Dave and I rise earlier than necessary to walk Eisley together. It's a time to chat or simply enjoy fresh air and sunshine (already high in the sky at 6am). Ideally I'd follow this with my workout - I'm partial to morning workouts - but my class schedules haven't allowed for this easily over the past couple semesters. Even on my "off"/rest days or days when workouts need to be pushed to later, can just 20 minutes of some form of movement make all the difference in how my day unfolds? I suspect, yes; so here goes.