All the Things

A Journal of Incremental Self-Improvement

Ramblings from a Sleep-Deprived Woman

I have field work every Tuesday until the end of the month.  The work itself is not too challenging – just taking water quality parameters.  But the work can still be exhausting, especially if the equipment doesn’t work as it should or the well decides not to pump out water when you need it.  And the site is three hours away, so it’s a six hour round trip plus five hours of work in the heat.  Also, I wake up at 5:45 so I can let puppy run around and eat and raise his puppy havoc before I go.  After I come back home, I have maybe 45 minutes to unwind before I take the pup to training classes at Petsmart.

Basically, I’ve been up for nearly 20 hours and exhausted, so naturally  I’m WIDE AWAKE YOU ALL.

So I thought, what is the point of a self-improvement journal if I don’t actually update on any “improvements?”

Specifically, my goals for spring cleaning were:

1.  Go through items I don’t need and give them away to friends or Goodwill.  In progress. Kind of.  There’s a pile of clothes and books that I still need to give away.
2.  Find pretty, functional ways of improving my storage capacity and organization.  In progress, kind of.  I cleaned my closet and my office area and bought a very pretty storage box to hold keepsakes and mementos.  I am pretty content with these areas.  
3.  Restrict myself from buying a book unless I have read/donated at least five in my personal library.  I have bought maybe 4 or 5 books since this post, so…I need to work on this metric. A lot.
4.  FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, DO SOMETHING WITH MY PATIO.  ANYTHING.  YES I ACTUALLY DID SOMETHING WITH THIS ONE.  Look!

 

Patio

I have plants out there too – aloe vera, the bamboo I bought when I first moved in my apartment three and a half years ago, and some sunflowers.  The sunflower buds are wilting so I should probably water those…

This weekend I was involved in a discussion about “all the things” and how should a person juggle different projects and interests if she has so many of them.  “I just do whatever I feel like at the time, whatever feeds my soul creatively,” one person said.  I liked that a lot and helps me feel less guilty about abandoning some projects or interests in favor of others.

Lately I’ve been writing a lot.  I received a book of writing exercises for my birthday along with a journal (I am obsessed with journals.  Not even kidding – every time I go to a bookstore, I just stare at empty journals and want to buy all of them to take with me).  I have been enjoying the book very much.  I really want to try my hand at freelance work but I want to take it slowly.  Right now, I’m just trying to get into the habit of writing frequently before defining more tangible writing goals.

I have been dissecting drum beats in my head for just about every song I listen to…I am so close to getting back to my kit. I think it is just a matter of time until I return to it.

If only I had a real kit. Sigh.

Lately I’ve been so fucking nostalgic about my marathon training group.  This is a good thing.  For a long time, the idea of running was generally disinteresting to me, but now I want to run distance again so badly.  I went running last Saturday.  I used to run my distance runs on Saturdays and while I did not run very long this time, it was a return to my old routine.  I’ve been having crazy thoughts lately…thoughts of challenging myself again to a marathon.  Why would I want to train for a marathon, after being burned out for so long?    It doesn’t make any sense to me…but I have been missing those longer runs so badly lately.

And I miss challenging myself creatively and physically.  I’ve dealt with my own challenges this past year and a half…raising puppy, and other things…but these were not creative or physical challenges.  They were more of the, “You’re an adult, so deal with it” challenges.  And these challenges weren’t all bad – I mean, I love my dog and I’m happy to have a little buddy (he’s currently sleeping next to me as I type this).

But there’s no need to abandon my personal and creative pursuits, even if work or life can get in the way sometimes.  I’m happiest when I’m fulfilling creative and physical challenges.  2011 was such a great year for me because I tackled many of these challenges.  I ran my marathon, got published in an online literature journal, and sang at a coffee shop for Open Mic night.  What is stopping me from doing these things again? I have no excuse.

 

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An Infinite Loop

One of the most frustrating facets of self-improvement is that often, you’re having to solve a problem that you thought was already fixed.  It can be many things for many people, but for me, it boils down to a handful of things.  Running is one of my most cyclical frustrations. I will work very hard to get to a stage where I’m actually a decent and strong runner.  Then I’ll burn out, not run for a long time, and then have to retrain my body to be a distance runner.

Or I’ll stop drinking caffeine and sodas and feel really awesome.  Then I’ll start having just a couple of sodas here and there during the weekend, or a Frappuccino every now and then.  Then before I know it, I’m drinking like three or four refills of Sprite at dinner and my doctor has to remind me that I’m slowly on my way to diabetes and to stop consuming so much sugar, for the love of god.

Or I’ll have a really positive, healthy outlook about my job and responsibilities and life in general.  Then I’ll get lazy and stop working on some of my hobbies, or stop going to my running groups, which all leads to a reversal in my general outlook.

This is where I am at now…I worked hard on my self-improvement from 2008 and 2009, overcame some key items on my wishlist in 2010 and 2011, and then 2012 and 2013…a relapse of sorts.  I can blame many things – my schedule, raising a puppy, but the fact is I can only blame myself. If I really wanted to maintain my self-improvement, I would have found a way.

I consume entirely too much sugar.  I am still exercising, but not running any sort of distance.  My outlook really needs some TLC.  I need to make time for my hobbies, like drumming, again

It becomes overwhelming when you want to make changes all at once, and I’ve found that it’s impossible to do.  You can’t go from being slightly lazy at some aspects into your life and then turn into SUPER WOMAN, DOING ALL THE THINGS.  It just doesn’t work like that and will end up exhausting you in the long run. 

My health takes priority over anything else, and my physical health has just been okay.  I’ve mentioned that my doctor recently lamented my sugar levels.  I’ve been really anemic for at least six months, but guess who wasn’t taking her iron pills? It’s such an easy solution, right?  Taking just one iron pill a day will make me feel less exhausted, and then I won’t fall asleep at 10 pm on a Saturday night like I have been doing for awhile. But no.  That’s too easy for me.  I have to make things hard for myself.

The next couple of months will be devoted to my health, both physical and mental.  I think taking my iron pill every day will be a lot easier if I stick the giant pill container in my purse, which is what I’ve done.  It’s not out of sight anymore.  Ever since I’ve done that, I haven’t forgotten it.  I will also attempt to do yoga at least once a week and just try to relax more (which I am horrible at doing).   

Taking my iron pills and implementing more relaxation will be relatively simple fixes.  The ones that will take longer and will require more time are running, giving up sugar/caffeine, and making time for my hobbies again.  One of my coworkers likes running with me and I’ll train with her for a bit before going back to my running groups.  I am not going to give up sugar and caffeine completely; for now, I am substituting tea for caffeinated and carbonated beverages, and enjoying that.  The hobbies will be on a case-by-case, day to day basis.  It is not a priority like my health.

I think the most important thing about self-improvement that I need to remember is that there will always be maintenance involved and, depending on the circumstances in my life at the moment, I may not always be able to keep up with the maintenance.  What’s important is not beating yourself up for falling off the wagon; all you can do is encourage yourself to be back where you were before, a little at a time.

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Optimism

I may have written about this before, but optimism is not something that comes naturally for me. Now, if you’re confiding to me about a problem, I’ll tend to be optimistic.  But when it comes to myself, I am not.  I am cynical and expect the worst out of every situation.

My mother is the exact opposite of me.  She is a sunny optimist; not in a cloyingly Pollyanna-type of way, but is more the down-to-earth, “It can always be worse and I’m going to count my blessings” sort.  It is not a facet of her personality that I honestly appreciated until recently, as I watched her deftly handle some difficult situations with grace and perseverance.  She would have had the right to complain with any of those situations she had to deal with, but instead shrugged them off and retained her cheery optimism. 

I wish I could snap my fingers and tell myself, “Be an optimist…NOW!” but it is not that easy.  It is hard to unwire nearly thirty years worth of cloudy thinking.  I am constantly thinking ahead and trying to prepare myself for every negative situation that may come my way.  Now, this sometimes comes in handy; for instance, before heading out in the field, I find it helpful to run through a mental checklist of what will inevitably go wrong, so that I can bring supplies or equipment to prepare. 

The problem with my brain, though, is I cannot stop at the potential readiness checklist.  I will think about these so-called “issues” until my brain almost believes that they will happen.  This leads to a lot of unnecessary stress for myself.

This happened recently; for week 1 of field work, our equipment broke down on the very last day of the field job, which lead to a very tiresome fifteen hour day.  The next week, for our last day, I insisted that my coworker and I head to the site at 6:15 am.  “But Jen,” he said, “we have most of our work done and you already have a backup plan in case the equipment goes out again.”  But that wasn’t good enough; my family was coming in that afternoon and I wanted to avoid another 15-hour day.   Luckily, we avoided all problems and were back in town by 1:00 pm (I’d “compromised” to a start time of 6:30 am), but my brain was convinced that SOME unforeseen problem would keep us stuck there for longer. 

I am convinced that optimism on my part is doable, but it’ll require a lot of work to untrain my brain from being negative.  Like anything else, it’ll have to be a day-by-day process. 

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The Silver Linings

Try as I might, I’m not an optimistic person. Not so much. I mean, I certainly can be, usually in matters not regarding myself. It’s very easy for me to be optimistic when comforting a friend, for instance.

But with myself? I can be fairly cynical and negative.  And this is not a trait I particularly like about myself.  Whereas many will see the silver lining, I will find something at fault that will stop me from feeling complete contentment with the experience.  Eating at a nice restaurant? I wish that screaming child would stop.  Watching a funny movie?  I wish the old guy next to me would stop making so much goddamn noise with the plastic bag he brought his snacks in.

(SERIOUSLY PEOPLE, DON’T BRING YOUR SNACKS IN A PLASTIC BAG TO A MOVIE.  THEY ARE NOISY AS FUCK).

I digress.

I woke up this morning feeling out of sorts.  I’d stayed up late the night before, scribbling my art journal to work out a sadness that really is not mine to feel.  Thunderstorms woke me up earlier than I wanted, though I was glad that I was safe in my warm bed instead of driving through them.

I had a confrontation with a coworker today, and those never make me feel good.  I’m not a confrontational person by nature and am only that way when I have to be.  I handled myself well, never raised my voice, and stayed as calm as I could, especially since her behavior had warranted the discussion.  But it’s still hard to feel like a winner in those situations, regardless of who was at fault.

I spent the rest of the day in an existential stew of angst, sipping tea and listening to Pink Floyd, trying to calm myself and my frayed nerves.  I decided I’d do yoga after work.  Quick aside – I don’t go to yoga studios because I’m cheap and also because I’m not a huge fan of yoga (yet).   I do the Steve Ross Inhale series at home (you can find them on Youtube if you look hard enough).  Those are LEGIT.  Granted, I am about as flexible as your average octogenarian, but I was sore for several days after completing one workout.

But when I got home, I decided that I needed a different workout for the way I was feeling.  A run was clearly the remedy I needed.  I am not a badass, but sometimes all a girl needs is to run to some Dave Grohl as hard as she can to feel like one.  And my mood instantly lifted when I did.

It’s amazing, really, the difference in my mood before and after my run. And I don’t know why I’m so amazed – running was always my go-to workout even in college, when I would run out frustrations I’d feel with classes or work or roommates or boyfriends.  Before my run tonight, my workload and stresses seemed insurmountable; afterwards, they seemed significantly more manageable.

That’s what I have to remind myself.  For every stressful moment, there will be something enjoyable to counteract it.  For every argument with a coworker or stressful day at work, there will a loved one sending me an adorable picture of a baby bird taking a bath.  There will be an invigorating run, my puppy licking me before I take him on his nightly walk.  There will be a cardinal feeding his young with bird seed, right on my patio (I decorated my patio! More details in a future entry).

If I only focus on the stress and anxiety that life can bring, it would be very easy to miss its more sublime moments.

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Worry Worry Worry Worry

Where I’m at right now –

I can’t seem to turn my brain off from worrying.  I don’t worry about anything entirely significant.  My brain just enjoys being especially creative in creating disaster scenarios for myself.

It’s something I’ve dealt with since I was a child.  There are times in my life when the worrying level goes to a gentle lull, where I can ignore it and not let it affect my life. And other times, it is turned so high that it is all I can focus on.

I wrote down a list of things I’m worried about in my little portable notebook, and almost at the very top I wrote WEATHER.  I didn’t used to be afraid of rain. I was never the sort of child who would hide during thunderstorms.  I’ve gotten caught in my share of bad weather; heck, I even drove through a tropical storm right as it was rolling in.  I was never deterred by it.  But last month, I got caught in severe weather twice, once in an area that wasn’t entirely civilized and on a road without a shoulder.  It was frightening.  Since then, I’ve been tracking weather obsessively, determined not to get caught in it again.

It’s embarrassing.  My boyfriend caught me staring at the Doppler radar on my laptop for no reason and said very gently, “…Jenny? You may want to stop looking at that.”  It’s common knowledge that once I start fearing something, I will research it obsessively (I won’t even get into the research I used to do on plane crashes).  I check weather.gov every single day, multiple times a day, tracking the days when I’m supposed to drive out of town.  Even when the forecast says “slight chance of thunderstorms” for a travel day, my brain extrapolates the forecast to, “I WILL GET CAUGHT IN IT AND MY CAR WILL FLOOD. OH GOD.”

Why can’t I go with the flow?  Who cares if I leave a day later than I planned to?  Why do I have to be so set in my plans?

I’m tired.

I’ve started implementing some relaxation techniques to help with my self-induced stress.  I’ve set aside one hour for myself at night, from 10 to 11 o’clock, to be by myself without any distractions (mainly Puppy).  This is supposed to encourage the creativity I’ve lost in the past six months.  I want to write, to play music again. I really miss it, and I feel like if I have more of a creative outlet, my incessant worrying will decrease.

What did I do last night, the trial night of my creative hour? I fell asleep.

I’m a work in progress, y’all.

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2013 Project – “Spring” Cleaning

I would like to own a house.  I think this sometimes when I find that Apollo has decided to take all his toys out of his basket and throw them around the living room, or when he’s running around the apartment like a crackhead who had his first hit in three months. It would be nice to have a yard for him to play in and for me to plant flowers. I would be happy to have enough room for a real drum kit, or an entire room devoted to my books.

Money and circumstances keep me from owning a house, and I’m okay with that for right now.  My future dream house (something with character and a hint of quirkiness, with a seafoam green exterior and/or interior if I can help it) is still out there, waiting for me.  I don’t have any delusions of grandeur when it comes to my future home; I’d rather have comfort and beauty over excessive space and fancy.

Despite my yearnings for a real home, I enjoy the apartment I have.  It is a one-bedroom place nestled on the third floor.  My very first apartment was two bedrooms, but it was too big for me (hence, too expensive) and lonely.  This apartment has seen many good times and feels like home to me.  It fits me just right, even though it seems a little smaller with my accumulated possessions and puppy.

But now that three years of living in this space have gone by, it becomes clear to me that some massive spring cleaning is in order.  Not that I am messy or a hoarder; I am fairly neat and I’ve been much better about giving things I don’t need away than I was at a younger age.

Still, I find myself itching for a change. I’m having a harder time finding space for books and DVDs.  I used to store some items underneath the desk in the small office nook, but Apollo has been quite fond of nosing around and running off with items that he finds particularly interesting.

So really, what I’m looking for is:

1.  Enough space to store my items.
2.  A way to keep my possessions out of the reach of my perpetually inquisitive and naughty dachshund.
3.  Practical, pretty, and neatly organized items that will save space and be entirely functional.

Priority areas are:

1. My closets.  I don’t have a lot of storage space, but I use my closets effectively.  They aren’t very pretty, though, and I can do a better job of storing my items neatly.
2.  My patio.  My patio is heinously ugly. It’s embarrassing.  Currently my patio stores my ironing board, an old pillow, a bag of trash that I need to deposit for curb-side pickup, three pairs of shoes, an old TV stand, and two vases of dead flowers, one of which my boyfriend bought for me over a year ago. (It’s not that I’m hanging on to them for any sentimental reason – I just never threw them away. I KNOW. I AM A TERRIBLE PERSON.)  I bet I’m the reason the complex sometimes receives the handslapping paper warnings about acceptable items to store on your patio.
3.  My books. I have too many. And even though I’ve been better about not buying so many, I just need to read the ones I did buy, recycle, and move on.  I have stacks of them and minimal space to store them.

My plan forward for the next six months (because let’s face it, I’m not going to do this all in one day) is:

1.  Go through items I don’t need and give them away to friends or Goodwill.
2.  Find pretty, functional ways of improving my storage capacity and organization.
3.  Restrict myself from buying a book unless I have read/donated at least five in my personal library.
4.  FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, DO SOMETHING WITH MY PATIO.  ANYTHING.

Today my parents visited, and I gave away a whole bag of clothes that I don’t wear anymore to my mom.  I feel like it’s a good start.

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A Return

I have not meant to neglect this blog as soon as I started it.  I’m sorry, little blog.  I am back to update you with more frequency (hopefully) than just once every two or three months.

The winter and spring kept me busy, both professionally and personally.  And no matter how hard I try, I find myself getting into what I call my little winter comas, where I just don’t want to do anything.  It’s something I work on every winter and I haven’t found the panacea yet.  Perhaps I can just attribute it to nature; don’t all species get lethargic around winter?  Why else would spring be known as a season of renewal and rebirth? (I know I live in a fairly temperate climate that does not experience what I’d classify as a “real” winter, but please ignore this fact. )

With the arrival of spring, I’ve been trying to return to my old hobbies and activities.  Last week I completed a puzzle that had been sitting around for months.  I started running with coworkers.  I’ve been taking a couple of Painting With a Twist classes and though they make the classes as easy as possible for the woefully ignorant artist (such as myself), it’s nice to be able to hang something up on the wall that I painted.  I picked up the drum sticks for the first time in months.  I completed an a capella music project that I was really proud of two weeks ago.    

I’ve been trying to take Apollo for longer walks, since Tired Apollo is the best Apollo. I enrolled him in puppy classes after he chewed a bow off of one of my shoes, and though his puppy exuberance/ADD has not decreased, he listens a little better – that in itself is a huge improvement.

Last weekend I went home to visit family, and it was the best weekend I’ve had home in a long time. Mom and I went shopping and exchanged makeup.  Dad, Patrick, and I played hours of Magic: The Gathering.    

I’ve been trying to read as many books as I can, though the reading has taken a backseat within the last couple of weeks.  I saw Jurassic Park for the first time ever and wondered why I hadn’t seen it before. 

Sometimes I get so wrapped in my normal routine that it’s easy to forget to take a step back and slow down to write or create.  I aim to be better at this for the remainder of the year. I feel happier when I do.

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Choices

I have this idea that since I am nearly out of my twenties, I have many things figured out.  Political beliefs, occupation, religion, life goals…I have a decent understanding of these issues and have (mostly) accepted where I stand on these issues.

But every so often, I am faced with a conundrum that I cannot solve easily, where I want both choices at my disposal.  And, no matter how I choose, one party will get hurt.

Your classic case of “damned if you do, damned if you don’t.”

I was faced with such a choice this week and it was honestly the hardest decision I was faced with in a long time.  It wasn’t anything terribly dramatic or life-changing, but it was emotionally challenging and even after I made my choice, I had a difficult time accepting it.  Did I make the correct choice? I did and I didn’t.  There is no right answer.  That’s what sucks about adulthood, sometimes.  You can make a choice and it is right and wrong.  And either way, you would have been left wondering, “What if?”

Here’s an easy choice I did make this week, though. I had two chances to attend Dave Grohl’s SXSW Sound City show, which would have been AMAZING.  And I declined both times, because my cousins are in town and there wouldn’t be enough tickets for all of us to go.  It wasn’t even a difficult choice, even though I am, as my drum teacher said, “the biggest Dave Grohl fan that I know.”  I really want to spend time with my cousins, not be selfish and be all, “Okay guys have fun, I’m going to this super awesome concert without you for a couple of hours. PEACE.”

This better mean that I run into Dave next week or something.

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How Not to Make Your Parents Take You Seriously

So this morning, I was perusing my bank account to see how much money I could spare for concert tickets.  I don’t look at my bank account very often, maybe once every week or two. That’s terrible and irresponsible of me, right?  I have all of my bills set up with automatic online payments, and I don’t spend more money than I take in.  So I am usually confident that I will have money in my account and don’t feel the need to check it every day.

I was scrolling down my spending history when I noticed I was receiving a $40 credit to my account every month.  This caused me to announce, “Oh, shit,” while at work.

I am still under my family’s cell phone plan.  But since I don’t want my dad paying for my bills, I told him I’d send him $40 a month to cover my portion of the bill.  I had been (supposedly) sending him money since September to pay for my bill.  But, as I realized today, I had mistakenly set up the transfer in reverse.

Effectively, I was getting money from my dad and not even knowing it.

So I went back through my spending history, calculated how much money I owed my dad, and hurriedly transferred the money to his account.  And since I want to be honest and transparent about the fact that I was accidentally stealing money from his account, I sent my dad a very chastised apology over Gchat.

No response yet.  But I’m sure this bodes well in my constant attempt to have my parents take me seriously as a Responsible Adult.

If this isn’t a wakeup call to look at my bank account more often, then I don’t know what is.

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Attempting to Find Joy in January

My main goal in writing this blog is finding little ways to improve myself, to keep myself busy and keep my mind off of anxiety.  I am not aiming for perfection or self-righteousness, just joy and fulfillment.

But first things first – I must tackle January.

January is my least favorite month.  I think much of my dislike of January stems from the weather.  (Please keep in mind that I live in Texas, and that this fact may completely invalidate my argument here).  Usually, weather in January is cold, rainy, and cloudy.  It’s very easy for my mood to match the weather, which is probably why I should never move to Seattle anytime soon.  It’s also the end of the holiday season, when you have to be by yourself after getting used to seeing your favorite people every day.  I usually take a 2-week vacation at the end of the year, so when I return to work, with miserable weather outside and no holidays to look forward to, my mood is petulant.  And while I know that problems and challenges occur all throughout the year, my mind seems to remember only the ones that happened in January.

Basically, I’ve biased myself to hate January.

It’s not like I don’t have anything to look forward to in January.  January has several personal anniversaries, including being a resident of the city I live in (five years this month!)  But it’s easy for me to forget these anniversaries and slip back into old mental habits when I look out the window, see the rain, and think, “This month sucks.”

So before I tackle any major self-improvement goals, I must learn how to be an adult again and A. wake up at a decent time in the morning and not hate my life because I have to go to work and B. not be sulky about the fact that there’s still 23 days left in this month.  I’ve chosen these small but realistic goals because I’ve learned that incremental changes are both the most effective and realistic.  I’ve tried too many times in my life to start January off as being the Best Jenny Ever – waking up early, working out every morning, studying Italian every day, taking my vitamins, limiting my internet time, and being a really efficient and awesome human being.

This lasts maybe four days.

Our minds are so resistant to change that we need to ease ourselves into a new habit.  Sure, I could get the discipline to wake up at 6:30 every day starting tomorrow morning, but how long will that new change really last?  I’ve read that waking up 15 minutes earlier every several weeks is the best way to ease yourself into a new wake-up time.  Yesterday I set my alarm for 7:15 and woke up at 8:00.  This morning, the alarm was still set at 7:15 but I woke up at 7:35.  Improvement?  Slightly.  (Note – my job does not require me to be at work by 8 am, or else I would have been fired five years ago.)

While I work on easing myself out of my vacation sleep routine, I’m also going to try and find small joys to focus on instead of being in a constant negative cesspool about how much winter sucks.  Here are some small things that I am focusing on that will lift any sour mood.

  1.  Eat comfort food. I have to be careful about comfort food for several reasons.  I just started working out again after two weeks spent eating holiday food and more Whataburger than a body needs in a lifetime.  I’m also prone to high blood sugar, so I really can’t afford to indulge in too many sugary treats unless I want diabetes. (Though I had a Sprite this morning as I went to work. I’m an adult, DO WHAT I WANT.)  However, there’s still healthy comfort food that you can enjoy. For example, I really like making pizza.  My favorite is a pineapple and turkey bacon pizza that I made last night.  Sure, it’s not as healthy as eating a salad, but it’s a lot healthier than breaking down and ordering Papa John’s.  Other small little treats, like hot cocoa, can also cheer you out of your winter stupor.  I bought peppermint mocha hot cocoa mix at Starbucks last week and I’m looking forward to drinking that later this afternoon.  And if you want to be naughty and eat something really sugary, Valentine’s Day candies are already in stores.  I’m just saying.
  2. Light a candle.  I spent New Year’s Eve with friends at their apartment.  There was a candle burning that smelled lovely, which made me think, “Why don’t I burn candles ever?”  Back in college, when I lived in a dorm and wasn’t allowed to have candles, that’s all I wanted to do.  So I bought a cheap holiday smelling candle at HEB and lit it for my apartment.  It lifts my spirits to smell something so soothing and to see the soft glow of a candle in my apartment.  (I have to say that I cut the cozy candle burning short last night, because the flame seemed to be a little high for my liking.  When I blew the candle out, a burning piece of ash from the wick fell on the carpet.  Thoughts of, “OH GOD, I SET MY APARTMENT ON FIRE” flashed through my head before I stepped on the ash and put the miniscule flame out).
  3. Exercise!   Exercise, particularly running, is the best way to get myself out of the winter blues.  I didn’t work out during my vacation (though my parents have a treadmill in the guest room I was staying in), so I was eager to return to my exercise schedule.  If you live in a legitimately cold state, it may be hard to get outside and run.  One exercise I really like doing in my apartment is called Burpees.  You jump up in the air, then squat down and do a pushup, and then jump back up again.  For my Burpees routine, I do a set of 10, then 9, then 8, and gradually decrease until I get to 1 Burpee.  This exercise will legitimately make you sweat and work you out.  I did these last night and felt a lot better.
  4. Dress for the occasion.  I’m not a huge fan of “cold” weather, but I absolutely love winter fashion.  I rock boots pretty much all winter.  I like pairing together sweater dresses, tights, and cute flats.  My boyfriend’s grandmother got me a pretty scarf and a winter hat with ear flaps for Christmas; I’ve enjoyed wearing the hat to add a bit of whimsy to my look.  This morning, I wore a dress and boots just because it’s so RAINY and MISERABLE outside that I felt like I needed an excuse to dress up and feel pretty.
  5. Hug a puppy.  I think the default state of any well-loved puppy is “happy happy happy,” so it’s hard to feel moody when my pup is prancing around me, wanting me to throw his little indoor Frisbee.  Having my puppy to take care of makes me happy (except when he’s bratty and decides that pooping in the apartment is an acceptable response to receiving a bath).  Most of the time, though, I love Apollo’s inherent naughtiness.  Just this morning, as I was getting ready for work, he snuck into the bottom dresser door that I’d left open and ran off with my underwear.   Apollo has a specific little run he does when he knows he’s grabbed something he’s not allowed to play with.  This run is faster with a hint of desperation (“I must run from Mommy so I can chew this tissue as much as possible”) splashed with a serving of, “Look at me, I’m doing something mischievous, pay attention to meeeeeeeeeeeee!”  Little experiences like these cheer me up.
  6. Listen to good music.  It’s fun to find music to match the weather outside.  I’m not saying to listen to something inherently depressing (which is why I will avoid recommending Jeff Buckley for this occasion).   But I do like feeling like the music I’m listening to is a soundtrack to my life.  I’m a classic rock girl at heart, so I’ll recommend David Bowie’s Hunky Dory, Led Zeppelin’s Led Zeppelin III, and Simon and Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Water if you want to listen to beautiful music on a cloudy day.
  7. Watch some television. I actually don’t watch television very much (my vice is the internet).  But yesterday, I felt like indulging in some TV.  I decided to check out the fuss over HBO’s Girls and am loving it so far.

 

By striving to keep a good sleep schedule and enjoying little joys in my life, January will fly by like a breeze…and may be fun, too.

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