Four Things That Are Working For Me This Week #11

  1. My sleep schedule still needs work, but the one habit that’s sticking is showering and getting dressed first thing after getting up. It’s too easy to laze around all morning in my pyjamas, but if I’m dressed, I’m motivated to find something to do. Maybe even get out of the house.
  2. When I do go out, I’m trying to pack food and not spend money. In my Christmas stocking one year, I received Rubbermaid Take Alongs: segmented plastic containers. They’re perfect for lunch on the go. There’s a big compartment and a small compartment, and you can put anything you want in them because they don’t leak.
  3. Another way I’m saving money is growing my own vegetables. My grandmother started the plants, and then I took over. I have big sunny windowsills, but the containers weren’t thriving there. Now they live on my patio where it’s more shady. The basil hasn’t done well, the parsley didn’t survive my landlord power-washing, but I still have chives, kale, and Swiss chard. (The tomatoes aren’t ready yet.) I pick a few leaves when I come home from work, and then figure out what to make for dinner.
  4. Container gardening is so much easier, and I’ve been thinking a lot about how my best work is tiny work. Short stories, blog posts, zines made with a single sheet of paper. Tiny art, tiny books, tiny yoga?

Four Things That Are Working For Me This Week #10

  1. Casual Friday, when I wear leggings, t-shirt, sports bra to work because I teach elementary kids after school, and they literally don’t care.
  2. Last week, I met some of my friends from my yoga teacher training, and we all admitted we haven’t done much practice since graduating. And then we created a class on the whiteboard (“Coming back to yoga”), and it was the first time I had been on a mat since March. As much as I needed that break after the six months intensive, I needed to come back, too.
  3. I had almost forgotten about the OMs and the chanting. They’ve never been my favourite part of yoga, the biggest reason being because they’re in Sanskrit, which I don’t speak. I am not Indian. The chanting feels a lot like praying to me, and I am not religious. But I am spiritual. I do believe in connecting with yourself and the earth. When I meditate, a chant that works for me is, “I am OK.” It’s four syllables, like there are four elements, four directions, and four items on this list.
  4. This weekend, I have no plans. That feels so good.

I used to work a monotonous factory job, 7pm-7am. It was easy, but it was long, and the machines were so loud, we couldn’t socialise. I learned how to keep my brain busy while my hands were working.

One thing I would do was challenge my memory. I would write all the lyrics to songs I knew. I would recite poetry. I would make a list of every US president. It’s worth noting that this was the early years of Wikipedia, but well before the iPhone, so it didn’t even matter. If I couldn’t remember something, there was no way to look it up. I had to wait out my shift before I could satisfy my curiosity.

With all the publicity about the 150th anniversary of Confederation, I wondered if I could name all the Canadian Prime Ministers. We’re a hundred years younger than the US, and we don’t have term limits, so the list is much shorter than presidents. I wondered if I could name more US presidents than Canadian PMs. That would be embarrassing.

So I made two lists in my notebook. I looked up the numbers, so I knew what to aim for. I missed 9 from both lists, which is a weird coincidence. Of course, by the percentages, I lost my challenge. I named 80% of US presidents, but only 61% of Canadian PMs. The most embarrassing Canadian PM I forgot is John Diefenbaker, which is a name you’d think I’d remember. The most embarrassing US president I forgot is James Madison, who is a main character in HAMILTON. Sorry, Oak.

Four Things That Are Working For Me This Week #8

  1. This weekly post is the easiest thing I write every week. As I do more therapy, I’m thinking more about routines and habits. They’ve often been very hard for me to maintain. But I can see (and feel) the difference, the benefit. Every day, I write down my little achievements in the back of my notebook, but this post is a celebration of the bigger things.
  2. One of the hardest habits for me to maintain is a consistent sleep schedule. I used to be an inveterate night owl, but over the last few years, I’ve managed to curtail staying up past midnight. Getting up early in the morning, though, is still hard. So I bought a cheap battery-powered alarm clock to help. I used to use my phone as my alarm, which has its benefits. The alarms are automatically reset, and you can set multiple times. My new clock only has one alarm, and I have to remember to turn it on before I go to bed. But it means I’m not bringing my phone to bed. I’m not looking at the screen last thing before I sleep and first thing in the morning.
  3. I’ve done something else to discourage me from reaching for my phone. I deleted Safari, Wikipedia, YouTube, iBooks, and all games. Not only does it mean I’m more likely to write in my notebook when I’m out than stare at my phone, but the battery lasts longer during the day.
  4. My students got me sick again last week. It’s mostly a head cold, but terrible nonetheless. This is the second time I’ve been sick in a month. This is the risk of working with elementary school students. The cough is proving hardest to get rid of this time around. I hadn’t noticed before that Halls has encouraging messages printed on the wrappers. “A pep talk in every drop.” (en français: “A pastille qui en a dedans.”) Being sick makes being alone so much harder. It’s nice to know the brands are rooting for me.

Four Things That Are Working For Me This Week #6

  1. I’ve had Wednesdays off the last few weeks because I’ve had no classes to teach. Of course it would be better to work and get paid, but right now, I’m just going to enjoy my mid-week break. This week, I spent the evening with my 1-year-old nephew while his parents had a night out. Turns out babysitting pays as well as my day job.
  2. I finished reading A DAY OF SIGNS AND WONDERS by Kit Pearson, a novel inspired by Emily Carr’s childhood. It was fine, a quick read, definitely more for kids. The paperback is designed with cover flaps, which do an excellent job as built-in bookmarks. I am vehemently against dogearing a book, especially borrowed from the library.
  3. I spent a lot of time this week working on my websites. Nothing I’m ready to share yet, but I always enjoy playing with code. I taught myself in the early ’00s by finding sites I liked and viewing source. Luckily, my taste is pretty simple, so I can usually make it look the way I want with good old fashioned HTML and CSS.
  4. After I used my last Starbucks reward, I deleted the app from my phone. They make it too easy to spend money. So I’ve been making coffee in the morning with a plastic pourover cone I stole from my parents’s basement. God knows how old it is, but it works great. It fits on the rim of a litre canning jar. It makes as much or as little coffee as I want. (Admittedly, lately, it’s been a lot.) The inadvertent theme of this week is simple and old fashioned. Might just make it the deliberate theme going forward.

Yesterday, I hiked up the side of a mountain, and boy, are my legs tired. When we were kids, my family went hiking every Sunday. My two brothers and I took turns choosing the trail. We went hiking, camping, canoeing, and kayaking.

And then we stopped. I don’t remember being a very sullen teenager, but when I look at the photos from our last family camping trip, I see a kid who wasn’t having fun anymore. It makes sense that my parents started going on their own vacations. They’re cruise people now.

Five years ago, I started walking specifically for exercise and mental health, and three years ago, I started hiking again. Depression makes it hard to remember the things that used to bring you joy. The most important part of my self-care is a few hours in the wilderness every week.

Yesterday, I hiked a section of the Trans Canada Trail over Burnaby Mountain. I knew it would be hard. I didn’t know it would be straight up at a 20% grade. Because there are a lot of trails on the mountain, they have ratings. The TCT is rated intermediate; advanced must be evil.

I want to hike the West Coast Trail, a 7-day backpacking trail on the west coast of Vancouver Island. They say it’s hard. You have to get a permit and do an orientation. My mom says I shouldn’t do it alone.

My goals for this summer are all about getting to the WCT. I want to do at least one overnight hike. I want to complete all of the TCT I can reach by transit. I’ve been planning a trip to the Island to visit Emily Carr’s house, so I hope to do the bulk of the TCT there, too. I want to do the Coquitlam Crunch and then the Grouse Grind, both straight uphill trails.

The Grouse Grind is famous for being hard. People time themselves; they race the clock and each other. The unofficial record is 23 minutes. The rest of us need two hours.

As I took a break under the power lines, about two-thirds up Burnaby Mountain, I saw the same woman twice. Then I saw her again higher up. She was running up and down while I was just trying to make it to the top. I bet she can do the Grind in less than an hour.

Sitting, panting, on the ground and watching her run as easy as the breeze, I convinced myself I’m not ready. I’ve been telling myself this the last two summers. I have a bad ankle. I’m not in shape. If only I could lose another ten pounds.

But then I got up off the ground, and I kept hiking. I made it to the top of the mountain. It wasn’t easy, but instead of proving I’m not ready for the Grind, yesterday’s hike taught me how to do it.

Four Things That Are Working For Me This Week #4

  1. I really wasn’t sure I wanted to watch Riverdale. I adore Archie comics. I grew up with them. I read more Archie than books when I was in elementary school. And this series looked like it was trying too hard to be the “gritty reboot” for a new generation. But it surprised me. I really loved it. I described it in my rec to friends as “Archie comics crossed with Twin Peaks, Teen Wolf, and Gossip Girl.” So if you like those things, you might like this.
  2. Somehow, I had way more Starbucks rewards this month than my stars should’ve allowed. I know one extra happened because the barista voided my order when they ran out of quiche. I finally got the quiche yesterday (lots of spinach), and I tried the s’more frappucino on Wednesday (needs more marshmallow). I know rewards programs are all about tracking consumer spending, but if I’m gonna be spending there anyway, it’s nice to get something extra with my late stage capitalism.
  3. I’ve made five daily videos in a row! It’s been way easier than I thought it would be. And it really helps that nobody is watching right now. I’m not even watching them. I just turn on the camera, talk for a while, then upload without editing (though I have started adding a date title). It’s good to have a goal for my mornings.
  4. I’m really really lucky to be Canadian, and I never want to take that for granted.

Four Things That Are Working For Me This Week #2

  1. On the shelf next to my PVR sits a pewter bud vase. It spent most of its life sitting on my mom’s bookcase, and I don’t ever remember it holding a flower. It’s very mid-century Scandinavian, maybe a little Bauhaus, though if I had to guess, it probably came from my granddad’s frequent trips to Asia. We accidentally inherited a lot of stuff when my grandparents divorced. They moved out of the house, and we moved in. I’ve been picking a new flower from the park each week, a little bit of spring to look at instead of the TV. Today, my pewter vase holds a millennial pink tulip which has opened up and turned south to the sun.
  2. I started anxiety management group therapy this week. Group is two things for me: a reason (other than work) to get out of the house and people to hold me accountable. We set an action plan each week, then report how we did. This week, my goal is not turning on the TV first thing in the morning. It’s so easy to waste the morning doing absolutely nothing. Even though I’ve reached for the remote more than once, I’ve stopped myself each time. Because I know I’ll have to tell the group that I failed. So far, I haven’t.
  3. I have a small apartment, so I have a small vacuum. It fits under my bathroom sink. But because it fits under my bathroom sink, I don’t think about it often enough to vacuum regularly. On Monday, I dragged it out and put it in the middle of my living room, right in front of the door. By Wednesday, I had done the vacuuming. Today, I’ll probably put it back. That’ll be a success.
  4. From the time I was 11 until I was 30, I never had menstrual cramps. Ever. I never had mood swings. I forgave the wildly unpredictable cycles because I thought I got the better deal. Except now my cycle is wildly unpredictable AND I get cramps so bad that they often make me puke. A few months ago, I finally started taking painkillers (I also hate swallowing pills). I bought generic naproxen because it was on sale at the grocery store, and it’s the greatest thing ever. Avoiding stuff you don’t like is so not worth it if you’re in pain. Sometimes you have to do the hard thing because it’s on the way to the good thing. Sometimes the good thing is just being able to sleep through the night.

Four Things That Are Working For Me This Week #1

  1. I eat oatmeal for breakfast every morning. No matter the weather. No matter the time. No matter what else I have in my fridge. It’s a low key routine, easy to maintain, and I’m learning how much I need that in my life. My base recipe is 1/3 cup quick oats, 1 tbsp chia seeds, 1/2 tsp salt, and enough boiling water to cover. Ideally, let it stand, covered, for two minutes, but I don’t always. My current recipe is adding a big spoonful of peanut butter, but as we inch closer to summer, I’m looking forward to adding fresh fruit.
  2. I spent a lot of years of my life looking for the perfect pen. I should’ve spent more time writing and less time worrying. I use a pencil now. Currently, a package of Strawberry Shortcake (the original) pencils I found in my Christmas stocking so many years ago that the erasers have dried up. Pencils are cheap. They go well with my preferred notebook: a 9×6 spiral-bound for $1.50.
  3. Speaking of stocking stuffers (Santa always kills it), I’m getting to the bottom of a jar of cranberry body butter from The Body Shop. I have a dozen different lotions all over my house, but I keep this one of my end table. It’s perfect for hands after washing dishes.
  4. I have had a lot of blogs. I’ve tried everything. I started on Blogspot, spent a lot of time on Livejournal, almost stuck with Tumblr, and now I’m here on my own site, powered by WordPress. It’s exactly what I want right now. I love hand-coding and making my own thing, but using WordPress means I’m way more likely to actually blog every day. There are no excuses when it’s this easy.

I walk a lot. I started my current job two years ago and moved three months later, deliberately, because I wanted to be within walking distance. It’s 25 minutes up the hill. It’s 7 minutes down to the beach. It’s just over an hour across town. I like to wander.

But I’m also learning how to drive. That’ll be the next big goal. It’s been six months since I failed the test a second time and let my learner’s license expire. I’m not afraid to get back in the car. I’m just tired of practice. I want to be onto the next thing already.

For now, walking is easier. I may not be able to go as far as I want, but I don’t have to rely on anyone to get there.