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I’ve fallen into the cycle again– somehow despite my (34!) New Year’s Resolutions to have more fun, do more yoga, be nicer to myself, and all those other things, I’ve ended up embracing my old habits only two weeks into the year. I think there are two extremes when it comes to resolution making: those of us who swear to do more and fall short, and those of us who swear to do less and fall into the pit of overachievement again.

New Year’s is a dangerous time for those of us who measure our self worth by external means (who we are to others and what we accomplish that’s tangible). In satisfied with being, we seek to define our value by doing as much as we can–and ignoring the signs that more is not in fact more.

It did not take many days of sleeping less and attempting to juggle five jobs for me to reach hysterical levels of exhaustion. I wish I could tell you I stopped what I was doing and played with my dog, or took a bubble bath, or read my favorite book. I did none of those things. I cried, and yelled, and I went to work anyway.

My biggest struggle this year will not be creating new habits or crossing goals off of my list. It will be treating myself as a priority and making sanity-boosting activities a non-negotiable. From here on out, that’s what I’d like to track and reward myself for: the things that I do for myself that no one else would do, that won’t be recognized, and that have no tangible bottom line benefit.

Are you too nice or too hard on yourself? What’s your intangible bottom line benefit this year?

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Photo courtesy of DiscoveryHealth.com.

In a world that now has a pill for just about everything that you can think of, we pay surprisingly little attention to the effects of stress on the body. An overwhelming number of Americans suffer from anxiety and stress-related disorders, the presence of which being a contributing factor to the increasing rates of heart disease as well.

Of course, there is a multi-billion dollar market out there when it comes to helping people feel a little more at ease, whether it comes in the form of pills, alcohol, narcotics, massage, acupuncture, yoga, day spas, television or sex. Hell, the country is more than a few steps along the road to the complete nationwide legalization of marijuana, a drug that is prized for its ability to put people at ease.

The most valuable thing to do, however, is to look at your lifestyle, especially when it comes down to anxiety. Chances are, you’re guilty of one of these these sneaky stressors:

1. Comparing yourself to others.
2. Mismanaging your resources (money, time, relationships).
3. Not exercising (I know, but who has time?)

I limit this list to three because if you’re anything like me, you love to compare yourself to a list and find ways to pick your life apart. Stop it. Stop it now. These three things are the greatest source of unhappiness in life.

You are you and the sooner you stop hoping that you’ll wake up and be someone else, the happier you’ll be. Yes, you’re fucked up and lazy and have ass pimples. Someone will do you anyway.

While everything great in life comes from expanding yourself beyond your comfort zone, much of unhappiness comes from that as well. If your experiences are for the sake of looking good or avoiding looking bad, you will be extremely stressed and extremely unhappy.

And maintaining your physical well-being is crucial to your happiness. Self-improvement (not only physical) is a reminder that you believe in your potential enough to invest in it and make yourself a priority. The saying goes, “if Mama’s not happy, no one’s happy.” You can’t bless others with what you don’t have yourself.

Do one of these things make sense in your life? If not, what is the greatest stressor in your life, and how do you want to alleviate it?

An Uncommon Resolution

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Photo courtesy of DarrenHardy.Sucess.com.

I’ve been given some excellent advice over the last few days.

New Year’s Eve is my favorite holiday, because as a textbook overachiever I love the chance to set goals, cross things off lists, dress up and get drunk, and generally put behind me everything that didn’t go my way.

A few hours before midnight, I spoke to a friend of mine that I respect and admire deeply, and she told me that she occasionally goes “off the grid.” Meaning that when she gets into work mode, it is completely possible, not to mention preferable, for her to completely ignore you and whatever crisis you have managed to put yourself in at the moment.

I struggled to understand how someone could be so desensitized to the needs of other people, even determining that some of them must have taken advantage of her so egregiously that she had hardened herself to the world. And then I realized.

It’s impossible to feel sympathy for someone if you never get the call.

I’m not saying to abandon people. But how many of us treat ourselves the way we do our friends? Do you drop everything when you’re upset? Do you spend more than you have trying to impress yourself? Do you offer to do nice things for yourself that you really didn’t want to do, just to be nice?

Yeah, I didn’t think so.

It’s often said that for many of us, if we spoke to others the way we spoke to ourselves, we’d have a lot less friends. I think that the vast majority of us could afford to cull the crop a bit. Why should we reserve something for others that we don’t afford to ourselves? Many of our friends deserve our time, but many of them don’t, and usually the difference is clear. The resources that we dump into draining people could be used to bolster ourselves.

Think about most of the people that you do get that emergency call from. Are they real friends who would do the same for you? Or do they just know that you won’t say no?

My resolution this year was to be a little bit more selfish. I’m beginning a new phase in my life, since I’m taking on a variety of freelance and work-from-home positions and greater responsibility for my time. Since my output has a direct impact on my paycheck, not to mention my sanity, it’s crucial that I stay productive and happy. If I was truly invested in my work and my sanity, respecting my time and boundaries the way that most of us are forced to at a job, how would I even know that an acquaintance needed help?

In our over-saturated, contact-driven world, most of us have begun to lose our sense of boundaries. Everyone is a friend, as long as they request you first. Developing close relationships means prioritizing contact with certain people, and not edifying your News Feed.

Are there relationships that you need to cull this year?

Allaya⎟ December 2013

 

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Allaya⎟ December 2013.

My photo shoot with KANJI Photography– I’m so excited to have had my lights, camera, action moment!

Which one is your favorite?

NaNo, You Whore

So it’s THAT time of year again, far more sinister than Halloween, lonelier than Valentine’s Day, and even more revealing than New Year’s.

Yes, it’s time for NaNoWriMo.

This challenge looms large in front of me each November—compose a fifty-thousand word work of passable fiction in 30 days or less.

But nothing’s ever quite right to write, right?  Last year it was work. The year before, school. This year, lack of work, lack of good ideas, computer chair’s not comfortable enough, keyboard annoyingly misses every spaceandseemingly eveyotherleter…..

But really, what it is boils down to a lack of consistency.  To accept is easy, Nichiren Daishonin writes, but to continue is difficult.

Well, NaNo (year 5)… I’m all yours.  To run for profit or for ruin.  Again.

I think that as people, we have the tendency to doubt our own excellence. Our whole lives, our whole society in fact, is constructed around this. Media does not support a positive self-image— even those of us who are rail-skinny (coughmecough) don’t seem to fit the ideal. The economy seems to be doing nothing more successfully than stripping us of value— in our bank accounts, in our careers, in our own sense of accomplishment and self-worth. And the overabundance of social media and distractions are robbing our face to face relationships of meaningful connection. Just think, honestly— how long could you last in a blackout?

The most insidious of all of these is the blow to our individual and collective self-esteem. As the FlyLady Marla Cilley writes, it’s difficult enough to hold yourself to an unrealistic standard imposed on you by others without adding your own perfectionism to the soup. Really, isn’t that the trouble, when looked at from a wider lens? We are never happy because we are never perfect.

Like many of you, money has been a struggle and a source of worry in my home over the last year. To help alleviate this, I began searching for bartending and waitressing jobs. This was work that I have been fully qualified to do since I was eighteen, and yet, with MORE experience under my belt, I can’t find a job.

My husband and two friends of mine shared some insight— while I had more experience, I was not the person that I was at eighteen. I dressed differently, carried myself with more dignity, expected more from my life. Their comments forced me to consider my beliefs in a different light. Of course, I thought that if I wasn’t getting hired, it was because I was defective. I thought that maybe I wasn’t attractive enough anymore to work in that environment. Truth is, I had just grown up. Wasn’t that exactly what I wanted?

Of course it was—until I began comparing myself to a different standard.

The insidiousness of perfectionism is that there isn’t an ideal or a “right path” to follow. You make up something in your head based on what you think someone else has and then you beat yourself up for not having it. It’s probably much more desirable to be seen as competent than sexy, and honestly, I am both competent and sexy. Until I start letting people who don’t know me determine my worth.

I realized that part, if not all, of my challenges with my personal appearance come from not appreciating what it is that I DO have. I have not been dressing for MY body—instead, I have been dressing for the body that I wish I had. I haven’t been pursuing what I love— I have been trying to find success by chasing someone else’s dreams.

What has made me sexy over the years has been my cheesiest quality— my passion and excitement, and as a result, my confidence and happiness. It is absolutely the most attractive and important thing about anyone. We define who we are based on what we do. “I’m a writer. I’m a yoga teacher. I love to sing. I speak Elvish.” It makes sense, then, that what we do on a day to day basis is of the utmost importance.

How do we carve out time, then, for the things that make us attractive, even when we feel we have no time?

  1. Feel beautiful. Wear clothes that fit and are flattering. Wash your face, do your hair. Get your nails done— if you like that stuff. I know I can’t make eye contact with people when my eyebrows aren’t done.
  2. Reduce guilt. Do what you say you’re going to do. Procrastination and the guilt and worry that arise from it are not attractive. If it can be done in less than one minute, do it then.
  3. Make time for yourself. No one else will make you more important than you make you, and no one will take you more seriously than you take yourself. And seriously (I can’t say this emphatically enough) DON’T BE A %$^#!^#@ MARTYR. Martyrs suck and they get killed. No one cares how long it’s been since you had “any time to yourself.” Take it! Take time! Arghh!

This list is just as much to remind me as it is to (hopefully) help you. So any pointers? What makes you feel beautiful and whole?

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Photo courtesy of BigBangTheory.wikia.com.

Ever since I was little, I’ve been something of a linguaphile. My sister and I used to regard English to Anything dictionaries as a kind of Grimoirie, spending hours poring over them and hoping to glean the new and wonderful ability to speak a foreign language. In this way, I flirted with a variety of natural and devised languages, including Spanish, Latin, Greek, Quenya and Klingon.

I had never learned a substantial amount of Klingon, probably because my linguistic affairs were so numerous at the time. But for some reason, I took to one phrase in particular:

Cho magh. Qa qaw’.

You betray me. I destroy you.

This was easily over ten years ago.

Yesterday, I was watching TV with my husband when a trailer for Thor: The Dark World came on. I watched, to my surprise and delight, as Thor uttered the words to Loki, “If you betray me, I will kill you.”

Immediately, I said, spurred by the forces of destiny, “Cho magh. Qa qaw’.”

Immediately my husband, spurred by mild alarm, said, “What?”

Looking back, it probably required some backstory.

I sat there for a moment, smiling at the sheer perfection of that occurrence. There was one phrase I had learned in Klingon. Only one. And here, over ten years later, I was able to translate straight off the screen to that one short utterance that I had engraved on my very soul.

Suddenly, my life just felt meaningful.

I moved slowly, as if in a dream. “I have to… call my sister,” I said.

She was the only one who could understand.

For all of those writers out there who have the “someday” syndrome (“Someday, I’ll post consistently, I swear!”) Manage your life and your expectations.

The Daily Post

When you begin blogging, losing an hour of sleep to perfect a post or skipping lunch to spend time commenting is a pleasure. Post ideas come thick and fast. And more published posts mean pageviews and readers, so publishing more is better, right?

Sure… until it’s not. Until work starts piling up. Or you get sick. Or a friend is in from out of town. Or you have to bake three dozen cupcakes for Sally’s class — by tomorrow. Sometimes, we all get trapped under a beam in the burning barn (metaphorically) and can’t get to the computer. When that happens, how do you find time to blog without turning your creative outlet into just another obligation?

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First of all, I am so proud of you. You have never been the kind of person to fit into the crowd. You have always done what you wanted to do, spoken your mind, and while the people around you may not necessarily have appreciated it, you will provide an inspiration to many many people just by continuing to be who you are.

I think that it’s only fair to warn you that the next ten years will not be easy ones, and that you will be blindsided by challenges that you never expected to face so soon in life. I want you to smile and face them anyway. Continue to look ahead with that characteristic wit, optimism and sense of humor that you have right now. Don’t allow yourself to give in to cynicism.

Above all else, chase your dreams and keep your family close. Spend your time and your money on experiences that matter and people who love you as much as you love them. And remember, you are who you are and things are the way they are for a reason. One day, all of that will be so clear. (It hasn’t happened yet, but it’s getting clearer all the time).

Love yourself for all that you are and all that you’re not and more importantly, everything that you have the potential to be.

Oh, and just go ahead and get your GED already- high school really wasn’t worth it.

PS: Your fiancé proposes to you at an anime themed burlesque show, and you both are cosplaying. Sweet deal, right?!

The last time I felt really truly lonely was almost two years ago, when my fiancé and I broke up for a couple of months. We had been going through a really rough time in our relationship, and we were fighting non-stop. After one particularly bad argument, I asked him to leave.

I don’t think that we would be together today if it wasn’t for that separation. We did a lot of growing in the time that we were apart. Of course, I initially blamed him for most of the challenges in our relationship (he probably felt the same about me). But some other things came to light too.

During those months, I killed my own bugs, opened my own jars, and carried my own laundry to the laundromat. All of the things that I took for granted when he was around were now my responsibility. That was, without a doubt, the best thing that I could have done for myself and for our relationship. Without a doubt, it was empowering to realize that I didn’t need him to do these things for me. But I really, clearly, saw how doing these tedious things was an expression of love.

I read a wonderful book called Driven To Distraction, which is about ADD/ADHD in adults. It outlines both the positive and negative qualities that ADD can manifest as. A typical issue is that people with ADD often miss subtle social cues because they can’t stay tuned into them, making it difficult for them to make and maintain friendships.

Sometimes, I am acutely aware of this tendency in my own life. I often feel disconnected from other people, finding reasons not to like them or proof that they don’t like me. I’m aware that much of this is false, but it plagues me anyway. Unfortunately, these challenges are present in even my closest relationships, making me eternally indebted to the fiancé, family, and friends that love me anyway.

Ultimately, all of the potential to be happy and fulfilled, as well as lonely and disconnected, are functions inherent in our own five-foot bodies. That may seem discouraging, but it should provide you with a sense of absolute freedom. The ability to trigger the transformation from one side to the other exists inside, which means that I don’t ever have to be lonely if I choose not to be.

And now that I’ve figured that out, I don’t have to kill my own bugs anymore either.