Tag: Work

A Few Acts of Self Care

“We must have a pie. Stress cannot exist in the presence of a pie.” 
― David Mamet, Boston Marriage

The universe has been particularly kind to me lately, kittens, and I’m still enjoying one of the longest running streaks of solid mental health and overall life balance I’ve had in years. However, due to one of my team members being on holiday, plus suddenly getting involved with an unexpected event planning job, plus some additional projects at work, PLUS the fact that we have a short work week this week thanks to the bank holiday…well, things are good, but there has been an uptick in stress.

Because I’m on deadlines for big projects that I genuinely love working on, I don’t want to get knocked off my game due to something within my own grasp like self care. So here’s a short and by no means complete list of ways I’m keeping myself sane during a busy spring:

Self-medication with friend chicken encouraged.

Schedule some long phone calls with friends. Katarina and I make time for a decent hour on the phone once a week and it’s always a highlight for me. We range from girl talk, to work, to writing, to politics, to love lives, and normally at least half of it involves inside jokes that have lasted nearly two decades now. X and I don’t get to talk as much but keep up an almost constant text conversation to make up for it. It’s medicine for the soul.

Take a walk. Now that it’s light out later in the evening, I’m trying to walk home from work most evenings. It’s about a three mile jaunt and it’s amazing how much it’s been helping step away from a work mindset at the end of the day. Spool up a podcast or an audiobook, and get your cardio in!

Spend some time by yourself in a non-standard location. Go out for a meal with only yourself at a new restaurant, wander through a new area of your city or neighborhood. On that walk home I mentioned, I’ve been trying to vary up my route as much as possible and I’ve discovered some hidden gems in my area of the city as a result. It’s refreshing to go exploring.

Clean something. We had our annual apartment inspection by the landlord this past week and used it as an excuse to do some deep cleaning, a bit more thorough than our weekend tidy ups. It’s cathartic to feel like your space is in order…even if the feeling is temporary and fleeting because cleaning is a Sisyphean ordeal.

Find a small way to save a bit of money and enjoy the sense of responsibility and control it gives you. I changed my route to my normal workspace in a way that combines walking and a single bus trip, the fare of which is lower than the Underground during morning rush hour. Since I’m walking home most days, my weekly travel expenses have gone down–it’s not revolutionary, but it’s nice anyway.

Do a bit of healthy food prep and chop up some vegetables that you can use later in the week for snacking or cooking. It will make it easier to make healthy choices when you’re in a munching mood, or when you need to throw together a meal.

Read, physical print if at all possible. I live my life online, for work and for a lot of my free time. Switching up a screen for an actual page really helps me enjoy reading better and allow myself to stay focused on a single piece rather than jumping from piece to piece the way that online reading can encourage.

Take a break! I am the worst at remembering this, but a 10-minute break to make a cup of tea or stroll around the block can help me completely reset my brain.

How do you keep yourself level when your To Do list gets a bit nuts?

Weekend Links

“And these children that you spit on
As they try to change their worlds
Are immune to your consultations.
They’re quite aware of what they’re going through.
― David Bowie, Changes

It’s been quiet around this parts, pumpkins, because work has gotten insane again. All of my routines are messed up right now, my organization and health are completely out of whack and the house is a mess. Jeff is in no better shape as we are in the thick of accounting busy season and the man is working absolutely painful hours at the moment. A+ adulting happening here in the Small Dog residence, let me tell you! However, the sun is out today and I’m determined to repair damages with several loads of laundry, a deep clean of the bathrooms, and a general prep for the coming week.

It’s not all stress and poor self care, though! We’ve actually carved out some fun time over the past two weeks that has been much needed. I loved Black Panther and wanted at least another half hour of Winston Duke’s character cracking jokes and telling Martin Freeman to stop talking. In other news, teenagers will save us from ourselves, and maybe society isn’t falling into wreck and ruin!

Here are your links and tell me how your are spending your weekend. Plus, if you have any self organizational tips that I may benefit from, share them in the comments!

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The only cure for misinformation is education.

I love Fashion Weeks across the globe, but this piece from The Cut asks an important question about the (predominantly) women not on the catwalks.

This cow took its life into its own hooves.

The intensity of the conspiracy theorists active in the world today genuinely terrifies me. Some people are actual garbage.

The FT reports that American arms manufacturers bet wrong.

There is a lot of writing about there about the crisis of modern masculinity (some of it really smart, some of it really bad) but this editorial in the wake of the Parkland shooting is still pretty affecting.

Ugh, I need to stop falling in love with brands. They inevitably sink into mess!

 

Weekend Links – Remember, Remember

“November–with uncanny witchery in its changed trees.”
– L.M. Montgomery 

Howdy pumpkins, it’s November! This whole year truly has gone by in a blur, before you know it Christmas will be here. Yikes!

This weekend I’ve had to bring a few pieces of work home with me, but a rainy Saturday morning is making want to stay indoors for now anyway so I don’t resent it too much. It’s been a busy few months with this contract of mine but very rewarding ones.

It began this week.

Well, Kevin Spacey finally decided to come out…in response to allegations of sexual assault of a then-minor. Tom and Lorenzo were not having this, and I’m firmly on team TLo for this one.

Some of my favorite puppets sum up what’s going on in the world of YouTube and how that may affect creators.

The great and good Christine of Temptalia–the venerated beauty review site that’s more than extensive enough for its writer to qualify as a beauty editor in my eyes–has written a comprehensive post on how to reduce your beauty consumption with a “no buy” or “low buy” challenge. Inspiration for the intelligent beauty consumer, particularly as we move into the season of holiday releases and bombardment style marketing.

I’m not convinced we need a reboot, but I’m living for the casting anyway.

Mackenzie Horan and founder of the challenge has launched her third 101/1001 list! I’m a bit behind on my own goals, so this is a perfectly timed kick to get me back on track.

The kids aren’t just alright, they are goddamn awesome.

It was Halloween this week, so this article on the popularity of death masks seems apropos.

So…the void. Kind creepy.

The Pyramids hold yet more secrets, I’m delighted to say!

An exiting Twitter employee decided to deactivate the President’s twitter account and we had 11 minutes of questions as a result. I’m not giving this story too much attention. I find it a source of near-constant anxiety that in any normal presidency, if a tape of a conversation was leaked about a president sicking the FYI or DOJ on their enemies it would be a constitutional-crisis provoking scandal. Somehow this man is allowed to tweet it publicly and this is somehow fine.

This guy can exit, pursued by a bear.

Unless of course, this guy’s whack-ass theory proves true and saves us from the previously linked monster. (Spoiler, it won’t.)

These ladies, though, restore my faith in humanity.

US Kittens, there was a minor media scandal here in the UK this week!

I for one would like to salute Mashable for the heavy hitting journalism and dedication showed in putting together this very important post. #femalegaze

This oral history of the Brandi and Whitney Houston’s Cinderella is wonderful. And the story of Whoopi Goldberg refusing to wear fake jewelry is a life lesson for all of us.

A (hopeful) gender and sexuality story from the Weimar Republic. It’s nice to remember that history is a pendulum and swings towards good as well as bad.

ETA! Album of week: Stillness in Wonderland, by Little Simz

Editing

“Be a good editor. The Universe needs more good editors, God knows.” 
― Kurt Vonnegut Jr., Letters

I don’t always do a good job of remembering resolutions, but I have to say, picking a “theme” for this year has been a remarkable success. My mindset around a lot of life elements has taken a turn for the healthier and I’m in a more balanced place than I’ve been in years. I really believe that this has come from some purposeful editing of my life. I’ve gotten much better at saying no, worked hard to remove or improve things that contributed to my stress and anxiety problems, and become a lot more intentional about my money and consumption choices. It’s been a very successful project, and I’m already thinking towards how I want to frame 2018.

“Less but better” doesn’t have a uniform definition for me. For instance, we are currently living in our largest and most expensive home to date, but on the other hand, after 10 years of marriage and most of those spent in cheap digs, the decision to rent a nice apartment was a considered one. We are also furnishing it ourselves, meaning we are spending money, but we are taking that process slowly and very judiciously. Our home is still far less furnished than I would like…but we have chosen every piece in it together because we loved it, and not because it was the cheapest option on Craigslist. I love the idea of editing a home, carefully selecting what I put in it and not rushing to fill empty space just because I have it.

Stress levels: all time low. This time last year my nails were chewed to the quick.

Meanwhile, on the work front, I’m actually working more but in a better way. Going back to freelance and contracting has been a great decision. I have not only opened a lot of doors and opportunities, but I have finally discovered a balance between work and identity: what I do vs. who I am. This has not always been the case with me, as I tend to throw myself into things like causes, projects, and roles wholeheartedly, allowing the lines between them and myself to blur. Surprisingly, given the nature of freelance and contract work and how it can divide your attention, I’ve found that because I’ve been able to choose my work, I’ve therefore been able to choose (i.e. edit) how I direct my energy. This has also helped me train my brain to better separate work from my personal life and I’m more aggressive about holidays and an overall work/life balance. In other words, I may be working more, but my stress levels are lower than they’ve been in years.

Let’s talk stuff, generally. I had a whole month long blog project dedicated to my closet and bathroom shelf this year, and I continue to be really happy with where it’s at. I’ve actually shopped and bought less this year than I have probably since my early 20s. Granted what I have bought has tended to be more expensive, but I’ve been fascinated to physically feel the urgency and desire to buy things fade as the year has gone on. There’s plenty of reporting out there to suggest that brain chemistry can be affected by purchasing, and I wonder if I’ve been able to ween myself off an internal drug I didn’t realize I was on. I’ve been slowly editing my closet down and I now think I own less clothing than I did when we first moved to London on an item-for-item basis. What I do own, I wear more and I love more. The same goes with beauty; I’ve been focused on using what I already own instead of craving new makeup and skincare items. I’m actually in the midst of a shopping freeze (my second this year) in an effort to actually use up cosmetics and potions before I allow myself even to replace beloved items. I’ve done a few edits of my shelf throughout the year and donated or gifted a few items that I didn’t use enough to justify keeping. Maybe it’s a welcome byproduct of getting older and more self-confident, but I’ve never been more pleased with the woman in the mirror.

When it comes to food and overall health, I haven’t done as well as I would have wished. We are eating out less (yay, us!) but ordering in more (kind of defeats the purpose, C….). We have periods of focus on health, but other periods of intense laziness. One thing I’ve realized is how much I require a routine in order to stay committed to food, exercise, and wellbeing goals. I am not a natural health bunny, I do no default to healthiness–I default to deep friend potatoes and Netflix and am self-aware enough to acknowledge this. It turns out that once I’m in a routine, I am pretty good at maintaining it but if something knocks me off course (two straight weeks of houseguests for instance, or a particularly uneven month at work), I fall well and truly off the wagon and it takes herculean effort to climb back aboard. I haven’t figured out quite how to overcome this yet, but I suspect the solution will lie in editing out things that I use as excuses or distractions.

This has been a much better year than 2016 for me, and I’m feeling pretty positive about 2018 at the moment. It’s a good place to be.

Spending Diary, Vol. 3

“Money may not buy happiness, but I’d rather cry in a Jaguar than on a bus.”
― Françoise Sagan

This was a good week personally but a bit sloppy financially. I started a great new gig contract, and worked towards an amazing opportunity with a magazine that hopefully will pan out soon. Fingers crossed! I had another big (planned) purchase this week and so planned to use the results of my kitchen audit to keep grocery shopping to a minimum in order to use food items we already had in the house as the basis of most of our at home meals.

A little planning goes a long way for me and disruptions to my schedule, even welcome ones like starting a new client contract, can throw me off. I did a decent amount of meal prep, but wasn’t as organized overall as I should have been and so even though I cooked plenty, I didn’t pre-package as I should have. Getting out the door in the morning therefore involved a couple of extra steps, which were all too easy to discard. And now that I’m in a client office all day and coming home later, my willpower to be productive in the evening has been a bit…lacking.  I ended up using over a quarter of my monthly cash allowance on food on the go–definitely one of my Achilles heels.

Therefore this weekend we’re both of us doing some shopping and prep together to do better next week! But first, I’m eating doughnuts following the Womens March in London.

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Sunday
We were naughty and decided to grab Indian takeaway, but in order to justify it, we switched up our normal order to ensure we each got at least three meals each out of our spend, which took care of several dinners this week.
Food: £30.00

Monday
Months ago I signed up for early access to Hamilton tickets, which is opening in London at the end of this year, and buying opened up today. Our show date is months and months away, so there’s no quick emotional payoff, but I managed to score non-nosebleed seats for a fairly reasonable price!
Travel card renewal: £33.00
Hamilton tickets: £115.00
Coffee (cash): £2.75
Quick grocery run (cash): £6.00

Tuesday
Alas for an absent mind and a need for toiletries. We’d made it as long as we could using up our travel sized contact solution bottle, but had run out and so a Boots run was needed.
Coffee (because I left mine at on the counter leaving the house, cash): £2.90
Contact solution and facial cleansing wipes: £14.30

Wednesday
This was the first of a stretch of days where I really failed to get my ducks in a row.
Coffee again (cash): £2.90
Lunch (cash): £9.60

Thursday
I got a better start to the day but had to do another Boots run when we realized we were out of yet more things in the bathroom, like cotton buds.
Boots run for toiletries: £18.50
Lunch: £4.20

Friday
Breakfast (cash): £4.80
Lunch: £4.20
Snack: £.80
Pharmacy shop for, ahem, feminine articles: £3.50
Date night: £23.00

Saturday
Doughnuts to recharge after the Womens March in London: £30.00

Total: £301.25

The Paradox of Space and Stuff

“Our pleasures are not material pleasures, but symbols of pleasure – attractively packaged but inferior in content.”
― Alan W. Watts

When our friends were in town the other week it was an amazing chance to catch up. One half of the pair, Chris, and I have been friends since freshmen year of university. In fact he, Jeff, and I were all in an assigned cohort for freshmen students and it’s kind of funny to think about how life has turned out for us in the past 12 years. I absolutely adore his wife, who I’ve known almost as long, and having the ability to see friends from the States is such a rare pleasure for us.

In talking all things work, life, and adulthood related we got on the the subject of upgrading. They live in California and bought a house there. Since then they’ve been working on all kinds of DIY projects to improve their home and add value to it, and seem to be enjoying the process. But in spite of being able to do these improvements on a tight budget and by themselves, we quickly found we were dealing with a similar issue even though we live in a rented apartment.

The famous saying is mo’ money, mo’ problems. Add mo’ space, mo’ spending to the mix.

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We started comparing notes on how that as soon as we’d either moved into a house or a larger apartment, we found our “stuff” multiplying. Closets full of items they rarely used on their end, furniture we’ve never previously owned on ours. More empty space that we feel compelled to fill for us, a garage for them to store stuff, which means they’re holding on to things that they’ve never accumulated before.

Chris told me of a piece of motorcycle equipment that he doesn’t use anymore, but is loathe to give away or even sell because 1) it cost him a pretty penny to get in the first place and, 2) what if he needs it again in the future? We now have a second bedroom (currently being used primarily as storage) which is where, if an item doesn’t really have a home yet, there it goes! A quick, sheepish scan of the contents this morning revealed a number of older cords and electronics I should probably recycle and a bag of linens and stuff that I’ve been meaning to drop off for donation since we moved in. Oops. Having space clearly does something to our mental relationship with stuff!

In our old flat, we didn’t have room for much…and so we didn’t have much. When we moved to a twice as large apartment in October, we suddenly had twice the space to fill. Plus we gave up landlord-provided furniture as part of a negotiation for lower rent and so had to buy furniture for the first time since living in London. Our old apartment barely held a loveseat, but suddenly we needed a sofa to fill a living room. In our old apartment, that loveseat and a desk chair were the only places we had to sit down in, in our new apartment we had a breakfast bar but we now needed stools to sit at it. We have two bathrooms and so needed two bathmats. We have more than one cupboard now and have somehow acquired a mug collection. Oops again.

Like water, people, their money habits, and their stuff seem to expand to fit their containers. Ours certainly have. When we have made more money, we have historically spent more money…even after living quite comfortably on less! Before moving to a larger apartment, our expenses didn’t necessarily change, but we found our habits did. Both we and the handful of friends I have unscientifically surveyed for this post have also found their ability to accumulate and retain stuff grow significantly due to moving into a house for the first time, a bigger apartment, or a first home all to one’s self after leaving the sharing economy that is living with roommates. Call it the curse of comfort! Part of the reason I don’t want a big house anymore is because I don’t want to have to pay to outfit it, keep up a yard, and take care of the whole thing. I’d rather have a much smaller home with fewer, nicer things, and spend my money on other priorities.

On the other hand, I do think there is a correlation between generally being in a position to make more money, and it having more places to go. If you are working full time, you are likely to be an adult with either rent or mortgage to pay. If you’re living in certain areas, you are more likely to require a car. Past a certain age you are statistically more likely to have a partner or children, leading to different kinds of costs. Life gets more expensive the longer it goes on.

As I’m working to limit my consumption, I’m starting to think a portion of that mindset long term will come from limiting my space, both physical and metaphoric. What else will I have to resize besides a “dream home?”

Have you found this same correlation between space and stuff? Those of you who have up- or downgraded at some point in your lives, I’m doubly curious to hear from you.

 

Weekend Links

“Saturday night is perfect for writers because other people have “plans.”
― Mike Birbiglia

This week I got to jumpstart a new client project–or rather return back to a former project that I really love in a fresh way. I’m also waiting with ferocious impatience for a decision on a pitch to a new potential client entirely and have basically bitten my nails to the quick doing so. It’s a company I really want to work with and a project I really want to work on – more I cannot say lest the jinx gods make things difficult. Somehow in all this I also really want to find time to massage a writing pitch and ship it out early next week to see if it has legs, plus do some scouting for yet another potential client.

Elsewhere London decided that it’s time to start cooling down for fall (totally on board), NYFW kicked off and has overtaken my leisure reading/internet surfing (that one Club Monaco coat is all over social media, the Coach invitations were amazing, and from what I’ve been able to glimpse I’m loving the Tibi collection), and Jeff and I have begun the packing process for our move, now happening the first day of October. Things are busy! But writing this at the moment it’s foggy and gray outside and I’m doing some proper cooking and baking for the first time in months. Netflix is a strong possibility.

Here are your links, tell me what the weekend holds for you!

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Everything you wanted to know about the island of my birth.

Perhaps The Coveteur is not the best place to look for wardrobe and storage ideas for a new place…when one is poor.

What’s your score?

London was all agog at this anniversary this weekend. And it was pretty cool!

Laundry. Scandalous stuff.

Instagram find of the week (the Stranger Things one brought me particular joy).

A great newsletter (h/t to friend of the blog Ruth for alerting me) whose topic this week was the lies we tell and the shape of love.

I prefer Data, myself.

Nothing is new, least of all sexism.

And speaking of! But this time, with snark!

A lovely short on the perspective of an illustrator.

Puns forever.

This story is a longer links read, but downright Shakespearean in scope.

And finally, really want to see this.