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Posts Tagged ‘self-care’

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My family has a deep love for 1990s romantic comedies – from While You Were Sleeping to French Kiss to the Nora Ephron classics. When my sister was unpacking my DVDs recently, she exclaimed, “You have all the good ones!”

One of my faves in this category is Runaway Bride, which I love for its brilliant supporting cast (including Rita Wilson and Hector Elizondo); its quirky small-town details (a hair salon called Curl Up & Dye!), and its best friend, the salon owner, played by Joan Cusack. (“Peggy Flemming–not the ice skater.”)

At one point in the film, Peggy and Maggie (Cusack and Roberts) are at the town softball game when Maggie spots Ike (Gere’s journalist character) approaching. “I will handle this,” Peggy says, in true best-friend fashion. Maggie snaps: “Don’t move your lips!” (They’ve already figured Ike can probably read lips.)

“I will handle this!” Peggy exclaims, through clenched teeth. “I won’t say anything.”

Lately, this is how I often feel. Whether it’s setting up utilities or hanging pictures, writing book reviews or sorting out divorce paperwork, I find myself thinking, “I will handle this!” while worrying I’m not handling it at all.

To be clear, I’ve had lots of help: my mom, my sister, several stalwart friends. But a lot of these responsibilities fall solely to me, and that can be exhausting. And the never-ending list(s) of tasks can make me feel like I’m failing at all of it.

And yet: my little apartment, full of light and books and my favorite things, is coming together. The book reviews are (mostly) getting turned in (relatively) on time. I have gas and electricity and enough food to eat. And not every decision has to be made today.

“There is nothing you’re not handling,” my therapist said the other day, her gentle eyes full of kindness, as they always are. In the midst of such massive transition, it’s worth cultivating a little self-compassion – or, sometimes, channeling my inner Peggy Flemming. (Not the ice skater.)

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pink flowers flats shoes sidewalk

I’m loving my friend Jen Lee’s new YouTube series – aptly titled Morning, Sunshine – in which she shares sound advice and what’s on her mind lately. Several of the videos have touched on self-care practices: moisturizing, using music as a mood shifter, taking an emotional inventory when it feels like everything is too much.

In that spirit, I jotted down a list of my small (sometimes tiny) self-care practices in my journal, and I thought I’d share them with you.

  • Making tea several times a day. I need the caffeine, but I also need the ritual: scooping the leaves or finding a teabag, brewing the tea, sipping it from my favorite purple travel mug or a ceramic mug at home.
  • Working in the conference room at my office, even for 20 minutes between meetings. It’s full of sunlight and plants, and I find I think better when I’m in there.
  • Listening to good words (including Jen’s, and all the songs I love) over and over again.
  • Putting a Band-Aid and some ointment on a cut instead of ignoring it.
  • Washing dishes – an act of care for myself and my home.
  • Making my bed (same).
  • Moisturizing and putting on lip balm.
  • Texting my people, especially on the hard days.
  • Keeping enough snacks handy, at home and at the office.
  • Taking a walk – often to run an errand – during the workday. Movement is good medicine.
  • Putting on a fresh pillowcase even when I can’t change the sheets.
  • Going out for chai – also a combination of caffeine + ritual. The baristas at the BPL are getting to know me, and I them. (They also make the best avocado toast. Mmmm.)
  • Snapping photos of flowers (see above), sunsets, or other happy-making things.

What are your small self-care rituals?

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gold-red-lily

It’s August, somehow, and I’m in full summer mode: iced chai, tan lines and freckles (and lots of sunscreen), stovetop cooking (when I cook anything), and all the berries I can eat. Here’s what’s saving my life, in these hot, hazy, still-transition-filled days:

  • Late-summer flowers: black-eyed Susans, deep blue and pink hydrangeas, the first dahlias, day lilies in every shade of yellow and red and orange.
  • Running into Phoenix, my little golden doodle buddy, and his person on my morning walks.
  • My friend Jen Lee’s brand-new, free YouTube video series: Morning, Sunshine. Go check it out if you’d like a dose of connection and compassion.

boston-harbor-view

  • The views out my new apartment windows: Boston Harbor on one side, the local park (usually with a friendly dog or two) on the other side.
  • My Rothys, which I’m wearing all. the. time. 
  • The silver triangle Zil earrings I bought at the SoWa market last month.
  • Texts from friends checking in on my move and transition.

iced-chai-blue-bikes

  • Iced chai – from Darwin’s when I can make it to the Square, and from the BPL or Tatte when I can’t.
  • Ginger peach MEM tea in my favorite purple travel mug, every morning.
  • Susannah Conway’s August Break photo project.
  • My favorite LUSH face mask – it’s Cookie-Monster blue and smells like citrus.

frame-up-book

  • Impulse grabs from the BPL’s new books shelf, and piles of ARCs for Shelf Awareness.
  • Morning Bluebike rides across the river.
  • Rosé and raspberry-lemon sorbet after a long evening of unpacking.
  • Eating my breakfast granola out of a real bowl.
  • Trader Joe’s veggie beet wraps, berries and cherries, yogurt, granola, hint-of-lime tortilla chips and sourdough bread. (Not all at once.)

hot-chocolate-woodcut-journal

  • Bryan Nash Gill’s “Woodcut” journals – I bought a four-pack at Trident a while ago. And good pens.
  • Colleagues who make me laugh.
  • Listening to some of the artists I heard/discovered at the Newport Folk Festival – about which more soon.
  • Having enough brain space (finally!) to make this list.

What’s saving your life these days, my friends?

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Three summers ago, in the wake of a stressful move, I hopped a train to New York City for a solo weekend getaway. It was August – and hot – but I stayed at the cute, cozy Larchmont Hotel (now defunct, sadly) and spent all weekend wandering the Village and drinking gallons of hibiscus iced tea.

My travels led me at some point to Bleecker Street, where I bought a gorgeous green malachite ring from a friendly Turkish man selling jewelry from an open stall. I wore it almost every day for months, until it got accidentally crushed under the wheel of my car.

green ring iced tea

I tried to tell myself it didn’t matter that much, but I was sad about it for weeks. That ring felt like a talisman, a bit of beauty I had chosen for myself, in the midst of a long, chaotic season crowded with lots of other changes that I did not choose.

I ended up back in NYC last December, staying at the Jane and soaking in the city I love, dressed in its sparkling holiday cheer. I wandered back down to that stretch of Bleecker one day, after brunch at the Cornelia Street Cafe (best eggs Florentine I’ve ever had). My Turkish friend was there again, the last in a line of white-peaked stalls, open for one of the last times before winter. I spent some time chatting with him, and picked out a beautiful garnet ring this time.

Recently, that ring has migrated from my right hand to my left: a tangible reminder of bigger things that are shifting in my life. My address has recently changed, too: this past weekend, I moved to East Boston, to a little studio right around the corner from where I dog-sat this spring. For so long, the rhythms of my life have been shaped by my marriage, and that, too, is changing. It’s hard and painful, even though it’s the right thing.

In the midst of all this (further) change, wearing my own ring feels like a small but vital act of self-care: a visible reminder that I am acting for myself in this season. (The tank top in the first photo – a PEI find from Kim Roach a few years ago – doesn’t hurt, either.)

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baby its cold outside sign dress shop

I snapped this photo as I was leaving work one day last week. It was clear twilight – not dark – outside, but still piercingly cold. And while the chalkboard sign captured my sentiments exactly, the flimsy sundress (blowing in the bitter wind) made me shake my head in irritation.

Several years ago, Nichole Robertson (now of Obvious State) wrote a blog post called “Dress in the Moment.” In it, she detailed the vexation of being unable to find winter accessories in American stores when it was still frigid outside. Nichole was living and working part-time in Paris then, and she pointed out that French department stores – at least in her experience – tend to stock more seasonally appropriate items.

Maybe because I moved to Boston soon after she wrote that post, I think about Nichole’s words every winter.

When the shop windows are full of sundresses and gauzy scarves, and we’re stepping around frozen piles of gray snow on the sidewalk, a certain cognitive dissonance sets in. Many of us (myself included) don’t love the cold anyway, and the displays of colorful spring outfits that we can buy, but not wear, are a tantalizing frustration.

Separate, but related, is the annoyance of being forced to make do with worn or tattered winter gear. (I’ve spent more time than I care to admit digging through sale bins in midwinter, searching for a proper pair of gloves. And it is nearly impossible to buy snow boots if yours start leaking in, say, February.)

Nichole urged her readers to “channel their inner French girl” – and maybe mitigate the winter blues a bit – by caring for their winter clothing properly. I thought of this last week as I picked up my favorite green coat from the dry cleaners and cleaned the road salt off my leather boots.

We’re only midway through winter and I’m sick of my puffy down coat, but I’ll have to wear it, and my fleece-lined tights, for a while yet. (Though I ran around in ballet flats and a light jacket this weekend, because I could.) So I may as well embrace the corresponding need for sweaters, hats and cozy scarves. I splurged on this soft plaid one right before Christmas, and I love it.

k j hotel mirror selfie

I am already watching for signs of spring, and I relish each day that’s mild enough for lighter clothing (in whatever form). But Nichole’s words remind me to pass by the sundresses – for now – and embrace the season we’re in.

Instead of sighing over what I can’t wear yet, I’ll be doing my best to snuggle into my soft handknits and cozy sweaterdresses. (And thanking whatever genius came up with the idea for fleece-lined tights.)

How do you dress in the moment – especially in wintertime?

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pain au chocolat croissant mimosa brunch

In case you weren’t aware: winter has arrived.

It’s cold. And by cold, I mean snowy and sharp-edged, with slick patches on the sidewalk and bitter wind chills as I walk through Harvard Square in my down coat. (We have, thank goodness, had mostly blue skies this week.) The weather forecast is calling for more snow – though we don’t know how much – this weekend. And I am resigning myself to slogging through my least favorite season.

By now I have all kinds of tricks for coping with Boston winters. (I ought to, after surviving five of them – though last year’s record 110-inch snow totals nearly broke me.) In addition to the totally virtuous ones, like my light box and Vitamin D pills and plenty of citrus fruit, I’m employing another coping strategy: treats.

I’m not a big spender, unless you count plane tickets every so often, or the occasional weekend in New York. But I have a deep and abiding love for small luxuries, and I find them especially important in wintertime. On these days when the sun sets before I leave work and the wind blows my hood back from my face, it’s often these little treats that are saving my life.

The photo above is from New Year’s Day: the hubs and I splurged on a brunch date at Gaslight, in Boston’s South End. We munched pain au chocolat and sipped mimosas and savored our entrees. It felt like a treat, being out in the chilly city together, and trying new dishes to kick off a new year.

This past Monday, I had the day off work (thank you, Dr. King), so I met a girlfriend for lunch at a cozy pizza restaurant in Brookline. We sat in a sunny window alcove, and split a pizza topped with butternut squash and creamy ricotta. Afterward, I had a long browse through the Booksmith, and popped into the Starbucks next door for some chai. The crowning luxury of the afternoon was a pedicure, in a bright coral shade aptly called Snap Happy.

tulips candle dog table

Most of my days don’t have quite that much room for indulgence, but I still manage to slip in a small pleasure or two: a bouquet of fresh flowers for my dining-room table, half an hour with a good book, a morning chai or a mid-afternoon cookie from Darwin’s. Sometimes I take a walk over to the Yard (if it’s not too frigid) to soak in the sunshine and gaze at my favorite buildings. And the electric blanket the hubs bought me a few Christmases ago is a treat when we snuggle down in bed every single night.

How do you treat yourself during the winter?

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cafe lalo table berries teacup

This year, I chose gentle for my one little word. Or, more accurately, it chose me.

I’ve been choosing a word each year for a while now, and while I can’t ever predict how my choice is going to shake out, I always enjoy the process of following a word through the year.

Gentle, when it came to me, felt like a deep sigh of relief, a much-needed shift away from some frantic and critical habits I’d slipped into during a hectic few months. Also, as I said at the time, it felt like a good companion to brave, my word from 2010 which remains so important to me.

The circumstances of this year, as it turns out, have not been particularly gentle. I struggled through a record-breaking Boston winter, with bitter temps and frigid winds and so much snow. The gentleness in that season was mostly internal: nourishing myself with tea and soup, reading good books, doing lots of yoga, making an effort to dial back the criticism (often silent, sometimes verbal) of myself and others.

When the weather finally warmed up, I found myself facing another hard thing: the loss of a job I loved, and the subsequent months of networking, interviews and job hunting. That process has been, in a word, brutal. And it’s not entirely over, though I am grateful for a temp gig I’m loving, and for my ongoing freelance assignments.

With the job hunt, too, the gentleness has been mostly internal: doing my best work on a given day, and letting that be enough. Working hard to polish my resume or answer interview questions thoughtfully or compose yet another cover letter. And then taking a break, to cook dinner or meet a friend for coffee or curl up on the sofa with a book or a good TV show.

I have been reminded, over and over again, that I’m only human. I am capable, but I’m not Superwoman. I need rest and downtime and connection with the people I love. I need to ask for things once in a while. And often, I need to turn off the computer and go to sleep.

It has also been (I need hardly say) a tough year to live in this world. Headlines that provoke anxiety and terror, so many shouting matches that solve nothing, an increasing sense of the precariousness of this life. I don’t know what to do about that, except to keep lighting the candles I possess.

It’s an ongoing process, this gentleness with myself and others. But I’m glad this quiet, unobtrusive word has been my companion in 2015. I’m hoping to find a new word for 2016, but I think gentle will hang around a while, too.

Did you choose a word for 2015? If so, how did it go?

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