Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Living in photographs

As I journey through old digital photographs in an effort to tidy up my digital storage, I am learning unexpected lessons about myself.

There are many people from my childhood that I am simply done with. There are many faces in the photos that I am familiar with, but I can't remember their names anymore, or we never communicate (online or otherwise), or I frankly just don't care about them. It's hard with some photos to determine how I feel about them. Photos of former teachers? Do I really care about these? Would I miss them? I would probably not remember them if I got rid of the pictures, and that doesn't help me decide at all. In a physical photo album, we review the pictures periodically or infrequently and still appreciate them. As a digital volume, do I want to do the same? It seems absurd to keep so many. How can I really know what to keep? My inclination is truly just to hoard them all.

I came across the first photos of me with pink in my hair (the better version of the photo was actually taken on a film camera). I had been permitted, at around age 15 I think, to put a streak of pink in my hair. I felt so bold. I loved it. I love the photo that attempts to capture those feelings. I like being able to look back and know that's not a person I want to be anymore, while still appreciating who I was.

These photos also capture my varying and strange personal fashion trends. Most of them make me laugh now. I've spent many years trying to find a personal style without realizing that I have one already. I may not be able to define my tastes, but I know how to pick clothes that I like and I only wear what I like.


This article had me re-assess my current hair state, which is a somewhat more mature pink, as in much less vibrant (I didn't lighten the hair enough before dyeing). I don't think I'm done yet with fantasy colored hair. It still feels like me, it still gives me confidence. But I do recognize there are some inklings of teenage-me in my choice of hair color or style. I don't think that's a bad thing. Some things we take with us and some things we leave behind as we grow up. It can always change and I am open to listen to myself on this score.

I am realizing that choosing what (photos) to keep is less about the memories and more about what aspects of me I will choose to carry with me into the future.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Scents and sounds

I've always considered myself a visual learner and expected most of my memories to be tied to visual stimuli as well. While I do have a good memory for faces, I've found recently that scents and sounds tend to trigger much stronger emotional responses for me.

Lately I've been reading about aromatherapy and essential oils. While I'm dubious as to the claims of potential medical help oils could provide, I think that the emotional response by smelling something pleasant or specific (placebo effects!) is very real. I bought an inexpensive kit (affiliate link) from a brand that sells on Amazon to start myself off. While none of the oils on their own make me think of anything in particular, I am starting to get a sense for what scents go well with others and might make a nice blend for a candle or roll-on application mixed with a carrier oil (like fractionated coconut oil). It should be a fun little project, even if I don't stick with it. I've accepted that I'm a hobby hopper.

Scents that trigger nostalgia or pleasant feelings for me

  • freshly cut grass
  • rain on hot asphalt
  • this body product line that my grandmother has had in her bathroom since forever, the name has some 3-digit number in it; the scent is a combination of sharply floral yet masculine
  • Old Spice deodorant, probably because my dad has always worn it
I don't have particular memories associated with most nostalgic sound triggers, but there are some that I find oddly soothing.
  • plows in the wintertime, but only at night when it's really quiet other than potentially wind
  • lawnmowers, specifically make me think of the week or two before the fall semester started my sophomore year in college. I was there early for job training and the riding lawnmowers were out much earlier that I'd like, but it's still a nice memory
  • humidifiers
  • a shower running in another room
  • the sound of water running through pipes for a shower. When I was little, I would sit in the closet of my sister's and my bedroom (now my parents' room) and listen to the sound of the water running through the pipes/the shower on the other side of the wall while anyone was in there getting clean.
  • fan noise is SO soothing to me. I love having a fan or air purifier running at night. I think it's because it helps drown out any sudden noises that may occur outside so I don't get woken up by them
I guess a lot of the sounds I like are kind of variants on white noise! A distant lawnmower is something I could sleep to, as are all the others.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Sabriel Day

I was lent Sabriel by Garth Nix when I was around fifteen years old. My best friend at the time had really enjoyed the book as well as its sequel, Lirael, and I trusted her book recommendations. I don't remember if I immediately loved it as much as I do now, but I liked it enough to read the sequel and buy the third book in the trilogy when I realized it was already out. Actually, her little sister bought it for me and I can't remember why  now! I still have that copy and I still think of her every time I see it on my bookshelf. The original release date for Sabriel was twenty years ago today, in Australia.



The first book follows the journey of Sabriel, a teenager in a fictional version of 20th-century England, as she re-enters her magical homeland: the Old Kingdom. There, she takes on the mantle of the Abhorsen, which is essentially a law-instated necromancer, as she searches for her father, the former Abhorsen, who went missing. Accompanying her on the journey is a magical creature that takes the form of a speaking cat, Mogget. Sabriel's tools of her trade include a bandolier of bells, each spelled for specific duties against Dead creatures arisen by rogue necromancers, a spelled sward, Charter magic, and the Book of the Dead.

The second and third books follow other character primarily, so I won't try to summarize those because I'd probably spoil something. I can say, however, that Lirael and Abhorsen take place somewhere around 20 years after the events of Sabriel. Sabriel does make an appearance in those books, but she's all grown-up *sniffle*.

The heroines in books whom I find most appealing tend to be very self-sufficient and courageous. Sabriel is no exception there. She doesn't always makes the right choices, sometimes she pays for those mistakes, but she always finds a way through on her own. There are very few situations in the book where I'd consider her "rescued" by anyone. I've found that my own choice of friends over the years tend to have similar qualities: passionate, self-reliant, often gregarious or extroverts. Sabriel is not entirely an extrovert, but she is able to speak up for herself and take lead when needed.

Over my many years living with and battling depression, I've learned over and over that there is no knight in shining armor to save you from the bad times. You have to do it yourself. Sabriel represents to me someone who can take on tremendous odds and conquer them. While my battles are usually mental and hers are usually physical (or magical), I still hold her as a sort of role model for strength and perseverance.

I recommend this book to anyone who remotely like fantasy novels, especially to teens, but really to everybody. There are a couple more books related with the trilogy as well, such as the recent release of Clariel, a prequel that takes place a couple of hundred years before the events of Sabriel, and some short stories in two separate collections (one comes out next month).

Monday, April 27, 2015

How to overcome depression

Like I know all the answers.

Like I haven't been down that road and back a million times.

Maybe while I'm in the throes of another episode of depression is not the best time to write about depression. On the other hand, it could help, so I try. I keep writing this blog and talking about the same things over and over.

I overshare like it's my job, according to some. It's never been in me to do anything differently. Once you get me going, I will tell you just about anything.

The most important thing I've come to understand about living with depression over the past 13 or so years is



DEPRESSION LIES.

Depression is an illness. It would like you to think that you are worthless, that you should give up, that no one loves you. Depression is lying to you so it can thrive. Don't let it thrive. Don't stop fighting. Don't stop telling people how you are feeling. You may think that you are being annoying and hell, maybe you are, but you're more important than that.

Your life is more important than any minor inconvenience you may cause.

Talk to doctors. Talk to strangers. Talk to friends or anyone you maybe thought loved you, even if depression is telling you that right now, nobody does. It's lying, take the risk and tell them anyway.

You are always worth fighting for.

I put a lot of value on the life of every individual. I am not a supporter of the death penalty for any crime. I do believe that those with terminal illness have the right to die with dignity, but depression is not a terminal illness. It doesn't have to be.

Mental illness is devious and deceptive. Anxiety will let you think that someone holds a grudge for some tiny mistake you make seven years ago. It may lead you to stop talking to people out of irrational fear that something has gone wrong in your relationship. Depression will keep you from pretty much doing anything and it's so, so hard to get moving again. Add in suicidal thoughts and it gets bad really quickly.

On the worst days, which are thankfully not that often anymore, I think about the people I'd leave behind. I think about how sad they would be, how I would not wish how depression makes me feel on anyone else. I can't take the risk that I'd leave anyone else to that fate due to my abrupt absence.

I choose to stay and fight and sometimes it's the hardest choice I've ever made.

(Sidenote: I'm not that bad right now, please don't worry, I just felt motivated to write.)

Wednesday, April 08, 2015


I did a difficult thing this evening and threw out what may have been over ten years of handwritten journals.

Since I discovered The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up (affiliate link), I have been undertaking a project of decluttering my life from unneeded or unwanted items. Some of this has been clothing, such as things that don't fit, will never fit again, or I wasn't wearing because I really didn't like it or who knows why. Some of it was books. Actually, a lot of it was books. Most were my husbands, but we have about 130 ready in boxes, waiting to be donated. I tidied up my jewelry, getting rid of pieces that I stopped wearing a long time ago. The basic principal of the method is: keep what sparks joy. Unless the object doesn't "spark joy", but is functional to you, then you find joy in its purpose. You may not love your blender, but you can't afford a new one and it's damn helpful in the mornings.

I've mostly finished with my belongings at the new apartment. It was difficult to go by category, according to the method, because so much of my life was in boxes and bags. I ended up addressing things as I came across them and as I found homes for everything. We're still figuring out storage options and could really use some shelving. I decided to move on to a completely different category of "things I left at my parents house when I moved out several years ago". That was for my first apartment with Hulky.

A couple of weeks ago, I dragged some boxes out of the attic eaves and discovered schoolwork from middle school through college. Straight to the trash! I found a lot of knick-knacks that I had cherished during those times, but didn't hold much memory for me now. Only sentiment, and to be honest, I'm finding that somewhat detrimental for my well-being. I can't keep living my life dragging around memories that I don't need. So I threw a lot out and recycled what I could. Most of it was easy to part with.

This week's task was peeking into my old bedroom's closet, now my brother's closet. On the top shelf, I'd left several shoeboxes full of journals, shown above, and notes from high school friends. I also found two tutus, a pair of tap shoes, and the 35mm analog camera I used in my college photography courses. The camera stayed, but everything else went out. Yes, even the tap shoes. I am making a lot of swift decisions in this process, like weighing the effort of trying to sell something over the ease of simply throwing it in the trash barrel.

The journals were not so easy for me. I was tempted to read them, but I made a promise to myself a long time ago that I would never re-read my journals. I peeked at the dates on the first page of a few of them. I know that the black ones with the spiral spines were from middle school. I know that there are many memories recorded in those books, things that I have mostly forgotten, and I know that it's time to leave them behind.

Picking them up to throw them away, I nearly cried. I'm not sure if I can really articulate why this was such a difficult and necessary task for me. I have let my past and my depression hold me back for a very long time and most of those journals were a symbol of that. Many of those journals hold the record of my darkest times. I need them to be gone so I can know it's okay to move on. Depression may still be a struggle for me, but I am not the same person I was ten years ago, or eight years ago, or six years ago.

Here's to the future.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The mental benefits of CrossFit?

I've been doing CrossFit for over two and a half months now and I still love it.

Just a little bit longer until I will allow myself to buy some more workout clothes :). It was recommended to me that I stick with it for at least three months before investing in gear.

Well, I already bought new shoes, but that was necessary. My previous pair was pretty disgusting, despite washing, and got pretty foul at the end of each class. I couldn't get by washing my shoes several times a week.
My new kicks!
My attendance schedule has shifted a bit. Initially, I went twice during the week (often Monday and Wednesday) and then again Friday or Saturday. On Saturday mornings, they have a team workout, in which you often partner up with someone else. I have learned the names of a few people that way. This month, there's a strength program on Mondays and Thursdays, working on back squat and deadlift. Since one of my first goals is to deadlift my pre-CrossFit body weight, I have been attending these classes. I am also going on Sundays to open gym, mostly to practice push-ups and pull-ups (kneeling and with bands, respectively).

I want to go more often, but I don't think I want to sacrifice my evenings just yet. I also don't get enough sleep. I always wake up from the cats moving around or scratching the litter box or playing with a plastic bag...

CrossFit has become an amazing way for me to tackle anxiety. It's not just feeling ecstatic at the end of a class, thanks to the endorphins. It's knowing that I worked hard and did everything, with whatever weights or reps I was capable of. It's knowing that there are improvements all the time, like using a 20 lb kettlebell to warm-up instead of 15. Or not needing to stop and breathe after 3 burpees. I introduce myself often. I can't remember other people's names that well, especially when I might only see them once every three weeks if our schedules don't match up. Sometimes, I have to share a barbell with someone else in the class. All of it helps me push the anxiety aside and just feel functional instead of floundering. It's very empowering.

I want to be strong. There are plenty of physical benefits coming along with my new CrossFit endeavor, but those seem so minor when compared to the mental benefits.

I feel like I can focus better.

I feel like I approach conflicts a little more calmly, thinking things out before I act/move.

I partnered up with someone brand new to CrossFit last night for the WOD (workout of the day). I hope she had a great time. I think my enthusiasm spilled over. She asked me if it was doable to go three times a week. I realized that with my response (that's what I've been doing since I started a bit over two months ago), I became one of the people I spoke to during my first couple of weeks. My ice breaker? "How long have you been doing CrossFit? How often do you come?"

I'm so excited to continue on this journey.

Pssst! You can sign up for a free Intro class on Saturdays!  You can also join me for Bring a Friend on Saturday mornings :).

Friday, December 05, 2014

No more numbers for health

Content warning: discussion of body weight, weight loss, fat loss, and use of scales.

In June of 2013, I decided to stop weighing myself. At that time, I was not particularly looking to lose weight. I think I wanted to drop a couple of pounds, maybe, to get closer to what seemed to me like a respectable number. Looking back, it was a pretty arbitrary number. It was higher than my average weight in college, but being a bit older and done growing at that point, I was able to accept that my body was probably ready to support some more body fat. I was still uncomfortable with the fact that it was "higher than ever before."

As someone who has always been relatively slim, seeking a particular weight goal is a bit stupid. If I wanted to trim a little fat, working out would probably be very effective for me. In fact, that's what happened when I started bicycling to work a few times a week. My thighs got bigger and stronger from muscle growth, but the rest of me slimmed down. I was pretty happy with those changes, but it took an entire six months of not weighing myself and not knowing how much I weighed to be able to embrace other concepts of measurable health and fitness. Throughout those six months, if I had to be weighed at the doctor's office, I would step on the scale backwards and ask that they not read the number aloud. A few nurses even commented that my project was one they might try themselves. I think it's a worthy experiment for a lot of people who find their moods tied to the scale results, but obviously if you do try and find it too distressing, it might be a good idea to reassess the project and change the goal (maybe weigh less or hey, keep weighing if that works for you). I personally just needed to detach my health from a number.

Measuring weight can be a very useful tracking tool for some people, but it is not definitive and it is not the only option. I think it is more useful to take those numbers for tracking change than it is to strive for a particular numeric goal. Doctors may disagree. They may tell you, specifically, to "lose X pounds". You are always free to tell them to shove it. While they are educated for years in many forms of health and medicine, they do not make your decisions for you and it is ultimately your choice what you decide is healthy for yourself.

If weight/fat loss is your goal, I wish you luck. I will not ask you about it, I will not comment on it, but I am happy to listen if you want to share your journey with me. If you are happy the way you are, then I am happy for you too. If you are unhappy, then I hope you can find a way to be happy, regardless of your resolution.

Over the past year, since I ended my no-scales experiment, I've weighed myself only a handful of times. My weight doesn't change much these days as far as I can tell and I don't really care to know what it is. I don't want to invite an obsession into my life because I know it's easy for my brain to latch onto something like that. I know my clothes are larger than they have been in the past and that's probably due to muscle, mostly. Since fitness is a goal of mine, I'm definitely happy about that change! These days, the only numbers I'm using to measure are weights on the barbell.