Stinkerpants’ Skincare Routine: For Sensitive, Acne-prone Skin

When you work from home, it doesn’t really matter what you look like. Nobody sees you unless you decide to work from a coffee shop (something I rarely did because I didn’t have a laptop) or you go to the grocery store. It’s easy to get into a rut.

When I got a job outside the home, I was thrilled to retire my ripped jeans and pathetic rotation of four nursing tank tops…and my mom was thrilled to help me do it. In addition to getting a new, work-appropriate wardrobe, we went to Sephora and completely overhauled my skincare and makeup routine. Since then, I’ve slowly added other products I love, and I thought it might be fun to share a few of them with you guys – in case you haven’t heard of them, or you know something better!

Morning facial care routine for sensitive skin

Morning Routine:

(1) Fresh Umbrian Clay treatment bar – I know this thing is pricey at $XXX but it lasts forever. I recommend getting your hands wet instead of the actual bar, then applying it like a mask at the beginning of your shower. When I’m ready to get out, I wash it off and rub it in around my nose, which is the part of my face that gets oily.

(2) First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream – I have dry skin around my chin, which is also the place that gets acne. This stuff really hydrates. I love it, and you don’t need a lot, so the big tub lasts forever.

(3) I used to use Boscia oil free hydration when I needed a sunscreen. It’s really lightweight, and I love it. Now my foundation has sunscreen so I only use this if I’m not wearing foundation. On a related note, I tried Boscia Self-Defense Vital Antioxidant Moisture SPF 30 hoping for a higher SPF…but broke out in a major way. If you want to try it, I’d recommend getting a sample from Sephora before buying it (though Sephora’s return policy is fantastic – I returned the full-price tube, no questions asked).

After using these two items, I start my makeup routine (more on that in a later post).

 

Evening night time skin care for sensitive skin

Night Routine:

I take a shower at night also, so I start with (2)  Fresh Soy Cleanser using my (1)  Clarisonic. I used their delicate skin brush for a long time, but recently started using their normal brush and liked the results from it. I love the Fresh Soy Cleanser because it’s really gentle (plus, it smells great). I’ve written an ode to my Clarisonic before, but I’ll say it again: that sucker was worth every penny. It’s made a huge difference in my skin.

(3) Coconut oil – When I first started using coconut oil on my skin, I hadn’t heard of anyone using this. A friend told me about it, and I thought he was crazy – I was sure oil would cause my skin to break out. Remarkably, it did the exact opposite.  No single product has changed the texture of my skin the way coconut oil has. I’ve always had clogged pores around my jawline, and they have almost totally disappeared with the use of coconut oil. My happy place is about three times a week using coconut oil as a moisturizer. I take a small, dime-size or smaller amount, rub it into clean skin, and leave it.

On nights that I don’t use coconut oil, I start with (4) Ren Night Repair  serum. Like coconut oil, I was doubtful at first about the texture of a serum – I thought it would clog my pores. This is very moisturizing, and as it turns out my problem with acne was likely that my skin was too dry, not that it was too oily.

I follow up the Ren with (5) Boscia Oil Free Nightly Hydration, which is a great, light moisturizer.

Note: I do not use an eye cream and probably should, considering I am now officially past 3o. Sigh…

facial masks for sensitive skin

Masks:

I use each of the following masks once per week.

(1) Fresh Rose Face Mask - This is a hydrating mask, which smells amazing. It has actual rose petals in it, which eventually dissolve. When I first tried this, my skin stung a little, so I returned it. Later, I read somewhere that it’s normal, so I tried it again and now I love it. My skin feels a lot softer after use.

(2) Fresh Umbrian Clay Mattifying Mask – I use this on my nose and jawline, which tend to get blackheads and clogged pores. I’ve noticed it helps reduce them.

(3) Boscia Bright White Mask – This mask is hydrating and evens skin tone. It’s a peel-off, which is always fun. I use either the Bright White Mask or the Boscia Luminizing Black Mask – Note – you will look like the Creature from the Black Lagoon when you have this on. It is seriously BLACK. It also helps brighten skin tone and moisturize.

periodic_use

Things I use periodically:

(1) Boscia Tsubaki Beauty oil - super moisturizing. You definitely don’t need a lot. I got this as a sample and will likely buy more.

(2) Josie Maran 100% Pure Argan Oil Light – I use this when my skin is dry and angry. It’s fantastic!

(3) Glam Glow SuperMud – This is a mask I am on the fence about. I use it on my nose and jawline periodically to help reduce acne. It’s very expensive for the size and I’m not 100% sold on it yet. Anyone have experience with it or something similar?

Do you use and love (or hate) any of these products? Got any you’d recommend? I love to try new things. :)

(Note, I’m not getting any money from Sephora from this post – I just love them!).

Posted in Self Care | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Teaching Bravery

C has a long history of being completely terrified of miscellaneous things. Some of them, I totally get. Others – like bark chips, for example – seemed to come out of nowhere. Right now, it’s birds, spiders, and crocodiles.

About two months ago, we were getting ready for bed when C saw a spider on the bathroom floor. I was washing my face when I heard screaming. I looked up to see C, half-nekkid, plastered against the wall and screaming hysterically.

I will admit, spiders aren’t my favorite things either. I really don’t like their legs. And seeing a particularly big one – quite frankly, even thinking about a big one – makes my skin crawl. But I picked that spider up and threw it in the toilet without thinking twice about it. Granted, it was a really small spider, but still: I picked it up with my bare hands. I deserve a medal.

C stopped screaming went back to taking off her pants.

Up until about a month ago, I’m pretty sure C thought I wasn’t scared of anything. She sometimes says things to me like, “remember when you took that vacuum and you SUCKED that spider RIGHT UP?” Why yes I do, kiddo. And I was scared shitless and I did it anyway.

But C didn’t know I was scared, because I didn’t tell her. In fact, I pretended not to be scared, thinking my fear would make hers worse.

Lately, though, I’ve been thinking: I don’t think we are doing our kids any service by pretending not to be scared. Bravery isn’t about the absence of fear. It’s about acknowledging fear, but not giving into it. C is scared of things I wouldn’t expect her to handle, like spiders. But she’s also scared to stand up for herself when a kid takes her lovey. Sometimes, I catch her as she avoids sitting next to another child, already anticipating having her lovey taken.

In the past few weeks, I’ve used incidents like the spider to talk about fear and bravery. I say things like, “YOWZA that was scary! I am so glad that’s over! Were you scared of that spider? I was too!” I also ask her to help me in the process of taking the spider outside*, announcing “We are so brave for doing something scary!” when we’re done.

I’m not asking for an overnight acceptance of spiders (after all, I’ve got almost three decades on her and I still  hate them!), but I’m hoping to use everyday bravery to help her gain confidence, slowly but surely. Up until now, she’s been asked to be brave in instances where she really shouldn’t have to be – like the time she encountered a very pushy goat and couldn’t sleep for weeks – and I’m hoping she’ll learn that you can be cautious and brave.

How do you handle your child’s fears?

 

*For the record, I save almost every spider. I didn’t save the spider in this story because I didn’t have any clothes on, and the situation – as you can tell – was a dire emergency.

Posted in Toddlerhood | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

What it Takes to Get Over a Divorce

About three months after my separation, I read a book about divorce. The book said that it would take at least a year of misery before I started to feel better. It also said that denial is the first stage, and that I’d feel like things were improving, only to be hit with the brunt of the “devastation” a few months later.

That book pissed me off.

I didn’t appreciate some jerk telling me I was going to suffer through another nine months of this garbage, after I’d already been through three months of hell. I especially hated being told that I was in denial and things would be getting worse. Screw that guy.

Well, that guy was right.

Actually, he was only mostly right. He said that I’d be grieving for my marriage, and grieving for the loss of my partner. But I truly believe that I did the majority of my grieving for the marriage while I was still in it. I did have to grieve for the Life That Should Have Been, and I also had to accept the Life That Is. I think accepting the Life That Is was harder than letting go of the Life That Should Have Been.

The misery over the next year and a half was related to the personal work I had to do, more than my marriage. I knew I had work to do. I couldn’t simply look at the marriage and say, “well, that was his fault.” I am not perfect. At the very least, I put myself in that position, and I didn’t know why.

I’ve never looked at “personal work” as a hard or negative thing. I actually quite enjoy it (and for a long time I think I subconsciously chased difficult experiences, so that I’d be forced to grow). Nothing, though, could have prepared me for the amount of work I have had to do post-divorce. It’s been exhausting, depressing, amazing, anxiety-provoking, and liberating all at once. There were a lot of things I needed to work on. Self-worth was one of them, along with being okay without a relationship. Creating boundaries was another. But giving up my insane grip on control has been the Big Kahuna.

I viewed my life as a checklist. I was not brave enough to ask myself, “What do I want?” Instead, I went through the motions of what we’ve all been told will make us happy. On some deep level, I thought, “if I can just check off all these items, everything will turn out okay.” I spent my life worrying about things I had no control over, trying to fix things that couldn’t be fixed, and fruitlessly attempting to protect myself from being hurt.

Needless to say, it didn’t work.

When I faced my life, I had to admit: my attempt at keeping the “safe life” I thought I’d created intact failed. I worked at it for nearly a decade, and I couldn’t fix it. If a “safe” life can fail, where does that leave me? Is anything safe? Turns out, my life actually wasn’t so safe.

Some people think divorce is the easy way out. The reality is, divorce is harder than marriage – and I say that from the perspective of someone who did the work required by marriage. In divorce, you have to be brave enough to face the unknown, and you have to rebuild your life from the ground up. It is not for the faint at heart.

Now, in most cases I think this kind of realization would lead to a breakdown. I didn’t feel that I had that choice, though: I had to stay strong for my daughter. So instead of breaking down, I just kept going.

If you’ll bear with me, I’m going to guide you through my Divorce Analogy. (I figured this out after a lot of therapy, haha.)

All blame is a waste of time. No matter how much fault you find with another, and regardless of how much you blame him, it will not change you. - Wayne Dyer

I think about life as a journey with neverending doors that might have something scary on the other side. For years, I was willing to limit myself to a tiny room. When I had my daughter, I took a good, hard look at that room and realized just how tiny it was. I wanted my daughter to see the world, so I opened the door and left my marriage.

On the other side, I found what appeared to be a creepy, haunted forest. Okay, I thought, I can handle this. I walked out the door and into the forest. I figured out a lot of the details of my life – I found some tools, I learned that I have an amazing support system, and I realized I was strong enough to carry the 80 pound backpack I had strapped to my back. I kept walking, and before long I found myself trudging through a giant pond of muck. I had no idea how long it was going to take to get out of that muck, but I just kept walking. I wasn’t depressed, but I was exhausted. I kept thinking it would end soon, and I thought once the legal process was over, I’d be out of the muck.

But I hadn’t actually taken the time to truly examine my life. It all seemed too dramatic. When I told people what was going on, I sped through the story, left the truly horrifying parts out, and quickly changed the subject. I simply couldn’t “sit” in my muck. Sitting with it was unbearable, and I was terrified by what would happen to me if I did. What if I sat in my muck and realized I’d never get out of it? Or that once I got out of the muck, I had a long, rocky road ahead, followed by Everest?

The true turning point was when I finally gave up, looked down and actually examined my muck. I allowed myself to be vulnerable, even though I was terrified. I’m not going to lie – it sucked. I took a solid look at my life and admitted: this is hard. This sucks. I am in this alone and I have absolutely no help. I felt like crap for about two weeks.

But it was a turning point. When you accept things as they are, and you admit that things are hard, you have compassion for yourself. And that compassion is the first step toward believing that you deserve more.

After my two weeks of feeling like crap, I realized I was out of the muck. I actually did have a long rocky road, followed by Everest. It was hard as hell, but from the summit I could see how beautiful my future was. I descended Everest and had another long road ahead. I knew I was getting to close to the end, but that heavy backpack was really starting to wear on me. I recently set it down, examined its contents, and realized this: I forgive him. I forgive myself. And I am thankful for this experience.

And you know what? That was it. It’s over. My divorce is finally over.

My end game is and always has been to create a better life for C. I left my marriage to give her a better role model. But the wonderful part of this process is that I am also a better person for myself. I am really proud of myself! I am truly a strong woman now, not a scared kid pretending to be strong. I am not angry anymore. I don’t sweat the small stuff. I have boundaries and I don’t feel guilty about them. I am happy.

At the end of this journey, I am ready to open another door…and I am thrilled to find out what’s on the other side!

Posted in Divorce | Tagged , , , , , , , | 22 Comments

Homemade Hemp and Coconut Milk: a Dairy-free, Soy-free Cow’s Milk Alternative

Make hemp/coconut milk in your home blender. Dairy-free, soy-free, carrageenan-free milk.

As a single mom, most of my choices make my life easier. Reading this, you may think I’m an insane hippy mother who makes her own milk at home, but trust me: I am normal and I swear I’m doing this because it saves me time and money. If you’d like to know why I make my own cow’s milk alternative, scroll down to read the backstory and nutrition information.

C has major intolerances to dairy and wheat, and a sensitivity to eggs and soy. As some of my long-term friends and followers may recall, I discovered this when she was about three weeks old; it was part of the reason she had colic. Instead of soy milk, almond milk, or any packaged “alternative milk,” I make her a mixture of hemp and coconut milk at home, using my Vitamix. Here’s how:

Supplies:

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups filtered water
  • 1/2 cup hemp shelled hemp seeds (in the bulk section at Whole Foods)
  • 1 cup shredded coconut (I buy a 22-pound bag on Amazon for the best price – I know, that’s a lot of coconut)
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup (Subscribe & Save on Amazon)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (I buy a huge bottle at Costco)

Directions (photos below):

  1. Put all ingredients in blender.
  2. Blend.
  3. Pour the mixture into the nut milk bag, while holding it over the Pyrex. I now do this in the sink, which is cleaner, because there can be a little bit of spray when you squeeze the bag.
  4. Squeeze the liquid out of the bag. The liquid will strain into the Pyrex, and the pulp will stay in the bag. You can compost or throw away the pulp.
  5. Pour the milk into the bottle.
  6. Enjoy! It’s better when it’s cold (which is why I start with cold water from the refrigerator), and it will separate after awhile, so shake before use. :)

Here are some photos of the process:

Steps 1 & 2: Put all ingredients in the blender, and blend:

makingmilk1

 

Steps 3 & 4: Pour the mixture into the nut milk bag and strain into the Pyrex:

makingmilk2

Steps 5 & 6: Pour into milk bottle and enjoy!

makingmilk3

 

Now, for the backstory and nutrition information. I basically listen to everything my friend K says. When she tells me she’s made a decision, I know she’s researched the heck out of it. And that, my friends, is my little disclaimer about this post. I didn’t do the research, K did. But I trust her.

C has intolerances to dairy, wheat, egg, and a sensitivity to soy. As some of my long-term friends and followers may recall, I discovered this when she was about three weeks old; it was part of the reason she had colic. K’s daughter also had a milk allergy, and her story is part of why I recognized what was happening with C.

Fast-forward a year: Everyone in my mother’s group was adding whole cow’s milk to their baby’s diet, and I needed an alternative. I asked K what she decided to do, and here’s her answer:

I give my kids a combination of hemp milk mixed with coconut milk. Here’s why: Hemp milk is equal or superior to cow’s milk in every.single.vitamin and nutrient with the EXCEPTION of protein (more on this later.) There is also no cholesterol in hemp or coconut milk, and there is also much less sugar in both of these than in cow’s milk (cow’s milk has 13g of sugar in just one cup of milk.

The unsweetened hemp milk from Tempt, which is what I get, has 0g. I get “original” coconut instead of unsweetened coconut, because I find that one to be bitter. The original coconut milk only has 6g per cup… so less than half that of cow’s milk.)

I thought maybe almond milk would have more protein, but no such luck. Cow’s milk has something like 8g of protein per cup, while hemp has 2g and coconut has 1g per cup. Almond milk also only had 1g. Go figure. Most adults get more protein than they need, but a lot of kids don’t like meat, so they don’t get as much or enough. Kids between the ages of 1-3 need 0.55g of protein per lb of body weight, so my kids need 13-15 (roughly) grams of protein per day. One large egg, 1/2 cup of beans, 2 Tbsp of nut butter, and 1 oz of cheese (which C can’t do) each have 6-8g of protein. Breads, some cereals, and some vegetables also have protein in them.

The sole purpose of the coconut milk is to give them the same amount of saturated fat that is in whole milk, which is important for their growth.

For about a year, I did the exact same thing, using the same brands. Then I came across an article about carrageenan, which is a thickener used in a lot of “health foods.” The article warned against the risks of carrageenan, citing studies indicating it may cause cancer. I checked our milk cartons, and sure enough, it was in both of them. Add that to the cost of the milk, and I wanted to find an alternative. I may be an alarmist, but I don’t care – better safe than sorry.

I now make C’s milk at home, and it seriously could not be easier. It takes less time than going to the store to pick up the packaged brands, costs less, and is healthier. I use a Vitamix (seriously, worth every penny – I sold a piece of furniture to pay for mine, but I would have ferreted away money for it if I’d known how amazing it is), but another blender would probably work fine too.

As you can see, I add two sweeteners to the milk. I tried it with just maple syrup, and C hated it. I am slowly decreasing the amount of both over time, hoping to have as little added sugar as possible.

Posted in Cooking, Green Baby | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Parenting Newborns, Parenting Toddlers

When C was a baby, I had a ton of new mom friends, both online and in “real life.” I belonged to three newborn support groups. We leaned on each other for everything, asking all sorts of questions of each other. No topic was off-limits.

When you have a newborn, there’s no shortage of parenting advice. And I, along with every other mom I knew, sucked it up like a sponge. None of us had a clue what we were doing, and we took advice from anyone who seemed halfway sane. We were desperate for sleep and terrified that we would somehow screw up parenthood. It was all very new and terrifying.

At some point, though, that all changed. Maybe we realized our kids weren’t as fragile as we thought. Maybe we started to realize that, aside from figuring out how to keep our children alive, parenting is different for everyone. Whatever the reason, we stopped leaning on each other for parenting advice.

Parenting advice for newborns is different, too. It’s easy to package up in small chunks: Weird looking poop. The four-month “wakeful period.” Starting solids. There is, amazingly, a “quick fix” for many baby-related problems.

Toddlerhood, though, is a different animal. Discipline is a huge part of life now. And discipline – which is not at all fun to talk about – requires a lot of work and a full-time commitment. Plus, no one wants to hear that they aren’t doing it right. I’d venture to say that a lot of parents know they aren’t doing it right, but they don’t think they have the energy to do what’s required to fix their problems.

And because there’s no such thing as “let her cry it out for three days and she’ll stop climbing on tables at restaurants,” we don’t ask for advice. We don’t want to hear what we know is true: Sometimes you have to leave the restaurant. Sometimes people stare at you in Target when your child has a temper tantrum because he can’t have what he wants. And you have to do it every single time, until they learn what behavior is acceptable and what behavior isn’t. In my experience, there are no exceptions. It is, especially in the beginning, exhausting (especially when you’re doing it alone). But it’s also 100% worth it.

I use a method called Positive Discipline, which I love. C attended a Montessori school when we first moved to Marin, and the teacher is an instructor in this method. Essentially, you treat your child as an actual person who deserves respect. And you understand that developmentally, your child can’t be expected to behave as an adult would.

I am very kind to C, but I’m also firm. As a result, she says please and thank you. She cleans up her toys before she takes out another one. Obviously we have our challenges, but generally speaking, she is a very easy little girl.

At this point, it’s hard for me to tell whether I lucked out with her personality, or if I’ve been using the same method since she was 18 months and it simply works. My guess is that it’s a bit of both, because I’ve seen her behavior with other people, and it’s very different.

Parents of toddlers – what do you think? Is toddlerhood harder or easier than babyhood? Do you talk about discipline with your kids? Would you take advice (or ask for it, or give it)?

Posted in Parenthood & Life, Toddlerhood | 3 Comments

The Spiritual Awakening of a Nonbeliever

I am not a religious person. For the vast majority of my life, actually, I’ve not even considered myself spiritual – I always referred to myself as an atheist-leaning agnostic. But a few months ago, I had somewhat of a spiritual awakening.

I’m 30 now, and I know a few of my friends feel like there’s something missing in their spiritual life. That’s why I want to share what’s changed for me.

As I mentioned earlier, C has had a rough go of it, and she has a lot of fears. These fears often mean that she is terrified to go to sleep. During the worst times, I have to lay with her so that she can fall asleep – and she often sleeps so lightly that if I even move my arm, she grabs onto me, thinking I am leaving her alone.

After a particularly rough bedtime at the beginning of this year, I laid in her bed at 7:45pm with my 25-pound child literally on top of me, clinging to my neck. I was close to tears: It had been nearly a year, and things simply were not getting any easier.

As I lay there, I started to wish I believed in God. People who have faith have lightness about them; how freeing it must be to trust that everything will work out for the best, because it’s not in your hands. Just listen to God, and He will guide you.

The problem is, I just can’t believe in God. It’s not in me. And as I lay there, I felt a profound grief for not having faith. I really wanted to give up control. I needed to believe that everything would be okay. Saying to myself “she won’t be sleeping on top of me when she’s 25,” really didn’t help.

As I continued to think about it, though, I realized that I actually did believe that everything would be okay in the end, because I had my intuition – and it’s always right. I often ignore(d) it, but it’s still right. In that moment, I realized that, as long as I listen to my intuition, things would be okay. Life might be absolute shit at times, but I truly do believe that things will eventually be okay.

And you know what? There is value in the hard times. Every struggle is a gift that makes me stronger and teaches me more about myself. Sometimes I learn right away, and sometimes I need the same lesson over and over until I “get” it. Religious people say that you can’t pray for patience and just have it when you wake up the next morning. Instead, God gives you a problem that teaches you patience. If you don’t learn it the first time, you get more and more problems. I believe that too, minus the God part.

Since this realization, I’ve been trying to listen to my intuition – but it’s a lesson I need over and over again. In fact, looking back on my life, I’ve been getting this lesson for years. Like Oprah says, it’s starts out as a whisper, and if you ignore it, the Universe starts screaming at you.

Difficulties come when you don't pay attention to life's whisper

Here’s my problem: I love control. Control has kept me afloat my entire life. It’s the only thing that’s helped me manage the hard times, and it’s helped me accomplish a lot. Unfortunately, Control is the enemy of Intuition. Control talks mad crap about Intuition. For example, take first impressions: Intuition doesn’t like that guy I met on the bus. Control, though, insists on being nice: What do you know about that guy, Intuition? You don’t know him at all, and you shouldn’t be rude. Don’t date him, but there’s no reason not to be friends with him. And when the guy turns out to be a total freak, Intuition wags her finger and says, “I told you so.” Yup, should have listened to Intuition. Another lesson.

I now practice meditation as a means of hearing the whisper of my Intuition. I suck at making sure I actually do it, but I’m getting better – anytime I feel off center, I sit down. Yoga is also helpful. (On a side note, I use an iPhone app called Samsara for meditation, and My Yoga Online for yoga, because my schedule doesn’t allow for classes. I highly recommend checking out Dina Amsterdam’s videos if you join My Yoga Online.)

Overall, this has brought a sense of peace to my life that I really needed, especially because the past year and a half has shaken me to my core. And the best part of it? Everything I need is inside me, which makes me feel stronger and more capable. And that’s a great lesson to teach C when she’s older.

I’ve talked to a few women who are going through a spiritual awakening right now – my divorce attorney said it’s the Saturn Return. I have no idea what it is, but I’d love to hear your experience if you’re dealing with anything similar!

Posted in Miscellaneous Ramblings | 13 Comments

Leaving the Cult of The Busy

For most of my life, I have been a very busy person.

Even when I took a year “off” from my doctoral degree at 22, I was constantly on the move. At the time, a friend of mine commented, “You are the busiest unemployed person I’ve ever met.”

In this country (and really, around the world), busyness is almost like a cult. Everyone worships The Busy as if it’s somehow going to save us. We keep adding hobbies, activities, jobs, and commitments to our To Do lists, and we’re constantly rushing around trying to juggle it all. We are work-a-holics at work and in our personal lives, and we’re very proud of it.

When I was running my business, I spent a ton of time working. And like most people I know, I walked around proclaiming how busy I was; I wore “busyness” like a badge of honor.

But busyness is not a badge of honor. In my case – and in most cases, I’d venture to say – it was a sign that I was profoundly off center.

I was distracting myself with busyness because I was in denial. Had I slowed down and had the courage to look inside and listen to myself, I might have realized earlier that I was on the wrong path. But I wasn’t ready to do that yet; I think I knew that if I truly stopped and listened, I would have to change my entire life. And I simply wasn’t ready yet.

These days, though, I am not busy.

I realized quite a while ago that if I wanted a life of meaning (which I do), I needed to stop being so dang busy. And no one was going to stop the busyness but me. Essentially, I needed to SIT DOWN and SHUT MY MIND UP. I needed to do nothing.

Sitting Quietly, doing nothing, spring comes, and the grass grows on its own.

There are two types of “doing nothing.”  First, there’s putting an end to the physical overscheduling: Rushing from one thing to another, adding and completing nonessential items on a never-ending To Do list…that sort of thing. Then, there’s the mental overstimulation that keeps you from living in the present moment. Multitasking, analyzing problems, scrolling through social media…these things make for a busy mind.

I don’t feel centered all the time, but I’m light years ahead of where I was a year ago. For me, being centered is about listening to myself, and knowing deep inside that I’m on the right path. It also means that, as much as possible, I try to take that tight feeling in my chest as a sign that I need to sit down and do nothing. And I accept that doing nothing for a while is both okay and totally necessary.

A big life lesson for me was this: Anxiety is not the universe telling you to do more. It’s telling you to STOP.

anxiety is not the universe telling you to do more, it's telling you to STOP.

I used to be terrified of my inner voice, so I refused to stop and listen to it. Changing my whole world was a Big Deal and parts of it really sucked, so I suppose I did have a reason to be afraid. But you know what? My life is so much better now. I am a genuinely happy person.

It was 100% worth it.

Thankfully, I am no longer afraid of my inner voice – though I admit I am still learning to hear and trust it. Sometimes it’s hard to tell what it’s saying, and at times I still get Intuition confused with my old frenemy, Anxiety.

Then there are the times that I flat-out don’t like what it has to say, because listening to it would mean leaving my Comfort Zone yet again. And holy crap, living outside the Comfort Zone can be exhausting. After awhile, though, I remember that it’s worth pushing through the fear of leaving the Comfort Zone.

Last week, I found myself uselessly busy. My house was really clean, the dishes were always done (that never happens)…I’d even organized and returned our library books before the due dates. I felt a small amount of satisfaction when I looked at my spotless shower, but emotionally I felt out-of-whack.

So I stopped and tried to figure out why I felt messy inside. And I figured it out – but knowing why didn’t help, so I found myself obsessing about how to fix it. Which clearly wasn’t helping. So I stopped doing that, too: I sat down and did nothing. And then, interestingly enough, I felt much better. What a nice reminder.

When you’re too busy, you’re exhausted. You’re spinning around in circles, without any real direction. Being un-busy doesn’t mean I’m lazy. It means that I am purposefully taking time for myself, so that I can have the energy to propel myself in the right direction…and not waste time on the wrong path. It’s a big lesson I learned…and one that I will happily wear as a badge of honor.

What about you? Do you belong to the Cult of the Busy? Do you take quiet time for yourself by practicing yoga, meditation, or something else? I’d love to hear!

Posted in Healthy Living, Self Care | 7 Comments

Sense and Sensitivity: Why there’s no such thing as “too sensitive”

I am not "too sensitive" and neither are you: why sensitivity is an asset, not a handicap

When I graduated from college, I had a bumper sticker on my car that read, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” At the time, I struggled with being “too sensitive” and taking things “too personally.” Part of the reason I had that bumper sticker was to remind myself that, when I was feeling “inferior,” it wasn’t about the other person’s words. It was that I was too sensitive. Looking back, I’m pretty horrified by this: holy let’s-blame-the-victim, amiright?

At the time, my ultimate goal was to develop such a thick skin that I would never feel inferior, no matter what someone else said to me. I viewed sensitivity as a negative trait, and the bumper sticker reminded me to suck it up and get over it.

That attitude caused me to excuse a lot of very inexcusable behavior from others.

Sensitivity is often used as a weapon in the Blame Game. In my experience, I’ve been told I’m “too sensitive” by people who want to excuse their own bad behavior – and that’s not fair. But it goes both ways: some sensitive people expect others to tiptoe around their feelings, and that’s not fair either. Untangling the role that sensitivity plays in your relationships can be really difficult.

I obviously felt a lot of shame around my perceived “over sensitivity,” which is why I let people treat me like garbage. It’s taken a long time, but I now embrace sensitivity as a strength rather than a handicap.

In fact, if you use it correctly, sensitivity can be your greatest asset. Look at it this way: Having emotional intelligence can help you a lot in life, and it’s much easier to understand your own emotions (and those of others) when you’re sensitive.

Sensitivity also is a feedback system. It can tell you a great deal about yourself and your experience of life, and about the people around you. In my mind, sensitivity is a great blessing.

And that’s what I didn’t understand at 22. Sensitivity isn’t something to change – it’s a skill to develop. It’s not easy, though: Learning to honor and “handle” sensitivity is, at least for me, a battle. Turning “too sensitive” into a source of strength and pride requires a lot of personal work. But if we work hard enough, we sensitive folk can thrive in our relationships, because we can communicate on a very deep level. And if we take the added step of sharing our feelings…well, that’s real strength. Vulnerability is the ultimate Big Scary Thing.

Developing a thicker skin is a necessary life skill too, but I actually think it can be a byproduct of honoring sensitivity. I don’t feel shame over my sensitivity anymore, which has allowed me to respect my own feelings and opinion. I can now (usually) tell the difference between my own “stuff” and somebody else’s “stuff,” which means I don’t blame myself for other people’s issues as much.

It took me years to develop a thick skin, and when I look at my daughter, there’s no doubt she’s mine. She is exactly as I was as a child. It’s not a matter of being thin skinned – it’s a matter of having no skin at all. Other people’s emotions deeply affect her, whether their feelings are directed at her or not. As I child, I remember being wracked with guilt at the very thought of someone else’s hurt feelings. I constantly apologized for things that were not my fault.

One of my main worries as a parent is learning how to help C develop boundaries and a “thick skin,” but also simultaneously recognize that her sensitivity is a gift. Empathy is a beautiful, beautiful thing. It is what makes this world tolerable. People without empathy hurt others; people with empathy help the wounded.

Like me as a child, C is very perceptive, and is affected by what she knows other people want her to feel or do. Quite frankly, I think it’s pretty remarkable to see behavior like that in such a young child (there’s more of that innate temperament I was talking about, right?). As she grows up, it will be a challenge for her – as it was for me – to find her own honest and true voice, and to speak up despite other people’s opinions. I want her to feel safe and comfortable to be her own, genuine and beautiful self: no fake laughs or holding in her tears.

What about you? Have you been called “too sensitive”? Do you see it as a positive or negative thing?

Posted in Miscellaneous Ramblings | 4 Comments