It has been a very long time since I’ve been able to look at the day ahead and know that it is entirely empty. I can’t really remember the last time I was able to wake up whenever I wanted and know that I didn’t have anything pressing to take care of. Each day is my own to do with as I please… for better or worse.

I’m doing my best to enjoy this time and relax a bit. I’ve been playing a lot of Frostpunk (which is genuinely one of the most entertaining, brutal strategy games I’ve ever played) and digging back in to my Baldur’s Gate playthrough. I went out with a friend this past weekend and enjoyed the sunshine. Once I’ve gotten my fill of gaming, I’m going to start going after my TBR pile and fall into all the stories I’ve been missing for so long. I might even do some of my reading (gasp!) outside! I’m also hoping for some time to reconnect with my partner and give back all the attention and affection he’s given me all these years.

I have a whole host of things I want to take care of. A house deep-cleaning needs to happen soon, along with some decluttering. Blog posts need to be planned and written and graphics need to be made. There are stories I’ve been meaning to write that I have had to bury for years that can finally see daylight now. But the break from the pressure to be as productive as possible is incredibly pleasant.

There is a small part of me that is going absolutely insane without extrinsic motivators. Who am I without a seminar to prepare for or a work project to complete? What is my value if I am not actively contributing to society in some way? My answers to these range from the positive and positively anticapitalist (“I am not my productivity.”) to the terribly dreary (“I am nothing.”).  But rather than allowing myself to turn into a puddle of anxiety and existential dread, I’m forging ahead and reminding myself that I am whoever I choose to be. If I want to cozy up to my desk and play games all day with the aim of relaxing as much as possible, I can. If I make it my goal to whirlwind through the house and dust and scrub and spritz until everything is as clean as I want it, then I have achieved everything I set out to.

I am not entirely sure that I am suited to being unmoored like this. But I figure it’s a new challenge and will give me a new opportunity to grow. Let’s hope I can rise to the occasion.

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March Update

I finally feel like I’m out of the weeds and able to breathe more easily. Literally.

Back in September, I started complaining about just generally feeling gross. At first I thought it was just my generally terrible immune system, which likes to fall apart for about 6 months out of the year, leaving me with bronchitis that lasts for months and a constant feeling of malaise. From September through February, I had three or four low-grade fevers and could not stop coughing. Strangely, it didn’t seem like the bronchitis I usually get after a cold. It was mostly due to a constant tickle in my throat that never seemed to go away. It started getting hard to eat certain things because I felt like they’d just end up getting stuck in my throat the way popcorn kernels do.

I went to urgent care twice in about five weeks, and they were scratching their heads over what it might be. I took one strep culture, two rapid strep tests, one test for mono, and was prescribed antibiotics. Nothing helped. In between both those visits, I noticed my tonsils looking almost impossibly swollen, which explained the “something in my throat” feeling. I went to my usual doctor after about three months when it still wasn’t going away, hoping she might at least be able to confirm whether or not it was viral (which still felt weird, since I should’ve gotten over a virus much more quickly). She said my tonsils were really swollen and recommended I see an ENT, because she couldn’t confirm exactly what was wrong.

I finally got to the ENT, feeling exhausted by the whole thing and like a weenie for not being able to fight some basic infection. But I was a little heartened when he told me that my tonsils looked really, really swollen and he recommended I get them taken out, as the infection seemed unlikely to clear up since it just kept recurring month after month.

That led up to me getting my tonsils taken out last month, and I’m now starting week 4 of recovery. The first week after the surgery was pretty awful. It hurt less than I thought it would but also much more than I thought it would, if that makes sense. Drinking water hurt. Eating ice cream hurt. Accidentally eating something spicy was super painful, 0/10 do not recommend.

Luckily, everything is basically normal now except for the fact that sneezing hurts way more than you’d think it would. I can finally sleep properly because I’m not snoring anymore, and can eat like a regular human being again for the first time in almost half a year. You wouldn’t think I’d be super excited to have salad, but here we are!

I’ve been celebrating being tonsil-free for a couple weeks now, but my partner and I  culminated those celebrations this weekend with a few days full of frozen margaritas. (We… may or may not have finished an entire bottle of tequila this weekend.) I’m still trying to perfect my recipe, but I think my favorite of all the different combinations I put together was a strawberry-guava margarita that was absolutely stellar. I’ll have to take pictures next time I make them. There wasn’t much time to take photos this time around because they came out so delicious they honestly didn’t stay in the glass all that long.

After a weekend of enjoying margaritas and being cozy at home, I finally feel a little more ready to attempt to conquer the world again. Expect to hear a whole lot more from me in the coming weeks.

[Review] Turtles All the Way Down

Mental illness is part of my everyday life. On a good day, it’s quiet background noise, a voice whispering cruel things that my rational self is able to ignore and brush aside. On a bad day, my nerves are jangling, waiting for my anxiety to pounce again and force me into a series of repetitive thoughts that get harder to control as every new thought appears. On a bad day, my brain will settle on something to obsess over and pick, pick, pick at it until I am struggling to get through my day.

So when I heard that John Green, master of writing relatable teenagers with varying degrees of social and/or plain old anxiety, was writing a book with a main character with OCD… I was pretty excited. But I’ve strayed from reading YA in recent years, as I am getting to the point where they no longer feel like they’re for me. Reading about kids in high school feels like reading about an alien planet I once lived on but have no desire to go back to. So I filed the knowledge away to be taken advantage of at another time, figuring I’d maybe read it someday when I had time.

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Luckily, my partner knows me better than I often know myself and put Turtles All the Way Down on hold at our local library branch before the book was even released. (Frugal and romantic! He knows the way to my heart, y’all.) It took a few weeks before a copy was available, but as soon as it was, I started reading.

And… had to stop not too far in.

It wasn’t because the book was bad. Oh, no. It was because it was too good. Reading it spiked my anxiety like you wouldn’t believe. I don’t have OCD, but the main character Aza’s fears of germs and disgust of things like the process of eating and digestion, and her constant questioning of whether or not she was real felt extremely familiar.

I powered through it, though. There were so many portions of the story that pinged some core feeling inside me. Aza’s struggle with physical intimacy because of invasive thoughts about germs, her descriptions of “thought spirals” and questions about what controls our thoughts and whether our thoughts are us or not, and the way stressors in her life eventually get her to this point where she feels as if her control over her thoughts is even more limited than normal – so much of it felt like things I had experienced, and the writing is visceral enough that sometimes I had to stop and catch my breath for a minute and remind myself that I was okay.

However, while it felt amazing and made me felt seen to have these kinds of trials put to paper, the thing that really made Turtles feel important was its focus on healing. Note that I don’t say “recovery.” If you’re looking for a book where everything ends very neatly and the main character conquers their mental illness entirely and everything is hunky-dory, don’t expect Turtles to be that book. Aza is not perfect at the end of the novel by any stretch of the imagination. But she has taken the time to use the tools at her disposal to be the best she can be, and that was a deeply important message for me to read. This is a book about healing hurts and knowing that sometimes, even though you have healed, your pain can sometimes try to come back to haunt you, and that’s not the end of the world if you have the right tools to handle the pain when it arrives. It’s also about life going on, and how, despite mental illness often being an unwelcome guest that will likely never leave you, you can still go on to live your life and do all the things you dream of doing.

I felt like John Green summed up that sentiment really well at the end of his acknowledgments.

Lastly, Dr. Joellen Hosler and Dr. Sunil Patel have made my life immeasurably better by providing the kind of high-quality mental health care that unfortunately remains out of reach for too many. My family and I are grateful. If you need mental health services in the United States, please call the SAMHSA treatment referral helpline… It can be a long and difficult road, but mental illness is treatable. There is hope, even when your brain tells you there isn’t.

Despite some meandering plot lines and a kind of slowness that drags portions of the book down, I still think this is, if not one of the best, then one of the most important books I’ve read in a while.

What’s a Spice Witch?

As a kid, I was really obsessed with scents. I have a pretty strong nose and scent is really powerful for me. I picked up books from the library about making your own perfume and even dabbled in making some of my own from empty perfume bottles I’d find at the thrift store or these cute apothecary-style bottles I found at Michaels, some rubbing alcohol, and a variety of essential oils. I’d make my scents to suit the individual I was making it for.

My interest in making these homemade perfumes (which tended to dissipate much too quickly in the rubbing alcohol solution) dwindled over time. But I was still really attached to scent and the thought of being able to make beautiful perfumes. I just wasn’t entirely sure how to go about making those scents stick. I started focusing less on making gifts for others and more on creating a scent profile for myself. Jasmine was my favorite for a long time. All of my products would have that scent. I would wash my hair with jasmine-scented shampoo and conditioner, use jasmine-scented body washes and lotions, and put a few drops of jasmine essential oil on my pulse points and in my hair each morning.

Eventually, I realized that this regimen was a bit overwhelming and all the chemically-scented products were not exactly great for my eczema-prone skin. I relaxed a little and settled for reading Jitterbug Perfume rather than making my own for a while.

Then came college and being simultaneously broke as hell and also sensitive to every product known to man. I couldn’t find a deodorant that didn’t make me itch and burn like crazy and that also didn’t make it seem like I was neglecting my personal hygiene. I tried tons of different products and none of them worked. So, I returned to my crafty, kitchen-focused DIY roots and started digging through different recipes for homemade deodorant. I ended up using this one. It was great. I felt like I’d finally figured out a solution.

Then, a light bulb went off. I had all of this stuff to make this deodorant. Wouldn’t it make sense for me to make extra and try and sell it? After all, I was a broke college kid and every bit of extra cash would make a difference. I could sell deodorant, and maybe even solid perfume! I could get back to my perfume-obsessed roots! I could finally take the time to learn how to make bath bombs and candles and all kinds of fun, naturally-scented things!

It didn’t take long for me to start setting up an Etsy store. But I needed a name.

I needed a name that would describe me and my product. I needed something that was cute, simple, earthy, and memorable. I don’t remember what the first thing I thought of was, but it obviously didn’t check off the “memorable” category. After a few months selling my product, I felt like I needed a new name. My boyfriend and I were discussing the idea of there being different types of witches. I said I thought if I were to be a witch at all, I would be a kitchen witch, focused on bringing in good things into my home and life through food and cooking, working charms into soups and bread dough for good luck, happiness, health and the like. There would also be lots of gardening involved. He said that while that fit okay, there was something missing. After a few moments of thinking about it, he said, “You’re a spice witch.”

“A spice witch?” I was very skeptical.

He explained that a spice witch was someone who worked their magic by combining different scents into specific objects, like bath bombs and perfumes. Spice witches use scents to shape the world around them.

I loved this idea, and ended up changing my shop name to Spice Witch. I felt like it was fitting, and like the Spice Witch moniker could also encompass many of the parts of my identity that I would have categorized as falling under the “kitchen witch” umbrella.

My Etsy shop is closed indefinitely at this point and has been for a while, but I still consider myself a spice witch, and I feel like I probably always will.

2017 Wrap-Up and Looking Ahead to 2018

It has now been nine months since I started this blog. My inaugural post was about the beer trap I put together to try and fight off the snails in my community garden plot. Over the course of the next few months, I wrote more about gardening, body positivity, and minimalism. I’m proud of all of the writing I did over the course of 2017. I was more consistent than I expected that I would be and found a way to discuss a broad range of topics. Every time I was running out of ideas, my gajillion lists of possible blogging topics I had squirreled away and my partner helped me figure out something to say. 2017 was a good year for this blog.

I am hoping to improve some things on this blog in 2018. I want to post more regularly and increase the quality of each post. As far as specific ideas I’d like to cover, I would love to make more posts about:

  • cooking!
  • San Francisco hiking, history, and cool places to visit
  • running a small business/flipping
  • financial health posts

I have a lot more ideas, but those four topics are parts of my daily life that I haven’t really tapped into and would like to discuss a bit more.

On a personal, non-blog-related note, I’d like to take a moment to say I’m pretty proud of what I accomplished this year. I finished up my last semester of school, graduated summa cum laude, and was offered a full-time position at a company I really like working for pretty soon after that. I’ve learned a lot of new things at work and am getting better at what I do all the time. I’ve become a better editor and a stronger communicator.

Outside of work, I’ve worked on strengthening my relationship with my partner and also becoming more comfortable being independent. Without school in the picture for the moment, my life looks a lot different and I’m still working on figuring out exactly who I am and what I want to prioritize in my life. 2017 has been the year of having enough space in my life to figure all that out.

I am hoping 2018 will be a year of finding my groove and generating a lot of forward momentum. There’s lots to do and learn and I’m ready for it.

Selfies and Self Esteem

It feels like just as a bunch of things start working out in my life, one thing has to start falling apart to make up for it. Gotta have something to challenge me in life, I guess!

Lately, I’ve been in a complete funk when it comes to my self-image. On a logical level, I know I’m a perfectly competent, intelligent human being who does her best and is not so horrendously ugly as to repulse people. But on an emotional level, where logic has little to no bearing, I… do not know any of the things that Logical Me knows. Emotional Me has been feeling terribly inadequate lately, and it’s hard to know whether to coddle her and give her the crutches she wants until she’s healthy again or to tell her to suck it up and then deal with the lovely variety of ways that she lashes out at me.

To be honest, I don’t particularly want to do either. My throat has been sore for weeks now (a doctor’s visit is forthcoming, since I know it’s not strep, but at this point I’m guessing. Is it tonsilitis? Tonsil stones? Mono? Some random, annoying viral infection?) with varying degrees of pain, limiting both my ability and desire to do most things. It’s cold outside and gets dark early. Work has gotten busier and I have needed to bring it home more often. So a lot of the things Emotional Me requires for coddling are just… not in the cards right now. I dearly wish they were, but there’s just no room at the moment. And telling Emotional Me to suck it up only results in a deteriorated mental state that I absolutely can’t afford right now. So what’s a girl to do?

Well, this girl decided to take selfies. At least one every day.

A few years ago, I used to take lots of selfies. I would take ones that were just for me, to celebrate good hair days. (I am lucky in that I have many good hair days.) I would take ones to show my friends and family my makeup before I went to an interview. I would take selfies before dates to show my mom what outfit I’d chosen. I’d take selfies where I looked absolutely gorgeous (yay, awesome natural lighting in my apartment!) or absolutely hideous and send them to my boyfriend to brighten his day. I wasn’t taking them every day, but I was taking them when I felt good about myself. Which, happily, was often.

But at some point, I just kind of… stopped. I now go months without taking selfies. Which is not all that astonishing considering the fact that I don’t take many pictures to begin with and never have. But it’s quite strange to look at a history of my photos and see that at some point, I apparently got really uncomfortable taking photos of myself. This is extra hard to face now because I had to work really hard on my insecurities to get to the point where I didn’t balk at every photo of myself and ask for it to be deleted. This is not to say that I don’t still feel like I take bad photos. I am deeply unphotogenic, as numerous pictures of me at work functions and family events will attest to. But at a certain point, I decided it didn’t matter. Who cared if the photo didn’t look good? I wanted a record that I was there. I wanted my family and friends to have pictures of me if they wanted them. I wanted to feel comfortable taking a picture of my face, dammit.

And I got there!

And then fell off the wagon again into the pit of self-loathing that always seems to be waiting for me, even though I’m always so sure that I’ve left it miles behind me.

So I’m trying to get back on the wagon again. I’m doing it by promising to take a picture of myself every day. I even did it today, even though I spent my day working in bed because a raging sore throat seems to be my constant companion now. They’re not good photos. But they help me see myself again, and help me realize that it doesn’t matter whether I look good in them or not. They’re a gift to my future self, when at some inevitable point I wonder how I was doing when I was 22. What did I look like? What was I wearing? How was I feeling? Now, I’ll have photographic proof. Emotional Me is dissatisfied with this solution, as it does not assuage any of her fears that I am actually some kind of horrid troll being. Logical Me is rolling her eyes because it seems ridiculous. But I’m forcing myself to get comfy with looking at me again. Because that’s important. It matters.

It’s silly and self-indulgent, but if I’m being entirely honest, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being a bit self-indulgent sometimes. And if taking a selfie every day gets me even a little bit back toward equilibrium, it’s worth it.

October Declutter Challenge!

 

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At the end of last month, my mom (hi Mom!) and I were both talking about how much stuff we’ve been wanting to get rid of – cluttery things that we don’t use that are still just sitting in our houses, gathering dust and getting in the way. Both of us aspire to some degree of minimalism. (We’ve already talked about how I’m not good at minimalism, at least with regards to books.) And as we talked, she said, “We should do a declutter challenge!” Fresh off my successful September eat-in challenge, I was totally into the idea. She explained in further detail: we would get rid of things that were just sitting around and either donate them, sell them, or throw them away. On the 1st, we would get rid of one thing. On the 2nd, two things. On the third – you get the idea. This would lead up to eventually getting rid of 31 things on the 31st of October, and then looking at your house and feeling a little bit freer from your stuff.

One week in it’s been going well. Other than the things I’ve thrown away, the other stuff is still in the house because I’d rather take it all to get donated at once rather than make a bunch of trips throughout the month. But it feels so good to have started to go through things! I’ve been saying I would go through my books for months and now I’m actually doing it. I’ve also been taking care of those weird piles of clutter that just start to collect when you live in a place long enough. It’s been a really good experience so far.

I will admit that I have not been entirely perfect in completing my daily declutter numbers. There have been two days this week where I simply forgot about it. Happily, I’ve been able to catch up. So on the 4th when I forgot, on the 5th I knew I had to get rid of nine things total to make up for missing the day before. I’m a little worried about forgetting later in the month considering my current track record, but it’s comforting to know that if I really need to I can take my time.

It’s also been a really nice way for me to connect with my mom. We text each other most days and usually talk on the phone at least once a week, if not more, and we never run out of stuff to talk about, but it’s been nice to have this in common. It’s also really motivating getting her texts with overviews of what she’s gotten rid of, especially when it’s stuff I know she’s had forever and just hadn’t been able to let go of. And it’s been nice to know that my stuff is going to end up at the local Goodwill or making me a little pocket money on eBay rather than just sitting in my house doing nothing for me or anyone else.