Woah, this one’s intense. In all honesty, I’m not sure yet. I’m still figuring that out myself. What I do know is that I’m passionate about many issues from women’s rights (especially when it comes to bodily autonomy) to mental health services, children’s rights/care, environmental protection, creating better systems to eradicate the poverty crisis in this country and to help establish a long-overdue work-life balance so people can do what they love and spend time with the people they love, etc. If I can put a dent in at least one of these issues and raise awareness, I’ll feel like I’m making an impact on the world.
One of the small ways I try to do this now is by sharing my voice in my writing and artwork when it comes to taboo topics about women’s issues and mental health. I still have a long way to go if I want to be fully honest in my work, and I still have many stories to tell that I’m not comfortable sharing yet. I’m working on it. I know I needed a place to turn to when I was struggling myself. Being a safe space for people to see their own issues reflected back to them so they feel less alone is my way of changing the world right now. With time, I’d love to expand this and eventually host healing abstract art workshops where people of all artistic backgrounds and communities can be free to express and literally pour their hearts out. I just want people to feel like they have a place to be loved and held.
I also think we change the world in small ways with every gentle act of kindness. I try to remember that when I feel like I still have a long way to go. Every time I FaceTime my little brother and we talk through his struggles at school and I see that I’m helping him process something or I hold space for a friend’s vulnerability and creativity, I know I’m making an impact. It’s like Van Gogh said…
“Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.”
Instead of writing about what songs I’m listening to at the moment, I feel this prompt pushing me in a different direction. It’s almost 6 pm for me at the moment and I just got home from an ideal Friday afternoon spent mini-golfing and making memories with my boyfriend. I try not to gush often, but today’s simple bliss feels worth it. We had a wonderful time in each other’s company as we often do, listening to our favorite songs together on the way back home. A mix of old and new.
Rich and I are nearly two weeks into a social media and health cleanse that has completely changed our daily routine. Books have replaced YouTube, video games, and bingeing Netflix. No Instagram. No fast food. We’ve filled our calendar with hike dates and new hobbies like roller skating, bowling, etc. I even signed myself up for a dance class tomorrow morning, and I haven’t danced in a class setting in over five years! I’ve been writing every day and letting the silence bring up uncomfortable thoughts when normally I would’ve shut them out with the quickest distraction. At the thought of all of our improvements, we raised a glass at lunch to how far we’d come as individuals and as a unit. It was worth celebrating.
When we got home, I shook my ass to some Top 40s dance hits in my living room. Typical. Rich strummed on the brand new strings of his guitar. Music has always bonded us since the day we met. It brings memories of our collective wins and losses to vibrant life again. I often go back to songs that remind me of when we first met in college or playlists we listened to during our trips together. Maybe I’ll listen to “Rake it Up” by Yo Gotti & Nicki Minaj sometime in the future and remember this simple, easy day too.
Growing up as an only child prepared me for being comfortable alone. I was 20 when my baby brother was born so I spent the majority of my life getting used to my own company. This meant that there were few things I loved more than coming home from school to my room and shutting the door behind me. In my sacred space, I could create anything and make the rules. No eyes on me.
These days I live in a small one-bedroom in LA with my boyfriend which means more effort has to be made on both sides to find our alone time. We’ve found a routine that works and, honestly, he’s one of the few people in the world I never get sick of having around. One of the ways I made the best use of our space was to create an art studio corner. This nook of our home is where I slip into solitude with my artwork. I’ll turn on the fireplace nearby and do an oracle reading or my meditation, letting the warmth of the flames inspire me. Even though it’s technically a shared space, I’ve found a way to make it my own.
Another one of my favorite places to be alone is outside. Anywhere. I’ll go on walks by myself as much as possible and take in my surroundings. This helps me stay present when my mind is racing. Looking up at the sky, running my fingers along the trunk of a tree, and watching the flowers change in my neighborhood always grounds me in the moment. There’s also a church near our place with a little outdoor courtyard area and benches. This is my go-to spot for a daily journaling or poetry sesh.
If you look close enough, you’ll find that there are endless places you can be alone and savor that time. It just takes a little problem solving and a sense of adventure.
I haven’t blogged or uploaded a YouTube video in quite some time. My excuse? Me time.
Our bodies have a knack for telling us when to slow down or speed up — it’s usually a good idea to listen. I go through phases where I can’t be stopped and feel guilty if I’m not being productive or creatively stimulated every day. Other times, I can’t seem to find the energy to do anything at all. In the past, those less productive times would result in a lot of binge-watching someone else’s life on YouTube or consuming media until the guilt made me feel lightheaded. These days, there’s a mix of that (let’s be honest with ourselves) and a few other key nurturing additions that have helped me find peace when I don’t feel like checking off to-do lists.
So, if you’re looking for some *realistic* advice on how to prioritize a little self-care AND get that guilt-free satisfaction of downtime well spent, here’s my take on it:
1. Take a long bath:
This one’s pretty standard, but it requires a few magical touches. When I’m feeling particularly depressed and sloth-like, sometimes the only energy I can muster is the energy to drag myself into a bathtub. I’ll light my favorite candles so the space matches my moodiness and play a relaxing Spotify playlist or mystical ambiance on YouTube that transports me into a different world.
Even just playing nature sounds starts sending tingles down my spine and makes me feel like everything’s going to be okay. If you know what sounds or smells make you feel safe and comforted, fill your bathroom with them. If you don’t have a bathtub, a long shower does the trick too. The key is to slow down your thoughts and be present.
This is your time to be still and vulnerable. Sometimes that can be uncomfortable, but sitting through that discomfort even as pestering thoughts arise is part of the magic. If you’ve been struggling to meditate, I find that this process is a great first step.
2. Move Your Body with Humility
I am not going to tell you to work out because, honestly, fuck that. You’ve heard it before. I’ve heard it before. That’s a personal commitment that you can choose when it feels right. Plus, everyone’s different and fitness doesn’t come in a one-size-fits-all package. What I will recommend is movement — any will do. Something as simple as taking a quick stroll outside and breathing in the fresh air works wonders when you’re anxiety’s running rampant. Just the sound of birds chirping fills my soul with serotonin. And if you’re like me and work from home, getting up and using your legs is crucial. My back and sanity need it.
I also recommend dancing — and I don’t mean taking Zumba classes or learning choreography (although go off if that’s what does it for you) — I mean just finding random moments in the day to put on headphones and get down in whatever way feels good to you in that moment, even if you’re not a dancer. Sometimes I sway fluidly to a song that fills me with emotion, other times I twerk and pretend I’m a stripper. It’s all about assessing the vibe and not overthinking. THIS is dance therapy at its best. Trust me, once you get over feeling awkward and remember to go easy on yourself, you start to feel the divine catharsis and confidence course through your veins. The magic of this practice is that it teaches you to resign to the idea that you have to be good at everything or achieve certain goals to be active. Sometimes life really is as simple as moving around like a Wacky Waving Inflatable Tube Man. Isn’t that such a reassuring thought?
There’s something to be said for yoga as well, how accommodating it is for newbs and experts alike. It’s become a staple in my movement practice simply because it feels good and, if there’s anything you should take away from this, it’s to follow what QUEEN Yoga with Adriene on YouTube tells us: “Find what feels good.” But more on yoga another time.
3. Remember: Playtime is Not Reserved Only for Kids
I don’t know when and why adults started committing to the idea that we have to be so serious all the time, but I would guess that this probably has something to do with why we’re all so depressed. There’s just “never enough time in the day,” am I right? When we were young, nothing stood in the way or ever seemed more valuable than playtime. I think we were on to something then, which is why I deeply believe some of our greatest lessons can be learned from our childhood selves.
So what does playtime look like for a twentysomething with anxiety? It starts with a question: What did you love doing as a child that still fires you up today?
For me the answer would be pretending to be a witch, making art, daydreaming about life’s infinite possibilities, dancing in front of the mirror like I was a rockstar and spending endless hours outside.
Even on the busiest or lousiest of days, there are little ways I try to bring this same magic back into my world. Sometimes it’s as simple as journaling about my deepest manifestations and desires. I write journal entries about the life I want like I already have it, which combines the mystical and the pretend I knew so well as a kid. Other times, I light candles and do a little tarot or oracle reading for myself in the moonlight. This really makes me feel like the witch I wanted to be when I was ten. Just last weekend, my boyfriend and I had one too many drinks and filmed ourselves dancing like we were in a music video. I was immediately transported to all the times I used to do this with my best friend when I was a kid and it made me feel just as much like a rockstar now as it did back then.
The best part about all of this? All it takes is an hour or less of your time to do one small thing that makes you feel like you at your most raw and free.
4. Be Easy On Yourself
Don’t freak out when you still feel the urge to do absolutely nothing at all. Some days, even the easiest things like hopping into a bath or going for a walk feel impossible to do. Please don’t bully yourself for not achieving even your favorite tasks. The whole point of this easy approach to self-care is that it’s exactly that, easy. Easy on your mind and your heart, not another reason to stress yourself out. I hope you find comfort in your own version of this realistic self-care routine and that you find the little things in your own life that make every day an adventure.
Do you ever feel like you’re stuck because pieces of you are split up in different places?
Lately, I’ve been feeling like I’m in limbo. The feeling first started creeping in when I was living somewhere I was anxious to leave and I knew that better opportunities were waiting for me somewhere else. It’s like I was saving my creative energy for a new setting and until I was there, I’d keep coming up short creatively (or at least, that was my excuse). I thought paintings and blog posts would pour out of me the second I moved into this new apartment. But, I felt more uninspired than ever when I arrived at the “better” place.
I repeat this mistake a lot — making a change of scenery responsible for providing me clarity. In my experience, however, focus almost always comes from the inside out. It doesn’t appear out of thin air in a new place, as much as we might want or need it to. You have to go digging.
When you feel overwhelmed and you’ve been staring at that blank canvas or empty journal, ask yourself: what’s really slowing me down?
For me, the answer took a while to excavate but when I touched the nerve, it all came pouring out. I was grieving the fact that my family and I were separated by a greater distance than I had ever known. My parents had moved back to the Azores in July and I stayed behind in Los Angeles, which meant that we now led separate lives in different countries. It was a lot to take in and a little too much for me to acknowledge. You could say I felt those growing pains hard.
Things proved even more difficult with COVID-19. Whenever I thought I’d be able to see my family, new obstacles popped up threatening to separate us even longer. I’m certain many of you understand and I think we’re all missing someone or something more deeply than ever. You can almost feel the collective fear of time building in the atmosphere.
The point is, when I finally allowed myself to look at the source of my blockage, all of the reasons I was exactly where I was supposed to be revealed themselves too. All of the friendships, opportunities and moments my boyfriend and I had created in LA came up. It was this incredible life we had built even if it was separate from my roots — what a scary and beautiful thing.
What I learned through facing my blockage head on was that I had been making people and settings responsible for my ability to create, and that’s why I kept finding myself in the same spot. I was giving outside influences all of my power even when there was little I could do to change them. When I finally acknowledged the distance from my family objectively, I realized what I actually needed. I needed to fill my own cup.
Now I know that whenever I feel creatively stuck because my heart is in different places or lamenting something, I can always choose to find beauty in where I’m standing now. People, settings, and things will constantly change and I can still choose to show up for myself. In the past, I might’ve thought this way of thinking made you a selfish person. Now, I realize it’s the kind of thinking that can save your life.
I don’t know how long I had been complacent before I moved out here, but I do remember feeling like Dustin Hoffman in the opening scene of The Graduate — propelling lifelessly on a moving walkway into his future. I bounced from one non-stimulating experience to another and rotated between the same toxic behavioral patterns. I couldn’t own up to my fault in it.
In the early stages of living in LA, we faced everything from nearly running out of money to our first landlord shortening our lease out of nowhere. I spent endless hours applying for jobs, apartment-hunting, juggling job interviews, and handing my resume out to open hands while Rich held up the fort. Regardless of the effort being made on both sides, we didn’t have the sufficient combined income to find another place before getting kicked to the curb.
On paper, it seemed like LA might not be in the cards. Somehow though, we were fine. Even in that first shitty Koreatown apartment where all the neighborhood cats congregated for weekly orgies and cops drove by looking for drug deals to bust, we were hyped up on the promise of the next adventure.
We traversed the city’s urine-stained streets, checked off all the major tourist stops on our list, and made time for daily walks around our neighborhood where I’d press my fingers onto wild flowers and milk every sultry sunset as fuel to keep going. I’d devour my peanut butter and sliced banana toast on our rotting wooden balcony and manifest. The cross-shaped power line in front of me was my temple.
While LA might not have been the reason I started finding a way out of the muck, the urgency and mayhem of reconstructing a life without the proper arsenal gave me a purpose. It forced me so far out of my comfort zone, my survival instincts kicked in. It was the first step that led into a sprint until finally I was going somewhere of my choosing.
As I picked up momentum, I unraveled years of false information I’d been telling myself: I’m not talented. I’m always five steps behind. I don’t have what it takes.I’m just not good enough, at anything. I thought hiring managers could see the same deficiencies I felt about myself. Truthfully, with how abusive my self-criticism could get, it had become a self-fulfilling prophecy and I’m sure they could see it.
In LA, once the fear of running out of money kicked in, I realized the only way we could stay was if I fought the toxic inner monologue with discipline and will power like never before. I decided to prove myself wrong. I’d prove that even though I was hundreds of thousands of miles away from “home,” I could make it work.
Eventually, through braving a lot of discomfort, some of the things that used to scare me more than anything became routine — from public speaking all over town to finding my own health insurance and everything else I would’ve put off in the past, I was rewiring my brain to adapt to the changes I needed to make.
One morning, I sat on the balcony and asked the cross-shaped power line for a job and a new place to live. I left my intentions lingering in space and carried on with my interviews in spite of that conniving inner voice telling me I wasn’t going to make it. Soon enough, I landed a temp job at a start-up in Santa Monica and Rich and I met a couple looking to share an apartment in Culver City — just days before we were about to lose everything.
At this point, things began to align at lightning speed. The anxiety of making an income and finding a place to live replaced with a cushy job and apartment at precisely the right time. I went from wondering what would happen next to spending eight hours of my day minutes away from the Santa Monica Pier. I’d walk along the beach and take the train to our resort-style apartment complex every night in awe.
Fast forward six months and the temp contract in Santa Monica had ended. I fly back to Massachusetts for the holidays not knowing if I’ll have a job waiting for me in LA when I get back. About a week later, I land a full-time job as a copywriter in El Segundo just in time for the new year — fulfilling a dream to write for a living that I thought might never come true. I start devoting a huge chunk of my free time to making art and reading about spirituality, philosophy and health. I feel free.
Life since moving to LA hasn’t shifted all that drastically from the life I had in Boston in terms of opportunity. No matter how new the experience is, that thrill of novelty wears off and eventually you’re just left with yourself again. If I hadn’t taken the time to work on the things that were dragging me into that dark, stagnant black hole, no amount of moving or wishing things were different would’ve set me free.
I’m still fighting the urge to sink into that stagnant place every day. That might always be part of my story. However, I also know that when I commit to an action and apply the discipline to see it through, manifestations come to life and I get closer to my bliss.
The state of the world has shifted drastically since I first started writing this blog. In fact, it’s been stored in my drafts for months because I felt like I had nothing of value to say. Never good enough. Now, as we’re all battling social distancing and the inner demons that arise during stagnant times, I feel like this has its place — my homage to the inner peace that can derive from taking disciplined action toward your goals, even the smallest ones.
I hope this introspective time inspires you to keep finding what feels good in spite of any toxic inner voices trying to hold you back. I hope you start to remember what you’re capable of so you can manifest your dreams, and I wish for everyone a life of their own choosing.
Stubbornness. I’m right, you’re wrong. You lose, I win. The classic draw between two; a never-ending battle to the death. We’re all familiar with this game, and though we play it more when we’re young, it never fully goes away. Take a look at the political climate we’re facing right now. These are adults we’re watching on our screens. Adults. It’s weeks like this, when I get into two big arguments with two big loves in my life, that I ask myself a very simple question: Why?
Why is it so hard to see someone else’s side in the heat of the moment? When that timer sets off in the depth of your stomach as a warning that a bomb’s about to blow, it’s as if nothing said by the opposing side matters. Your point and the feelings attached to it are worth watching someone burn over. Sure, sometimes you are absolutely right and the person opposing you is so wrong that you’d rather vomit than to hear the rest of their testimony. Arguments come to mind like,
“How could you do this to me?”
“I didn’t baby, I promise. It’s not what it looks like,” he retaliates while the person he’s cheated on you with is still naked in your bed.
This didn’t happen to me thankfully, but it does happen! While those black and white arguments exist, I’m interested in the ones where there are layers of hypocrisy coming from both sides. What if the lines are blurry? Times like calling someone inconsiderate for doing something that hurt you so bad in the moment only to realize later that you’ve done about five inconsiderate things to them that same day. It’s that good ol’ smack in the face that makes your eyes go back to normal after a blind rage. When you realize you’ve just been lecturing someone you love about how they have to be better and, yet, you still have plenty of work cut out for you too.
Why, even when we know there’s validity to someone else’s side, would we rather swim in acid than calmly hear them out? What is it about detaching from the thirst to be right that makes us temporarily inhumane? Although I pride myself on being a kind person, I’ve lost myself to this need to win many times. Call me a fire sign or a child brought up in a house where arguments were frequent affairs. Either way, I’ve been in the business of arguing long enough to understand that there are better ways to communicate even one’s strongest feelings. Ways that involve less screaming, less name-calling, and more empathy. There’s no victory in winning an argument if you had to say the worst things you could possibly say to your loved ones to get there. You can’t take back those words once they’re shot into the ether, and the psychological damage can last a lifetime. I think many of us know this all too well.
Arguments are a part of life, often even a healthy way for people to better understand one another if handled well. In romantic relationships, arguments can shed light on two separate people’s deeper and more intimate qualities – ultimately allowing the couple to get to know each other better and to discover if they’re a good match or not. Arguments can also help people become more open-minded, especially if it takes a lot of retaliation from someone else for them to accept their own close-mindedness. We tend to learn more about ourselves through this process and, while this can be eye-opening, I think we still have a lot of work to do. I’d like to see people listening more, a trait we desperately need more of in our nation – understanding that people are brought up differently, chock-full of their own demons and experiences, and that to argue is to first accept this and proceed with grace.
Think about the most recent argument in your life. How did you handle it? Were you able to empathize and listen? If so, how did that shape the argument in the end? Maybe you discovered something deeper about the person opposing you. Maybe you learned more about yourself. That’s kind of the beauty of human interaction and debate, isn’t it? We might come into an argument with our fists clenched and our tongues warmed up to verbally sting our opposer, but, if we’re able to listen, we might just as easily leave with insight into someone else’s story. This, my friends, is the secret to tolerance and acceptance. If we can’t achieve this, we’ll definitely win more arguments, but we’ll also get further from one another and the truth in the process.
“The greatest medicine is the emptiness of everything.”
When was the last time you sat in silence and felt yourself slip into nothing? Do you ever tune out the noise around you and pay attention to what happens next? If the answer is ‘yes’ and you’ve allowed yourself moments to stall out, this cryptic message taken from a fortune cookie might stir something inside you.
The more I write, the more the yin and yang of human existence comes up as a theme. It almost writes itself. It’s no surprise, as you can probably tell by my latest blog posts, that I’ve been struggling to find my place in the world after completing my education. It was all too cozy being intertwined in structured collegiate strings – classes, professors, friends, clubs, all keeping my mind and soul active. As I walked across the stage during graduation I felt the strings snap and release their hold on me. It took feeling the diploma in my hand, celebrating a once-in-a-lifetime achievement with my family and friends, and simultaneously suffering the grief brought on from losing the safest chapter of my life for me to understand life’s dark sense of humor. It’s a hard pill to swallow.
Slowly after this shift, I began to look to myself for guidance. The discipline came to me in “the emptiness of everything” — from the moments when I had let my life become cyclical, structureless, and empty. By that I mean, clarity would find its way to me when I was stuck.
When I was a freshman in college, I developed a hip fracture from a combination of dancing for 10+ years of my life and gaining a drastic amount of weight too quickly. I had to drop out of school for a semester to live at home and keep the weight off my legs. Though this could have easily been the worst time in my life, the solitude and quiet gave me time to get to know myself again, to let my mind wander, and to make plans for a better future. It was in those few months that I dedicated time to this blog, wrote poetry every day, painted again for the first time in years, took care of my body, and got accepted into Salem State University where I would eventually complete my education.
I often look back at this time and use it as fuel when life feels uninspiring again. I remember the yin and yang and that I am solely responsible for pulling myself out of the hole, for bringing passion back into my routine. We tend to move so quickly all the time, always set to autopilot at work and in our relationships. It’s easy to lose yourself if you’re not paying attention to the voices and urges inside you. I had to learn that the hard way. I now make time for myself a priority.
When I graduated I let the ensuing emptiness consume me by neglecting the things I loved to do most of all. I stopped writing and felt the strain of that on my entire body. Nothing was expected of me anymore, no schedules were put in place to keep me in line. It was on me.
I’m writing this because I wish it had been available to me around the time my life shifted drastically and I couldn’t keep up. I’m writing this to remind everyone that “the greatest medicine” in life is you. It’s remembering to read, write, think, sit with yourself and feed your intellect, even if no one is expecting that of you.
It’s ironic how much we hate going to classes, dread doing a homework assignment, and can’t stand being graded constantly throughout the majority of our lives, but feel dependent on it all when it’s gone. Most people won’t admit it, but the void is there.
Long story short, sometimes a fortune cookie from last night’s take-out can lead to an epiphany — but only if you give yourself the time necessary to reflect. Though I don’t have anything figured out yet and feel stuck quite often, I am steadily emerging from the fog. Adulthood is intimidating and isolating, but it won’t overpower you if you fight back. Listen to yourself.