Happy Feelings!

Hehe – this is what I always exclaim when I’m watching a show or movie with Andras and the couple in the spotlight finally have their first kiss, or share a sweet moment. You know, the butterflies in your stomach, ridiculous smile stretched out across your face, can’t even take a breath feeling…

That’s kind of how January has been for me. I’m almost uncomfortably happy right now, which sounds a little weird, but let me explain: As some of you know, my life has been full of change for the last 4-5 years. How can things be so simple now? I finally have a home – no roommates! And Andras and I just love staying home, cooking, hanging out, not really doing too much of anything. That should be boring right? NOT! It is gloriously simple, refreshing and wonderful.

The other reason it’s uncomfortable is because my mom has struggled with depression my whole life, and was recently diagnosed with bipolar disorder, so whenever I feel really great, I wonder, “Am I just happy or could I be manic?” I’m certain that’s not the case because I’ve read enough about bipolar disorder, and have a friend who is an excellent resource – check out her blog! – but it’s still a paranoia of mine.

I made so many changes this month and the last few, that’s it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what is bringing me such happiness. Since the blog is a great place to reflect, here I go:

  1. Routines. You already know about my obsession with those, so I’ll spare you this time. 😉 The most important one I’ve stuck to lately is getting enough sleep. It makes SUCH a difference. I have a nighttime routine now that starts at 8:30, and it’s lights out at 9:30, which makes waking up at 5:30 so much easier.
  2. Whole30 – no dairy, grains, legumes, soy, added sugar or alcohol for 30 days. We finish on January 30, and at that point I will add in small amounts of dairy (mostly as a seasoning) wine, and a sweet day – I mean a cheat day.
  3. No coffee! I sort of unexpectedly gave this one up a couple of weeks ago. As much as it feels  like I need it, I just don’t. It only leads me closer to anxiety, and I’ve noticed I now sleep much better.
  4. Yoga! 3x a week or more. Making that special time for just me is so important. When I don’t go, I at least meditate at home.
  5. Drinking enough water. I have a 24 oz water bottle, and I try to fill and drink it 3x a day.
  6. At work, my after school clubs haven’t started up. They will start up this week, so I need to do everything I can to plan carefully so that I don’t feel overwhelmed by them. They are supposed to fun extracurricular activities, something that the kids enjoy and are proud of. And that’s it. As soon as I make it more than that, it becomes stressful for me, and too much for them.

It will be interesting to see how the after school clubs, entering competition season, and modifying my diet slightly affect my happiness. Hopefully, if I keep up all of the other structure that’s making so much room for joy, I’ll stay in this lovely zone.

And when shit hits the fan, as it always does, I’ll just try to remember to breathe and laugh.

Almost nothing is ever as big as it seems.

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I Teach

I had a thought today. Why do we say I’m a teacherI’m an engineer, I’m a dog walker, etc.? When we describe what our profession is, why do usually say we we are our profession, rather than just saying what we do? I teach middle school choir…?

It’s easy for us to fall into the trap of letting our success at work dictate our happiness, our self worth. For me, it has been a real struggle to separate the two: I can be a good teacher, or a lazy or grumpy or obsessed or motivating teacher (most of the time many of these things at once) – but none of that has to do with who I am as a person. I can have a bad day at work, and still have a fantastic evening.

So today when this thought popped into my head, I wondered if this particular way of phrasing has impacted or even confused our society about how we see ourselves in relation to our work. I would love to hear if any of you have info about how this phrased in other languages or cultures!

I’m a person who enjoys teaching. I teach. But that is not who I am.

10 Months Tomorrow

Yep. If I don’t hurry up and write this post by midnight, 10 months will have passed since I last posted. 10 months! Let’s see how quickly I can get you caught up…

  1. All that stuff about being sick in the last post? Well, I was sick, but then anxiety kicked in and perpetuated the sickness, until I finally decided to take one less group to UIL contest. From that point on, the school year was basically an exhausting, chaotic but manageable blur. Year 4 was not my year. Also, Andras and I finished all 10 seasons of Friends in 5 months. Haha!
  2. Over the summer, I did yoga. Lots of yoga! And thank goodness. After a couple of classes, I realized I had kind of forgotten how to breathe. I know that doesn’t really make sense, but let me explain. Taking deep, expansive breaths, actually felt uncomfortable. Something that used to give me a lot of peace, felt foreign and forced. However, after only a week or so of regular practice in the studio and at home, I began to trust my breath again. The whole summer became about retraining my body to breathe, my mind to trust my breath, and my thoughts to center on self-love.
  3. I very seriously contemplated not going back to work as a teacher. I almost broke my contract. The other leads I had gotten didn’t go anywhere, so here I am, tackling year 5!
  4. The school year got off to an AMAZING start. There are still really rough days, and the early mornings and insanely long hours are definitely the toughest part, but in general I’m enjoying my work this year. 🙂
  5. Andras and I bought a house! Yay – no more roommates! It’s the perfect size, in a great neighborhood, and ah! We just love it.
  6. Anxiety still sneaks up on me at times when it is least welcome, but it is a LOT less scary than before. After my most recent panic attack, I turned to Andras and said, “I just need to treat everyday like it’s the morning after a really horrible panic attack.” And that is so true. ROUTINES, long deep breathing, meditation, stretching, eating right, getting enough sleep, exercising. This is the lifestyle I need to maintain if I want to sustain myself and make room for joy.
  7. I need friends. Three of my closest friends have moved away in the last year, my best friend has lived in LA since we graduated from college, and all of my other friends live in Europe. Loving myself as I am and trusting myself in social interactions, so that I can connect with people is definitely a goal of mine for 2016.
  8. Family. I love my family, but I get caught up in their imperfections, their inability to take care of themselves.. I wish I could just let them be without feeling responsible for fixing things and helping them. It’s really hard when I can see they’re emotionally drained. The holidays will be difficult.
  9. My dog now has an instagram.  https://www.instagram.com/sir_bartley/
  10. I still don’t put myself to bed early enough, AND I’ve been eating absolutely terribly. I’m sure I’ve gained back all of the weight I lost while on the Whole30 – so it may just be time for another one.

That was the quick run down. I hope to be less of a stranger next year. More coming soon!

The Return

Things don’t have to perfect. Tonight, as I start to plan for the new semester, that is my mantra, because whoa – hello anxiety! Now that I’m planning things, and realizing how soon I go back to school, my heart feels like it’s racing, my thoughts are unfocused, and I’m even having chest pains. No fun.

Some of what I’ve done this break is explore other career options. I’m going through the book, “I Would Do Anything if Only I knew What it Was.” I haven’t found fulfillment in my work in quite some time, so I think it’s time that I start exploring other options. Part of that exploration, is also trying to find the root of why I don’t enjoy my job anymore. In talking with my therapist about this issue, we’ve discussed that one possibility is that my happiness in life actually depends on how well I do my job. I am way to attached to my success at my job. Times like this, when the anxiety sinks in, I think it’s possible that the attachment is 100% of my problem with work.

I wish I could just be excited by new ideas, rather than overwhelmed by them. I tired a couple of things to attempt to relieve the pressure. I looked at all of my events for the rest of the semester, and made lists of everything that needs to be done regarding each event. I thought if I got the tasks out of my mind, and onto paper, it would help. I did a little.

My next idea was to plan the first week of school, and that’s what I just couldn’t do. Tonight, it feels like too much. I put it on my list for tomorrow, in hopes that would put it out of my mind for tonight, but my loving friend Anxiety is here to stay, I think. Actually, I just made the list a little more specific, so I do feel a little bit relieved.

The first week doesn’t have to be perfect. The whole semester doesn’t have to perfect. In fact, I don’t even have to be a good teacher in order to be the wonderful, perfect person that I am, just the way I am.

Cheers to letting myself be my imperfect perfect self. 😀

What Exactly is Wrong?

Well, before we go down that road, let me tell you something I’m very proud of! I lost 14 pounds while on the Whole30 challenge! I also built some great habits, such as shopping and cooking for myself, and staying away from processed foods. Yay! Since I completed the challenge, I’ve gained 3 pounds back, and I’ve realized that I just don’t do well without a lot of restrictions. So, I think paleo is the way for me! Now, just gotta get through the holidays, as paleo as possible, and sprinkling in exercis!

So what’s wrong? I sort of want to make a Throw-Up list of everything that’s wrong, but I don’t feel quite ready for that. Here are the symptoms:
1. Depression
2. Anxiety
3. Frequent mood fluctuations
4. Lack of motivation at work
5. Lack of motivation to be social
6. Feeling unable to connect with others
7. Feeling overwhelmed and unable to focus.

These things are not my constant state of being. In fact, for the last few days, I’ve been feeling pretty good (I’m on Winter Break – go figure!) Here are some break-throughs I’ve had with my therapist lately.

  1. Maybe I just don’t like my job. Maybe I feel too much of a financial burden, that I resent my job, because my job pays the bills. Maybe if I didn’t hold so much responsibility (aka STRESS) at home, stress at work wouldn’t be such a big deal. I got a book: I Could Do Anything if Only I Knew What it Was, and plan to dive into it a lot this break, and let thoughts of alternative occupations percolate a bit. This is a HUGE step for me. I am very skilled at what I do, and have spent many years working towards this career. The thought of walking away is mide-boggeling, but at the same time, something isn’t quite right the way things are. I spend too many days not excited at all about going to work.
    2. Negative self-talk & attachment to success are leading to my fluctuating moods. Basically, I wake up in the morning, and see everything ahead of me, and I tell myself, “I won’t be able to do it all, I’m sure I’ll forget something, I don’t even want to face the day, etc., etc.” But then, a rehearsal goes well and I think, “I’m so good at this! Maybe I do love my job!” And then the lunch break hits, and I’ve forgotten my lunch, so then I think, “What is wrong with me? I’m not even organized enough to remember to pack my own lunch! What happened to my morning routine.” Get the idea? Picking up a book tomorrow that I had a few years ago but loaned to someone: Feeling Good.
    3. Lack of communication with my husband. There are a lot of things regarding my husband and our relationship that I’m disappointed about, and I’m afraid to communicate them to him. I know from watching my parents dysfunctional relationship that if I don’t put the effort in to improve our relationship, things will only get worse, and if I avoid these problems I’m in essence is demonstrating that I’m more afraid of change than I am in love with him. I do love him, and I do want to improve our marriage. In the new year, we need to start couples counseling. I’m not sure he sees the need for this, but I think he’s open to trying it out.

I just went back and re-read all of that and the negative self-talk started up again. “When did I become such a mess?” And then a smile crept up onto my face. Hello! That’s what my 20’s are about! That’s what this blog is about! I am trying to figure this shit out, find out what makes me happy, learn how to save money, understand what hobbies, career(s) give me purpose, inspiration, bring me joy, discover my “chosen” family of friends, and so much more.
My intention during my yoga practice tonight was to send love to myself. I want there to be so much love going from myself to myself, that there isn’t any room for negative self-talk, self-doubt, insecurities.
This will be my daily intention, my yogic intention, throughout all of winter beak – to set a foundation of self-love as I begin all of this exploration.

Back to school – Back to work

I had no idea the transition back to school would go so well! I am SO excited about this school year. My classes are full of kids who are truly excited to take choir, and my schedule is basically a dream. My conference period is the last period of everyday, which is going to help me immensely when I have concerts or events after school. 

It’s only day 3, but here are some changes I’ve made that I hope will turn into habits. My points need to be modified some…

  • Establish a morning routine: In past years, I’ve let my level of exhaustion determine how long I sleep, if I pack a lunch, etc. Because I didn’t have a routine, my basic needs like breakfast, lunch, coffee, shower, work outfit, etc, where often not met. Now I am aiming to do the same thing every morning, to establish a foundation for my day. 1. Quiet time 2. Take care of Bartley 3. Breakfast/make lunch (put previously divided sandwich bags and tupperwares in my lunchbox) 4. Show/get ready 5. Leave by 6:30. Of course, in order to do that, I have to wake up at 5:15 (OUCH!) Which leads me to…
  • Being in bed by 10:00, electronics & lights off by 10:30. This gives me almost 7 hours of sleep. 
  • Organizing has turned into a “10-minute” clean. I love this idea. I found it on pinterest, and it’s almost ridiculously easy. You just set a timer for 10 minutes, and clean as much as you can during that time. The craziest part? I’m usually finished in 7 or 8 minutes! All these years I’ve dreaded cleaning, and it was something I could accomplish in 10 minutes or less. Insane!
  • Before I leave work at the end of the day, I go through this checklist: Clear desk, check/respond/archive emails, make necessary phone calls, complete or review the next days lesson plans, add to the next day’s to-do list, and 10-minute clean of my classroom. 

I am feeling so optimistic about these changes. These, along with eating well and daily yoga/meditation are my current “points.” If I can build them into habits, I know I will become the organized professional I want to be.

Let my inner virgo shine! 

What Happens Tomorrow?

I go back to work!

Bartley is stable, so I’m SO grateful that I can go to work without worrying too much.

I was actually quite focused today (for the first time!) and I’m proud of the work I got done. I still have a LONG way to go before my classroom, lesson plans, and mind are ready to go for the school year.

I’m proud that I’m not freaking out too much, even though I’m so far behind. I’ll share some techniques tomorrow, but for now I’ve got to go to sleep! It’s going to be so hard to wake up tomorrow….