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Happiness Resources: Google Docs

The past few days, I’ve been feeling like this.

Not one to wallow in self-pity – for more than 24 hours, at least – I was determined to do something. Enter, Jenny Blake and her lovely blog. While Jenny doesn’t write specifically about getting over your pity-parties, one post in particular has been quite useful (so, of course, I wanted to share). In this post, Jenny shares various resources on Google Docs. Take a gander.

Two of the eight Google Docs have been just what I needed to clear the mind-fog. The Wheel of Life is a tool that forces you to evaluate how you are feeling in various areas of your life and plot out action steps to correct or modify any pieces that need special attention. I don’t know about y’all, but personally, there’s great therapy to be had in writing things out. Abstract thoughts are scary. Concrete plans are reassuring.

For fun, I’m also working on the Life Checklist. It’s great to document your goals – they are far more likely to happen that way, no? Also, thanks to the loveliness that is Google Docs, you can share any of these documents with friends. Will now has access to my life goals (and is now aware that we will someday be travelling to New Zealand).

I hope you find these resources useful! Let me know if you use them!

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Body Image Boost

On Friday, my office held a Health and Fitness Fair. A team of nurses and clinicians set up in a conference room and – at prescheduled intervals – employees could go and get a Health Screening. I was a little nervous that this screening would focus on body fat percentage and leave me feeling bummed. Again.

I was wrong. I ROCKED the Health Screening.

Blood pressure? Low. Glucose level? Lowish (I’d just eaten). Cholesterol levels? In the “good” category (despite having just eaten!). Body fat percentage? In the healthy range. The nurses cooed that I must eat well and get a lot of cardio. I let this praise go straight to my head.

The standout Health Screening superstar? Bone density. I have pretty dense bones, turns out. I’ll be tucking this knowledge away for the next time numbers on the scale threaten to get me down as it’s now been scientifically proven that do inded have big bones. 

OK, it’s likely genetic. I have lactose issues so I’m hardly the ideal model for one of those chirpy “Got Milk?” ads. Whatever. I’m still celebrating my Viking Skeleton.

Plus, the Health Screening ended with a free massage.

I Am: This Guy’s Girlfriend

Currently, my favorite place on earth is the beige, microsuede couch in my living room. That’s where Will and I curl up to eat dinner, watch movies, or sit to enjoy beer and each other. On the rare occasions when we’re able to coax both cats to join us, I’m positive there’s no greater happiness to be had.

By this point, you’ve heard a lot about Mr. Will. You know that we met online (and, as such, I’m a big fan of online dating). I still can’t believe how lucky I am.

For those of you fit to die at hearing a girl define herself as being “someone else’s girlfriend,” let me assure you that this is no barefoot-in-the-kitchen relationship. Well, I’m barefoot as much as possible, but he’s the one in the kitchen. I prioritize Will and he prioritizes me. It’s a relationship of equals (though he’s a better cook).

Will is incredibly supportive – if I came home today and told him I wanted to quit my job and be a dolphin trainer, he’d pack our bags and look for new homes near Sea World. I love spending time with him. I love who I am when I’m around him. With him beside me, I could be the best damn dolphin trainer Central Florida ever saw.

Will makes me feel like the prettiest, wittiest girl who ever lived. I get told how good I look every morning before I go to work. He’s this blog’s biggest fan.

In our relationship, I’m the big talker. My stories never go from start to finish without a few tangents along the way but Will drinks it all up and stores it away. When I mention something, like my hatred of mangoes, Will remembers that I originally informed him of that on our first date. Why I was talking about mangoes on our first date is beyond me, but I love that he was listening and remembers.

Oh, and I like mangoes now, so you can put your pitchforks away. “Mangoes are Tasty” was one of Will’s first lessons for me.

I love Will. I love being Will’s Girlfriend – it’s one of the greatest facets of who I am.

An Open Letter

Dear Person Who Found my Blog by Googling “I’m Dorky and I Want to Stop,”

First, congratulations on having one of the most-unique search terms ever to show up in my site statistics. Most people Google sends my way are looking for those damn Anthropologie Cork Balls.

But back to you. Who exactly is calling you dorky? If it’s someone else, rest assured that their opinion doesn’t matter. If it’s you, you need to knock it off. 

Your search probably led you to this post wherein I vow to never again describe myself as a dork for having unique interests. I’ll no longer apologize for being who I am, and I’d encourage you to do the same.

Now, you’ll notice that some people in the comments to that post argued that being a “dork” is not necessarily a bad thing. For the sake of argument, however, we’ll assume that you think it is, as you were looking to stop being it. Joking about being a “dork” is only funny when you have the self confidence to know that it makes you more, not less, interesting and is a part of your personality you should never look to shed.

Are other people fueling this self-doubt? Other people’s opinions of you just don’t matter. Trust me on this. The sooner you fully accept that, the happier I believe you will be.

I don’t know you, obviously, but I imagine you as a Junior High-aged girl unsure of herself and her place among her peers. Basically, me circa 1995. Junior High can be incredibly hard. I’ve been there. I know how it feels to think no one knows how you feel. I remember the frustration at being told to ignore the cruel remarks of my classmates. The very suggestion sounds like something that could only be issued from the mouth of an adult who’d completely lost touch with how overwhelming it is to be thirteen.

But I remember. I remember that being told not to worry about what people thought was like being told not to breathe. Other people’s opinions were omnipresent. I’d sit in dressing rooms in the mall and cry because I was unsure if the clothes I was selecting were “right.” I sat through math class one day unable to take notes because I didn’t want to draw attention to myself by getting up to use the pencil sharpener. I wanted – more than anything – to be completely invisible.

Slowly – and over the course of many years – I realized that the only opinions that mattered were my own and those of the people who loved me. The most clear manifestation of this epiphany is that now I’m able to dance in public.

By no means am I implying that I’m now the perfect role model for high self-esteem. I have my hang-ups. The thing that’s changed is my reaction to these hang ups. Now that I’m better able to weed out the noise of other people’s opinions, I feel more empowered to change the things that I don’t like about myself and ignore the things that other people don’t like. In short, I’m so much happier.

As for the name-callers, I don’t have any witty retorts for you because honestly, the greatest comeback is to move forward and be the best possible you – to find hobbies and people who truly interest you and to let go of anyone or anything that holds you down. Are you rolling your eyes at me? That’s fine. I know how eye-rolling that comment sounds. Plus, I was a champion eye-roller back in the day.

Surround yourself with people who love you for being a “dork” and would never see such a label as a bad thing. Try your best to ignore the haters and never let yourself sink to their level. And finally, don’t ever, ever, change yourself for someone else.

Bitter Body Image, Part 2

Yesterday, the problem. Today, my attempts at a solution.

Previous Attempts:

I don’t exactly have a list of diets I’ve tried as I’m loathe to even try anything too rigid.

I wouldn’t consider something carb-vilifying as brewing and drinking beer with my boyfriend is one of my favorite pass-times. Plus, sometimes I come home to fresh-baked bread. Any woman who comes home to fresh-baked bread and refuses to eat it because of the carbs it contains is no friend of mine.

I’ve had brief spats of I’m-not-eating-anything-until-I’m-thin! but they usually last about 12 hours and end with a headache and a box of animal crackers.

I tried Weight Watchers and had great success at the start, but wasn’t able to keep up with logging my food. Perhaps once I get an internet-enabled phone and fully join 2011 I’ll give it another go.

If the first trick to success in any great endeavor is to know oneself, I know that I can’t (and won’t) stick to any food plan that’s too glum. I drink beer. I love cookies. I know that to make these statements and then lament my waistline seems a little ignorant, but I know that food-restriction is not the answer.  (Ok, moderation may be part of the answer, but if I can’t have a beer and some cookies on the weekends, I quit).

The Plan:

While I know I can’t give up treats, I know I can work harder in the gym – or rather, to be cliché, work smarter. I’m blessed in that I build muscle tone rather easily (I come from good stock – my mother is a strong, toned former farm girl), but, left to my own devices, I am loath to pick up anything heavy. I get bored and distracted rather easily.

Solution: Personal Training.

Why haven’t I tried this before? Well, it’s kind of expensive, and I’m loathe to spend money on such things. Lately though, with Will’s help, I’ve realized that I’m worth the investment.

Today, I’ll be going in for my initial assessment. Training will start the week of the 11th (as I’m out-of-town for work the week of the 4th) and will consist of two sessions a week for the next six weeks. That, mixed with cardio done on my own, should give me a good jump-start. After that, I should know some tricks to keep myself going. I’m going to reassess every six months and reach out to a trainer again should I need more help.

I’m excited to start training and, well, a little proud of myself for not completely giving in to my inner critic. I’m sure her voice won’t be completely silenced; I’m not trying to suggest I’ve found some magic solution to body image issues. I’m excited to start training, though. Small victories.

Bitter Body Image, Part I

While I try not to dwell on it – publicly, at least – I struggle with my self-image. I know the idea of a woman wishing she were thinner is nothing revolutionary, but there you have it.

I was a very active child. I started in dance classes and moved to competitive swimming when the requisite grace of the former never came. There also seemed to be no end to my growth spurts. I was tall, lean, and could eat whatever I wanted. I remember sitting down to breakfasts that consisted of four full bowls of cereal. Sometimes, after swim practice, my sister and I would eat these horribly-processed blueberry pie-type treats that came pre-packaged into slice-size portions. While I vividly remember wishing I were shorter (all my friends in grade school had pixie-like proportions and lacked my lanky legs), I remained blissfully unaware of my weight.

I even managed to skip any “Freshman Fifteen”-esque weight gain that I was assured would come with my first year away at college. Weight gain – and it’s related anxiety – didn’t come until after grad school.

I started working in downtown Chicago in August 2005. I joined a gym down the street from my office the following month and quickly became a regular. I started running more and entered races to fuel my old competitive spirit. Twice a week I attended a weight-lifting class with and instructor I adored. I was slimmer than I’d been in my adult life, fit into laughably small sizes, and was generally quite pleased with my shape and tone.

But slowly, things changed. The instructor I loved left for another gym. I had a falling out with the girl I considered my exercise buddy. I was put on different projects at work that required long business trips and unhealthy room service dinners eaten alone in random hotel rooms. Fewer work-outs, frequent treats. My doctor mentioned the increasing number on the scale, but really, she could have saved herself the trouble. I was well aware of every inch of space I consumed.

Currently, I’m thirty pounds heavier than I was when I moved here six years ago. I wear a pant size that is twice what I wore back then. While I know, at some level, that my self-worth shouldn’t be derived from numbers stitched inside my clothing, it’s been very difficult. I feel defeated. I’ve cleaned out my closet twice: first to get rid of the size sixes, next to get rid of the size eights. Some of the size tens don’t fit all that well, but I’m holding on to them for now.

My weight gain is constantly on my mind. When heading to work, I use my purse or gym bag to hide my stomach from the other commuters. I’ve become almost afraid to shop as I fret about what will fit. I’ll spare you the Dear Diary-type drama and just say that my current weight situation makes me very uncomfortable and quite sad.

But wait! Don’t cry for me just yet – there is a silver lining to this self-image storm cloud, I promise. I’ve never been one to stew in my sadness (hello, the very reason the blog was originally started). Tomorrow, I’ll share what I’ve done so far and my big, exciting plans going forward.

Best Day Ever

Today, my friends, is epic. EPIC.

Why?

Because my sister, Kerry, is now an official resident of the City of Chicago.  That’s right, Minnesnowta, cry your wee little eyes out.

To say I’m crazy-excited would be an understatement. Kerry and I haven’t lived in the same town since the days when we shared (and fought over) a bathroom. After graduating from High School, Kerry made her way to the Frosty North and has been there for the past eight years.

No longer.

Kerry will now live literally around the corner. Not “literally” like “I was literally about to freak out and die if Molly won Top Model.” Literally for real. Literally like:

I have big plans for Kerry’s first Chicago Summer. It’s kind of all I’ve talked about since the decision to relocate was made. Every time I go to a restaurant I look at the menu for non-meat items and, in the case that there is more than one, make a mental note to take Kerry there. We are going to go to many a street festival (except Taste of Chicago because that one is nutters and full of slow-walkers and always on the hottest day of the year and I hate it). We’ve talked about having a weekly “running date” and going to see Something Borrowed. 

Mostly, however, we are just going to hang out. With her living in another state, visiting one another had become an “Event” – full days were planned right down to when and where we’d go to dinner. As one of us had either taken a plane or sat in a car for six hours to see the other, there was the feeling that the time spent together had to be almost structured. Now, with her LITERALLY RIGHT AROUND THE CORNER, if I want to invite her over for beers and bad TV, I can. We can just be lazy together.

I’m so excited to get this chance to get to know Kerry better now that we are both “adults” and for us to become even closer friends.

I’m Bad at Weekends

All last week (whilst I was diligently at work INSIDE), the weather was like this:

(Yes, the weather was like my kitty sniffing some tulips.)

Spring had sprung. The temperature was in the high seventies, the sun was shining, and people were everywhere. After Winters like ours, people scramble towards the sunlight as soon as possible.

Last week was fantastic. Last weekend was tragic.

By Friday afternoon, the temperature plummeted and the rains rolled in. I finally had time to be outside, but now had no desire to do so. On Saturday, my plans to go to local garage sales were washed away. By Sunday, the rain was beating at the windows as though trying to force its way indoors. I pulled my hoodie back out of (perhaps optimistically early) storage and snuggled up on the couch with a book.

Sounds like the perfect recipe for Lazy Sunday, no?

Well, no. Not for me. I’m bad at Lazy Sunday. Perhaps I’m bad at weekends in general. I just can’t seem to let myself to relax without feeling guilty. Didn’t the movie Se7en teach us that Sloth is a Deadly Sin? Catholic guilt doesn’t mix well with a tireless Protestant work ethic.

On Saturday, I was able to find enough projects around the house to keep me feeling purposeful. I did laundry. I hung up a hook in our closet. I fixed the shelving in the linen closet (shelving that was initially installed by someone lacking a level, a tape measure, and common sense).

Sunday, however, went by more slowly, and my lack of “productivity” began to drive me insane.

Why can’t I just relax? I love curling up on the couch with a good book and a warm blanket, steaming mug of tea nearby. Yet, when I get the chance to do so, I have trouble allowing myself the treat. It seems there’s always something I should be doing instead – cleaning the condo, running errands, going to the gym. The list seems endless and I’m unable to unwind. I know that even if I was returning from the gym to a spotless home, I’d still find things that needed to be done. The guilt comes from somewhere within.

My guilt complex is something on which I’ll always be working. Meanwhile, does anyone else have trouble letting themselves relax? What do you do to combat your need for constant productivity?

A Broader Focus

I’ve wanted to start a blog for a while but was afraid to jump in – what would I write about? Would anyone read it? How would I even start?

Armed with the idea that my blog had to have a central theme, I chose to write about my quest to be a happier person. Happiness seems to be on many people’s mind’s lately – from Gretchen Rubin’s Happiness Project to Britain’s newest endeavor to produce a national happiness index. People are opening up to the idea that mentality matters more than money.

However – ironically – trying to write about happiness was becoming a deterrent to happiness itself. It’s not the topic – it was the feeling that I couldn’t write about anything else. Two months in and my “theme” had become a brick wall. Forcing myself to write to stay on topic made me lose the most important piece of this blog: my voice.

Problem easily solved: The “theme” of this blog is no longer “me being happy” – it’s about how I’m “happy being me.”

More on that here.

I still plan on writing about happiness as I’m very committed to living the happiest life possible. However, I’ll no longer let that limit me. I’m more than one singular quest. There’s more going on in my life – more I want to write about, more I want to share. This blog is my wee corner of the internet, so I get to “decorate” it accordingly. Less rigidity, more Helena.

On Sleep

{Sweet lofts by Suzie Beezie; Richard Leo Johnson, Photographer}

Most of us have heard it before – getting the proper amount of sleep leads to all manner of riches: better health, improved mood, increased memory. (For the uninitiated, check out Arianna Huffington’s TED Talk: How to Succeed? Get more Sleep). While the benefits are undeniable, knowing doesn’t always translate into doing. I say I’m going to get more sleep… but instead, I read, I watch movies, I clean. I can always find something else (and seemingly more important) to do. The feeling that there aren’t enough hours in the day may be trite, but it’s true.

I’ve read articles about what to do to get more sleep, and I’m succeeding at the small stuff:

  1. Make sure your bedroom is dark. Check! I wear a face mask as needed.
  2.  Exercise most days. Check! This has more of an energizing effect for me, but it’s on every sleep-list, so I may as well acknowledge my compliance.
  3. No caffeine after XPM. I’ve read everything from 3PM to 7PM – here’s where everyone’s body and caffeine tolerance comes into play. While I feel I’m less affected by the occasional Diet Coke, my intake tends to be primarily in the morning.

There are, of course, some areas for improvement:

  1. Keep your bedroom cool. Generally, I do well here. I’m part polar bear and would keep the place just warm enough to keep the pipes from freezing were I left to my own devices. However, as we transition to Spring (or the Chicago version thereof) I suppose I could relinquish my beloved duvet and use a lighter, more weather-appropriate covering. Before the onset of Summer, we are replacing the ceiling fan in the bedroom as the current one died (and was heinous, so no big loss).
  2. Reduce screen time an hour before bed. No TVs, no computers, no Blackberries, no phones. Limiting TV isn’t a problem (as we don’t have one) but I do spend quite a bit of time in front of a computer. Time to switch to a book prior to bedtime. I’ll also need to kick my habit of checking my work email before bed. I like to check in to ensure things are humming along smoothly. However, I’d be willing to make the sacrifice in the name of better shut-eye.

These improvement areas will be my goals for May as I focus on better health and mindset.

Yes, I did just publicly declare that my goals for the month are to put the duvet into storage and read books after 10PM. Baby steps.