Doing Your Best Right Now

Before this whole c*vid-19 mess, a recurring theme that I’d been talking about with my therapist was Brené Brown’s theory that people are generally doing their best. It’s been useful to remember to assume the best in the people in my life, and now sure seems like a good time to try to assume the best in others—that in our communities, and as a national and global society, we’ll care for and be considerate of everyone during such an uncertain and, frankly, scary time. (And by that I mean stay home and wash our hands and help out those in less fortunate situations than ourselves.)

I also think it’s a good time to turn that theory of “people are doing their best” back on yourself, AKA give yourself a break because I’m going to assume you’re doing the best you can. I mean you know if you’re not being kind or safe, but assuming you are, I think it’s more common for us to constantly feel like we’re not doing enough or being enough when we’re really giving all we’ve got to give.

And right now, I think the best thing you can do amidst a literal pandemic is cut the negative self-criticism and listen to your own needs while we spend this time inside.

Stop worrying about productivity. I get it; way easier said than done. You could argue that I’m here, pressuring myself to blog before the month is up, but actually, inspiration and discipline have brought me to this page rather than pressure. I’m still learning the difference, but I guess the easiest determining factor is that I want to be here. I want to feel connected to myself and serve others in any positive way I can. This is what I’ve got (and it’s enough that it’s making me feel better, though I hope it helps you too).

Other things that have brought me back into my own sense of calm and joy are: yoga, reading, journaling, tapping, sleeping, watching TV, and talking to my people.

I’m fortunate to be working from home, but I know my back and neck are extra tense, and Yoga with Adriene is helping that and to calm my mind. I’m admittedly slow at 30-day challenges and only on day four of her Home series, but it feels fitting to find peace on my mat and in my home since we’ve all got some time to get comfy.

I dove back into Cheryl Strayed’s Tiny Beautiful Things, a collection of essays she wrote when she was the advice columnist Sugar for The Rumpus. It’s one of my favorite nonfiction collections. I’ve been journaling when I’m pretty fed up with this whole thing and feeling anxious and in disbelief that at this random time, in a year I had already made some cool plans for, we’re somehow in the middle of what will surely be a bad page in a history textbook. It helps to feel my feelings, and then they’re not so loud once I’ve acknowledged them or gained some perspective on how I can move forward.

When I need an extra dose of positivity or a reminder of the best self I’m striving to be, I tap by following along with Gala Darling. EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) involves tapping certain points of your body to basically rebalance your energy. Gala explains it better, and she keeps it real while being very optimistic and a huge believer in manifesting great things for yourself.

I mentioned sleep because I’ve been trying to make sure I’m getting my eight hours as a night owl who’s good at accidentally staying up much later than I mean to. It’s good for my moods and my immune system, so I highly recommend, especially since the stress of this situation is heavy and exhausting.

Of course, I’m watching Netflix, specifically New Girl and That ’70s Show and Tiger King (which is insane, so many more layers than anticipated). I’ve been trying to color or use activity books as well, something for my hands to focus on that isn’t scrolling through all the news or social media updates because I find that I can’t be plugged in all the time for the sake of my own anxiety. I’ve also been brushing up on my French with Duolingo, something I’m having fun with whether I spend five or 30 minutes a day on it.

And I’m calling my people; my family, my friends, my therapist. I’m working to expand my phone network, but I’m off to a good start with a birthday call for my brother’s 30th and a virtual spa night with my friends and other calls to vent and laugh and check in more than maybe we were before things shifted.

Essentially, I’m doing my best by taking the best care of myself that I can. I’m not doing all these things every day. I’m not feeling positive 100% of the time. I don’t know when things will go back to “normal”which will probably look different after all thisbut I’m still hoping for the best and holding onto the knowledge that I’m doing all I can for myself and for others by staying inside and finding joy in it.

Cheers to 2020

In 2019, I worked on creating space for myself. This post is going to be a roundup of things I’m proud of, just to defy the little voice in my head that wants to focus on all the things I didn’t get to or could have done better. I’ll work on it in 2020 (as a therapist once told me, progress isn’t linear—read that again if you have to). I’ll get there, but I’m going to celebrate the small victories along the way. 

So, in 2019, I:

Started with a promotion to copy chief at my collegiate newspaper and celebrated winning a prestigious award with my coworkers.

I graduated from Columbia College Chicago with a bachelor’s in nonfiction (and enjoyed a surreal and fun ceremony).

I wrote a lot. I wrote a thesis with 12 essays and I felt really good about my progress as a writer. I wrote some reviews and opinion articles. I read one review on camera, a cool and weird experience. I read an essay at my department’s undergrad reading (the final of three annual readings I organized). I blogged here. I had an essay published in a friends’ lit mag, and I’m working on putting together more submissions to other opportunities. (See my Projects and Publications page)

Maybe the biggest writing opportunity I had in the latter part of this year sprouted from what felt like a failure. I didn’t get a job I wanted and was devastated—but they asked me if I wanted to freelance. I wrote one article (coming in March 2020, I believe) and we’re in the works of discussing a 2020 freelance plan. I’m really excited. 

I read some good, challenging and thoughtful fiction and nonfiction by Terese Marie Mailhot, Melissa Febos, Brian Blanchfield, Amniatta Forna and Jesmyn Ward, among others. I read (and edited) a lot of news. I found a couple cute bookstores, one I’ve been sharing with friends. I’m currently reading a holiday novel by Jasmine Guillory.

I started working at an advertising agency, where I went from a communications intern to my role as a communications coordinator as part of the same great team. 

I bought a car. I moved to a different city. I moved in with my boyfriend. I made new friends that have become really important to me. I had a great Thanksgiving and Christmas with family. 

And I started seeing a therapist. Therapy is a private practice, but it’s healthy and shouldn’t be a taboo thing to talk about. I find it useful for my anxiety and for creating space for myself to have a dedicated person to talk through things with. I’m proud of my progress with her and am looking forward to doing more of the work to prioritize myself and be present in 2020.

It feels like this will be a year of seeking what really serves me professionally and personally. As I said, I’m hoping to pursue more opportunities, one of which will hopefully be an incredible trip with friends.

Whatever unknown magic it has in store, cheers to the new year!