“Five weeks ago Alex Lee became a mother, around the time her son was born.”
by Alex Lee at SBS 🖤
As usual, I’ve been doing / experimenting with a bunch of Self Care things.
I really wanted more music in our lives. I wanted more music in my world, in my everyday! But I also imagined a family who woke up to music, who bopped around while making breakfast, who had a little boogie while getting dressed, that sort of thing. A couple years ago, I said to James that I wanted to be able to walk into any room and ask for music. “Play some groovy good morning music!” – but choosing a system was daunting and seemed like it could possibly be an expensive mistake/regret. So I held off, and held off, until one day I was at a friend’s house and she had a Google Home Mini, and I looked up the price, and I thought: “Damn it, for $50, I’m going to give that thing a go. If it sucks, I can sell it on Gumtree and try a different one!”
The first Google Home Mini came – I chose the coral colour – and I LOVED IT. It was exactly what I wanted. “Play me soul music!” “Play kids’ music.” “Play happy music.” We added another Google Home, and another, and another… until we had 5. And now I can wake up, and say “Play my ‘discover weekly’ on everywhere,” (awkward phrase, I know!) and the whole house is filled with music that I like. I think it’s partially changed the way I feel about this house and about spending time here.
I like myself better when I’m reading books. I’ve maintained this habit well. Every day, it’s something I’ve gotta cross off my habits list. Doesn’t matter if I only read one page, I need to do it. And I have to put the book down after (maximum) a chapter, so that I don’t binge-read (and then don’t feel like reading any more books for days to come).
Currently reading: Book of Colours by Robyn Cadwallader
I also like myself better when I’m listening to podcasts. I’ve subscribed to loads, and I ask the podcasts app to “Play unplayed podcasts,” which plays them randomly. I’m at the stage now with the kids that I’m doing some drop-offs and pick-ups from their preschools, so it means I get to listen to podcasts on one leg of each trip. I listened to an interesting short podcast on hazing yesterday, then today I heard one on the science of happiness, and then one on political ideologies VS political realities.
Podcast episode recommendation: The Future of Meat (Freakonomics podcast)
Around New Year’s, spurred on by the fun of holidaying, the loving-kindness of being with close family & friends, the feeling of a fresh start, I had the energy/impetus to try some yoga at home, with the Yoga With Adriene YouTube channel. I chose a 30-day yoga challenge and was really surprised when many of the sessions were around 15 minutes long. Whaaat?! Too easy! Easy as pickles to fit in my day. I thought it was a bit of a joke actually – that my yoga skills/strength/flexibility/fitness wouldn’t improve with a mere 15 minutes per day. But I was wrong. A third of the way into it, I could feel that I was getting stronger. Halfway through it, I could feel that I was wishing it was a bit harder! By the end of it, I was going to my regular weekly yoga class and I was able to push myself so much more than before. And I feel like my posture is better, which is something I’ve been wanting to improve year after year after year and have never really gotten anywhere. I’m onto a second 30-day series by Adriene now.
I’m also trying to walk outdoors every day. Even if for 10 minutes.
I’m trying to avoid processed foods. And I’ve a ban on ham and bacon.
I hadn’t done any “skin care” before, really, except use moisturiser with SPF15. I saw the lines start to come in around my eyes and the pigmentation on my cheeks from sun damage and thought: OK, I’ll research this. The internet was full of BS advice, so I went to the library. At first I read a beauty book, which was all over the place and contained lots of dubious claims (don’t let water from the shower hit your face, only use silk pillow cases, etc). So then I came back to the internet, researched a bit more, and found some information that seemed more legit.
Anti-Aging Skin Treatments: What Really Works? by Maureen Salamon on LiveScience is a pretty good summary of some of the easiest things that people can do, although I’m not even sure it’s of fantastic quality, because it says that argireline and Matrixyl are the same thing, and from everything else I’ve read, they’re not.
Skin anti-aging strategies by Ganceviciene, Liakou, Theodoridis, Makrantonaki, and Zouboulis on PubMed Central (archive of biomedical and life sciences journal literature at the U.S. National Institutes of Health’s National Library of Medicine) is more comprehensive, although it’s almost seven years old, and I imagine there’ve been some advances in the past seven years.
Soooooo I’ve upgraded my sunscreen (too late, duffer!) and have bought some other things. I’m not diving into the deep end with IPL or Botox etc. I’m trying antioxidants, peptides, vitamin E, vitamin A, vitamin C, and acid. (Not LSD.)
I’m trying St John’s Wort to see if it prevents my “waking up on the wrong side of bed” kind of days. They don’t happen that often, but I haaaaate when they do. I hate waking up and feeling like I’m in the wrong frame of mind. I do not want to be a grumpy mum. I read that irritability is a sign of mild depression, and I think that when I feel grumpy-for-no-apparent-reason, that could well be classified as irritability. I talked about it with my family doctor, and she agreed SJW (James and I call it “Social Justice Warrior”) can produce good results, but she recommended one particular brand which she said was better quality than the others. (I Googled that theory later and Google agrees with her.) I’m about 2 weeks in, and it takes at least 4 weeks to see if SJW is working.
I’ve also been using the app “Moody” to track mood and mood factors. I think the biggest factor – by far – is whether I’ve had a good sleep or not. The second biggest factor (which is not even close to sleep quality) is whether or not I’ve had some “me time” (i.e. time-out from being the primary carer). Both of those factors seem pretty obvious, but I hadn’t realised how extremely important good sleep was to my mood (good quality sleep and good length of sleep). Duh.
I really like Flow magazine and their first issue for the year had a little workbook on improving one’s life by changing some little things. One suggestion was to “change one habit daily.” So I set “Daily 1 different habit” as one of my habits in my Done tracker app and I’m trying to do that too. Choose a morning tea instead of coffee. Walk instead of drive. Talk to the person in the queue with me instead of leaving them alone. Those sorts of things. I really like “change one habit daily” as an idea.
And… after listening to the The Science of Happiness podcast today, I’m trying the end-of-day exercise “3 good things,” where you spend 10 minutes writing about 3 good things that happened that day, and why they were good.
8. ENJOY LIFE
This one’s all about being in the moment and “not saving the good silverware” and just enjoying life. Sounds so simple, right? This is the area I’m having the most trouble with. Some days present quite easy: like the other day, we were at the park with some other families from the kindergarten, and one family suggested we have fish & chips in the park (on a beautiful summer’s evening). Perfect! Enjoyable!
Then another day my kids got home from preschool and wanted to do some painting. I love painting and they love painting. So it seemed like a win-win. I started out feeling like I was providing an experience for them that they absolutely loved – but after a while, the 4YO was getting frustrated that he couldn’t mix the right colour, and the 2YO was getting paint on everything in the house, and it just… wasn’t… enjoyable.
So then I think, maybe I just need to think about how am *I* enjoying life, separate from my time with the kids? But the truth is, I don’t have much of a life of my own at the moment. I’ve been considering night classes? Or something like that? (I don’t know what to study.)
I’m trying to “follow my curiosity” too, still. It’s hard to indulge in it. At night, it feels like, “Oh I have two hours, I need to do all these tasks like reconcile the budget and plan Sky’s birthday and help out the kindergarten with this graphic design thing!” but, like last night, sometimes I have to put those tasks on hold and just get lost in the internet. And you know what I found last night? This wonderful essay by Sufjan Stevens on his childhood, How I Trumped Rudolf Steiner and Overcame the Tribulations of Illiteracy, One Snickers Bar at a Time.
I was listening to the Happier podcast and Gretchen Rubin was talking about a little thing she does each year, which is to make a list of things she’d like to do (with the list number corresponding to the year number).
I thought that was pretty cute and wrote up my own 19 for 2019 without thinking too hard about it, so I’d get a list that was kinda… “of the moment.” I’ve done a couple already!
(And there was space left on the paper so I wrote “celebrate / luxuriate / appreciate” at the end – which are all to do with the “Choosing to enjoy life everyday” one)
* “Choosing to enjoy life everyday” is hard to explain. It’s not “choosing to be happy,” it’s more like a combination of “use the good china” and “spend out” and “live a little” and “because you’re worth it™️” and “YOLO”
** “Clear inbox” refers to a real, live, overflowing inbox next to my desk, full of papers. Not my email. My email is fine!
I don’t know how it happened, but I’m doing 30 minutes of yoga every day (last year, I was only going to one easy class per week!) and I feel like I need it. Like if I reach the afternoon and I haven’t done yoga, I prioritise it over anything else! And now, approximately 18 days into this, my body feels like it needs even more exercise. It feels good. I don’t know who I’ve become. (Michelle, are you contagious?)
OK, where am I.
The past few years (or million years?) I’ve been fretting about what to do next, what life choice I need to make to feel like I’m both enjoying life and doing something meaningful. Not fretting like biting-my-nails fretting or going-to-bed-crying fretting or can’t-breathe-under-the-weight-of-this-existential-angst fretting, more like: most weeks, I think about it – it’s a general background concern that, if I don’t figure something out, I’ll never solve this problem – I’ll always *either* be enjoying life OR feeling like I’m doing something meaningful, but never both at once.
So, stuff it. I’m taking a break from vague worry for a year. 2019 is just about enjoying life. I’m going to purchase some roses from the internet and smell them.
Easy-peasy! Let’s see how that all goes.
Happy new year, sweets. ❤️
I go to an art class (which is ace) at the local community centre, so I get the centre’s emails. A while back, their email newsletter said that they wanted to change their offering a bit, to attract new audiences to the community centre and they were looking for ideas. I wrote back that a women’s group might be nice – a place for local women to meet each other. I met with the centre staff to discuss the idea, then whipped up a poster in Apple Pages to advertise an initial “ideas session” – so we could see how many local women are interested in having women’s groups, and what kinds of women’s groups they would like to exist.
(part of the poster)
We had about 15 women turn up, which might not sound like a lot, but it makes for a decent sized group. I find that around 12 people is about the maximum size for a nice community group meetup, so 15 was pretty good. The manager of the community centre asked if we could go around the table and if everyone could introduce themselves and say a little about why they were there. It was lovely hearing from everyone – I realised I’ve missed all the meetups I used to go to! – just hearing the introductions, and about what they’re looking for.
One woman was talking about how she’d like to engage more with the local community, and said something like: “I’d like us to make it a village again,” which really resonated with me.
I met with a life coach last month – I was curious about life coaches and there are some things I like to experience just because I’m curious about them (personal stylist was another one!) and after talking with her for awhile, she reflected her summary of “me” – some of the key topics were:
I thought about it afterwards, and yes, that is a pretty good summary! All the things I’ve loved doing – from our street party to MaMoDaBe – it’s basically all been about community, if not those other topics too.
I keep coming back to the idea of “make it a village again” and what that means.
Anyway, I don’t have a point here, just writing in my online diary, you know how it is.
As for the women’s groups – a bunch of ideas came out of the first session – a cycling group, a “Social Sundays” group, women’s book group, evening art & craft classes, a support group for women who have experienced loss – but the one that piqued my interest (and I never thought someone would suggest!) was an informal art meetup, similar to Ladies Drawing Night or Social Sketch. I LOVE this idea! I wanted to start one, like, a year ago, but wasn’t confident that anyone else would be interested. So I hope that this idea launches. I’m in.