New Year, New Thoughts

So it’s a new year, and while I haven’t done resolutions in quite some time, I realized that completely unrelated to the new year, I have a number of goals and projects that I think are important to my health and wellbeing, and so I thought I’d share them with you along with some thoughts about making resolutions that build myself up and help me integrate self care and self esteem into my life rather than creating resolutions that will just make me feel shitty. Welcome to self care resolutions!

  1. Read! I always feel better when I replace some of my computer time with reading time. IT helps me step back from what’s happening on the internet, gives me a little bit of escapism time, and makes me feel more productive. However I want to be a little more specific than just “read more” because that isn’t a very helpful goal. I’d like to continue to read each night before I go to bed, and start tracking what I’m reading on Goodreads. A tentative goal is 50 books this year, although I haven’t tracked before so I have no idea what’s reasonable.
  2. Deal with health issues. I think this is something more people could stand to do. I think a lot of us ignore random pains or weirdness because we don’t want to deal with going to the doctor or because it seems stupid. I’ve had headaches for my whole life and constant exhaustion for many years, no matter how much sleep I get. So this year I will go see a doctor and ask about these things. I will get a sleep study, I will see if there is a way to improve my quality of life. Because I fucking deserve it, and because I know that my emotions will be more stable when my physical health is stable. This is one of the Adulting things that I don’t feel I was ever taught: how to advocate for my own health, or identify when a problem is serious enough to warrant medical attention. So my secondary goal is also to improve my confidence around my ability to do Stupid Life Things.
  3. Look into a tubal ligation. I have never wanted children and I don’t ever see that changing. Permanent sterilization feels like an act of empowerment and control over my body to me. I would strongly prefer not to ever have to deal with birth control ever again. So this would take one (totally unlikely awful) stress off my mind: pregnancy. I was talking with a friend last night about this, and she pointed out that in addition, we cannot rely on abortion being readily available in the future. I don’t want my reproductive future to be contingent on our elected officials not being dicks to women. So: taking control.
  4. Finish editing my novel and start getting it out there to publishers. I’ve been working on it for a year, and I’m fine with taking my time (it’s a side project), but at some point I have to take the deep breath and be confident enough in my abilities that I cannot continue trying to “fix” it, because it will never be good enough. So one more run through, and then it starts going out. Writing and publishing a novel has been the one goal that has held through my entire life and I want to make that happen.
  5. Start eating meat again. Ok, hear me out on this one. I made the switch to vegetarianism in the midst of my eating disorder, and while I do strongly believe in the ethical principles of animal rights, I would be lying if I said the decision was not motivated by the disorder. It makes it easier to restrict, and it makes me less healthy. And while I have kept it up as I’ve started increasing my food intake, it has made it increasingly difficult to eat a balanced diet. I realize that there are people out there who can be completely healthy on a veggie or vegan diet, but I am not one of them. Thanks to a lot of my sensory issues around taste and texture I really can’t stomach most veggie proteins, which means that I’m gaining weight and getting minimal nutrition from my diet. I need to focus on eating well rather than just eating. I don’t like prioritizing my own health over animal rights, which is why this one is a challenge and a goal rather than just a simple decision for me. But it’s important for me to recognize that I deserve health and that I am allowed to prioritize myself. Acting it out by feeding myself helps me to convince myself that I deserve respect and care. It’s a choice that I can make to help shift my values. By consistently acting out something that I have rationally decided is important, I’m hoping to slowly adjust the emotions associated with it.
  6. This is the haziest goal I have: figure out what to do with the information that I am autistic. I haven’t had much spare time in the last few weeks since I got the diagnosis to decide whether I want to pursue any kind of treatment or pass info on to my therapist or read more about the autism community or what. I’d like to try going to a support group, and read more first hand accounts from others about how they have learned to cope. But I’d also like to do more research about whether there are different therapeutic techniques or ways of doing CBT that are more or less effective with autism. I just feel like I need more information, so that’s where I’ll start, and I hope to have something concrete to do with the diagnosis, some ways of helping myself that came out of that information by the end of the year.
  7. Climb a 5.11b. Feel good about it. This last year I got to the climbing gym pretty regularly through the whole year. It made a big difference and I’d really like to keep it up. I’d also like to actually keep improving, but I don’t want to forget to applaud myself and recognize when I hit goals. It’s too easy to continually be looking to the next thing. So more than any physical accomplishment, I want to take a little bit of time at each milestone to throw myself a little internal party and feel like a boss.
  8. Build a gaming table. Do more work with my hands. Most of the work that I do doesn’t produce nice, physical results that I can hold and see. While I love what I do, and I love writing, there’s something soothing and confidence building about creating something physical. I’ve been doing a lot of cross stitching recently and I think that’s a good start, but The Boyfriend and I both want to build a gaming table and I think that’s a good large goal for me to have. It’s clear, it shouldn’t be overly complex, and it’s something that I know I’ll use and want in the long term.

So that’s it. I’m focusing more on what makes me happy this year. What about you?


Settling for Happiness

For most of my life, I was fairly certain that the worst thing that could happen to me was an average life. Settling. I would think about working an average job (even one that I enjoyed) and coming home to a normal house and it all sounded like stagnation. It was the worst thing I could imagine. Most millennials have been told that they could be the best, which often translates into the implication that you should be the best. For me, this was the conviction that unless there was something in this world that I accomplished that no one else could, I was not doing enough.

Perfectionism is a nasty curse. There is always more that you could be doing. If you’re dedicating your life to writing, you’re losing out on your ability to make music or research neuroscience or learn languages. Possibility is always a kind of pressure. One of the biggest problems of defining yourself by your achievements is that there are always more things to be achieved. You might reach one of your goals, but there are five more that you could complete today alone. “Average” tends to be defined by goals and accomplishments. You know someone is outstanding when you can point to their resume of accomplishments. Or so we’re taught to believe.

The problem with this model is that I know dozens of people who have done amazing things in their lives. All of them have found different ways to excel, and dedicated themselves to whatever their passion is. I hear news stories almost daily about people accomplishing things I could never hope to achieve. There’s no way to live up to all of these possibilities. What I don’t hear is stories of contentment. There are very few people in my life who seem to simply exist in the space that they’re in without any energy pushing them somewhere else, any driving need to be doing more or appearing better.

Contentment is not a competition. If all your friends are content with their lives, you don’t have to be more content in order to feel ok. In contrast, achievement and perfection are values that compare: the more your friends achieve, the more you have to achieve if you want your achievements to stand out.

So here’s a new goal: settling for happiness. Are you content with your job? Do you have a place to live and a regular income? Do you have people that you love? Do you get to see those people on a regular basis? Awesome. Settle for that. Relish it.

A few nights ago I got to see my friends for the first time in over a month. We didn’t do much. Ate some cookies, played Mario Kart, and just goofed around with each other. I laughed a lot. I smiled. I got hugged and teased and affirmed. It was hardly a mind-blowing experience, except that there was no anxiety, no worry, no desire to be anywhere but where I was.

Yesterday I went to the Renaissance Festival with some new friends and felt nothing but affection and excitement for who I was with. I was a little tired and didn’t have the money to spend on all the exciting things I saw, but again, there was no question in my mind that this was where I wanted to be and these were the people that I wanted to be with.

Tomorrow I’m starting a new job and I’m a little anxious, but I get to hang out with one of my best friends afterwards, and I know that no matter what happens or whether the job is a good fit or not, I get at least a few hours tomorrow of pure contentment. That’s more than some people can say in months. That’s amazing.

I’m not saving the world. I’m not making tons of money. I’m not living in the nicest house or recognized around the world as a world changing genius. But I like who I am and I like who I’m with. I will settle for that any day over saving the world, because I have saved my world. Somewhere along the way I hope to improve the lives of some people around me, but the best way to do that is by being happy and doing things I like to do. So I’m going to settle. I don’t necessarily need a high powered career or a book deal. I don’t necessarily need an excess of disposable income. I suppose if that’s settling, then I’m all for it, because I’d rather be happy than amazing.