Let's Make This the Year of Trying...


Positively Present - Dont Be Afraid to Try


Much as I hate to admit it, I've never really been a try-er. If something comes easily to me or I only have to put in a moderate, not-totally-unenjoyable work, I'll do it. When I encounter anything I'm not immediately decent at doing (or something that is out of my control in some way, I find myself putting in a minimal amount of effort, doing what's needed to get things done (if I even do it at all). During a conversation with a friend a few months back, I was pondering why I do this. Why do I just not try at certain things? Or, when I do try, why do I not try particularly hard? 

I could be wrong (self-evaluation always comes with the risk of being deeply flawed), but I believe it's because I'm afraid. If I try my best and fail, I'll be disappointed or upset. If I don't try (or half-ass try), I can always tell myself, Of course you didn't succeed -- you didn't even really try! It's an odd act of self-preservation, this not-trying thing. I do it, I think, so I don't have to deal with whatever emotions might arise if I were to try my absolute best and fail. 

This, as you might imagine, is not an ideal way to live. Yes, I've managed to do well in certain areas and find fulfillment in many of the things I do, but what am I missing out on by not trying? And what would it be like if I actually started trying, putting my full effort into whatever I do? 

It was back in the early autumn when I was having this conversation with my friend, and I decided then and there that I was going to try as hard as I could with my upcoming book, Grow Through It. It's not that I hadn't tried with previous books -- obviously, I did. But I didn't push myself to a level of trying that felt borderline uncomfortable. (This sounds like a bad thing, but when it comes to trying, it's actually good to push yourself a bit and not settle for what comes easily.) 

And so I did. I pushed myself harder than I had before. I perfected. I re-read. I redrew entire pages if they didn't feel like they were working. (In the past, I might have thought, Yeah, it could be better, but whatever, it's fine!) Could I have done more? Maybe? Of course I'll always feel that way because without time restrictions and deadlines (and things like sleep and maintaining somewhat of a social life), there's always a possibility that more could be done. But I know for certain: I tried harder than I've tried before. I will not be able to look at this book at say, Eh, well, I didn't really try, so who cares if it's not doing well..

I put everything I could into that book, and, regardless of how well it's received or the total sales (it debuts in early October! yay!), I feel differently about it than I do about other projects I've worked on. Even if no one else loves it, love it. I tried

Of course, the point of this post isn't to rave about my excitement for Grow Through It (though I am super excited for it!). It's to bring up the issue of trying. Maybe you're nothing like me. Maybe you try your hardest at everything -- your job, your hobbies, your relationships, etc. But I bet there are a lot of people out there who're just like me, who hold back on trying because they're afraid of failing. I bet some of you don't try as hard as you know you could because you worry that the end result won't reflect the effort you put in. 

But I'm here to tell you, as a (former?) non-try-er, that it doesn't matter. There's value in the trying itself, regardless of the outcome. The cliche "it's all about the process" exists for a reason. Sure, the end result will matter to some degree. Of course I want my book to do well and my hard work to pay off. But, in the process of all this trying, I've gained something really valuable: more self-respect. Sure, trying is scary. But there's something so powerful and motivating about actually putting in the work. There's a magic to putting yourself out there, win or lose, and giving it your all. It feels good

So, if you're like me and tend to half-ass try (or altogether avoid) things that are tough, I hope this inspires you to give something you really care about your very best shot. It might not work out, true, but it might, and wouldn't it be kind of cool to see what happens if you really put everything into it? Wouldn't it be something to have worked your absolute hardest and be rewarded for it, even if that reward is simply feeling more certain about what you're capable of? 

Trying is scary, but you should do it. I'm going to continue trying not to half-ass my trying (ha!). Like, recently I was nominated for a Shorty Award in Art (omgomgomg -- I still can't believe I'm writing those words!). A (big) part of me wants to be like, Don't promote it and ask people to vote for you -- that seems desperate and you shouldn't care so much about something like an award; you're just feeding your ego. But that's the scared part of me. The other (braver!) part of me is like, You know what? I want to win. Wanting to win an award for something I've worked really hard on doesn't make me a bad person. I'm choosing to listen to that second voice. I'm choosing to ask for votes, to promote myself, and, scary as it is, to hope I actually win. 

If I don't win, I'll be fine. Just like I'll be fine if Grow Through It isn't the smashing success I dream it will be. But I know now that I don't want my fear to hold me back from going after things I want. I likely developed this "don't try too hard / don't act like you care" attitude in my angsty teen years, but it's high time I let that shit go. I do care. I'm still scared to try, but that doesn't mean I shouldn't do it. That fear inside my head is just static. It's muffling the sounds of what I really want, and this year I'm choosing to turn the volume down. 

I want 2020 to be the year of trying. I want it to be the year of giving a shit and not being afraid of expressing my desires. It's okay to want things. It's okay to work hard and hope for success. I'll leave you with this: 

 

If you've been half-assing something you really care about, stop letting the fear win, and start trying instead. See what happens...

 

Also, vote for me in the Shorty Awards! I really do want to win (even though I still feel embarrassed writing that, even after this massive blog-post-turned-pep-talk! *eye roll*), and every vote counts. You can vote once a day until February 20, 2020. Thank you so much to everyone who has already voted, and thank you in advance to everyone who votes after reading this! 

 


9 Tips for Battling the Winter Blues

Positively Present - Winter Blues

 

As winter arrives, I'm taken back in my mind to last year... Last winter, I was really down and out at the start of 2019. I spent so much time in bed, engaging in unhealthy coping methods, and generally just feeling rotten about myself and my life. While I don't know for sure if this was general depression or Season Affective Disorder (S.A.D.) -- I should have sought professional help, but I didn't -- I do know that it was pretty terrible to feel that way. 

Though I feel very differently now than I did then (not gonna lie -- 2019 turned itself around and turned out to be one of the best years I've had in a long time!), when I think back on last winter, my mind starts racing and all I can think about is how to prevent myself from falling back into that darkness again this year. So, of course, I decided to do some research on S.A.D. and learn about how I could prevent it, or, if it happens to strike again this year, how I can cope with it. 

Even if you don't have S.A.D. or depression, you might find yourself facing the winter blues. With colder temps and darker, shorter days, it's not surprising that many people struggle during this season. You can't always avoid feeling sad (or S.A.D.) altogether, but here are some of the tips I've discovered that I think would really help if you're struggling. 

 

  1. GET A LIGHT BOX

    I've never tried one of these so I can't vouch for their effectiveness, but from what I've read, it sounds like they can really help people who are suffering with S.A.D. Apparently there are many different types (as well as something called a "dawn simulator" that's used to wake you up in the morning) so be sure to do your research and figure out which one would be best for you. 

  2. VENTURE OUTDOORS

    The lack of light and shorter days can make it tough to go outside (especially if, like me, you're not an outdoorsy type to begin with), but if you're feeling down, making the effort to spend time in the fresh air can really help. Even just a quick walk around the block can help! (Or get a pup so you're forced to take them out and get some outdoor time in every day!)

  3. TRY THERAPY (CBT)

    While I can't personally verify that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy works for S.A.D., I do know that it's worked for me in the past to deal with other mental health issues and it's the therapy type I saw recommended the most while looking up info on S.A.D. Seeking professional help is one of the best ways to find solutions for your specific needs, so I highly recommend it. 

  4. MAKE SOME ART

    Art therapy really does work, and I honestly don't know if I would have survived last winter without making art. I know art isn't everyone's thing, but if you're feeling down, give it a try. It doesn't have to be traditional art either -- try writing, pottery, drawing, painting, sewing. Anything creative that allows you to get in a flow for a bit can help. 

  5. CONSIDER MEDS

    To get through S.A.D. some people need the assistance of medication. If you're having a difficult time, talk to your doctor about what you're going through to see if there might be something that can work for you. (Whatever you do, don't attempt to self-medicate. It never works out and often makes things way worse than they were.)

  6. PRACTICE YOGA

    Yoga is another saving grace for me. I'm not particularly good at it and I generally do it for about 10-15 minutes every day, but even when I half-ass it and don't feel up for it, making the time to do it always makes me feel a bit better. (My favorite is Yoga with Adriene on YouTube but there are tons of yogis online!) Exercising also works wonders if yoga isn't your thing. 

  7. SEEK SUNLIGHT

    Open the blinds! Pull up the curtains! The lack of sunlight is one of the reasons for S.A.D. so the more of it you can allow into your home, the better. If you don't have a desk near a window, as your boss if there's somewhere else you can work temporarily to be near a sunny spot. Going outside isn't always an option, but take advantage of sunny days indoors by allowing the light in. 

  8. MAKE PLANS 

    When I'm feeling down, the last thing I want to do is be around people. But I've discovered that it's often what my mind needs when I'm sad. I don't enjoy going out in the cold, but I'm planning to make an effort to make lots of plans this winter so that I'm busy and socializing. It won't be easy, but I know it's helpful for me. 

  9. STICK TO A SCHEDULE

    With the lack of daylight, it's tempting to go to bed super early or sleep in (if you have the option), but I've read (and also believe) that sticking to a schedule is important for managing or preventing S.A.D. The body and mind love to be on schedules and it gives your life a sense of purpose that's important when you're feeling down. Your winter schedule can be different from your summer one, but just try to stick to it! 

 

Of course, there are many other options to explore and if you're really suffering during the winter, seeking professional help (whether in the form of therapy or from your doctor) is always a good idea. If you're feeling down (especially after the holiday season passes and it feels like a swift change in pace), know that you're not alone and that it's perfectly normal to experience down days in the winter. Try to remember that, even when it doesn't seem like it, the difficult darkness will pass. There will be a spring again (or something that makes it feel like spring to you). 

 

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36 Truths from 36 Years


Positively Present - Age Is

Today I turn 36! Age is just a number, they say, and the older I get, the more I realize the truth in that statement. With every year, I feel both changed and exactly the same. There are parts of me that will always be and there are parts that will shift over time. One thing I know for certain is that, the older I get, the less I know. I gain wisdom, yes, but I also gain the realization that so much of life is a mystery (and so much is uniquely experienced in ways that are difficult to put into words). 

This time of year always puts me in a state of reflection, and this year I've compiled a list of 36 things I've learned (some of them just this year!). I might not know everything, but after 36 years in this place, I've learned something. Like the quote above implies, with age I've figured out a lot about how the world works, but I'm willing to get out of the way of what I don't yet understand. Miriam Makeba also said, "Age is wisdom, if one has lived one's life properly. It is experience and knowledge." Many bemoan getting older, but I'm thankful for it. Knowledge and wisdom is so important to me and the more I live, the more I discover. Here are just a few of the things I know so far...

 

  1. You are who (and where) you're meant to be. All of the time.  
  2. Opening your mind leads to more connection and contentment. 
  3. Being good at something isn't necessary for it to be good for you. 
  4. There's nothing wrong with enjoying being alone a lot of the time. 
  5. Healing (physically and emotionally) can take longer than expected.
  6. The fewer expectations you have, the more you'll enjoy it. 
  7. Wanting something (or someone) can be better than having it. 
  8. Paying attention to how people make you feel will provide clarity. 
  9. Laughter isn't technically medicine, but it is a kind of healing magic.
  10. It's alright (and normal) to have mixed feelings about those you love.
  11. Knowing the why of your moods can help you work with them. 
  12. Gratitude journals sound cheesy, but they actually do something. 
  13. You're allowed to say "no" -- yes, even to people you love. 
  14. The longer you keep doing it, the more you're going to learn
  15. What you focus on the most is what you will find.
  16. To deal with differences, try to seek out similarities. 
  17. When it comes to anxiety, try acceptance over avoidance
  18. Give yourself credit for the positive choices you're making. 
  19. Your thoughts are tinted by tons of things; they're not facts. 
  20. People usually want to help, so don't be afraid to ask. 
  21. Happiness and positivity are not the same thing. 
  22. Things you dread are usually not as bad in reality.
  23. Look out for the gray areas; very little is black-or-white.
  24. Creativity and worry are connected (for better or worse!).
  25. Doing absolutely nothing isn't always a waste of time. 
  26. Choose the words that follow "I am..." carefully. 
  27. A lot can change in a very little amount of time. 
  28. You're not obligated to be now the person you were then. 
  29. Just because something hasn't happened doesn't mean it won't. 
  30. It's okay (and even good, sometimes!) to be uncomfortable. 
  31. What you love doesn't have to make sense to everyone. 
  32. Telling your story can be healing, but it's not required.
  33. How people act is almost always about them, not you
  34. Productivity isn't a personality; you aren't how much you do.
  35. You can (often) control who you allow into your life.
  36. The way you feel now isn't how you'll always feel. 

 

It's my hope that this list has given you some new knowledge or insights. It's funny to write it because I know someday I'll look back at my 36-year-old self and chuckle at how little I knew. (Yes, I do this with my 26-year-self now.) I'll read things I wrote a decade ago and cringe, thinking how little I knew about what was to come. But that's the cool thing about life: we don't know what's going to happen or what wisdom we'll gain along the way. So, for now, I'll just keep sharing what I know the best way I know how. Thanks for following along with me as I keep learning (and especially as I'm working on my next book, which I'm so thrilled about but which is causing the blog to take a bit of a backseat).

If you want to help me celebrate my 36 years on this planet, consider supporting my work on Patreon, purchasing from the print shop, (use code "august23" for 36% off 'til 8/25/19), or checking out some of my digital products here. I appreciate your support!