Progress, Not Perfection

Aloha, friends!

I’m back from another sweaty session at the gym and thought that it might be a good time to update you on how all my fitness & physical/mental health stuff is going!

As I mentioned about a month ago, I’m having a mid-life crisis in the midst of a sort of life overhaul. I was feeling overwhelmed, anxious, and found my self-esteem and general happiness were in a steep decline. So after whining about it and feeling sorry for myself for entirely too long, I finally determined I needed to take action and implement some positive changes in my life.

And since I’m not exactly a prudent person, I roared forth, guns-blazing, and actually initiated a WHOLE BUNCH of different lifestyle changes… basically all at once. Heh.

  

Some of them are, of course, bigger and more significant than others, but I like to think that they’re all positive changes nonetheless:

  1. I started taking vitamins
  2. I started waking up at the same time (ish) every day
  3. I started using my Panda Planner again
  4. I cleaned up my eating and started tracking in MyFitnessPal again
  5. I started working out (4 to 5 times a week)
  6. I found a therapist

Actually, I found two therapists, as I realized I wasn’t really jiving with the first one. I’m only a couple sessions in with my new one, but I love her so far! And after yesterday’s appointment, I’m also attempting to add in a seventh thing, which is to try and meditate & practice mindfulness first thing in the morning.

I downloaded the Calm app, as well as one called Insight Timer, upon her recommendation, though it’s absolutely going to take time for me to to be able to quiet my mental chatter… my brain is really used to being busy, lol. Calm’s first guided meditation lasted like 9 minutes and it was extremely difficult for me to focus. Guess that’s why they call it a practice, though!

Embracing all of these things is also helping me in working towards my goal of establishing more routine and reliability in my life. I think that the impetus for a lot of my uncertainty, anxiety, and discontentment that has surfaced over the past year has been the biggest change that has ever or likely will ever occur in my life: becoming a mother. This is not to say that I don’t absolutely, 150% LOVE being Penny’s mom, I do! Nor is it meant to be any kind of slight against her — I think you are all probably painfully aware at this point that Penny is pretty much a perfect baby. She’s awesome, we literally could not have gotten luckier.

 

But even though I have an amazing kiddo, a husband, a supportive and involved family, a great job, a comfortable living situation… I’ve still struggled. And that’s where the mental health component really comes into place, because honestly, I’m not even sure if I can identify exactly what it is that I’ve been struggling with the most — my identities as a mother, wife, daughter, sister, friend, employee vs. just as a person? The general shift in dynamics that has taken place within all of those relationships? Just, like, I dunno, life?

And then you toss in this whole extra layer of guilt that comes from the thought that I don’t really have any right to complain in the first place. I mean, there are literally millions of people in this world that have it so much harder and struggle with so many real, identifiable issues that I honestly have no experience with and can’t even accurately imagine going through. Stuff like going hungry. Being in crushing debt. Being in a physically or emotionally abusive relationship. Living with a disease. Losing a parent, a sibling, a child. The list could go on and on.

And when I start thinking that way (which is admittedly pretty often because I never want to give the impression that I’m ungrateful or unaware of the privileges I have been granted), it just makes me feel worse. Like I shouldn’t even be devoting my mental energy to my own problems. I should just, you know, suck it up.

Obviously, that’s not true. It’s not a healthy way to process things — for me, at least. Because while it absolutely is important to keep perspective (being able to establish perspective can be a powerful tool), the reality is that we all have baggage. We all have stuff we’re trying to work through.

And so my therapist was quick to remind me, and I am trying to continually remind myself, that the struggles of others does not invalidate my feelings.

I’m allowed to feel what I feel.

And I’m allowed to feel them about whatever I feel them about.

Now, whatever comes after feeling those feelings, yeah, that’s a little different. Having a feeling does not necessitate acting on those feelings. That’s kind of a whole other can of worms that I’m not going to explore today though, lol.

The bottom line is, I’m absolutely still just in the beginning phases of figuring all this ish out, trying to build up my toolbox so that I can figure out how to piece together all the various bits of my life in the best possible way, to give myself the chance to be my best self. I’m making progress in a lot of ways — therapy is opening me up, working out is making me feel stronger, cleaning my diet back up is helping me feel more energized (and I’m about 17 pounds down so far), and all three are helping me feel better about myself.

Now, I still have low moments, self-deprecating thoughts, times when I’m not really sure if what I’m doing is working, or if it’ll be sustainable longterm, or even what I’m doing at all, lol. But being human is complicated, and working my way towards health (in every sense of the word) was never going to be a straight line. So I focus on the good when things are good, I work to keep my head above water when it’s less good, and I take comfort in the fact that I’m making progress at all.

 

Eating My Words: Learnings from a First Time Mom

Penny is eight weeks old as of yesterday, if you can believe it! Enter incredibly cliche but incredibly true statement about how quickly time is flying. IT REALLY IS OKAY?!

I think it would just about be the understatement of the century to say that becoming a mother changes you. I know you’ve probably heard and read it a thousand times, but that doesn’t make it any less true: motherhood changes damn near everything about you. I knew this. I mean, I knew that going through the experience of pushing a watermelon through a bagel-sized hole would probably have some kind of effect on me. And I kinda guessed that suddenly being responsible for an entire human life might cause some shifts in my perspective.

So I was prepared for the whole thing where my heart grew three times a la The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, and was ready for the profound understanding and incredible love and appreciation for my own mother that would come with becoming a mom myself. But I wasn’t prepared for how becoming a parent to Penny would make me so easily change my mind with regard to things I said and judgements I made during my pregnancy. That I would renege on certain elements of what I thought was my parenting philosophy. That I would find myself doing things completely opposite to how I had “planned” to do them.

Basically, I just didn’t know anything about having a kid, until I actually had a kid.

I mean, while I was pregnant, I really didn’t worry too much about the whole post-birth part of the equation. After all, I was in great shape going into this whole parenting thing, y’know? I mean, I’d been around my nieces since they were both a week old, I’d raised two dogs from puppyhood, I’d read the parenting books and the mommy blogs and educated myself on infant safety and sleep training and baby-led weaning. I had this in the bag!

HAAAAAAAAA.

Yeah. Penelope entered our world, and never before have I eaten so much humble pie so quickly. Consider this my official apology for all the times I was judgmental about basically anything having to do with parenting, in any way, during my pregnancy, Because as I have oh-so-quickly learned, when it comes to trying to keep my tiny human fed, rested, and, well, alive, there is pretty much nothing I won’t do.

Here are some of the things that I thought before, y’know, giving birth:

  • I’ll never co-sleep/bed-share.
  • I can’t imagine possibly loving anything more than I love my dogs.
  • We don’t need a swing, and we definitely don’t have room for one.
  • Soothie pacifiers are ugly! I’m never using them.
  • I’m not going to be one of those parents who doesn’t want to leave her kid with a babysitter.
  • My baby’s going to sleep through the night early, it’s just about getting them on a schedule, right?
  • Breastfeeding squicks me out, so I just don’t know if I’ll be able to do it.

And the reality now that I’m a parent:

  • Co-sleeping: I fracking LOVE sleeping with Penny. Prior to having her, I really just didn’t understand how obsessed I’d be with her, and how much comfort I would get from having her close by. Not to mention how comforting it is for her to have me — well, my boobs, at least — close by, too!

I would have her next to me in bed all the flippin’ time, nestled up to those pillows she has for cheeks every night, IF I wasn’t so petrified that Sean or I would accidentally smoosh her, or suffocate her with a pillow, or smother her with my boobs. Also, we have a queen-sized bed and are king-sized people, so having her in bed with us, even in her DockATot, doesn’t really work too well. Le sigh.

  • Dogs: You guys KNOW how obsessed I am with my dogs. I’ve had Harry since I was 15 years old, and Daxter may be turning 7 (!) in January but is totally still my baby. I used to talk all the time about how I couldn’t imagine loving anyone more than I love my dogs, even once I have kids. But the truth of the matter is that while I 1000% still love Harry & Daxter, I just can’t help it: I love Penny more. Honestly, it’s hard for me to even admit that, really, because I used to be super judgey about people who said this very same thing, but I’m not going to lie to you guys.

  • Swing: We still don’t really have room for one, especially not the huge honkin’ Fisher-Price Cradle ‘n’ Swing that I tried out at my sister’s house and OF COURSE worked like a charm for Penny. She took like a three hour nap in it!

But I tell you, anything — ANYTHING — that will buy you even thirty extra minutes of peace, quiet, or sleep is 100000% worth getting when it comes to this whole baby gig. So guess who had placed an order for one of these bad boys before she even stepped on the airplane to come home? THIS GAL.

 

  • Soothies: I still think these particular pacifiers are ugly as sin, and when you look into the little hole in the middle it makes your child look like a guppy, but of course Penny loves them and thus so, too, do I. At least they’re cheap, lol.

  • Babysitters: Um, it took a LOT of mental and emotional effort just to be willing to leave Penny with my own parents for the amount of time it took to go to see a movie. Who the hell knows when or if I’m going to be okay with the idea of leaving her with anyone else! Turns out I am VERY ATTACHED TO MY BABY. Who knew.

  • Sleeping through the night: LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLLLLOLLOLOLL ::laughing crying emoji::

  • Breastfeeding: I’ve been breastfeeding Penny since she was born (with Sean giving her the occasional bottle of pumped milk) and chuckle when I think back to my comments about breastfeeding icking me out. From the first moment, it really has felt like the most natural thing in the world to me!


My views on feeding your baby in general have actually not changed since becoming a parent. I believed then, as I believe now, that a fed baby is the most important thing. So whether you exclusively breastfeed, exclusively pump, supplement with formula, exclusively formula feed (or whatever combination above you choose!), the “right way” is whatever works for you and your family.

That said, I didn’t realize how much I had internalized the whole “breast is best” sentiment that seems to run rampant through the comments section on Facebook and on mommy bloggers’ Instagram pages.It was this pressure to breastfeed that made me feel like it wasn’t an option not to at least try to do it… for which I begrudgingly admit I am now mildly glad, since I do enjoy nursing Penny. But it also made me develop a resistance to the idea of using formula. I was extremely upset at the idea of having to supplement with formula when we were dealing with her jaundice issues, and was determined to be able to provide pumped milk for the additional feeding we had to do as part of her treatment.

I recognize that I have gotten lucky in the breastfeeding department, but I still I think I caused myself a lot of unnecessary stress and anxiety over not wanting to use formula — and for no reason! Formula is perfectly healthy for babies, is incredibly convenient, and can be a literal lifesaver for many parents.

I have since given Penny formula a few times (like I said in my last post, having a little bottle of the ready-made stuff while traveling ended up being a really good idea) but still felt a twinge of guilt doing so. And WHY? I’m still working this one out.

Anyway, this list is really just a small sample of the learnings I’ve had since becoming a mom, and I’m sure that the list will only continue to grow and grow. But hey, that’s a big part of this whole parenthood thing, I’m told — learning on the fly, rolling with the punches, and just continually trying to do our best.

Favorites: Part II

With the epic return of not one, but two of my favorite TV shows to the little screen last night, I thought that today would be a fitting day for a second one of my narcissistic “favorites” posts! (Click here for the first: movies.)

Now, I should preface this by saying that I watch a LOT of TV. We actually got rid of cable and regular TV a while ago, and while that has forced me to consolidate, somehow I’ve still managed to cram in most of my favorites (and then some!) with this handy dandy little thing called the internet. (Plus, now that I’m dating Sean I have access to cable again, gwahaha!) You can probably imagine that it was rather difficult for me to narrow down my mental TV guide to this list. Oh, and keep in mind that this is only a list of my favorite TV shows that are currently on the air, hahaha. Away we go…!

Favorite (Current) TV Shows


#5: How I Met Your Mother (CBS)

A couple of seasons ago, and HIMYM would have been much higher on the list. It’s struggled a little bit in the past season or two, but overall I’m still very loyal to this show. I love the premise, the characters, and the catchphrases that are legen– wait for it… DARY! It’s just that the first few seasons were so PERFECT! I think that after 7 seasons of being teased over and over again as to The Mother’s identity (that sounds very sci-fi typed out, haha!), though, I’m just ready for the big reveal already. Still, I am just so happy that the character of Barney Stinson exists.


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The first 6 seasons are all on Netflix streaming if you’ve never seen the show before (blasphemy!) and want to check it out!


#4: Parenthood (NBC)

Parenthood always airs slightly off from the main TV schedule, so the season is already over and I am sad. It is just SUCH good television. It has everything: complex characters, real life family situations, and just so much love. The acting is really superb, as you’d expect from TV vets like Lauren Graham (Gilmore Girls) and Peter Krause (Six Feet Under), and it has even made me fall in love with Dax Shepard (who, you may remember, got his start on Punk’d, haha) as a legitimate actor! The writing is so incredibly good, too. I cry almost every week, haha. As someone with a big, loving family that I am completely overly-involved with, I can relate so much to the dynamic. You should just, y’know, watch it.


#3: Community (NBC)

When I first heard that NBC was coming out with a comedy about a community college, I was not particularly excited. Even though I already loved Joel McHale from E!’s The Soup, I just didn’t consider it a premise that would appeal to me. Boy, oh boy, was I wrong. This show is amazing. It is laugh-out-loud funny, incredibly clever, and surprisingly poignant at times. The cast is a 100% perfect ensemble (Ken Jeong, playas!, and I almost had a heart-attack when I heard that the hiatus that it just came back from was marked “indefinite” at first. May we all stay at Greendale Community College forever!



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Oh, Britta.


#2: Parks & Recreation (NBC)

As a lover of The Office, I was really excited when I heard that they were creating a similar show with Amy Poehler at the helm. She is, and always has been, fantastic, and I love the whole mockumentary style. That said, when the first season aired, I was not all that impressed. It was funny, but it felt forced. I am so, so glad that NBC stuck with it after that first 7 episodes, though, because it is pretty much perfection at this point. I mean, it has Ron [email protected]#$ing Swanson. It really hit its stride in Season 2, and after the additions of Rob Lowe and Adam Scott to the already amazing cast? Boom. I now wait in rapt anticipation for each week’s new episode. It’s on Netflix streaming if you need to test it out…!


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Chris Pratt: I loved you on Everwood, I love you now.


#1: The Vampire Diaries (CW)

Oh, as if you’re even surprised. I make absolutely no attempts to disguise my incredible love for this show. I know that it airs on The CW. I know that it blossomed out of Twilight-hysteria. I know that it is a supernatural teen drama. I DON’T CARE. It is so good. SO good. And despite having many, many protestations at first, anyone who actually gives it a chance (it’s on Netflix streaming!) ends up agreeing with me. Let me say it again: IT IS NOT TWILIGHT. Not only is it a solid hour of insanely beautiful people doing awesome stuff each week, but it’s legitimately fantastically written. They throw mythology and plot twists and character reveals at you from left and right. An incredibly dastardly villain that you actually… like?! WTF! The show is in its third season now, and I still end almost every episode screaming at the television in fury/excitement/confusion. It came back from a month-long hiatus last night and I almost died from the sheer wait alone. It’s back, baby!!


I love you, Ian Somerhalder’s eyebrows. (source)

So there you have it. Honorable mentions go to Modern Family (marry me, Phil Dunphy!), The Office (marry me, Andy Bernard!), New Girl (marry me, Schmidt! …Are you sensing a pattern?), Nikita, Glee (it’s so bad, but I love it so good.), Archer, and The Walking Dead. The last of which would have made my list up top except… you know… it be scurry. And not that you care, I know, but for my own edification I’ll have to create another list of my favorite no-longer-airing TV shows at some point. Guff, that will be even harder!

And I know that I’ve definitely asked this question before, but it seems only fitting that I toss it up again: What’s your favorite (current) TV show?