It didn’t start out rough, aside from the momentary panic that set in when I thought I had lost my wallet (found it in the depths under the passenger side of my car — whew), and there were plenty of good things that happened.
While I didn’t sleep great the night before, Penny slept in which is always a plus. We had lunch with a good friend. I saw my family for dinner and got to hang with my precious baby niece Marnie. All in all, it had the makings of a pretty good day.
And yet, despite the fact that there wasn’t really anything specifically wrong, despite the fact that nothing bad happened, it just ended up being a really hard day. There was this undercurrent of stress and tension running through the entire day as I tried to juggle getting to the gym and previous commitments and travel time and scheduled calls and simply the looming obligation of everything on my to-do list. I felt like there wasn’t enough time to do anything, let alone everything, and more than that, like my time wasn’t my own.
And so as the day wore on, as things slowly began running more off schedule, as I clamored to make sure I dropped Penny off in time to dial into my next call, as I went back-and-forth over what I needed to do, I just started to feel more and more overwhelmed. Toss in Penny being extra clingy, fussy, and not sleeping well (her top teeth are breaking through, so she’s definitely off right now as well), and me still dealing with the extraordinary terribleness that is being on your period postpartum and, yeah. You end up with a sleeping baby strapped into the back of a yellow Ford Focus on the parking pad outside her parents’ house, and a crying Gretchen, lol. It really was just the perfect storm of stress, hormones, and mental and physical fatigue.
So after a somewhat snot-filled drive home, I handed a sleepy Penny off to Sean to put down for the night and indulged in some much-needed self-care. I gave myself a facial, took a hot shower, diffused some calming essential oils, donned some soft, clean pajamas and climbed into bed early, where I read three chapters of a real, actual, for-fun fiction novel. I then popped two Unisom tabs and fell asleep.
I woke yesterday morning feeling uplifted, energized, and so much more optimistic. A few simple acts of intentional self-care and a solid night’s sleep (8 hours!!!), and I was like a new person! Well, sure, okay, maybe it wasn’t quite that groundbreaking, but it was like I’d woken up on the right side of the bed for the first time in a spell. And it really went to show A) how long it had been since I’d “indulged” in even just a little “me time”, and B) how true the cliche is: you simply cannot pour from an empty cup. You have to take care of yourself.
And while I’ve been taking lots of strides to take care of myself in other ways — therapy, working out, eating better — they don’t really feel like self-care in the traditional sense (to me, at least. Maybe one day exercising will feel like a true form of self-care, lol, but for the time being it’s still firmly rooted in “chore” territory.) And before I had Penny, I used to REALLY prioritize self-care: massages, pedicures, facials, shopping, getting my hair done, reading for fun… I used to partake in these kinds of things relatively regularly — things made me feel good, helped me relax, and that I just truly enjoyed.
These days, recoloring my hair usually comes at the expense of my sleep, because I can’t tackle my roots until after Penny’s gone to bed (and it takes like 3 hours, lol). I can count on one hand the number of pedicures I’ve gotten since she’s been born. Reading, as I mentioned in my last post, has long dropped out of my top priorities. And all my shopping happens online.
All of which is super normal, I’d imagine, especially when you’re a new parent. And honestly, it’s fine most of the time. My priorities clearly shifted when I became a mother. Having my life run by my tiny human is something I wouldn’t trade for all the massages and manicures in the world! But Wednesday was just a very marked reminder that finding (making!) the time to treat and take care of myself, even if it’s naturally going to be much less often than I used to, is still so crucial. We need to fill our cups so that we can be sharper and more focused employees, kinder and more considerate friends, loving and more patient parents.
Maybe the next step will be making the time for a real vacation, eh?
Well, turns out I may just have a touch of the gift of foresight after all, because two of the things I predicted in my last post have indeed come true. First off, I am just as sore as I thought I would be after my mega workout on Monday. Yesterday, my legs felt like they weigh 100 pounds each, and my obliques were quick to remind me that they do, in fact, exist. Y’know. Because they hurt.
So I took yesterday off from the gym, and did a stretching routine at home instead. It actually worked out that I was too sore to work out, since Penny and I did not exactly have a night conducive to expending lots of energy at the gym. She slept terribly Monday night: tossing, turning, waking up, and crying out a lot more than usual. And then she just casually popped up and was SUPER AWAKE from 4 – 5:30 AM — chatting, playing, crying, and just generally keeping me (and only me -_-) up.
She did eventually fall back asleep (after several failed interventions of my own), and then proceeded to sleep in until 8:30! And on a daycare day no less (I usually try to drop her off around 8 so she can eat breakfast there.) After the night we had, though, I wasn’t about to dare try and wake the Kraken before she was ready. So I texted daycare that we’d be a little late, and after a hastily-fed, super healthy breakfast that consisted of two cherry tomatos and half of a tortilla, I finally got her there and hastened off to get some work done.
I met up with two of my coworkers, Mike & Kimberly, at Rare Bird Coffee Roasters in Falls Church, and between sips of my honey lavender latte and bites of proscuitto-gruyere quiche (sooooo good), I managed to put my nose to the grindstone and bang out quite a bit of work! Though it really shouldn’t, it still surprises me how productive and focused I can be when I get out of the house and work with intention. Even when Penny’s not there, it’s just so easy to get pulled away by different things at home — the dogs, laundry, dishes, etc. Another good reminder as to why I’m continuing to work towards figuring out a routine and carving out specific time (and apparently, space) for work.
After the three of us had put in a few hours of work, we headed to nearby Yayla Bistro for some lunch. We split a few appetizers, their mixed grill platter, and some salmon. It was all super delicious, and the portions were very generous (as were my coworkers for giving me the leftovers to take home, hehe.)
Mike had to hit the road after lunch, but Kimberly and I decided to get just a smidgen more done before daycare pickup called both of us away. We took a quick pitstop to pop into the independent bookstore across the street, and it was like a total breath of fresh air. I’d forgotten how much I love bookstores, love browsing, and, hello, love BOOKS!
It’s pretty shameful for me to admit, but aside from The Mayo Clinic’s Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy and Guide to Your Child’s First Year, I haven’t read an entire book in almost two years. Words are my lifeblood, so taking a step back to realize that’s the case is seriously sad. So I did my due diligence in supporting a local business and picked up a couple novels that I’ve been meaning to read since long before the movies came out (To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and Crazy Rich Asians), a parenting book that I’ve had bookmarked for a little while (How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk — though a follower actually pointed out there’s a Little Kids version of this book that I think I’ll want to read first), and another one that caught my eye in the store (How to be a Happier Parent). And I’ve decided that the next item on the evidently unending list pertaining to Gretchen’s Total Life Renovation™ (lol) is to just start flipping reading again.
It sounds really simple, right? I mean, really it should be. I just need to unplug a little earlier each night. Instead of whittling my final moments before bed browsing the internet, scrolling through Instagram, or rewatching The Office YET AGAIN, I can read a chapter or two. But, of course, I think we all know that while something may sound easy in theory, it doesn’t always work out so smoothly in practice. Maybe the baby’s having trouble sleeping, or there are chores to finish, or maybe we just really, really want to finish writing a blog post (cough cough) instead. But hey, the point is to try, no? Hence why it’s called practice.
To help me with my goal of getting to the titles that I’ve long been piling onto my “To-Read” pile, a friend also suggested I dip my toe into audiobooks. I’ve never been a voracious consume of audiobooks (I used to feel like it was kind of pointless since I can read faster than they can speak, haha), but now that my life is basically just one constant frenzy of multitasking, the concept is very appealing. After all, I am now commuting into the city once a week(ish), and listening to an audiobook does allow me to do things like fold laundry or put away dishes while still allowing me to consume all those wonderful, beautiful words! So I’m taking Audible for a spin with a couple of free audiobooks I’m able to try out. I’m starting with Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis, as well as Sophie Kinsella’s My Not So Perfect Life. (I feel like I really relate to both of these based on title alone.
So I’d say that yesterday was quite a productive day, all things considered. Let’s see if I’ll be able to successfully add another positive habit into the mix — I gotta admit, while I’m still going surprisingly strong with working out and taking my vitamins, my attempts to start my days with mindfulness and calm via guided meditation have been less successful. Ah well, tomorrow’s just another opportunity to practice again, right?
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:
I started taking vitamins
I started waking up at the same time (ish) every day
I cleaned up my eating and started tracking in MyFitnessPal again
I started working out (4 to 5 times a week)
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 sureif 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 towardshealth (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.
So, those of you who have been longtime readers or followers of mine have gleaned at least a little bit about my job. I work for Yelp as a Community Manager right here on the ground in Northern VA.
While it generally speaking falls under the umbrella of “marketing”, this role is pretty unique, even amongst jobs at Yelp. It’s a full-time job (sometimes more than full-time, if I’m being honest), but I work remotely (even with the recent opening of Yelp’s DC office since I only go in once a week…ish, hehe) which means I have the incredible luxury of making my work situation pretty much whatever I want it to be.
Am I going into the office? Do I want to squat in a coffee shop all day? Put my desk at home to actual use? Or work from my couch with Parks & Rec playing through in the background for the 40th time? (YES, NETFLIX, I AM STILL WATCHING.) This freedom also extends to my schedule — I am not beholden to the same 9-5 situation to which many others have to adhere. And every day looks very different.
I might pop open my laptop first thing in the morning, head out for an in-person meeting, meet a friend for lunch, have back-to-back conference calls, and then have to go prep for an evening event. Maybe it is a day when I need to go into the actual office. Or I might sleep in, go out for coffee, run some errands, and then settle back in at my computer and work until late into the evening.
Anyway, I say all this not to brag about my job (which is admittedly awesome and I know I am very lucky to have it), nor did I intend for this post to be a deep-dive into what my daily life looks like (though this does remind me that I’ve been promising to write up another Day in the Life post for a long while now, lol.) I just thought that explaining what I do in a little more detail would help illustrate the point that I am trying to get at, which is this:
Because my life has so much flexibility, it also lacks any semblance of routine.
For over five years, I have rarely had to set an alarm clock. I don’t have a specific bedtime. I don’t eat meals at the same time each day. I don’t have a laundry day, or a meal prep day, or a date night. Save for a few rare regularly scheduled calls, my calendar never looks the same from one week to the next.
And for the better part of five years, it’s been pretty great. There have been tons of benefits that I have heartily taken advantage of — taking care of errands and appointments during the day, sleeping in, regularly getting to see my friends, and, of course, getting to be around my daughter so much more than the typical full-time working mom.
But it’s a double-edged sword, right? Because with all of those perks also comes the burden of not being able to predict how a given day might go, not being able to slide into the familiarity or comfort of “your old routine.” Which, granted, hasn’t really been an issue until lately.
But lately, I’ve been feeling pretty down, and thanks to the prodding of some of friends, I finally took the initiative to find a therapist to talk to — something I honestly should have been doing for a long time now. I have only just started therapy, but already in our short time together she has helped me realize how frazzled and frantic and overwhelmed I am. And while I’m sure it’s really, really common, especially for new moms, it’s still not something I like to admit. I mean, who loves admitting that they no longer know how to handle just like, life? Especially given all of the advantages that I have — a perfect baby, a husband, close family, a decent salary, all that aforementioned flexibility… I know I have a really good situation overall. Which is why it was kind of hard for me to admit that I’ve been feeling depressed & overwhelmed in the first place — because it’s like, with all the privileges I am afforded, I should have no reason not to be happy.
(Sidenote: My therapist did tell me to stop “shoulding on myself” (heh.) Like, to stop saying things like “I feel like I shouldn’t even feel this way because I have it so good!”or “I should just be happy because there are other people who have it so much worse,” since my struggles are my struggles and my feelings are still valid. This is actually a rather difficult concept for me to digest, and one I think I’m going to need to let percolate a little more before I really try and dig into it, but I digress.)
I know I’m not the first woman to feel like she is being pulled in a thousand different directions and finding it hard to cope. I think we’re all trying to find some way to balance all of the various roles we have to play: mother, wife, homemaker, daughter, sister, friend, coworker, manager, employee — and that doesn’t even touch the roles we form around our hobbies and interests: writer, blogger, photographer, advocate, bookworm, crafter, gamer… and ten zillion more.
I’ve been able to identify that the loosey-goosey, whatever, whenever approach I’ve had towards work (and towards my life in general) is currently adding to my feelings of overwhelm…ed…ness? And that I’m actually craving some structure, predictability, and routine.
Penny has actually already helped in this arena, quite a lot. I mean, sure, in the beginning, she made things even more frantic and crazy and unpredictable. But both Sean and I recognize that we are supremely lucky to have such a good baby. She sleeps well, she eats well, and she has a strong internal clock that has given me at least a modicum of a routine when it comes to her.
But I have a lot further to go. I need to create boundaries — my work & home & social lives all kind of blend and bleed together, and even though I have what’s considered a “lifestyle job,” I need to realize that it’s okay for those things to be a little more separate. I need to figure out how to focus on one thing at a time, be mindful of my current task, and then allow myself to move onto the next one. When it’s time to work, I want to be able to focus on work. When I’m catching up with a friend, I want to be able to focus on my friend. When it’s time to be with Penny, I really want to be able to focus on feeding/snuggling/playing with Penny.
Basically, I just want to do less of what I currently do, which is hard to even articulate properly but is a little more like… this:
*opens laptop* Okay, time to answer these emails about the event I have happening tomorrow, and then I’ll do the ones having to do with next week’s event, oh, next week I’m also going back to Atlanta, I need to call Southwest and add Penny as a lap infant to my ticket *opens tab to Southwest.com* Hmm, do I have time to get a pedicure before I go, oh crap, by the time I come back my car registration will have expired, I need to get my emissions test done *opens tab to Google gas station’s inspection hours* okay, scrap the pedicure, I don’t need to spend the money on that anyway, it’s been a while since I’ve checked Mint, better see where we’re at with this month’s budget *opens tab to Mint.com* oh man, there’s the tab to my Nordstrom cart, the Anniversary Sale is ending soon and this is SUCH good deal on Baby Bling Bows, maybe I should check out — no! I told myself no more baby bows *closes out of tab* *finally sends one email*
Ahem. So, you know, that’s not great.
Anyway, my “homework” from my initial therapy session is a two-parter: 1) to start thinking of ways that I can create structure and routine for my daily life, and 2) to try (tryyyyyy) to be more mindful, focused, and in-the-moment as I go through the day. I definitely have my work cut out for me with the latter part, but I feel like I’ve already been laying the groundwork for the former. Especially as my recent health initiative has me embracing a kind of morning to-do list, made up of things I should have been doing ALL ALONG FOR MY ENTIRE LIFE like eating breakfast & taking vitamins.
Plus, like I mentioned, Penny has me following at least some kind of loose structure at the beginning of each day — it’s just get a smidgen more complicated because while we have a steady childcare schedule, it’s not consistent from day to day. So the mornings when she goes to daycare are different than the mornings when she’s with my parents or mother-in-law.
My idea to help overcome this is to officially integrate fitness into my routine (I almost said “back into my routine” but who are we kidding? I’ve never had a true fitness routine hahaha.) For like, the first time in my entire life, I’m actually feeling a kind of… dare I say… desire to exercise. (Ew.) I don’t know if it’s coming from my weight loss, or because my therapist suggested or out of my postulations that I want to get healthy for Penny (I’m particularly concerned about my longterm heart health right now — but mayhaps I’ll delve into that at another time), but whatever the exact reason, I figure I need to capitalize on this rare, completely-out-of-character motivation.
So I went online and signed up for a free pass to a nearby gym this morning, and am doing the same at another one on Friday. Both facilities have kid’s clubs and are close by, so my hope is that I’ll be able to create a morning routine where I go to the gym at around the same time every morning — on the days when Penny is in daycare, I’ll drop her off first, and on the days when she isn’t, I’ll bring her with me. The rest of my day might still end up looking like a trash panda straight-up ripped into the garbage bag of my life, but at least I’ll be starting each off day with consistency and on the right foot.
This sounds great in theory, of course, but my visit to the first gym today (Gold’s) unfortunately didn’t leave me with a great impression. Partly because their kid’s club was insane — there was 1 adult and like 25 kids in there — and partly because of my own insecurities and discomfort over a) working out at all, and b) working out in public. But while that gym would have been my first choice based on location (it’s suuuuuper close to Penny’s daycare), I have high hopes for the second one. And I’m also looking into non-gym alternatives like boutique fitness places that offer childcare and Fit4Mom Stroller Strides. As long as I can hodgepodge them together into some kind of cohesive, regular routine.
Anyway, so that’s the latest in Gretchen’s Journey to Self-Improvement & Sanity™. I’m still feeling pretty positive and optimistic about being able to make lasting changes, but I’m trying to remain relatively guarded about it as well. Knowing my tendency to jump headfirst into things, only to abandon them later, I want to make sure I’m making manageable changes, and for the right reasons this time. That way, I hopefully really will be able to say I’m making positive changes to last me a lifetime.
So if you follow me on the ‘Gram, you might have seen me getting a little heavy in my Stories last week. Well, since I’m not blogging as frequently anymore, I haven’t really gotten into it much, but I’d actually been feeling pretty low as of late. It’s not really due to one particular thing that I can identify, but moreso just the effect of my life overall these days — my self-confidence has been low due to body image issues, I’ve been hormonal (apparently weaning depression is a real thing!), and I’ve been feeling uninspired at work and just melancholy in general. Now, glum & humdrum is not really how I tend to roll, it’s it’s been a little bit of a rough road navigating all these feelings!
Thankfully, I seem to be getting over the slump (hopefully!).
Today, I woke up feeling optimistic and positive for the first time in quite a spell! Again, I think it’s probably due to a myriad of reasons — possibly it’s that I got more than 6 hours of sleep last night, or the expensive, fancy ass vitamins I started taking 11 days ago are finally kicking in, or that I finally freshened my hair back up with some new color, or that I am feeling good about my weight loss & health trajectory (13 pounds down so far!).
I suspect that my hormones still have a lot to do with it, too — possible TMI, but I’m currently riding out my first real postpartum period and it’s been ROUGH. I actually thought my period returned waaaaay back in December, a week after I got my IUD inserted, but I think it was kind of a rogue situation because I’ve only had some very light, unpredictable spotting ever since. But this time’s been a doozy — it’s been a “real” period and it’s lasted almost TWO WEEKS so far. NOT COOL, BODY. I’m pretty sure it’s because I’ve officially stopped pumping (Penny just nurses first thing in the morning now) and that’s caused my body to go much further into weaning mode. Just my personal theory, but whatever the reason, I am READY FOR IT TO STOP. I’m super grateful for my uterus for, y’know, allowing me to create my perfect child, but I really did not miss this monthly reminder, I tell you what.
Anyway, aside from still being super irritated with my uterus at the mo’, I really am feeling pretty good about things. I’ve been trying to fill my cup since returning from our GA trip with quality experiences with my little munchkin, fueling myself with healthier foods, tackling my to-do list at work, getting in lots of social time with friends & family, and just trying to take care of myself again.
Which, honestly, if you read down that list, it is still a lot of different things to try and balance. Which is why I think self-care tends to get pushed to the bottom (it does come last on the list, after all!), and it sounds so cliche but when I do take time for myself (beyond just like, decompressing after a long day on the couch), I really do see the benefits.
So I’m trying to capitalize on this feel-goodery by being extra efficient in working hard today (my mother-in-law is on vacation, so I dropped Penny in for an extra day of daycare this week), getting all my ducks in a row for the week work-wise, and also pay it forward by being there for my brother & sister-in-law, who are expecting Penny’s newest cousin ANY DAY NOW!!
Of course, it’s easy to say all that, and I can’t guarantee that I won’t wake up tomorrow feeling burdened by these exact same things again rather than optimistic. That’s why I want to make more of a concerted effort to be open about my feelings and struggles as they happen, rather than try and internalize them all. All of the amazing comments and support I received on Instagram after posting about my recent body insecurities were so, so helpful and uplifting, and honestly, just the act of being open and transparent about things helped me too. Writing is, and always has been, an extremely cathartic and therapeutic experience for me. It’s just so hard to fit in regular blogging along with all the other things I have going on these days — so you’ll probably see me posting more stuff in short bursts on social media. Definitely still will be popping in here for the longer, more detailed updates though, of course.