Learning to Take Care of My Damn Self

Growing up I watched my very motivated father work his fingers to the damn bone. If there was a retake needed by a football player, he’d stay until 6 to give it to them. If a parent meeting needed to happen at 5 am or 9 pm, he’d make it happen. If he needed to learn Spanish or trombone to get the information across, he’d do it.

Every evening I watched him get home late and fall asleep minutes after sitting down. And every single school break I watched him get horribly sick and spend his time off recovering.

When I started teaching I promised myself I would find a way to work for my kids, to give them every chance I can, without burning myself out.

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I have been blessed with a team of co-workers who are caring and understanding, who always look out for me. My co-teacher tells me often to take care of myself. The beginning of every department meeting is either a self care check-in (where we talk about our specific self care goals and what we are doing to reach them this week) or a self care practice (Tai Chi, guided meditation, etc.) My Assistant Principal meets with me once a week to lesson plan/unit plan/revise curriculum/talk about what’s not working and how to fix it. My in-school mentor meets with me once a week to talk about literally anything I need help with.

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I’m supported, much more so than a lot of teachers. I’m lucky and I know it. But still I got caught with a case of ignoring my own needs.

Last Monday I got up at 4 and laid on my couch sobbing because my head was pounding so hard I couldn’t move. I called in sick but by noon the fever, headache and general ick was so bad I couldn’t stop crying.

I went to the clinic in the afternoon (I’ll be honest I went mostly because I wanted to be at work the following day) and found out I had a high fever, a sinus infection, and an ear infection.

My point is: don’t do this. Don’t let it get this bad. I was sick, really obviously sick and tried to push too hard through it and for what?

Americans especially have this notion that if you are not absolutely killing yourself at work, you’re lazy. I can’t say this enough times: that’s bullsh*t.

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In Peru, we would work from about 7- or am until lunch, go get lunch and take a nap or spend time with family, and then go back to work from 3 until 5 or 6. Yeah, that’s a three hour lunch. We also took 20-30 minutes breaks throughout the day to sit and talk.

At first I was torn apart by the difference and went to the go-to argument so many others have used (or at least thought in their head): well maybe if they worked more, their country would be more advanced. This, my friends, is also bullsh*t.

The reasons that many countries struggle has more to do with internal structure and corruption than with amount of hours worked. Hard work may be important, but worker bees working their buzzers off with no break  will not improve a country or a city or a workplace or a person.

I suppose the moral of the story is: put in the work, do whatever it is you do the best that you possibly can, but remember that half of being your best is treating yourself well. Work hard, self care hard.

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Best of luck.

Learning to Take Care of My Damn Self

Celebrate Yourself

Last month I took part in Yoga Revolution, 31 days of yoga challenge from Yoga with Adriene. It was less a New Years Resolution and more an opportunity to get back to daily yoga after a few weeks off. Either way though, I really enjoyed the thirty minute daily videos from this hilarious and kind teacher. 

During the third week I was really struggling. I struggled to get to the mat. I struggled to focus. I struggled to breathe. I got mad at Adriene and at yoga and at my body. I cried in cobra and fumed in down dog. But I finished and then I came back the next day and life went on. 

A few days later Adriene hit a lot of the crap that had been holding me down. She talked about a friend of hers who has chronic back pain and wondered, “can you shift the language? Can you let go of this back pain as part of your identity?”

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She went on to explain that being kind to yourself and loving your body even when it doesn’t do what you want is the goal. Yoga isn’t about making shapes it’s about growth and making space. I had heard this, I knew this, I could quote this, but this time I actually heard it. 

Stop being such a d*ck to yourself and celebrate doing your best.  

I’m hard on myself, about everything, I’m never good enough and my body gets the worst of it. Growing up overweight I always felt that if my body wasn’t cooperating with me it was because it was inherently wrong. My fat body was the wrong body so it did things wrong. 

Can’t do that stretch? Wrong body, bad body. Can’t run as fast or long as you want? Bad body. Stomach ache, headache, joint pain? Bad body. It never occurred to me to accept my body and help it, support it to feel better. If my body is a dear friend instead of an enemy, life can be so much less painful. 

Life and yoga are about stretching, learning, growing. Not pain, not hurt, not hate. 

I learn the best life lessons while upside down.

Best of luck

** and check out Yoga with Adriene ***

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Escaping the Food Battle

Food and I have a complicated relationship. And not complicated like we fight, break up and get back together or we don’t want to put a label on it or one of us is married to a plant. Complicated like we’re actually trying to kill each other.

We go way back. Unfortunately, however, my knowledge of proper nutrition only dates back a few years.

I grew up in a pretty classically American household; there was a lot of processed foods and ready-to-eat stuff. I don’t remember noticing my body as anything other than a vessel with which I moved through life until fifth grade. Overnight I went from running around without a care to worrying that I didn’t look the way I was supposed to and that I needed to fix it.

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Body issues bred food issues, food issues bred eating disorders and shame which bred more body issues and so the cycle goes. In college, armed with the ability to buy and eat what I wanted and a crippling depression, I gained sixty pounds. By junior year I was desperate and terrified. I was terrified to work out in public for fear I’d be laughed at, so I tried cutting calories. I tried juice cleanses, and purging and alcohol-only days. I tried sketchy internet diet pills that made me pee all the time.

It was not some conscious moment that changed everything, that part came later. Looking back now, I think it had to. At the end of my junior year of college, I studied abroad in London. My daily commute just to and from school logged a solid two miles, plus the time I spent exploring the city the rest of the day. I walked and I walked a lot. I started noticing how much better I felt, not just because my pants were starting to sag, but because my body was getting the chemicals it had been needing.

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The struggle continued through the following years, but the pant sizes kept going down and my general outlook got better. The conscious moment of change came during Peace Corps years later. I’d had stomach infections, parasites, and a myriad of other ailments through my first six months of service. After a lot of antibiotics, I finally started to heal but found that my stomach was always upset for some reason.

So I started reading and I found the Whole30 community and Paleo and AIP* and everyone claimed the same issues I’d had for years past and in recent times. Everyone found solace in changing their diet.

I’m sharing all of this for two reasons:

First, I’m doing another Whole30 reset through January, because the holidays and the stress have led my eating patterns down a dark road and it’s time to reset. I’ve recently read Melissa Hartwig’s most recent book, Food Freedom Forever, and I’m feeling mighty inspired.

Second, for too long diet changes and exercise and living a healthy life have been connected only to weight loss and that’s not what this is about for most people. I’ve felt that itching inside me to lose weight, to be skinny, to finally be beautiful and that itch wasn’t cured by weight loss, it was cured by learning to love myself and understand myself. If everyone told a story of weight loss instead of health and self love, we’d be…well, nowhere good.

I’ll keep y’all posted on the Whole30. I’d love to hear your questions, comments, and especially if anyone would like to join me on this round of Whole30 fun!

Best of luck

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Monday Motivation: There’s Nobody Like You

I always say to young women to know their power, whatever is it that you have done, be it at home or at work or in the academic world or wherever it is...understand that it has made you uniquely qualified. There's nobody like you.

Yesterday I watched the PBS special American Masters: The Women’s List.* It was basically just a bunch of strong, successful women telling stories and talking about life. So, fantastic and wonderful.

There were plenty of meaningful quotes, but this one in particular spoke to me. So many times I have walked into an interview, an exam, or even just a room feeling like I’m not qualified. What a funny word, qualified. That word feels like a mean middle school girl staring down her nose at me, telling me my voice is too low, my hips are too wide, and nobody even likes me anyway.** That word is the worst, because, does anyone really ever feel qualified? To do anything?

But the thing is, we’re all capable, beautiful, and yeah qualified, people who can do amazing things. We’re all capable and beautiful in different ways. We all have stories and experiences to share that make us qualified.

So go kick ass.

Best of luck.

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*Go watch this, right now. It’s on Netflix.

** COUGHashleyCOUGHCOUGH

Positive Charge

Today is going to be a good day.

This is what I tell myself everyday when I wake up, hoping that one day it won’t be followed by “I think, maybe, well at least it probably, hopefully won’t be the worst day ever. Unless it is. Oh no. I’m so behind on homework.”

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I would not consider myself a natural optimist. Nor would anyone who has ever met me. I am a sarcastic, hot headed and often negative individual. This is despite the fact that I know negativity gets me absolutely nowhere and positivity can push me to fascinating new places. I know this, I do. I also know that ice cream is bad for me and running is good for me but I wore my leggings this morning because of the utility of the stretch waistband, not for my afternoon run. Facts may be facts by my ability to ignore them is the real wonder.

I bring this up because this week was…weird.

On the negative side of things: I was stood up by my therapist, twice. I had to say goodbye to my students forever. The electricity in my apartment has stopped consistently working. I got hit (bumped really, but still) by a car, while crossing in a crosswalk.

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However, for the positive side: I passed my first teacher certification test, I presented my oral history project and it went swimmingly, and I taught a history lesson (all of WWII in 55 minutes, mind you) and it went so well the kids petitioned for me to keep teaching for the year.

While the bad was pretty bad, the good was pretty damn good. And yet I find myself bending to the negativity and focusing on that bad stuff.

Far too many times in my life, I have been the negative voice and it hasn’t done much for me. It’s just easier. It’s easy to decide that something is stupid and make fun of it and hate every moment involved with it; it’s much harder to decide it’s maybe not for you but still has value, or maybe it isn’t valuable but you have to deal with it. And if you have to do something, better to do it with a little bit of light than a whole lot of darkness.

So here’s to a shinier future for our outlook and our hair.

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Best of luck!

Holidays!

February Favorites

February was a month of stress and adventure. Most importantly though last month I figured out a number of little things that are making me feel better physically and emotionally. So I’m gonna call it a win.

In light of that I want to share some of my favorite things from February.

Neilmed Sinus Rinse

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I’ve been through the gambit with allergies. I had a few sensitivities as a kid which turned into severe allergies in high school which required four different prescriptions and manifested as uncontrollable hives that led me to believe I had bird flu. In college they mostly disappeared and have only shown up here and there as seasonal issues since.

Moving to New York threw my sinuses a new curveball. Like, I woke up most mornings feeling like someone hit me in the face with a curveball.

Desperate, I searched Amazon and found Neilmed Sinus Rinse. I’ve never tried a nasal rinse or a Nettie pot so I wasn’t totally sure but, damn guys, this stuff cleans out my sinuses and gives some serious relief when my sinuses wake up screaming “why did you move here?!”

Yoga Classes

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My block with yoga has always been the cost. Most studios are crazy and even within a gym membership it can be pricey. I know if I’m having trouble budgeting for weekly groceries, either option is out of the question.

Luckily my school offers some free classes (something I would encourage any student to look into) so once a week I’ve found an hour of calm followed by a few days of sore.

Superstore

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Someone told me about this show earlier in the month and upon finding the entire first season free on Hulu, I gave in. America Ferrera is fantastic, the characters have a lovable zaniness only found in shows like The Office, and it’s sometimes so real about retail that it hurts.

Dr Tung’s Tongue Cleaner

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Another thing I’d heard a lot about but never bought in to, I decided for $8 I could try it out. Kinda of gross but I have better breath and generally a cleaner post dental hygiene regimen feel.

Susan Cain Podcast

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Susan Cain is an introvert goddess. I read her book a couple of years ago basically yelling “exactly” all the way. She talks about introverts and society, offering up some logical but rarely popular ideas. The podcast focuses mostly on children and education which is very interesting. Plus, they’re 30 minutes rather than the typical hour or more so it’s a good quick listen.

Returning to Therapy

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So lately I’ve been the preachy queen of self care while simultaneously failing to confront my own demons. Until last week when I finally went back to therapy.

It’s been almost five years so just making the appointment was rough. But damn. Therapist is excellent, empathetic but also willing to push me. I can’t describe the relief that I feel just starting the process. Therapy definitely isn’t for everyone but I’d recommend trying it out once.

Oh and I now look at frustrating situations as “Therpist will love this” so that’s a plus

Sunday Date Day Off

Take a day off.

I’m a busy human and I get that an entire day feels impossible but it’s worth it and doable. I’ve been putting in the extra hours every other day of the week just to fit my Sunday Date Day Off. It’s a day for sleeping in, hanging out with Boyfriend, and just not being a student, teacher or real person.

So far Boyfriend and I have walked around Central Park, gotten rainbow bagels in Williamsburg and gone to dinner and movie. Sometimes there are errands to be run as well and sometimes we lay around most of the day but just not feeling the pressure for a day sets up the next week for greatness.

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Best of Luck!

Patience for Dummies

A Moment of Patience in a Moment of Anger Saves You a Hundred Moments of Regret (1)

I have a temper.

A road raged, frustrated on hold with customer service, heart banging, head pounding sort of temper. A making up entirely new curse words, throwing things, biting my tongue to avoid a yelling match sort of temper. A kaboom, bam, pow, did I just tear my own hair out for betraying me, sort of temper.

I’d like to think I’ve gotten better over the years, but I’ve got a long way to go. I suppose it’s all about pausing to breathe and thinking about your words and actions before saying them, rather than seeing red for a while and coming back to a list of apologies to make.

Anyone else out there have a hot temper (or know someone with one)?