The YOSC #10: A follow-up (and a name!)
March 11, 2017
The YOSC: Entry 10!
WELL I have done this now for 10 weeks straight! And my radical self-care project finally has a name. It isn’t brilliant or hilarious, but it is sticking. I named the file on my computer where I am keeping the illustrations “YOSC” (for Year Of Self Care), and it sounded kind of funny to my ear, made me think of a Dr Seuss-ish abbreviation of Yas Queen. And then when I googled it and found I would share the acronym with such esteemed organisations as the Ypsilanti Otters Swim Club and the Yakota Officers’ Spouses’ Club? I was sold!
So The YOSC it is. Welcome to Entry #10! I thought it was a good time to do a follow-up, read over the past 9 posts and check in. There is a great little mnemonic that I learned in my OT days – “Goal-Plan-Do-Check”. Actually, here is a little graphic of it, that I made for part B of my Goal Guide:
Simple, but surprisingly helpful when trying to change or learning new things. I tend to skip most steps, most of the time. I am not very clear on goals, or I spend all my time planning and never doing, or I just launch into doing without any planning whatsoever, and I very, very rarely check in, in a clear headed way. But how can you know what’s working if you don’t check in? Plus, it is very motivating to formally acknowledge progress. So here we go. There a few posts I want to comment on in detail, the rest I will just brush over. I shall try to be brief, though I can promise nothing.
Entry 1: The 2017 Illustrated Self-care Project
On being kind to my to future self, I am relieved to see that I seem to be doing better. I have not been making myself jump through quite the horrible disgusting hoops I had been. Thinking about why that is, this line stood out to me:
“Listening means changing and I am just too topped up to try and rethink my ways.”
So, when I was in OT school, most of our classes were in the same building. To get into that building, you had to go through two sets of heavy double doors, make a quick right turn and then open another door to enter the stairwell and go up the stairs to our classrooms. Or at least, I did that for a year, before I realised that there was a door in between the sets of double doors that opened directly into the stairwell. Oh. Heh heh. It was quite a bit less awkward and effortful to just open the two doors and march right up the steps, and yet… I was resistant to doing it that way, after a year of my old habit. It felt like I must have a valid reason for my ways… but I didn’t, it was just a habit, and some irrational part of me didn’t want to invest the effort in changing it.
I think the same resistance to change operates in the mundane aspects of my life elsewhere as well. I’m rushing around, getting dinner on, and in the process I make a big ol’ mess. I don’t even think about it. When Achim questions me, I just say I can’t possibly think about this I am just too busy/stressed/preoccupied/blahblahblah. But these days, because of the YOSC, and trying to be kinder to my future self, I have been more open to changing these small thoughtless habits. The truth is, after the initial effort to change, my arguments fall flat. A lot of the time, I am just doing it that way because I am doing it that way. Small changes are not as hard as I thought, and make my life easier.
The first YOSC post continues…
“Also. I don’t exercise.
I go to bed way, way too late.
I very rarely ask for help (from anyone except my husband), even though I need it.
I put off most miscellaneous acts of adult-ing, like making phone calls about anything administrative or, going to the dentist or getting my hair cut. All of this ends up placing a lot of cumulative stress on me, or as with the haircut, just making me feel like an unkempt mess.”
Which brings me to the rest of my posts!
Entry 2: Balance Feels Better!
This was the web comic where I did a daily breakdown of my activities over the course of the week, and found that I had the most energy and was the happiest on the days when instead of putting a good dent into just one thing in a day – illustration stuff, or housework, or even fun stuff with my kids, I had more of a balance of several different activities, even though I wouldn’t make as much progress on any one thing. This seems to be really holding true. I often remind myself now, that “Balance feels better!”, when I see myself going too much in one direction, and it gives me permission to put the pencil down and give my attention to the next thing. At the end of the day, I am happier for it.
Entry 3: …
Oh, WHAT?! Nooo! It looks like I, uh, skipped 3? Let’s just pretend that didn’t happen. Entry 3 was silent contemplation, ok? Ok.
Entry 4: So, I joined a Gym
And I am a delighted to report that I have not quit! I have actually been going to the gym twice a week (and once, three times) for the past 9 weeks! Until last week, it was Mondays and Thursdays, but get this – this week, I’ve switched to Monday and Wednesday so that I can make it on Friday or Saturday too. A third time. What?!
As I mentioned before, I am an accomplished gym drop out, so this is all very happily surprising to me. Here is what I think is working:
- Consistency, without choice (by choice). I have to go the same days every week. I always like to keep things flexible, but as soon as it becomes a matter of choice – “ah, nah… I don’t have to go today, I’ll go tomorrow instead…” it doesn’t work. I have to take the ability to change my mind out of the matter. I go to the gym every Monday and Wednesday night, period. When I frame it this way, I just accept it and expect it and prepare myself mentally for it. I don’t half-prepare to maybe watch Netflix in my pyjamas, because if that option is in the mix, it’s a lot harder to get out the door.
- I have to go in the evening, at a time when the whatever alternative option I have is not that great anyway. Getting kids fed and bathed and in bed has its charms but I, uh, don’t mind missing that hooplah occasionally. The gym I go to also has childcare, so I could take Alida and go in the morning, but that’s my tidying/errands/alone with Alida time, plus I would have to rush back home for her nap. Ugh. Maybe, but it’s not all that motivating an idea. Or I could, in theory, go on one of the two precious mornings per week when the babysitter comes so I can work. HAHAHA! Yeah right, I would never do that, go to the gym when I could be working on illustration in an not-half-asleep state?! Pure craziness.
- Once I get on my way, I genuinely enjoy the experience. I like taking the train into the city, it’s a nice little transition. I like the gentle old hippie who does the yoga class. I always do a good, hard cycle, and I like to push the stationary bike up a couple feet to the big window, so that I can’t see the TVs anymore. I just look out over the big European cobblestone square. I download a couple good podcasts before I go, and get pumped up on Creative Pep Talk and Design Matters while I ride, or sometimes, I just think. And I like taking a nice hot shower in peace afterwards too. The gym is open until 11, so I have plenty of time.
I am so pleased that I am actually exercising again. I would like to get up to four days/week but it’s a process. I find that it is such a buffer for my anxiety, and not just because exercise actually decreases anxiety. When I think about chronic disease and cancer and start to panic, I think, well, at least I am exercising again. Haha. True story.
Entry 5: OK then, let’s talk
This was about the ups and downs I experience in my mental health, as well as how I cope with them. This winter wasn’t the easiest for me, but thankfully I am feeling much better. The only update I would add here, is that a lot of the YOSC things I’ve been doing have been super helpful, including a few things I haven’t written about yet, namely diet – just, refined sugar is honestly just the worst for my stability, and SLEEP. I’ve been working hard to get more and better quality sleep and although I am a steadfast night-owl, I must begrudgingly concede it has made a very tangible difference. I will definitely post about that soon.Entry 6: Can a hat make you happier?
This was the post about this handmade hat I bought at a local yarn shop that got me thinking about my perpetual dissatisfaction with my clothing. In the end, I decided to change my habits of acquiring to reflect a deeper kind of ethical integrity. To be more mindful of quality, environmental impact, and the hands that made the items. THIS HAS BEEN GREAT! Honestly, because I went ahead and just said it out loud, I have been pretty well holding myself to it. Every time I pass a cheapy store and feel the urge to go in I say, nope, Elena, you don’t get things there anymore, and I am shocked at the palpable relief I feel! Since that post, I’ve bought a couple pairs of handmade earrings (from the maker), as well as a few flea market treasures, and I am saving up for a rain coat. It is actually quite nice to go to a flea market with pretty specific criteria for items in mind. Quality materials, hand made, well made… 90% of the stuff is already pretty much off the table so it’s less overwhelming somehow and feels like more of a treasure hunt. I was a little afraid it would bum me out a lot, that I couldn’t get myself a little treat when I saw something I wanted, but that hasn’t been the case. Instead, I’ve found that the couple of times I didn’t live up to my own standards, a flimsy red dress I got on a whim, for example, I’ve regretted it.
Entry 7: When better isn’t best
The YOSC had started to morph at this point, from self-care to self-improvement and I was getting kinda down, so I took a moment to reflect on that. The big problem was that I couldn’t get a handle on the perpetual disaster that was the apartment.
The main issue though, was not so much the mess, as my attitude towards it, and my own lack of self-acceptance there. I was trying so hard to change myself and not only was the place still a disaster, I also felt like shit. So I decided I needed a new approach, and it’s something we’ve been working on. This one will get a few more posts of its own, but a couple things have helped. One, we got a new babysitter, who comes twice a week in the morning so I can work in a dedicated way, freeing me up to take care of the housework during naps and at other times when I would have been trying to work. And two, I visited a lovely mom from Jonah’s kindergarten and her big beautiful apartment looked much like ours, but unlike me, she didn’t apologise for it. She kindly showed me around and kinda laughed at the pile of unfolded laundry on the couch, commented on how she would like to finish this heap of sewing projects, and overall, was just super chill about it. And I loved her for it. That actually had the biggest effect on me, to be honest. Lastly, naturally I have a strong preference for flexibility and freedom with my time, but I am slowly converting to the idea of regular, fairly strict daily habits. I have a new “habit” where I spend every single morning cleaning until 10am, but then I am done and can do something else. A surprising amount gets done in this time, and as always… it’s not that bad.
Entry 8: I guess what I’m saying is, I think I meditated
This was about a surprisingly awesome experience I had, where I kind of accidentally meditated. It pretty much won me over to the idea, after a lot of push and pull. However, since then, I haven’t done much more in this respect. I’ve had a few recommendations to try the app Headspace though, and I am quite interested. For sure, by now I am sold on the idea of meditation, I just have to figure out how to make it work for me.
Entry 9: The External Brain
On Achim’s brain emptying notebook strategy. I just wrote this last week, so not much to say here, yet, except that it’s still workin!
And there we have it! Follow-up number one. So far, I have to say, things do seem to be going well. As always, I am most able to change when I feel some level of accountability to the outside world, like it could be helpful to someone else. Maybe that’s not the worst thing in the world though. I told Achim yesterday, although it is a hard thing to quantify, I do seem to have more energy these days, which would make some sense with a little more exercise and sleep and the various other forms of de-stressing I am doing.
So that’s great!
But of course there are also many things left to address. I know I have to take a closer look at my diet, and my reticence to do adulty administrative stuff, or go to the doctor. Also, I love being alone to do my thing, but I have been spending entirely too much time squirrelled up in my own world. And lastly, the post that has been lurking since the beginning… the inevitable pelvic floor post. Duh duh duhhhhhh. It’s gonna happen guys. Wait for it.
And NOW I am going to go and engage in some self-care in its own right, that is, sit in the sun (!!!) and have a coffee with my Achim.
Thank you so much for reading, guys! Your comments, although I am terrible about replying (it’s in my external brain! I’m working on it) are so nice to read, and always give me much food for thought! I am so grateful to have you here with me, and nothing means more to me that hearing that these words and pictures do something for you too. 🙂