Random Musings

Searching for Gray Amidst Black and White

Hello, lovelies!

Happy Monday! It’s time for another personal post (so, warning you now, before you curse at me when I lure you into reading about me as a human who emotions and struggles, instead of our usual banter about books or writing wonders).

But, I apparently suffer from black and white thinking, which is something I never thought about–or really realized, before–but, now that I know it’s a thing, I see it 100%.

According to the most reliable of all sources, Wikipedia, black and white thinking–also known as splitting–is “the failure in a person’s thinking to bring together the dichotomy of both positive and negative qualities of the self and others into a cohesive, realistic whole. It is a common defense mechanism. The individual tends to think in extremes (i.e., an individual’s actions and motivations are all good or all bad with no middle ground).”

youre dumb benedict cumberbatch GIF by BBC

My therapist, who I’ve been seeing for the past two months, introduced this term to me, during a session where we went over a worksheet that introduced a few different ways of thinking and she had me discuss whether I believed I found myself in those camps of thinking. When we came to this one, I was like, “Eh, prolly?”

Then, at our next session, I was telling her about my new routine I tried and she asked how it went. I then told her how I smashed it the first week and then completely failed the second week (and haven’t tried since) and she was like, “Ah, so your black and white thinking is coming out.” We talked about a few other things that meeting, but black and white thinking continued to reappear, over and over and over again.

For me, this kind of thinking really amplifies my depression, because I view myself–and what I do, what m goals are–as an all of nothing thing. It’s either a 100% success or a 100% failure. I’m either 100% happy with myself or 100% hate myself. There is no in-between, no middle ground. It doesn’t matter if I get up and work out on Monday and Tuesday. If I miss Wednesday, I’m a complete failure, the week’s been wasted and I guess I have to wait until Monday before I can try again.

i think wed both find that embarrassing benedict cumberbatch GIF by BBC

It’s really bad when it comes to my self-image. I am always hyper-focused on the negative thinking, when it comes to body image and self-worth. I am always convinced that, since I’m fat and I’ve gained a lot of weight, I am now worthless; that because I’m fat, I don’t deserve to like my hair, or feel pretty when I smile or admire my tattoos. It’s all or nothing and I’m a whole lotta nothing.

Writing it out like this, it’s obvious how harmful this kind of thinking is, especially when I’m looking at a routine and judging my success based off an entire week. This type of thinking is also hard because it doesn’t take into account the complexity that is life. It doesn’t allow me grace when I’m on my period and can barely move because the cramps are so bad, so I missed a workout. It doesn’t allow my flexibility when my day job has completely drained me and I know no productive writing is going to get done later that evening. It doesn’t allow for understanding and kindness when I snooze my alarm and skip an early morning walk because my body just needs more sleep than what is considered “average” for today.

Plus, when I think in this way, it just encourages and opens doors for my anxiety to spike and my depression to spiral, causing my moods to drop and my own self-worth to plummet. It also really heightens my comparison struggle (looking at others and thinking, “Wow, she is gorgeous” or “Whoa, they have the perfect book”), which definitely doesn’t help my own self-esteem, either.

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I’m glad that I realize I think this way, at least. I’m hoping, that through that realization, I’ll be able to do a better job of recognizing it and allowing myself more leniency than I’ve ever given before. But, if anyone has tips for combating this type of thinking, I’d love to hear them (of course, I’m working with my therapist on this, as well, but I’m always open to new suggestions and ideas).

Thanks for reading about how my brain works! I hope you’re staying afloat and doing all you can to survive such weird times. signature

Random Musings

Be Kind To Yourself

Hello lovelies!

I hope you all had a good, restful weekend and that you’re doing what you need to, in order to take care of yourself. The world is still a raging dumpster fire and it’s very easy to let your mind get caught up in everything. And while it is important to stay informed and keep fighting, don’t forget to also take care of yourself, as you do so.

Which is sorta the focus of this post. If you follow pretty regularly, you may have read last week how I was fighting for some way to figure out how to battle my depression, because while I am a huge advocate for staying home as much as possible right now (you do know there is a global pandemic going on, right?), you also gotta acknowledge what that does to someone’s mental health.

For me, it’s turned usually busy weekends visiting family and friends into staying at home and playing video games, writing books or working on projects. It’s resulted in cancelled trips and vacations, working remote for the first time, dealing with unemployment in my household, differing perspectives from those I love in regards COVID-19, and a lot of added stress and anxiety.

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So, I started that new routine last week and it went really well. I found myself a little more tired throughout the day, but I also fell asleep quicker as a whole, found myself more motivated to accomplish tasks and not spending as much time on social media, because I’d already planned out what I was going to do for each chunk of time. It felt great to start the day off with a walk and it was really enjoyable–and challenging–to work out again. Both of those things helped me lessen how many negative thoughts I had about my body, which was also really wonderful (and needed, since I’ve been so hateful towards myself since gaining weight).

It’s a routine I plan to stick with, because I do seem to be happier as a result of it.

This morning, however, I slept in until 7:30am, instead of getting up at 6am, missing my morning walk and my workout.

I had already changed my alarm from 6:00am to 6:45am because it was forecast to rain from 3am Sunday night and into all day today on Monday, so I knew I wouldn’t be able to walk anyway (of course, it didn’t start until almost 8am, so this is what I get for trying to trust anything forecast-related). But, I workout in my garage, so I could do that. But, I hit snooze and got a little bit of extra sleep.

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Usually, I’d feel guilty at this and the rest of my day would be completely thrown off because of this guilt and how heavy it weighs.

Instead, I’ve been actively telling myself that this is okay, not only because it did rain (even if it was after the fact and I totally could’ve walked this morning), but because this is a pretty drastic change in routine that I’m attempting. There are going to be hiccups. There are going to be moments when you’ll be happier skipping the workout than doing it; or when you had planned to complete X project from this block of time, but then a chat with a friend puts you behind schedule, so you need to reevaluate–but it was totally worth it for that chat.

This is something I’ve been working on reminding myself: that even though I’m trying to implement something that looks pretty rigid, I’m mostly trying to find some structure, so my brain has less chance to wander and then find ways to attack me, like it’s prone to do. For me, this structure is usually rigid, but I’m trying to learn that it’s okay to be flexible. It’s okay that things change. It’s okay to not check off every box or cross everything off your To-Do list.

It’s okay to just be.

I hope, amidst what is most likely one of the most challenging times in our lives, that you’re able to find things that make you happy. But, at the same time, you’re also forgiving towards yourself and kinder than you’ve ever been to yourself. The world is cruel and hard enough than for us to add even more onto ourselves. signature

Random Musings

New Routine, Let’s Go!

Hello, lovelies!

So, as you may have saw in last week’s personal post, I was a little bit depressed and last week didn’t really go well. I wasn’t in the mood to do anything and it was just hard to constantly make the new goal each morning of trying to do certain things, like get up earlier, take my dog for a walk or read for fun; only to not do any of them and feel guilty the entire day for that “failure.”

This weekend, I reflected a lot. I listened to all of your lovely comments and messages, which meant more to me than I could ever express, so thank you SO much for that. Truly. And I’ve come up with a game plan.

I’m sharing it here for some accountability, but also just because I’m really excited and really hopeful this will actually work!

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I made a weekly calendar of everything I want/need to do and when I will do it. I plan to do this each Sunday for the upcoming week, after doing my usual blog hopping. It will map up what I plan to do for the week, pretty much hour-by-hour, Monday through Friday, leaving the weekends free. It has some constants every day, like what time I plan to wake up at and when I hope to go to bed, as well as some things that fluctuate, like what time my lunch break is (because of my day job currently doing orientation, this isn’t set in stone like it usually is). But it builds in everything I need to do (eating, showering, my day job, client work, walking my dog) with everything I want to do (writing, blogging, working out, allyship work, getting up early, reading more, playing video games).

Building it this way instead of trying to make a “permanent schedule” has really helped my brain, because I think I was getting hung up before on trying to form a routine when everything is so out of place and couldn’t be permanent, as some of this will have to change once I have a commute again. But, doing it week by week will hopefully let me adjust to what I have planned, see if I need to change anything or reevaluate and give me the flexibility to change as I need to.

You can see my schedule for the upcoming week as the following (sorry for the smaller text, but it’s more as just an example, anyway):

Weekly Schedule Example

It’s color-coded and has everything built in that I hope to achieve. Based on how busy my day job is (green for the money because I’m clever and cheeky like that :P), sometimes, I’m able to sneak in other tasks I want to complete during my day job hours (something I’m allowing myself to do during remote work. Please don’t judge or scold me for this).

I really like this because it has some flexibility, yet I’m also aware that sometimes, it’s going to change. I might have a student appointment run long, which cuts into lunch time. Or, I might have a meeting go short and I can decide if I want to do something else that I had planned for later during that new free time.

Basically, I am going to try really hard to keep my morning routine and my evening bed time routine as strict and consistent as possible, so that I’m getting good sleep, staying active and reading on the regular. I think, if I can start having really good sleep and being more active, plus escaping every day by reading, then my mental health, alongside my medication and regular therapy, will hopefully have a fighting chance against 2020.

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The other thing I’m going to try to do is, even on days where my mood might not be great, is to at least try to do whatever I have planned for at least ten minutes. Usually, my biggest problem is just starting something and, once I get started, I’m good. If, I find, after ten minutes, that my heart truly isn’t in writing that day; or my back pain is too intense to work out; or I’m just really having a rough mental health day, then I’m going to just let it go and do whatever my body and head need at that moment.

I’m trying to be kinder to myself, while also putting things in place to make me happier on the regular.

I also might look into trying habit tracking or gratitude journaling, as those have been suggested to me and sound really interesting. I’m also just going to practice ignoring when my brain or my mood tells me I don’t want to do something and just start it. It’s going to take some practice, I think, but I’m really hopeful for it.

Again, thank you to everyone who sent me kind messages and ideas, or even just notes of solidarity or empathy. It really, really means the world to me. I know it’s a really weird, rough time. I know there is a chance that this might flop and I’ll be back to where I was before. But at least I can try, not only this, but learning to be kinder to myself, too. signature

Random Musings

Seeking Advice to Help Me Win Against Myself?

Hello, lovelies.

This has been a weird week in what has been a bizarre, depressing, overwhelming, terrifying–and yet, in some ways, desperately needed–year. I’m still working from home and my day job is in the throngs of it’s busiest season, so most days, I’m left drained and overworked. I’m also still working on client editing for my freelance business and editing my own novel. Then, there is reading for fun I want to do. Blog posts to read and write. Video games I want to play, movies I hope to watch. Time to spend with the boyfriend and our pets. Workouts I’d like to complete. A routine I want to establish. There is no limit of options of how to spend my time each day.

And yet, this week especially, I’ve struggled to do most of it.

Well, that’s not entirely true. I’ve been able to cross a lot off of my to-do list, so we’re pretty good on that front. It’s been more of a struggle to start doing each of these things, like a mental battle to just begin. Regardless of whether it’s something more challenging, like waking up earlier (since I’m not a morning person) or something I truly want to do, like playing video games or work on my novel, I’ve been struggling to get myself to start to do the things I both want and need to do. Even when I know I have a deadline. Even when I know it’ll make me happier. Even when I know I enjoy it, or it’s good for me, or that I’ll be glad I completed it, later.

My routine, for example.

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I really want to start getting up earlier and working out before work in the morning. Not only would it help me be more active (which I really need, since I’ve become so sedentary since going remote; plus, being active helps my mental health a lot), but I think I would just be happier in general if I was able to get up earlier and have a morning routine, instead of rolling out of bed right before work and jumping straight into that. Yet, despite setting my alarm in the morning, I always snooze it. Even though I know I’ll be happier if I get up. Then, not only do I not get up, but I have this guilt attached, like I’m failing at doing the basic things I need to, in order to make myself happy. This guilt follows me around for the rest of the day, like a cloud that I can’t escape.

This has been happening a lot–and always has, for me, but it just seems more noticeable, of late.

Despite how happy reading makes me, I’ll find myself struggling to pick up a book before I go to bed.

Despite knowing that going for a walk with my dog is good for both me and her (despite my back pain while doing so), I’ll find myself making excuses or immediately logging onto my PS4 after work instead.

Despite knowing that working out will help boost my mental health, I’ll find myself skipping workouts and letting my depression take over.

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It’s honestly exhausting, because I know the things I need to do in order to help boost my own happiness–something that’s particularly challenging currently, given the state of the world right now. Yet, I’m struggling to convince myself to do them? How is that even a thing?

I just wanted to reach out and see if anyone had any advice to combat this? Because I’m really tired of having shitty mental health days and would love to start doing these simple things to boost my happiness, but I can’t seem to overcome the main barrier–my own brain–to even get started, each day.

Any advice would be really appreciated. <3 signature

Random Musings

Changes and Steps

Hello, lovelies!

As you all might have noticed last week, I decided to go on a social media hiatus and it’s going really well! I miss it, sometimes (mostly the writing friends I have on Twitter) and definitely have noticed myself reaching for my phone to check it when I’m bored or have a lull between things, which is telling. But I’m really glad to be taking the break, for now. It’s been needed.

Not that it’s solved all my problems, of course. But over the weekend, I did get caught up on letter writing. I read more. I took my dog for a walk. I got out of bed sooner, instead of laying there and scrolling through social media. I did some things that I normally wouldn’t have done and it was really nice.

It made me think of some other changes I’d like to pursue, in hopes of helping my own health. It turned out to be quite an impressive list:

Gain core strength and “fix” my back

Last summer, I had a pretty bad moving accident that revealed that I have a badly aligned spine that has caused some problems for my lower back, to the point where it hurts to walk more than 10 minutes at a time because of the sharp pain and muscle spasms. This is something I obviously don’t want to continue dealing with, as I love being able to take my dog for a walk and walking is one of the main ways I relieve stress (and hiking is one of my greatest passions and the idea that I’d have to give that up is…not okay). I’ve already started working on this by:

  • Doing daily stretches to help strengthen my lower back
  • Going to the chiropractor once a week (wearing a mask and using hand sanitizer, of course) to get adjusted

It’s helping, but it’s a slow process. I’ve been advised that, if I strength my core, I’ll be able to support my back muscles more and hopefully deal with this pain to make it more much manageable–or even better, non-existent. I plan to do this by:

  • Continue to take my dog on daily walks to build back stamina
  • Lifting at least 4x a week to build core strength

divider 3Address my period pain and problems

This is a TMI section, so please feel free to completely skip it if you don’t want to read details of my period. 🙂

I’ve always had severe period pain. Like, very severe pain. Skip-school and call-into-work levels of pain. I always thought this normal? Periods were always supposed to be hell, so obviously this was going to be something I just had to deal with during my period. I’m slowly learning more about my body and realizing that this definitely does NOT need to be the case. My friend let me borrow her copy of the Period Repair Manual and I’m really excited to start reading it, as I’m 95% positive that I have a pretty severe case of endometriosis. I also want to learn how to use natural birth control, like the FAM method, as I’m not a big fan of the hormonal IUD that I use.

So, my plan to address this is:

  • Read the Period Repair Manual
  • Meet to talk with my doctor about what I discover, share my hopes and concerns about the FAM method and see if it’s right for me
  • Get tested for endometriosis
  • Potentially have surgery, if that self-diagnosis is confirmed
  • Get my IUD removed and start practicing a more natural form of birth control

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Start prioritizing my mental health

This is something I’ve worked on arguably my entire life, but it’s definitely something I will always work on. I still have low self-esteem and horrible body image. I’m hoping staying active, like I detailed above, for my back problems will also remind me of how incredible my body is and what it can do, no matter how fat I am. I also have pretty intense depression and anxiety, which I only recently started taken medication for.

All of this is a lot of deal with and balance on a normal day, but through a pandemic? Yeah, it’s a little bit harder. So, not only am I trying to help it by limiting social media (or, removing it entirely, for now) and by prioritizing focusing on my physical and sexual health like I haven’t before (not to mention focusing on writing more and my own creative passions, which I’m not talking about in this post), but I also hope to continue to explore the following:

  • Look into therapy for depression, anxiety and body-image
  • Actually take the Science of Well-Being course
  • Don’t be afraid to take a mental health day when I need it
  • Start being more open about this with my family, friends, work and partner

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Why am I writing this all in a blog post, you ask? For some accountability. For being able to hit publish and feel like just that simple act of doing so will help me feel like these things are important and should be focused on. To let anyone else who is dealing with something like this to know they aren’t alone in their journey (I believe in you).

So, thanks for reading another really personal post from yours truly! <3 I hope everyone is doing well out there and staying healthy, mentally, physically, emotionally and sexually. Hopefully, I’ll be able to write a follow-up post soon about how this journey is going, sharing the hiccups and what I learn and what I try. But until then, let’s all try and give ourselves some grace, shall we? signature

Random Musings

The Pursuit of Productivity

Hello, lovelies.

Nothing like learning about yourself during a lockdown, huh? I’ve recently realized that I’m happiest when I’m being productive.

I’m still not 100% sure how I feel about that fact.

But it is, indeed, a fact.

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What I’ve always known about myself is that I like to stay busy. I have a lot of dreams and a lot of goals and I’ve always been an overachiever. In both middle school and high school, I played sports, managed sports, was in clubs and honors classes and just didn’t really know what it was like to not be doing something. Especially since I was also writing stories and novels and reading like I couldn’t live without the hobby.

College looked no different. President of a few clubs, participated in a few more, always taking over the full-time recommended hours, two jobs, major and minor, wrote a 50-page undergraduate thesis just because I wanted to; not reading or writing as much, but definitely still pursued those, too, on top of my blog.

Post-college (I’m sure we can all guess where this is going)? Yep, got a job working full-time after dropping out of grad school and wrote a ton more and still read books, and it started to feel like not enough. So I started blogging regularly, eventually reaching the status of a book blogger, posting multiple times a week, reading ARCs, participating in blog tours, doing interviews. And I did a few internships. And I wrote eight novels (from middle school to now, not just in the five years since I graduated college, good Lord). And I read a ton of books. And I started working out. And I got a dog and trained her and started taking her for walks. And I joined a short story blog. And I become a judge for SPFBO two years in a row. And I opened my own editorial business.

And and and and…

Trust me, I’m just exhausted as you are reading all of that.

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Before I’m attacked about overworking myself, relax. I recognize that I’ve overreached a little bit and am doing too much. I’m cutting back, slowly but surely. And yet, this is when I thrive the most. Sundays have become my favorite days of the week, because it’s a day when I plan to be productive, usually looking something like this:

After sleeping in, I cook breakfast and then I clean the entire apartment. Then I catch up on reading blogs after not reading them for the past week. I read for fun or for SPFBO and then I write my blogs for the week, planning three posts (if I have time). I take a long shower and shave and pluck my face and do my hair and paint my nails. Sometimes, I’ll write. I’ll make a good dinner or maybe a dessert to snack on throughout the week. And then I’ll wind down with video games or a movie before bed.

That’s an average Sunday. And I love it. I really thrive when I’m able to be productive. And I’m honestly not sure whether that’s a product of the (albeit very bad) pressure from society that productivity equals worth, a result of how I’ve always been hardwired or a little bit of both (I’m leaning towards the last option).

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But, with this lockdown, I’ve had time to reflect on that. Because the pressure to be productive is immense. And suddenly, it still doesn’t feel like I’m doing enough. Maybe I should try and get involved in this contest or adopt this hobby or learn this language. I should be using this time to get a six pack and catch up on all my movies and TV shows and beat every video game, on top of cooking dinner from scratch every night. I should learn gardening and finish every home project and write all of the novels in my head and read every book on my shelves. Oh, but don’t forget basic hygiene and sleep and the fact that I’m still working a 40-hour work week, albeit remotely.

That pressure is ridiculous.

Even as someone who enjoys being productive, who thrives on it, I feel it.

Which sucks, because I’m not planning on learning anything new or dramatically changing anything with “all this new free time.” Sure, I am still hoping to cook something new twice a month and I’m hoping to maybe use this time to learn how to braid my hair and try and work out more, I’m not doing anything drastic. The every day is enough and plenty for me. So when I don’t be productive; when my depression gets to me or the news is too much or I just want to play video games and pretend like my responsibilities and commitments don’t exist.

It sucks. The guilt is there. And it is overwhelming.

divider 3Even though that rest is needed. Even when my body is aching for a break and trying to give the only cues it knows to get me to slow down. Even through we’re living through a global fucking pandemic and these expectations I’ve always held myself to, so much so that part of my happiness is tied to it, may not be feasible to uphold right now.

I’m not sure if it’s a good thing, that a part of my happiness is tied to productivity. I know it’s something I need to focus on more, as I’ve found myself being judgmental of those who don’t share that drive or need to be productive (sorry, babe). Which I have no right to be. And I’ve recognized it and I’m working on it. But I also know that sense of accomplishment each Sunday evening feels so good and I always hope to replicate it the next day. Some days I fail and others, I don’t.

I dunno. I don’t really have a closing for this rambling. Just some insight I’ve learned about myself and curious if others experience this or if this is a completely foreign concept to you! Let me know your thoughts in the comments and I hope you and yours are staying healthy and safe right signature



Random Musings

Advice When You Just Need a Break: Take It

Hello, lovelies.

Another personal post, coming at you live from someone who is very susceptible to what is happening in the world around her and also suffers from depression.

Image result for god queen tyreen coming at you live
When I wrote, “coming at you live,” all I can think of is God Queen Tyreen.

So, yesterday was a really rough day. I had a slow day at work and I was really excited about that, as it would give me time to work on a project that I really wanted to get ahead on before work becomes absolutely bananas in terms of my workload. And I started working on it, but throughout the day, I experienced distractions in the form of news and updates. Like:

  • Coronavirus and the racism spreading from it
  • The erasure of Elizabeth Warren and the misogynistic bullshit that is
  • Climate change still not being believed and actively fought against
  • Personal body positive struggles and issues with being fat
  • Medical bills coming in that were a ridiculous amount more than expected
  • The broken American healthcare system

I’m not going to expand on exactly why all of those things were so overwhelming to me yesterday, because I don’t want to spiral again. Needless to say, the entire afternoon, I dragged, I felt guilty for feeling so unmotivated to use the time I really should have been utilizing and I became more and more depressed–feeling more hopeless than I had in a long time. I knew I was going to skip the gym session I had planned that night and began to feel even more wretched about my body, fearful for my future and hopeless about the state of the world. And on top of skipping the gym, I also wanted to skip reading for SPFBO (even though I’m a little bit behind and really need to stay on top of that) and skip writing and reading and everything else I had planned.

Guilt-ridden and depressed, I texted my boyfriend to warn him of my mood, because I haven’t felt that down in a long time. I went home and we talked. I cried. We then took my dog for a walk in the gorgeous weather, came home and made some delicious pasta, before splurging for ice cream blasts at Sonic (and got Dovah a pup cup, of course!). We spent the rest of the night watching two of Iliza Shlesinger’s comedy specials on Netflix. We cuddles and laughed and then went to bed. I slept in this morning before work, instead of getting up early to write, like I promised I would all week.

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And instead of letting myself feel guilt for any of it, I gave myself a break.

I told myself it was what I needed, after a day where the world was just too draining to deal with, and depression and despair were easier to give into than hope.

It was the right move.

Today, I had six appointments at work (which is the most I’ve ever done in one day) and I crushed them. I got lunch with a friend and had a good time. I got home and took my dog for a walk, enjoyed the weather, made dinner with my man, took a nice long shower and then worked on SPFBO, blogging and wedding planning for my sister, before playing some video games to relax. I double checked that I was registered to vote, logged off Twitter when it was already too depressing to read at 8:00am in the morning, told myself I am beautiful in the mirror as I stared at my rolls and later ate chocolate without guilt.

Despite having a shitty day yesterday.

Despite the world being on fire.

And despite breaking from the new routine I’m attempting this week, even though it was only day two of attempting it.

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I think that was an important reminder, right there. I know I’d had a rough day mentally and I needed to check out from responsibilities and plans and the world and check in on myself, before it got worse. I needed to take care of myself and yesterday, that looked like good food, spending time with my boyfriend and my doggo, and watching comedy specials on Netflix. A different day–a usual day–self care is being productive and checking items off my To-Do list. It’s reading and writing and balancing commitments, because I love completing the things I set out to do and chasing my dreams.

But recognizing when you need a break? And listening to your emotions and following through and not allowing yourself to feel guilt when you do just that? I 100% believe that’s what enabled me to get back on track so quickly today, to allow myself to feel more myself and have a good day, in a good mood, even despite *gestures wildly at all the dumpster fires still lit around the world*

It’s a new feeling for me. I usually don’t allow that break. I’m usually too overridden with guilt to listen. Is this growth? Is this realizing that is something I can’t do anymore? It just might be. So, here as remember to you, too: if you feel like the world is too much. If you feel like life is overwhelming, the patriarchy is horrible and oppressive (which it is), that everything is impossible and you’re breaking?

Let yourself break.

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Just a little. Just enough to allow yourself the strength to put yourself back together again, when you’re ready.

Cry. Nap. Shut off your social media, ignore what you can and block what you need to. Go outside. Huddle inside a blanket fort. Binge TV. Play a video game. Read a comfort read. Talk to a friend, confide in a partner, connect with a family member. Take a hot shower or soak in a warm bath. Hug your pets. Eat good food and splurge on dessert. Paint your nails or buy something that will excite you when it arrives in the mail in a few weeks. Stay inside alone for a while and just let yourself be. Light candles. Open your windows. Shut your blinds. Breathe.

Self-care is different for all of us. Only you can know exactly what you need and how you need it. But please, give yourself permission to do what you need to and take care of yourself, even if it’s hard. Even if, at first, it makes you feel like a failure, because you’re not “doing enough.”

You’re alive.

You’re breathing.

You are doing just fine, because that fact alone, the fact you decided to show up and stay here at all?

That’s worth everything.

And so are you. signature


Writing Posts

The Muse’s Lover: Impostor Syndrome

Hello, lovelies!

I hope everyone is having a good day! I’m a little sleep deprived yay new puppy still adjusting and us being forced to restart her training after almost two months in thanks to forces out of our control and I’m feeling intense amounts of jealousy over the WorldCon that so many friends and industry professionals who I admire are currently attending in Dublin right now, so why not write another personal post this morning about impostor syndrome?

Because oh boy, am I feeling it this week.

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I finished another draft of BLOOD PRICE recently and then sent it off to a few readers to get a second opinion. While waiting for that feedback to roll in, I worked on my ARTEMIS series again because I don’t take breaks, apparently, revamping the overarching plot to something that makes a lot more sense and got me even more excited for this series again. Since I’ve already queried the first book, I think I’m going to go the self-published route for this quartet, but I also think I’m going to try and write all four books, first? Who knows, we’ll see.

Anyway, I went through and made some adjustments to the first book and honestly, I think it just needs one more line-edit pass and it’s good to go. I’ve worked on it a lot and I think it’s finally ready. The second book in the series is written, but it needs a major overhaul (since that’s still draft zero/draft one that I haven’t even touched since first writing it), especially with the overarching plot restructuring, which really effects this book’s plot, in particular. So, I was thinking about diving in and working on that manuscript.

But then, I got feedback about BLOOD PRICE.

Granted, it’s only one opinion, so far, but it’s an opinion I trust and they brought up some really good points. Even though some of the elements they brought up were still more developmental than I hoped, when I felt really strong that I could move onto line edits and finally send this manuscript out to query.

I have to admit, I got a little deflated, because I just want this book to be ready.

But, I let the feedback marinate for a bit, then went back and took some notes on how to incorporate it (all while being embarrassed on the number of typos that still managed to escape my notice, four drafts in) and I have a solid gameplan. Honestly, I don’t think it’ll be too difficult to incorporate it into my manuscript and I think I’m going to try something new and just jump to the sections I need to edit/improve and do that, before I do another read through to fix the typos and make sure it’s cohesive and coherent, before finally, I can query.

I sat down to work on it yesterday, deciding to let my Artemis project wait, because my passion, right now, is for BLOOD PRICE and I am so close; so, so, so close.

And I couldn’t work on it.

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Because my brain started thinking about querying again. It started thinking about rejection and how badly I want this story to make it…and yet how terrified I am that it won’t…but also, how terrified I am that it will? I began to doubt if I could pull this off, doubt this story, doubt myself as a writer, doubt if I had any talent, doubt if this story was good enough, if it was worth telling.

I kept aimlessly pursuing Twitter, wasting time, avoiding working on this manuscript even though I had some ample time to do just that; time that, here in two weeks, once the semester starts back up again and my job’s workload skyrockets once more, I won’t have again for a while. Guilt began to pile up that I was wasting this precious, rare time, my brain whisper shouting at me the entire time: How can you call yourself a serious writer when you’re avoiding writing? How can this story still scare you, even when you love it? You’re never going to make it if you don’t put in the work.

Eventually, I gave up and read a book for fun (and I loved it, the ending was brutal yet perfect and GAH) but even that made me feel guilty, because I’ll never have a chance to hold my novel in my hands if I don’t put in the work and fix what’s still broken.

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My mood plummeted. Depression seeped in all too easily, especially when I’m still struggling to adapt to this puppy and it’s been harder than I thought (and we’re having complications at our apartment which interrupted our training routine with her, so we’re basically being forced to start over from square one, which just sucks). Writing was supposed to be my escape from everything else and now I’m too busy feeling like a failure because I still haven’t nailed this story, four drafts later, and this story still scares me to tell, because it’s so politically-charged and covering a “taboo” topic of empowering women through their periods in a fantasy setting?

Ironically, yesterday I also had a coffee date planned with a new friend who’s a coworker I didn’t know also writes fantasy and we wanted to meet and just talk about writing as writers, since we discovered we have that connection. I almost cancelled, because I was in such bad spirits and felt like a fraud. How can you go and meet another write and talk about your process and your novels when you can’t even sit down to write when you have the time to do so?

But, I went.

And my mood lifted.

A lot.

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We talked about writing: what we enjoyed about it, what we struggled with, how long we’ve been doing it, the paths of publication we plan to pursue (both wanting to become hybrid authors). We talked about cons and writing groups and advice we’ve read from our favorite authors and dreams of attending those cons and one day being invited to those cons. We talked craft and books on writing and blogs and social media platforms. We went over our allotted time by 15 minutes before we both realized we needed to rush back to work, where I had more meetings to go to, but I was in higher spirits. I finished out the work day in a positive mood and then met my Mom for dinner, before hanging out with my family for a bit. It turned out to be a really lovely day.

Even though I didn’t write a single thing.

This morning, I’m still scared to dive back in. I’m still a little bummed that I haven’t quite completed this story to the high level upon which I thought I’d achieved (though it has leveled up dramatically with every draft, so it by no means isn’t making progress). But I’m also bloody stubborn. I’ve also been working on this story for almost two years now and, though it scares me, I also recognize it’s one of my favorite things I’ve ever written and I believe the strongest story I’ve ever written. And it deserves this work. It deserves me to be challenged by smart, honest beta readers. It deserves my fear, my whole heart being invested, my nerves and my dedication.

As Victoria Schwab tweeted and I now live by:

Show up.

Put in the work.

Let go of the outcome.

So…let’s get to work. signature


Discussion: How Being A Blogger Changes You as a Reader

Hello, lovelies!
It’s been a while since I’ve written a discussion post recently and this is a topic that’s been on my brain for a hot second these past few weeks, so I decided, why not? The main discussion question is:

How does being a blogger affect you as a reader?

I’m going to get a little controversial (maybe) and say that, for me, it actually affects me negatively.
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I’ve been a reader all my life. I don’t remember what got me started reading, though it was probably school, but I have a lot of fond memories regarding reading.
I remember reading Tamora Pierce’s Alanna: The First Adventure and how it truly got me into fantasy, before reading Tolkien and how it introduce me into epics.
I remember always reading ahead in class, finishing the assigned novel weeks before it was due so I could read the novels I wanted to during our “in class” regarding sessions.
I remember participating in programs we had like Novel Navigators (where we read books and then tried to answer questions) and how, when I was eleven, our school librarian called me a liar because she didn’t believe I got 20/20 correct on my quiz over Little Women (it was an AR program our library did where you read books and took quizzes afterwards to get points towards your AR goals), because it was too high above my reading level.
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I remember choosing to read War and Peace sophomore year in high school because no one else had attempted it for our personal book projects and I foolishly waited three days before the paper was due to start the book, reading it all weekend and writing the essay the night before (and I got a 97%; not trying to brag, but this is seriously still one of my proudest accomplishments).
I remember not reading the first two years in college because I struggled to balance it all and then, one day, in my lowest of lows suffering from depression, I picked up a book from the library and thought, “Hey, I haven’t done this in a while? Why not take 30 minutes and try and relax?” And wow, it was like I was becoming me again, finally feeling whole and smiling again?
So, yeah, there is no question that I’m a reader. I love it. I love escaping into a novel for a little bit, traveling to worlds and realms that don’t exist in our current one, because life is hard to handle sometime. I also read because I just enjoy it, honestly. It’s one of my favorite hobbies.
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That’s why this six week reading slump has been hitting me…hard.
I just…haven’t wanted to read?
And I think it’s because I’m a book blogger.
Because being a book blogger changed me a reader.
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Don’t get me wrong. I said it affects me negatively and it does, but there are so many positives and joys that I would never give it up. I mean, I love this blog. It’s my main outlet. And though writing reviews aren’t always my favorite posts to write all of the time, I know how much they help authors (even if reviews are actually intended for readers) and helping the authors I love is important to me. Hell, helping a reader find an author they love, even if I didn’t enjoy the book myself, is important to me.
I love the book blogging community SO MUCH. There are a handful of bloggers I know who I consider true, real friends. Like, I love them that much (I hope you know who you are <3 <3 ), so when I was offline for two weeks earlier this month and I came back to talk to all of you again, that just felt so…wholesome? Like, I struggle with loneliness sometimes being a twenty-something trying to adult, so having that connection just means the world. Plus, I’ve discovered so many books I never would have before that I loved thanks to blogging. I’ve become a judge for SPFBO through blogging, which helped my blog get a little more notice and helped me make more connections. For my future career as an author, the benefits of being a book blogger with connections is indescribeable (<–is this a word? I mean, we’re going with it, but still, I’m curious).
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So, I want that to be very clear: I LOVE being a book blogger, I love what I do and I am SO THANKFUL for it every single day. It’s part of who I am and I hope I never have to stop, because I truly do love it and I recognize what a blessing it is.
But…it also has some negatives, too, that I think have sorta influenced this reading slump I’m in? And I think it’s okay and important to talk about these, too, especially for those who might be looking at me the way I look at most of the bloggers on my feed and be feeling, “Wow, they really have it put together, I wish I could be like that.” It’s important to talk about the struggles, too.
Comparison Game: I am the worst at this. I see bloggers who are able to do different readathons on the daily, read 30 books a week, have a 300+ book reading goal for Goodreads, get dozens of ARCs from different publishers yet aren’t falling behind, have a gorgeous blog layout and post consistently and I just sit here like, “Man, why can’t I be like that?” My one-book a week or four books a month average seems so minuscule in comparison, especially because I have so many books I WANT to read, but time isn’t always on my side, so sometimes, I feel like a pretty shite blogger (even though I KNOW all of those bloggers I’m comparing myself to and judge myself lesser against have their own lives, needs and anxieties, and I don’t know or need to know those; so just because they appear to be nailing it, doesn’t mean they are. Or, even if they are, my version of being a successful book blogger doesn’t have to match theirs perfectly. We’re all meant to be unique, so this comparison is needless and this jealousy and wishing isn’t necessary, yet hello do I do it anyway).
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ARC Pressure: I am VERY lucky to work with both Orbit (!!) and Titan to receive ARCs. I’ve been able to read some of my favorite series more regularly thanks to this, on top of being introduced to new favorites. Being America-based is also a huge privilege. Yet, I’m always worried that I’m going to lose this wonderful gift because I’m behind and being in this slump is only making me more so. Yet I also want to read books other than ARCs because I have so many backlist books I want to read, yet I feel GUILTY reading anything else because these are so overdue. Add in library books with a timeline, SPFBO readings, books authors have sent me, Tolkien Society readings and how I usually only read one book a week and I think I’ve just overwhelmed myself to the point where I’m just not reading at all, because I feel guilty to read something that isn’t in that list above? Yet I also don’t want to stop requesting ARCs for books I really want (though I have gotten a lot better at not requesting unless I really want the book) because I can’t afford to get them otherwise and since I’m such a mood reader, if I have an opportunity to own a book I *know* I want to read, I try to take it, especially through an ARC, since library holds often get turned in unread (though I utilize my library a lot, too).

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Actual video of my current TBR list.

Fear of Responses: I don’t think one is as major as some of the others, but it definitely is a factor, as well, because now, I’m in the public eye a lot more than I was before! Luckily, I’ve had a lot of really positive responses to my reviews and my blog, but I always get nervous writing negative reviews, especially from authors I admire or for books I know a lot of bloggers (who are friends!) liked. So I think that unconscious fear sometimes slips in there, too, and makes me hesitate to read at all.
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Reading Feels More Like a Job: All of this detailed above (and other factors I’m prolly missing right now, but this is already a unit of a post, so…) has transitioned reading–my main hobby–into more like a job, because now I have deadlines and other people counting on me; even if most of those deadlines are self-inflicted and a lot of these emotions–the guilt, the fear, the anxiety, the comparison–are all a result of my own mental illnesses, anxiety and depression, and not a result of how others actually interact or treat me.
Despite KNOWING that, it doesn’t erase dealing with this “new” way of reading and how it’s affecting my ability to actually read right now (on top of time, which is a whole ‘nother ballgame, but basically, when your summer schedule is weird and you use the mornings to be productive around the house/writing ((AND SOON TAKE MY PUPPY FOR A WALK, WHAT)) and then go to work before getting home at 8:30pm, where I still need to eat dinner and then want to spend some time with my boyfriend before going to bed, reading just hasn’t been a priority lately).
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Listen, I totally get that a lot of these are my own anxieties coming out. I know how wonderful all of the other bloggers are and, though I’d love to read some more so that my TBR list stops shouting at me, I actually like my pace of 4-6 books a month. I know my system works for me, but sometimes, I just wish I could do better, because I want to be a good book blogger. I want to be a good, positive, supporting and contributing member of this community. I don’t want to let Orbit and Titan (and other publishers and authors) down by getting stuck in slumps or life getting in the way or my schedule changes or I put my own book I’m writing first. But I am also tired of feeling guilty and I miss my backlist beauties.
To be extra clear: I have NO intention of leaving or quitting. Despite my complaints above, I really, really do love this (truly). I just…am also recognizing that being a book blogger has put pressure (even if it’s self-induced) on me as a reader that wasn’t there when I wasn’t a book blogger. And sometimes…I dunno. I just miss reading for fun and wish I could figure out how to turn off my brain and the stress and the pressure, like I should be able to. I wish I could be a book blogger without adding that bit in.
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You slogged through that mammoth of a post and one, I’m proud of you. But two, I am SO curious what you think! Do you deal with similar anxieties and stresses? Has being a book blogger changed you as a reader (or, if you don’t blog, do you believe it would)? Do you have any tips on how to combat this, because I am ALL EARS (please, send help)?
Read on, lovelies. And thanks for making this blog one the places you choose to spend your reading time. <3

Random Musings

Punching Limbo In The Throat

Hey there, lovelies.
You know how, last week, I wrote a post called Stuck in Limbo, which got super emotional super quickly?
Well, I’m about to do it again, so…yay?
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Of course, I’ve been thinking a lot about that post; about blatantly admitting and confessing my mental health is not good; how I’ve warped my worth so badly into believing it’s solely tied to my appearance alone; how it could be considered embarrassing, to be that raw and blunt, even on my own corner of the internet; how irritating it was to cry every day while I was at work last week and having to use old tricks I haven’t used since high school to try and mask any evidence I was crying from my face, so no one would know; how I’m not sure how I truly got to this place of self-hatred once again, experiencing depression levels similar to those I experienced in high school, something that feels so foreign and yet so familiar, all at once.
How blown away I was by your response.
I’ve written about my depression and anxiety here on the blog before, perhaps just never so…unfiltered, as I did last week. I wasn’t expecting much out of the ordinary, in terms of people reading it…if anyone decided to read it at all.
So when I had people responding to me, reaching out to me, and genuinely expressing concern, warmth and help, I was positively floored. From friends on the internet to friends in real life to even coworkers I barely even get to see…the outpouring of love and support was incredible and I am still unsure of what to really say.
I mean, thank you, first of all.
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It made me think a little bit more, to try and hone in on what exactly I’m feeling and why I’m so depressed. I mean, shit, I live a good life. I have a job, I’m about to move into an adorable home and get my first puppy, I have a great family and a wonderful boyfriend. I’m able to pursue my passions and I’m generally pretty healthy. Sure, I’m curvier than I want to be, but does that really justify this onslaught of self-hate to continually be my mantra, inside my head?
Because, honestly: what am I hoping to accomplish by being pretty?
That’s the question that floored me and really stuck with me, this past week, as I thought about how so many people were kind enough to reach out and marinated on their responses. Because there’s where the root of the self-hate comes from, honestly. I like who I am as a person. I love what I’m interested in. Certainly, there are ways in which I could still improve myself, of course, but genuinely, I believe I’m a pretty caring, optimistic, giving and funny person. I just don’t like how I look, most of the time. How my lower back isn’t flat and smooth or my love handles stick up out of my jeans sometimes or my thighs always touch.
But why does those things matter so much?
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What changes about me if suddenly my lower back is a soft curve rather than a jiggle, my love handles vanish or I suddenly have a thigh gap? I used to think I would never find love, without being pretty. Yet I’ve been in a healthy and happy relationship for the past two years and he is the first to tell my self-hating demons to go back where they came from and never return. I want to go clothes shopping and not dread being able to not find clothes that fit. Except, I can find clothes that fit, I just don’t like that number, that 16 size jeans or x-large tank top. Or how I feel like I can’t wear shorts or dresses or bikinis or dress sexy, because then it’ll show off more of this.
Except, why can’t I?
The only person preventing me from doing it is me.
I know where it all comes from. I was bullied enough as a kid growing up from my appearance to know where this stems. Hell, the subjective messaging that society thrives off of is everywhere, constantly barraging me of what I should look like or what I should do to be approved, to have general worth. Yet I know now how impossible those standards are and I don’t want to adhere to them. And I know my body is much healthier than that ad in the grocery store isle magazine tries to tell me it is. Sure, I wiggle when I walk, but I can run three miles (slow, slow miles) if I want to. I am strong. I can be active if I want to and I can go on adventures and enjoy myself. I may not be stick thin, but I’m not what I call myself during my darkness moments, either. My body is so much more capable than I give it credit for, than I appreciate.
It’s so much more beautiful than I acknowledge.
Because I’m too busy tearing myself down to even try.
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And for what? If I suddenly lost 50 pounds, are all my dreams suddenly going to come true? Will I stop living paycheck to paycheck, be able to travel everywhere I want and suddenly have all my books published? If I become what society tells me to be, their version of pretty, of beautiful, of sexy, will all my problems suddenly vanish? Will I become a better person overnight: kinder, more intelligent, more caring, more giving?
Why can’t I be all of those things now? Why can’t I be a good person now, who is known for always wearing a smile on her face and trying her damnedest and still failing sometimes, but she gets up anyway and pushes forward, regardless? Why can’t I go on shopping dates because I want a new outfit or wear those clothes I want now? Why can’t I believe I’m deserving of the love I’ve found and believe it’s real, without an asterisks at the end, adding, “despite these curves and this weight”? Why can’t I believe and be all of those things and still feel value and self-worth, without ever adding the caveat “despite not being skinny”?
Why am I letting a lie from society control my own mental health so highly?
It’s gotten bad, for me. I started running in November 2017 after a guy ghosted me and my heart broke. I kept running because I enjoyed how it made me feel, the runner’s high I got from after a solid run. I was inspired after I began to see my body change and shape into a version that was more in-line with what society demanded, something I never thought I’d see. I stopped for so many reasons, but my greatest, I think, is because of guilt and fear and disappointment; everything I wrote about in that last post. Instead of enjoying it and doing it because I wanted it, I put so much pressure in maintaining a workout schedule that, when I failed to do it, suddenly, I was as worthless as I believed myself to be in high school, even though I know, deep down, that feeling is a lie.
And you all helped call out that lie.
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I know this will still be a battle, one that’s not fought and won overnight. Honestly, it will be a battle I will fight until my last breath, one I have fought since 7th grade, when I chose to wear sweatpants and sports jerseys instead of skirts and make-up, outlying me as “other” and suddenly opening up my mind into only one element of the toxic culture we’ve created, suddenly being thrown in my face, because I wasn’t pretty enough.
There will still be days when I feel worthless and that I don’t deserve any happiness or confidence because I’m not skinny. There will be weeks when I work out every day and love it and weeks where I don’t. I still put working out four times this week on my To-Do List and we will see if I get there.
Or maybe I won’t.
But I’ve been so focused on the physical health and what people see; so focused on comparing myself to the success of friends on a similar journey or strangers whose stories I don’t know; that I haven’t even stopped to look at my own mental health, to even see if I’m in a good place to begin with. If I’m talking to myself and about myself in a way that is healthy enough to try and change my body.
Or if I’m starting from the completely wrong place to begin with.
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The past couple months have been…hard. It’s gotten so bad, I haven’t even been writing–and that should have been my first sign that something was off and I needed to have a real heart-to-heart with myself. I don’t have a solution, necessarily. I just know that I need to do a better job of taking care of myself, starting with how I think about myself, what I believe about myself and how I treat myself. Because everything I want after I “get skinny,” I can do right now. I can build that confidence and love myself right now, no matter if I start working out four times a week for the rest of my life or never do a formal workout again.
I just have to believe in myself and love myself enough to do it.
Perhaps, like the way you do.
Thanks for that reminder. I hope this post could be a reminder for YOU, too.
You are incredible. You are capable. You are worth it. You are enough.
Right now. In this moment.
Just as you are.