Tough Choices

I’ve had to make some tough decisions over the past few months. Things took a turn for a while and became very difficult. Things are finally starting to go a bit more smoothly again. Most are probably not aware of the comings and goings of my life since my previous blog post.

Almost a week to the day after I published my last blog post, I slipped and fell on some black ice my walk to work. I hit my head quite hard on the sidewalk. I blacked out for a few seconds and was unable to move from my position on the ground for about ten minutes. No one stopped to help me, so I was on my own in getting up and getting myself where I needed to go. I arrived at work, in pain and not feeling well at all, and was promptly sent to Urgent Care after telling my manager what had happened. After several hours there I left with a diagnosis of a concussion and a doctor-mandated week off work.

I was anxious to get back to work after that week off, and I made the mistake of doing too much too soon. I worked my regular job back at work full time, plus two evenings that week at my second job, and then the full weekend, as it was my weekend scheduled to work there. By Saturday at the end of my shift, I had a massive headache and could not function anymore. My mom came into town the next morning to take me back to the hospital where I was diagnosed with post-concussion syndrome, and given another week off work with explicit instructions to see my family doctor ASAP. I was able to get in to see him the next day, and he diagnosed whiplash as well, and I was referred for physiotherapy and massage. As of now, just a week shy of 3 months post-injury, I am still not discharged from physio, and am seeing a massage therapist weekly as I still have symptoms. Thankfully I am back to work full time, but for several weeks after productivity and getting things done was a struggle.

Approximately one week after I returned to work, I injured myself yet again. I tripped over a chair while cleaning in my bedroom and I severely sprained my ankle. It was one of those severe sprains where you could actually hear the pop of the tendons as they tear. I spent about 20 minutes on the ground after it happened crying very angry tears. Yes, it hurt, but I was more angry that it had even happened in the first place. I got checked out and confirmed nothing was broken, but I spent the following two weeks on crutches, and since then it has been a process to gradually build the strength back up in my ankle. I’m still unable to walk long distances, but I seem to be making steady progress with only a few minor setbacks along the way.

These are the events that have led to the tough choices I have had to make recently. Last month I had to officially change my availability at my second job so that I could focus more on my health. Physically, I am still a mess. I am both weak and sore most of the time, and sitting in front of a computer for more than the 7.5 hours per day required at my first job each week was just not feasible. I reduced my hours from 35 hours bi-weekly to just 19 hours. It has already helped significantly with my overall well-being, so while it was hard to give up the income it has been worth it to me in spades to just feel better in general.

The second tough choice I had to make was the decision to completely revise my financial plan for this year. Having to take so much time off work made the plan and the financial goals I had set for 2019 basically impossible to achieve, and so I had to make some changes. The timeline has been extended significantly and as of now, with these revised hours, there are no plans to quit my second job any time soon. It does suck some that I had to make this decision, but ultimately I feel like it was the right decision to make for myself at this point in time.

2019 has proven to be more difficult than expected so far. BUT, I feel like I have made the best decisions for myself so far that I can. I can finally feel myself getting healthier physically, and the arrival of actually spring-like weather has buoyed my mood significantly. I have even been able to cycle off the second medication I added over the winter. I can’t say there have been no difficulties emotionally or mentally, but I am taking pleasure in small things right now, like the friends who have supported me through the past three months when I was dealing with everything I’ve already talked about, and in my kitties, who have continued to give me so much love. Things have evolved for me to the point where I think I may be ready to tackle a new project or two, creatively. We will see where things take me over the next little while.

(You may have noticed that the look and feel of my blog has changed a bit. Trying something new around here. I am liking it so far, and I hope you do too!)

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The Importance of Self Care – An update

It’s been some months since I published anything resembling a blog post. There is a reason for this. Or rather, several.

1. I’ve been busy.

2. I’ve been working on some things.

3. I’ve been dealing with some tough stuff and adjusting to another new “normal.”

I guess this means it’s time for an update.

My mental health took another massive nosedive in the late fall. It wasn’t immediately obvious to me, but in December I finally went to see my doctor. I am on a new adjusted medication regimen that has helped. I am at least to the point where I am functional, even though I still need a TON of sleep. I am also waiting on a referral for therapy. Hopefully that will come through soon. I decided to take a step away from a number of things that felt like more of a burden or a contributor to stress and frankly, that included taking a break from blogging to relieve the feeling of constant pressure to get blog posts published. In the past it has been a higher priority than I can currently handle.

Through all of this, I have continued to work both jobs and have started a push to get my humble little side hustle off the ground. I now have business cards and a website for it, and am working on building my customer base. It’s very exhausting, but I am slowly making progress. Bit by bit, it will become great.

I finally have a concrete financial plan that I have stuck to for the first couple months of this year, and it is something I am feeling great about. One debt has already been paid off this year, and two more will be by the end of this month. Things will continue on like this and by the end of the year I estimate I will have paid off close to $12,000 of my outstanding debt. It’s going to be amazing. I have had to make some minor sacrifices – mostly in the form of shorter staycations versus a long vacation away this year, but it will totally be worth it to shed that debtload in 2019. This plan also means I only have to keep working two jobs for less than a year. The day I put in my two weeks’ notice of resignation will be a beautiful day. Only 10 months to go until that day.

On the down side of things, I am still dealing with some loss and getting used to things they way they are now. I don’t want to go into detail; it still hurts and makes me sad to think about it. I miss the person. A lot. I am just trying to keep doing me as best as I can while I work through things. Trying to make the best decisions for myself that I can, to help me stay on track with my goals and get healthier mentally and physically. Trying to keep as positive an outlook as I possibly can these days. I am lucky to be surrounded by people who love me.

I celebrated my 33rd birthday last week to minimal fanfare. My gift to myself was a 7-day staycation where I mainly stayed home and slept. I met with family and some friends for dinners, but for the most part I took the opportunity to rest and recharge as much as I could. I am back at work today, feeling a bit fresher than I’d expected. So, yay me.

I will end this post with a photo from the day trip I took on Thursday with my grandma to the butterfly conservatory. A good day and a beautiful space.

The Importance of Self Care

Life is exhausting. I am learning just how important it is to look after yourself first.

I am on the brink of burnout. This past month the or so has been crazy. Between work at two jobs, family emergencies, friends in need, dealing with back-to-back illnesses, and the changing seasons, it is time to talk about the less fun kind of self-care.

The kind of self care that helps you survive day-to-day even when you aren’t at your best is incredibly important. I am realizing this the hard way right now, and I am still learning what it look like for me. Since every body is different, this type of self-care is also different for every body as it meets individual needs.

I’m not talking about draw-yourself-a-bath-with-a-yummy-smelling-bath-bomb self-care. I am talking about making sure you eat healthy, get enough sleep, paying, boundary-setting self-care. It is rarely fun, but is ALWAYS necessary.

I took a few moments this morning with the intention of trying to figure out what I need to recover from this near-burnout state and to keep going. The list of what I need looks something like this:

  • get more sleep (earlier bedtime, no more screens in bedroom)
  • meal prepping (all meals, not just dinner)
  • curbing impulse spending
  • get, and stay organized (routine, routine, routine!, use planner!)
  • set healthy boundaries for socializing/people-ing
  • create more and more regularly
  • daily physical activity (stretching and/or walking at minimum)

I struggle with sleep almost daily, and I hate cooking for one with a passion. Staying organized is exhausting! And I just plain do not enjoy physical activity. Curbing spending is…well, lame, and I already feel like there isn’t enough time to create or socialize. Except when I do socialize, I almost always overdo it. This is what I mean by “not fun” self-care. It means getting real about things. The above reasons are why I don’t want to do any of these things. My health and overall well-being are the reasons I HAVE to do these things.

This week is a week of trying to get things right, to try to strike the balance between what life is throwing at me and my self-care actions before I go off on a vacation and have the opportunity to recharge for the first (and probably the last) time in a while. Making the decision to consciously pursue this life balance is important for me. My anxiety baseline has been much higher than usual lately as well, and I am hopeful that it will improve as I start focusing on these things more. This all begins now. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Meeting my Pen Pal IRL

I have had a pen pal for about a year and a half now. We met through a pen pal group on Facebook, and have been sending snail mail back and forth ever since. We also chat through Messenger online.

She’s cool. She’s my age, and sufficiently nerdy so we have lots to talk about.

A few months back, she started entertaining the idea of a Canadian vacation with a few days set aside to come visit me while she was in the country. I agreed that I thought it was a fun idea, and so planning began. Dates were confirmed, and I booked the last of my vacation time off from work. She arrived by train the evening of September 4 and departed late morning on September 6.

When she arrived, it was approximately 7:00pm, and we were hungry so we went to one of my favourite vegetarian restaurants here in town. Pen pal very much enjoyed it. After dinner, I took her on a driving tour of my city, even though it did become dark shortly after we started and rather difficult to sight see. We went back to my place once it got too dark, and she met the kitties and we wound down before bed.

On September 5, I showed her a bit more of London, and then we went to St. Thomas so I could show her a few things I remembered as a kid, including the Jumbo monument. For those of you who are unfamiliar, Jumbo was an elephant in P.T. Barnum’s Greatest Show on Earth. He was struck and killed by a train on the tracks in St. Thomas near where the monument is in 1885. The monument was erected for the centennial. Following Jumbo, we visited the Old St. Thomas Church. We then spent a few hours at the Elgin County Railway Museum, which seemed fitting since St. Thomas is known as The Railway City. It may have been hot as death, but it was really cool and we stuck it out.

Old St. Thomas Church

After racing back to Jeff (my car) to cool off with the air conditioning, we went down to Port Stanley to see the lake and the beach and have some lunch. Unfortunately, the the place we were planning to go to for lunch was closed for the season aside from weekends, so we settled for seeing the beach and the lake, and headed back to London. I’m sure we would have stayed longer though if it wasn’t so hot! I personally found it way to hot to spend more than a few minutes outside in the sun and humidity. It felt like over 40°C the whole time my pen pal visited. We did the best we could. We arrived back in London and ate a very late lunch at the local vegan fast food place before picking up my sister to take her to Ingersoll for an appointment.

Jumbo

It was a very long day, and though we had fun, pen pal and I were content to grab some snacks and settle down for a quiet and early night watching cartoons. A quiet night before a day of traveling is always nice too.

After a late breakfast on Thursday morning, I took pen pal to the train station where we then parted ways. She was headed back to o Toronto. She flew out early Friday morning.

Meeting pen pal was awesome. I think there will soon be a trip in the works for me to go visit her. 🙂

The Elgin County Railway Museum

Plans and Goals

In preparing for my mid-year review post, I made a list of plans and goals for the second half of this year. It’s long and it’s ambitious, but I feel mostly great about it. I may even have gotten a little overambitious with some of it, but I want to share it with you:

  • Get 2nd job – This is self explanatory. And I’ve done it! Woo! I started July 17th.
  • Pass all 3 exams this term – Passed one, failed the other two. Rewrites incoming.
  • Enroll in final CIP course – have to defer until next year
  • Pass final CIP exam – this exam won’t be until April 2019 now
  • Pay off OSAP (Final payment this month!)
  • Pay off laptop and Xbox by end of year – Well on track to meeting this goal.
  • Weekly meal prep for lunches and dinners; focus on eating healthier – This has been a lifesaver since I started working two jobs! I will definitely be continuing.
  • Continue to build side hustle – A little extra cash from doing something you enjoy never hurt anyone!
  • Publish minimum one blog post per month – this is just healthy for me. It helps me to keep the creative juices flowing and it keeps me in the practice of writing regularly.
  • Write more memoir – I am enjoying this. It’s cathartic.
  • Transition to a healthier (ultimately vegan) diet – A healthier diet is non-negotiable, and so far I have just about mastered eating vegan at home. Now to get it right out of the house too.

I feel like even though some of my goals were not accomplished, I am still doing well. School is hard to do while working full time, let alone while working both a full-time and a part-time job. I bit off a little more than I could chew, and the result was a reminder to be kinder to myself. To not beat myself up when I have set myself up to do something very few could manage. Something we could all stand to remember, I think.

What’s Normal? Finding A New One

I’ve lost all sense of what normal is. It’s official. Now I am trying to find a new one. Normal is relative, right?

I had started a post with the intention of publishing about three weeks ago, but time has gotten away from me. I just don’t have enough of it right now!

Through most of June and all of July, I was sick with a cold turned bronchitis turned chest infection turned lingering nasty cough. That alone has been hard to deal with. I hate being sick, and this year alone I have been sick worse and more often than the past several years combined. I’m finally on the tail end of it, carrying around a slightly less nasty still-lingering cough. While I was sick, I also had to continue on with daily life. I continued looking for a second job, ultimately interviewing for one finally around the end of June. Following that, I wrote three exams over the course of the first two weeks of July, when my illness was really at its worst. This resulted in my failing two of them, but it is what it is, and it will be dealt with in due course. Finally, I started a second job! I aced the interview and July 17th was my officially start date.

Since then I have been working evenings and weekends at the second job in addition to my current full-time job. It keeps things busy! I’m rolling into week three and am starting to get into a semi-regular work routine for myself with the two jobs.

The second job however, has come with a few problems. As I believe I have shared before Huxley suffers pretty severely from separation anxiety.

He has barbered himself almost bald again, and he has become very vocal, much moreso than usual. I have gone into damage control mode with him and have done a number of things to try to help him including putting his Thundershirt back on and investing in a Feliway diffuser. I am hopeful things will get better again.

My life seems a whirlwind right now. I am looking forward to my vacation time this fall! Hopefully I will adjust to this new normal and find my balance soon.

A Mid-Year Review of Sorts

I planned to publish this post before June ended, but things have been rather crazy lately. I have two weeks of exams coming up, in which I write 3. I had interviews for a second job, which I’ve been looking for this past month and a bit. I have a possible new job orientation coming up. I’ve been studying for said exams. I’ve been ill with a nasty cold, and now possibly bronchitis. I am writing currently from our city’s urgent care facility, waiting for a chest x-ray.

I wanted to do a bit of a review of the year so far, and I even made notes about the things I wanted to talk about. Those notes are not currently handy, so I guess I will wing it a bit.

I chose 3 words to focus my year around: self-love, self-care, and creativity. All-in-all, I don’t think I’ve done a bad job of keeping them in-focus. Sure, self-care tends to fall to the wayside when I’m stressed, sick, anxious, in a depressive episode, but I think overall I have done well. I have been recognizing when I am in the midst of one of those situations and actively attempt to be kinder to myself and take better care as well. The self-love is getting easier as the year goes, and I think it is in-turn making kindness toward myself easier. This is definitely a positive as I have had a tendency in the past to beat myself up continuously over relatively minor problems or issues that pop up. Creativity has been flowing more easily this year too. A lot less feeling “stuck” and a lot more putting words on a page. I have had some excellent and supportive friends who have helped me a lot with this, and I am very appreciative. Thousands of words of my book draft have been written. THOUSANDS! “Only” a few thousand, but it’s still in the multiple thousands and I feel like that is amazing progress. I may not reach the ambitious goal of a completed draft by the end of the year, but it’s massive progress regardless because I’m ready to write it, and I am. I have no fear holding me back anymore.

As I mentioned earlier, exams are coming up starting tomorrow. I write one this week and two more next, for a total of three. I understand how ambitious this seems, but I’m actually pretty confident. I am going to pass all three of these exams, which will mean I only have ONE MORE COURSE remaining to completely my CIP designation. I have been working toward this since February 2016 and am very much looking forward to completion and no more part-time schooling! I feel like I deserve the break. I have a number of other things I would like to focus my “free” time on, including a second job, and more creative endeavours.

I have had my car for almost five months now, and I am so happy I decided to invest in a vehicle. Being mobile has simplified so many aspects of my life and I am so thankful for that. It has allowed me to be more social and feel less stuck in terms of socializing, and it has made things like grocery shopping and running errands in general much easier. I don’t know how I managed without a car for so long now.

I HAVE been struggling with my depression a lot since about March or so. I know I have mentioned it a time or two in previous posts. The cycles are deeper, though with faster recovery time. The heat takes a toll on me in a lot of unexpected ways. My tolerance for heat is low, and the sun disagrees with me in a number of ways. This has had a negative effect on me this summer and the one past especially. I’ve been trying to work through, but it doesn’t always work out. At least this year I managed to get into a pool for the first time in a large number of years.

This was a massive accomplishment for me, and one I am thankful to a friend for documenting!

Overall, 2018 has improved a great deal over 2017. Changing my focus has made a huge difference. I look forward to seeing where the rest of this year takes me.

 

Current Thoughts on my Current State

I have been feeling the urge to really make a dent in my memoir lately. However, that has been difficult as my day-to-day life is pretty intense these days. That is not to say that I have some sort of wild social life and am traipsing all over the city having fun all the time. It’s intense in the sense that I have a lot of stressful things coming up. Again. No surprise there, I guess.

Not the least of which is my July CIP exam week. It now includes writing three exams, as I have to rewrite one of my exams from last semester. I failed one of them by a narrow margin in April, and wanted to get the rewrite out of the way as soon as possible. I signed up to rewrite in July…after I already enrolled myself in two new courses. Smart, right? I thought so initially, but now I’m not so sure. It’s the middle of May and I am already studying. I do not want to make the same mistake I did last time. I am determined to pass all three. The good news is, that after passing these three exams, I will only have one course left to complete before I earn my CIP designation. It is very exciting, as it will have been almost three years in the making. Needless to say, I will be taking a break from schooling again for awhile… I feel like I deserve it at this point!

Okay, now that’s out of the way, back to the writing thing. I have a prologue for my memoir! It felt like a huge accomplishment to get the words down. It goes along with the introduction I worked on over the winter. The first 1500 words of my book are out there. Out there being, of course, in a word document saved on my laptop. It’s not out there publicly, and it will likely be quite awhile before it is. It has been shared with a few trustworthy friends at this point, and I am keeping it that way for now. I met with a friend to get feedback on it tonight even. It was a nice confidence boost. I feel ready to write more, but I also am drawing a blank on material. This is the reason I spent so long preparing for this process, but it’s no less frustrating. I will continue with the writing again. Of that, I am sure.

The good news through all of this is that I am in a great mood. I mean, sure I am tired a lot still, but in the grand scheme of things I am in good place overall mentally. It has been a pretty nice change from what felt like the norm. So, crazy busy, but mentally doing better than I have in awhile. Bring on the writing! …Soon…

My “creative director”

 

One of those Days

Do you ever have those days where you just want to crawl back into bed and hide? Or maybe try for a do-over? Today is one of those days for me. I am feeling disgruntled and miserable and frustrated overall, with no overarching reason for it.

Sure, a few small things have not gone…ideally, but other than that things are fine. I mean, poor Hux had an accident this morning and cried about it, and then I forgot my lunch, and then I had to wait on hold for a password reset at work… But since then, things have been going relatively smoothly. Still though, I want to go home and go to bed. Sadly, that’s another thing I cannot do.

After work today I have a semi-long to do list to complete of things around home that are annoying me. My frustrated anxious mind has decided that today is the day to fix all of those things. I guess we will have to wait and see how that goes…

Anyway, I’m going to try and do what I can with the rest of this day. In the meantime, I leave you with some cute art made with a photo of Huxley.

Sunshine! – Some Spring Updates

It appears that Spring has finally arrived here in Southwestern Ontario. After more than another month post-Vernal Equinox of cold weather, snow, freezing rain, wind and gloom, it is nice to finally see the sun and a bit of warmth. Things are starting to turn green and bud again. It has done wonders for my mood, and I’ve been trying to take some extra time to soak up that Vitamin D.

Exams ended on Thursday, and unfortunately, what I thought was a minor cold starting on Saturday has turned into a full-blown painful headcold, complete with a ton of sinus pressure and a sore throat resulting in no voice today. I can only hope that thanks to taking a day to rest today, it will pass more quickly. The good news is I have nothing excessively stressful going on until I have to start studying for my next exams. I can safely say I have a month or so off to enjoy myself and the beautiful weather that will likely accompany the month of May.

On Sunday morning, I took my car to have my winter tires removed. I got to see my car with hub caps for the first time! It’s a small thing, but a very cool thing. Service at the dealership I bought Jeff (my car) at was top-notch just as it has been from the first day I set foot in there. In a few more months, he will be going back for his first oil change. Hopefully I will be able to make a weekend of it and visit some friends in the area as well. I am loving having a car again. As much as driving isn’t my favourite thing, the convenience and ease it has created in my life has been well worth the extra expense.

I have been making so progress with my writing too. I have made some decent headway with an introduction, which felt great. I have sent it off to a friend to read, and am looking forward to some constructive feedback.

I have a busy but positive week ahead of me. Helping out a friend tomorrow with some stuff after work, a continuing TV marathon with a close friend out west, a movie night with another dear friend, yoga class and a book club meeting, and a day with my mom on the weekend. I’m looking forward to it, and I am sure it will give me plenty to write about next time I publish.