Wellness, Writing

The World’s Most Low-Key Writing Club: “What Would I Change About Myself”

This post comes from prompt 1 in a writing group I am in with a friend called the World’s Most Low-Key Writing Club. It’s a 10-minute writing exercise. I didn’t do any editing so it’s very raw but very real.

Content warning: stress eating, body image

I’m sharing this prompt in particular because I think a lot of us need to know we are not alone in our negative thoughts about our bodies – if you don’t have any, tell me your secret! Confidence and self-love are something that are a constant struggle in my life and I want to share with others that it’s okay to feel the way you feel.

More detailed explanation and thoughts are on the Oak + River Books podcast!

*Note: if you are struggling with body image or eating, please consult a professional. This post in no way intends to treat or diagnose – it is solely my personal experience and thoughts.*

Prompt #1: If I could change one thing about myself…

This has two meanings to me. The first – that I thought of first – is “what is the physical thing you would change about yourself?” For me, that’s easy. I would literally just change the way my body looks. It would always be proportionate, even when I’m in a plus-size status. Outside of the body positivity movement – and even sometimes in it – there is a right way and a wrong way to be plus size. If you are pear shaped or hourglass shaped (echo all of the female comedians questioning why we have to be like fruits), then you are in the clear. Your body is “desirable”. But an apple shaped woman? Oh no. You have fat in all the wrong places. Your body’s way of distributing it makes you disgusting – instead of just curvy or thick. I don’t know what it’s like in the men’s scene. There is still work to be done there, too. I just hate feeling like my “mom bod” is less worthy than a “dad bod”. It makes me wonder how much time I’m spending looking at other people’s bodies – wondering why and how they look the way they do, wondering what their parents look like, wondering what they eat or if they fast. I am obsessed with other people’s bodies not because I’m a stalker but because I’m vain. I didn’t know I was vain. I just thought I hated the way I looked and everyone else hated the way they looked and that’s just how life was. Time moves on and post-Navy I think will be a healthier head space for me. It’s not that I’m okay with anyone being unhealthy, I’m just not okay with feeling like I am a horrible human because I’m not beautiful.


The second thought I had regarding this is what personality trait would I change about myself. It’s no secret I get obsessive… let’s say passionate. My heart is huge and heavy and love comes pouring out of it – but it’s often misguided. I have a tattoo on my ribcage that says “let love not wander”. I don’t know the real inspiration for it. I was just thinking about cool tattoos to get one day and this phrase popped in my head and I said, “That’s the one.” And I went that day to get it. My love wanders because it grows. It wanders because it tries to enter homes where it’s not welcome. It wanders because it’s searching for another love just like it. My love is loud and forceful. I need someone who loves just as forcefully but in a quiet way. A sturdy presence. A solidity. Someone who doesn’t run when things get tough. Or when I get emotional. Someone who will let me be mad and then we’ll talk about it and we’ll move and no one will hold grudges. Someone who will argue with me about leaving socks on the floor, or what color to paint the walls, or what to make for dinner tonight. I don’t even want to really argue, I just want to bicker a little bit. I don’t want someone who is passive and chill about every little thing. I have a fire in me and if I feel like I’m stomping over someone else all the time with it, I will make both of us miserable. So I want to let my love be free. I want it to roam and seek out corners and crevices and shadows. But I don’t want it to go banging down doors it doesn’t belong at. Crossing thresholds destined for someone else. I want to accept that sometimes life just doesn’t work the way we want it to, or the way we imagined it would. Sometimes I want the fact that I have loved at all to be enough. But this is not sustaining. My love will flourish when it is loved in return. When it no longer has to wander alone.

Most of all, I would change the way I love myself. Because most of the time, I don’t. I know my good traits – funny, smart, witty, caring. But I feel like if I don’t tell people my bad traits, they’ll think I’m hiding them. So often I have the urge to be like “I shouldn’t be eating this because I need to lose weight” or “I know I’m annoying but…” Why can’t I just love myself enough to be confident? Why can’t I love my own heart enough to trust that it will be okay? The best thing God has in store for me is not what I’m currently experiencing. Am I really so arrogant to think that THIS is the best God can do? THE BEST? He knows my heart and he knows my love and while I absolutely disagree that people need to love themselves in order to be loved by others, I think I do need to love myself more. I have heard that often enough I finally am on the cusp of believing I am unworthy of others’ love because I do not love myself. But I need to love myself as fiercely as I try to love other things. Fiercely and unabashedly.

nature, Wellness

10 Ideas for Including Nature in a Joyful Life

What’s the difference between being happy and living a joyful life? How can we incorporate nature into a joyful life?

Happiness is fleeting –whether we want to admit it or not. A joyful life is overall content with the way things are while recognizing the moments that bring peace into your heart.

Photo by Jill Wellington on Pexels.com

We all know someone like this. How are they so happy all the time? we ask ourselves.

The truth is…

They are not happy all the time!

They have learned to create a joyful life through acceptance and action.

Just like love, joy isn’t something that we go looking for and once we find it everything is hunky-dory. It takes a little practice.

How do we accept our situation as we go throughout life?

For what I hope are obvious reasons, 2020 could be called the Year of the Introvert. But even introverts need a little bit of sunlight and socialization.

We recently got rained on during a walk, but didn’t let that dampen our spirits! Instead, we found it to be a refreshing way to start the day. The smell of wet soil and pavement is nostalgic for me.

While avoiding large crowds is not a big deal for me, some people thrive on the energy. If they’ve made the decision to social distance, phone calls and video chats could be their new norm, and sometimes it’s just not enough.

But what about the rest of the time? What about all the people who were already unhappy before COVID-19 hit?

Learning to appreciate the small moments goes along way toward creating an abundance of joy.

Joy = big leaves on a morning walk

What actions can we take to be joyful?

There are lots of ways to take action to include joy in your lives: volunteer work, meditation, writing in a journal (not just buying every pretty one you see *guilty*).

A few weeks ago, my post Summer, Sunshine, and Sunflowers listed 10 ways to still have fun in the summer while social distancing. Today I am give you 10 new ways to incorporate nature in your life of joy!

Inside or outside, near or far, these activities are versatile enough to suit your lifestyle.

  1. Hike and walk – If you have time for an outdoor hike, awesome! If not, totally reasonable and understandable. Walking can be done literally everywhere, even if you need to walk in place in your yard or your living room; a quick 10 minutes is enough to be effective.
  2. Go on a picnic – Go to your favorite park or sit on a blanket in the yard and enjoy your favorite treats and age-appropriate beverages. Remember: leave no trace and don’t feed the wildlife.
  3. Collect and identify leaves – This collection can be turned into a beautiful family keepsake and is a project that’s extremely kid-friendly.
  4. Conduct a photoshoot – of plants and landscapes! Fancy phones are always coming out with updated camera technology, so it’s very easy to have good quality photos at your fingertips. I have ordered a few wall art pieces from Shutterfly to hang in my home that showcase my own photos.
  5. Get down with the dirt – Gardening is a soothing way to focus on something and feel, dare I say it, grounded. Get a little dirt under your nails and pot some flowers or vegetables; plus, working with soil is good for you, body and soul.
  6. Visit a botanical garden – Botanical gardens are the perfect places to see birds, bees, butterflies, and smiling faces!
  7. Listen to a music with scenery channel on the TV – Bring nature inside by enjoying the sights and sounds of nature from your own living room; Soothing Relaxation has a lot of great videos with nature scenes, and a quick YouTube search will reveal tons more; this is a great option if you want to listen to a stream or even thunder and lightning.
  8. Create art – While wine and paint night and at-home Bob Ross tutorials have grown in popularity, nature can be incorporated into every art medium: drawing, scrapbooking, crocheting, pottery, etc.
  9. Do an outdoor workout – Do some lunges and squats in your driveway; boost that Vitamin D intake and wear appropriate sunscreen! When not social distancing, join an outdoor workout group or meet up with a friend.
  10. Read nature books, poetry, and articles – Expand your knowledge by learning something new or kick back with a faithful favorite.

You’ll notice none of these ideas are particularly strenuous – that’s because I believe they shouldn’t be. Enjoying nature can be as simple or complex as you want it to be.

I love the botanical gardens but don’t always want to drive 30 minutes to end up in potential downtown traffic; sometimes watching the cardinals or the doves in my backyard is enough. I love doing a in-person 5ks and 10ks but wouldn’t necessarily want to do one every weekend (okay, maybe every other weekend!).

Can you spot the dove hanging out on my crape myrtle?

What do you do to include nature in your joyful life? Do you think it’s possible to have a joyful life without nature?

Have a joyful day, friends!

Wellness

Summer, Sunshine, and Sunflowers

Summer is my favorite season. I love Wisconsin summer – Up North during the summer means family, beach time, and camping. And I love living in Texas, where even the sun seems bigger, and where it’s acceptable for everyone to be sweaty all summer long and not have to worry about being judged. No matter where you live, summer means grilling out, traveling, and early morning sunrises.

Summer 2020 (and the year in general) has been a roller coaster for many reasons and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down. In addition to social distancing, allergies, humidity, and high temps can force people inside during the summer.

For work and personal reasons, I am not traveling this summer. I would love nothing more than to pack up, drive north, and stay with my parents for a while.

A view of home

In a time when the healthy and safety of everyone is of the utmost importance, how can we still have a fun summer?

In no particular order, here’s a list of things you can do:

  1. Have kids or dogs or both? Play in the backyard
  2. Flying solo or chilling with your roomies? Set up a tent in your backyard and go on a staycation: grill out, order take in, and break out the fancy wine (no one’s judging if you play Slap the Bag, though)
  3. Take a walk in your neighborhood- this is a great opportunity to phone that friend you’ve been meaning to call
  4. Get up early and drink your morning coffee while you watch the sunrise
  5. Set a new bike riding goal – can you beat the 20 miles you did last week?
  6. Go to a recreation trail before peak hours – Google Maps shows how busy locations are by time of day, taking out all the guess work for you
  7. Give your green thumb some time to shine – those plants need some love, too!
  8. Any outside projects on your to-do list? Clean those gutters! Paint that trim!
  9. Sit on the patio with your mimosa and write your bucket list

There’s so much to do and there are ways to do them safely: bring a water bottle, wear your mask when needed, tell a friend where you are in case of emergency. Plus, going for a walk is free. The only thing you are spending is time on yourself.

I’m adding a few things to my Texas Bucket List. Eventually I’d like to take a trip to every state park but that’s a long-distance goal. In the meantime here are a few other Texas destinations I plan to visit:

Wildseed Farms: In addition to beautiful fields conveniently located in Fredericksburg, they also have a Biergarten and wine tasting room.

Fort Worth Botanic Garden and the Dallas Arboretum and Botanic Garden: I have yet to explore this metropolitan area and both of these gardens are in the American Horticulture Society reciprocal admissions program – if you have a membership at a participating garden, you may be eligible for special admission privileges and discounts at other member gardens. More on the reciprocal admissions in my upcoming three-part botanical garden series!

Galveston: This is an historic city full of old homes, monuments, and perseverance. According to the site’s history page, it has 2,000+ buildings on the National Register of Historic Places. Above all, Galveston is the birthplace of Juneteenth. To learn more about African American history and Galveston, click here.

In the featured image at the top of the page, you see an imperfect sunflower: pieces of a couple petals are missing, the leaves aren’t blemish free, and you can tell that the background isn’t especially exciting (that particular piece of land is under construction). How like this sunflower are we as humans?

Sunflowers have this amazing ability to grow along the edges, in unlikely spots. The imperfect sunflower above was the only flower growing along the edge of the lot I was parked at.

A burst of sunflowers from a recent walk

Sunflowers typically follow the sun all day long and rest at night. They keep their eye on the prize.

We, too, are blemished. We are not perfect. We make mistakes.

And we can also follow the sun. We can also keep our eye on the prize and not let outside things distract us.

I’m focusing this time on relaxation and reconnecting with my passions. We’re staying local and taking plenty of walks; my son has lots of energy so any way I can wear him out is a plus! The ultimate prize is next year’s vacation to visit family.

How are you staying safe and practicing wellness this summer season?