Life is good, but it’s busier than ever. I haven’t had ANY time at all for posting here, which is eating me up inside. I miss oversharing! This is a quick post to tell you I’m still here, still thinking of the blog and of its readers, trying to figure out how to achieve a better work-life balance (aren’t we all?).

A quick recap of what has been on my mind (and my plate) lately:

Shore vacation! We spent a week at the Jersey Shore with my family. It was relaxing and peaceful and exactly what I needed. However, I worked very hard leading up to the vacation to ensure I wouldn’t be swamped with work when I returned–but here I am, up to my neck in articles to edit and proofread, backed up against seemingly impossible deadlines. Sigh. Looking at pictures sort of helps me recall how enjoyable the week was:

Don't I look relaxed? (That's my husband and Jax in the background, flying a kite on the beach.)

Don’t I look relaxed? (That’s my husband and Jax in the background, flying a kite on the beach.)

view

This is the view from one of the balconies at the shore house. Very peaceful.

Postvacation has been a blur of kiddie birthday parties, bringing work home, refinancing the house, spending as much time as possible with my bestie (who visited from Florida), and more. I guess you could call it a typical summer, full of plans and lacking time for things like blogging!

In my very minimal spare time (read: the time I could be using for blogging), I’ve been reading a lot. I read Little Earthquakes just before vacation. I didn’t love it, to be honest. Then I finished The Interestings on vacation. I highly recommend that novel, which I couldn’t put down and is typical of my favorite style. Then I read The Silent Wife, which was just OK. It’s been compared to Gone Girl (but so many have, these days), but I didn’t love it how I loved Gone Girl. It just…lacked something. Now I’m reading Sisterland. So far, so good but we’ll see. Up next might be Sharp Objects, but I’m open to recommendations if you’ve got ‘em!

Also up next? My 36th birthday on the 14th, and Jax turns 4 on the 15th. (As I typed this, “Landslide” randomly came on my iPod and now I want to cry! “Even children get older. I’m getting older, too.” SOB, SOB, SOB.) I’ve been party planning (for him, not me). We’re considering buying Jax his first “big-boy bike” as his big gift. Very exciting! Also exciting is that I just signed him up for soccer in the fall. His two best buddies are playing for the same town, so we’re hoping they manage to be assigned to the same team. Think good thoughts!

I also signed him up for Pre-K at our local elementary school. That was emotional–how is he already old enough for school?! Now we wait to find out whether he gets the morning session or the afternoon session. If he gets the morning session, I’ll be giving up my lunch breaks (which is when I take walks with my friends) to pick him up from school and take him to daycare for the afternoon. It’s going to be rough and it was a tough decision to register him, but it will make the Kindergarten transition easier and will be good for him in many ways. If he is assigned the afternoon session, we will likely opt against Pre-K and keep him full time in daycare, as the commute and after-school care is a big issue for us. So also think good thoughts for the morning session for us! :)

I guess you’re all caught up now on most of the goings-on in my little world. I hope to return to blogging (and reading blogs) regularly very soon!

The Universe brought Brene Brown into my life many times before last Sunday, but I didn’t listen because I wasn’t ready then. I pushed away the notion that I should read some of what Brown has to say because I was afraid. I knew enough about Brown’s work as a vulnerability and shame researcher to be afraid to read her books or listen to her powerful message. Vulnerability? No thanks. Brown defines vulnerability as uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure. The thought of letting myself be vulnerable in front of others terrifies me and makes me uncomfortable.

Why? Because the message that has been taught to me over & over by well-meaning (but wrong) people in my life is that being vulnerable is a weakness and that wearing armor is a strength. That when I cry (which, yes, I kind of do a lot & openly), I’m making others feel uncomfortable. Crying, to them, is something to be done rarely and in private. Keeping emotions inside is safe and brave and the right, courteous thing to do. These are the messages I’ve carried in my head for 35 years.

But I’m done now. (This is what I am doing right.)

Upon watching Brene Brown on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday (part one), I purchased Daring Greatly and read 20% of it in one sitting last weekend. I cried while I read it because so much of it hit home, beginning with the title of this post, which is a quote from Daring Greatly and the prompt for this post today.

It’s been a while since I wrote from the gut here and let myself really be seen. I’m going to change that. I’m going to allow myself to be vulnerable in this space.

Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness.”

Have you read any of Brene Brown’s books? If so, which one(s) and what is your favorite quote or message?




get the InLinkz code

Nothing makes me happier than Jackson’s recent curiosity about the alphabet and how to spell ALL THE WORDS. Actually, that isn’t true. Last night, he surprised me by getting very angry over a hyphen. It was the cutest thing. Look for me on Vine (as jamesandjax) or scroll to the bottom of this post if you want to see 6 adorable seconds of Jax getting upset over it (he doesn’t want letters to move, whatever that means). He takes his punctuation very seriously–as we all should!

We often play a “game” (it’s really more of an educational app) on the iPad called Endless ABCs while I make dinner after work. It is the greatest toddler app I’ve downloaded yet, and if you have a toddler and an iPhone or iPad, I highly recommend you check out this fun app. The app takes Jax through each letter of the alphabet with adorable fuzzy monsters who act out the word being spelled, after Jax drags the letters onto the outline of the word. Not only do the letters make the sound when you touch them, the narrator also defines the word once it’s been spelled out. According to the app (although we have yet to experience this), the words also change with increased use.

So last night I was making a fancy dinner of fish and chips while Jax played with the app, and when he got to the letter X and the inevitable x-ray, he asked me to come help him. He was confused by the hyphen in the word, having never seen a hyphen before. So I explained to him some of what I know about hyphens–which is a lot, given my day job as an editor. I’m not a huge fan of hyphens and usually eliminate them unless they are absolutely necessary as determined by Webster’s.

Yet I tried to be fair and unbiased as I explained appropriate hyphenation to my 3 year old. (<— Look, ma! No hyphens!)

Apparently Jax isn’t a fan, either. When he didn’t appreciate my explanation of why the hyphen is necessary, as deemed by both Webster’s and Endless ABCs, in the word x-ray, he angrily yelled that he didn’t want to play Endless ABCs anymore. Then he pressed the Home button on the iPad and began sulking in that typical toddler way.

He hasn’t gone back to the app yet. I think he’s going to need some time to heal. I’m hoping that the next time he opens it, we’ll have a different–unhyhpenated–X word! Like xlophone or xenon!

 

DBT and distractionDistraction is my go-to device when it comes to tolerating distress. When I am sad especially, historically I’ve relied on watching television to distract me from the thoughts making me feel worse. But television isn’t the most convenient device, even with all the apps I’ve loaded onto my phone. For example, if I’m in the office (where I spend most of my waking hours per week), I can’t exactly discreetly open up my Netflix app, as much as I’d love to do that! When I’m driving, I can’t safely check out what’s on HBOGo.

Given that anxiety can pop up at any inconvenient moment, regardless of my location, I’ve had to rely on other forms of distraction.

In dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), cognitive and behavioral therapies are combined with a dash of mindfulness. In my experience with it (as a client), the terms “emotional mind,” “reasonable mind,” and “wise mind” have come up often to refer to the states of mind, and my goal has been to tap into wise mind as often as possible. (For a description of each, check out this website.)

I admit I dwell in emotional mind more than I should. And I sometimes experience anxiety as a result.

Enter crisis survival strategies like distraction, which is only one of the crisis survival strategies I’ve learned in therapy. “Crisis” sounds intense, doesn’t it? Let’s tone that down a bit to mean any level of anxiety experienced, or even negative thinking. These strategies help guide me out of emotional mind and into reasonable or, even better, wise mind.

I have a handout from the Skills Training Manual… by Marsha Linehan, who is the founder of DBT. The top of the handout says:

A useful way to remember these skills is the phrase Wise Mind ACCEPTS.

ACCEPTS is an acronym for Activities, Contributing, Comparisons, opposite Emotions, Pushing away, other Thoughts, and intense other Sensations.

My favorite example of a way to distract with activities is cleaning–typically my bathroom–which is a great way to distract yourself from anger (at least for me it is)! More examples include taking a walk, soaking in a bubble bath, making a cup of tea, journaling (such as in a Positivity Notebook), having a photo shoot with your kids, or playing a game. Sometimes I do these things on autopilot, without noticing I’m distracting myself.

Distracting with contributing includes volunteer work or performing a random act of kindness. Focusing on others can help get us out of our own heads.

Distracting with comparisons can mean reading a news item about a disaster and comparing yourself with those suffering more than you. It can be helpful to realize there’s always someone worse off than you. Even more helpful might be to compare your present self with yourself a few years ago–are you doing better now than you were then?

Distracting with opposite emotions means doing something that creates a different emotion than what you’re feeling. For instance, watching a scary movie (or other emotional movie) or enjoying a stand-up comedy performance can change your mood.

Distracting with pushing away means leaving the situation mentally for a while, putting a wall between it and yourself. A technique that has helped me is to schedule worry time for later in the day. Sometimes I find that I’ve missed my window for worrying (and that I don’t care, at that point)!

Distracting with other thoughts is actually kind of fun. It can mean counting to 10 or 100 (or any other number that intrigues you), reading something engrossing, or–my favorite–watching TV.

Distracting with intense other sensations sounds pretty cool. It means using physical stimulation like holding ice in your palm, squeezing a stress ball, listening to music very loudly, taking a cold (or hot) shower, or snapping a rubber band on your wrist.

I love the handout because it is full of ideas, which I’ve summarized above, for distracting yourself right out of a bad mood, anxiety, or pretty much anything else. Distraction isn’t always bad!

Do you ever use distraction to change your mood?

 

photo by: broo_am

touchgoI’ve been thinking a lot lately about the importance of stepping outside one’s own comfort zone in order to shake things up a bit and see what happens as a result. Afraid to make any drastic changes just yet, I tried doing this with a baby step. I changed up my usual type of reading material and read a thriller for the first time: Touch & Go, by Lisa Gardner.

At first, I was uncomfortable reading this kind of material because the novel begins with a home intrusion in Boston, during which a family of 3 (like mine, only much wealthier!), the Denbes, is kidnapped. Reading is a luxury for me–one I sometimes use to escape from the harshness of real life. I struggle to read things that remind me of it! Yet I soon found myself picking up this book every day and not wanting to put it down, as I tried to figure out the motive and perpetrator of the kidnapping. The novel’s narrator, Libby Denbe (the wife/mother), grew on me and I rooted for her, Justin (her husband), and their teenage daughter. I also felt intrigued by her family’s secrets as they unfolded in the narrative.

There were a few plot twists I hadn’t seen coming, which ultimately made this a more interesting read and made the characters more sympathetic. And then the big reveal, which I won’t spoil, although I do want to boast that I figured it out before the author revealed it–which I think is impressive, given I don’t typically read this genre of fiction!

But I might start adding a few thrillers to my book collection. This book was exhilirating and got my heart thumping.

To read more about Touch & Go, I recommend this review over at BlogHer.

I hope you’ll join me and the BlogHer Book Club as we discuss the book in more detail.

This is a paid book review for BlogHer Book Club, but the content of this post is original and all opinions expressed herein are my own.