The past two weeks have been a doozy. My elder cat, Bear, a handsome eighteen years old, got really sick. It's hard to tell when a cat goes from being just an old cat with some bouts of dementia and a propensity to angry poop in the hallway, to actually-really-sick-call-the-vet. There's a subtle shift. He had a really bad accident on a Saturday, the kind that involved a grumpy roommate and me just mopping the whole house. Then he puked, then he just sat still. More still than usual and he sleeps about 23 1/2 hours a day. I put a call out to my friends on Facebook if there was a vet person I could talk to about whether I should go to the vet. I've known so many people who have dumped thousands of dollars into an old cat to find out what's wrong only to have to let them go anyway. I didn't want that to be Bear's experience in his senior years, I just wanted him to be comfortable and happy.
Hey, things are really amazing in all of these tender and small ways. I think it’s pretty impressive when I feel settled and calm even when the stuff around me is far from perfect. Boxes everywhere. An ill-conceived pile of shoes in the path to the bedroom door because I couldn’t figure out where they should go until I install their shelves. Macy looking plaintively up at me because she cannot scale the pile of the shoes to the tote bag she is using as a makeshift dog bed because her actual dog beds are still in boxes someplace. My vanity mirror is still packed so my desk is the site of hand mirror make-up application, meaning my day to day make-up look is either more colorful than intended or a little haphazard.
But still. Even in all that. There is calm. And there is joy in little and big things that make the agita of the post-move bearable.
Someone interviewed me for a school project and asked me how I “do all the things” that I do. The answer is that I live a balanced life with priorities. And it’s not like I am standing rock solid on the teeter totter of my life like Wonder Woman somehow doing it all. I don’t do it all.* But I know what’s important to me and I do that.
The thing about priorities in life is that they change. As I got to know myself more I started to shift and adjust what I plan to do with my days to align with my core values. I am nowhere near perfect at this. I had to really learn how to have reasonable expectations of myself. When I first started working from home and had my own business my to do list was far beyond any possibility of what I could get done but I thought by creating this giant expectations I was doing myself a favor, that somehow I was going to conform to this perfect superhuman level of task completion. No way! It was sort of like I was doing what the weight loss industry wants to do to fat folks–shaming them into losing the wight. Shame actually has the opposite effect, it causes you to freeze up and do nothing. Feeling bad about yourself is not the way to get anything done.
When I feel seized by my perfectionism and shame, I just check out and play clickie clickie games on the internet. Nothing gets done. I feel the shame spiral. It sucks.
To change this I got simple. Started from scratch.
When I was a teenager this motivational speaker told this parable during an assembly about time management. He was describing life as a jar and the things we have to do every day as tiny pebbles. Our priorities make our pebbles bigger or smaller, depending. He asked how we get as much as possible in the jar. The answer was to fill it first with the big pebbles, your priority rocks. Then fill it with the other smaller pebbles so they can shift around it. And that’s the thing about little rocks. They slide into the rest of it.
And that’s what I did with my to do list. I got the big stuff and let the little things slide into it. Sometimes they get done, sometimes they don’t but it is rarely make or break.
In the last couple of years as I’ve learned what is really important to me and learned to let go of what isn’t, how to say no to things and how to check in with myself about what I am doing and how I am doing it. Moreover, I’ve learned how to identify for myself what is important to me, how to turn off all the voices of what I “should” be doing or who I “should” become, what my body “should” look like or how much I “should” love myself even when it’s hard. I got tired of shoulding and wanted to instead be living and enjoying my life. Thus, I have created a practice whereby I check in with myself about my priorities. I try to do this every week, but basically it comes up for me when I feel off balance.
When I let go of the shoulds and am instead leading my life based on my priorities it is a lot easier to get things done, go to the gym, be happy. Let go of expecting to do it all.
Moving felt like I was working at work and working at home and trying to keep up with the minimum amount of self-care I could get away with. Which isn’t a very gentle life. And then my new niece was born, so I shifted again, because seeing this little baby at 5 days old was worth another week amongst the boxes, grabbing a cocktail dress and thinking it was a nightgown because I don’t have my closet rods up and my loungerie looks like going out attire inside a suitcase. You should see the weird disaster outfit I came up with for painting. Sure, the perfectionist inside me wanted to have the exact right painting clothes but stuff still got painted. And sure, the perfectionist inside me told me it sucked that my painting didn’t all get done in one night like I planned, but I had to change my expectations when I realized I didn’t have the tools I needed to get it all done.
So, all the imbalance of moving is just a reminder to stop, think about what is the biggest priority, and be guided accordingly. Sometimes it feels like I am flat on my butt on the ground having fallen off that teetertotter. I’ve noticed my attention getting swayed in different directions which are not in line with my priorities and don’t give me balance or peace. Gentle shifting.
Right now my big rocks are my spiritual practice, self care, work and creating a peaceful, artistic and fun home environment. And at some point they will shift as they need to but I know I need to go to the gym to feel calm and I know I also need to focus on what is working and what is delighting me in order to not focus on all the unfinished stress. That’s what Everyday Glitter is for! Focusing on the small joys that make up the whole of a fulfilling life.
Glitter Item the First: There is a new episode of the Lesbian Tea Basket! I review Mackenzi’s chalkboard mugs (buy them here) and also this incredible tea I found at a local store in Brooklyn, Choice Greene.
Glitter Item the Second: The Body Love Revolutionaries Telesummit I participated in was really amazing. The last minute addition of Ivette González-Alé of Marimacho clothing, Azucar party and the new web series The Peculiar Kind (omg, totally go watch it, episode one is online), a reality series about queer women of color in Brooklyn.
You can register and download the telesummit recording for free until 3PM Friday, after that you have to buy a pass for the conference and you can download all of the telesummits through the end of March (sliding scale starts at $20).
Glitter Item the Third: I am really into making comfort foods for myself in these days of new job and moving transition and stress. You know how when you’re moving you have to keep eating take-out because your kitchen is in boxes? Between work food and home food being take-out I spent all my money on food. I also got reaaaaaaallly broke from the cost of movers (renting a truck and trying to get friends to do it was going to cost almost as much and eat up all my favors from my friends) and coming up with unexpected first, last, security. So while I waited patiently for my first paycheck (a long month) I had to get unpacked in the kitchen really fast and find something to eat that cost next to nothing.
Twice Baked Potatoes! Seriously, I hadn’t had them since childhood but a friend told me about one she had stuffed with short ribs and then I was ready to make it real for myself. I bought a bag of baking potatoes, baked them in the oven for an hour, cut them like little canoes, shoveled out the insides into a bowl, being careful to leave enough potato on the skin to keep the shape. Added some sour cream, butter, salt, pepper, sauteed onions, cremini mushrooms (I got the fancy kind, since enough for several twice bakeds was only $2) and mixed it together. I filled the potatoes again, sprinkled the tops with gruyere from trader joe’s and also the lids with some gruyere (making potato skins) and baked again for 15 minutes or so. I think I got 10 potatoes out of all of those ingredients for $10. Super comforting food and easy to reheat (toaster oven is best) and great for winter and cheap.
Heather said “Bevin you’re a lawyer, how do you have time to bake this twice??” The weekend. That’s how.
Heather temped in our office one day when the front desk gay had strep throat.
I also made bolognese sauce from scratch. It took over two hours. It makes me feel really special when I eat it for lunch at work. This was not as cheap but taking the time to make something for so long felt like I was taking extra special care of myself.
Glitter Item the Fourth: I’m on Pinterest. Still not sure what that’s all about but I am enjoying making visual boards. If you’re on there I am @queerfatfemme.
Glitter Item the Fifth: I made a new Spotify playlist! (Clicking the link opens Spotify, which is free.) An everything bagel sort of playlist, it’s a mix of what I was obsessed with listening to about two weeks ago. A little top hits, a little dance, a little country.
*I also want to mention that I have a lot of free time because I am single. Relationships take a lot of time! I am not saying it’s not worth it but certainly it is more difficult to be both productive and have self-care when you are also negotiating with someone else’s time and priorities.