Healing and getting to know myself – starting at the Root.

I can pinpoint exactly when my life shifted into a better gear: it was the morning immediately after I attended the journaling and meditation workshop I mentioned HERE. I woke up early and the first thing I did was reach for a recently gifted journal to write.

For the first time in my life, I wasn’t just recording events or ranting – I was diving into something much deeper. I didn’t know it right then and can’t realize the full extent of it now, but I can see and feel the rippling effects of it. Journaling has helped me begin the process of getting to know myself.

I also purchased a beginner’s book called “The Ultimate Guide to Chakras” by Athena Perrakis, Ph. D. , as these were mentioned in the workshop and I was curious. I had been feeling emotionally off-balance for so long and didn’t want to go back to relying on pharmaceuticals to reconnect. The book starts with the Earth Star Chakra and moves upward; the second Chakra being the Root Chakra. This is where the book began making sense to me – when I read the symptoms of an unbalanced Root, I related to them. Using my own words, I was ‘spinning in circles’ with just about everything, unsettled in my relationships with others, wildly swinging between joy and despair, and frustrated with feelings of lack of progress, no matter how hard I tried.

While I’ve since moved on with my learning of the Chakras, I wanted to celebrate the progress I am making in getting to know myself, plugging back in to my life, and finding the ground. I wanted to revisit the Root Chakra with my latest series of candles for the Grounded Goddess in Schenectady.

Browns to represent the earth, with flashes of vibrant red for strength. The candles are scented with clove, which is said to be protective, an attraction of what you seek, and helps to connect with feelings of love and safety from childhood (says Athena Perrakis, Ph.D, in The Ultimate Guide to Chakras, pg. 51). Lastly, these candles will be topped with tumbled red jasper pieces.

I can’t express how much better I’ve been feeling since that day where I picked up my journal and began. I look forward to writing – to finding a deeper understanding of myself which, in turn, has helped me give others a bit more grace. I feel like I’m making progress, while realizing the journey is on-going.

“Are you a celebrity or something?” Thoughts about champagne and celebrating the small things.

Earlier this year I ran into a co-worker at a liquor store on a Friday evening. Besides “hello”, the first thing he said to me was “Are you a celebrity or something?”, as he noticed I was leaving with a bottle of champagne. I responded that I was celebrating the fact that it was Friday.

I’ve gotten big into celebrating the small things. Made it to the end of the week? High five! Got dressed and left the house? High five! Didn’t have a total meltdown? High five! Took care of yourself? High five! It’s Friday? Go get yourself a bottle of champagne and enjoy it! This is how I’ve made it through the past year; simply trying to keep a focus on the little victories instead of setbacks or what may be looming in the corridors.

I can’t say what prompted me to consciously start doing this except for my dogged survival instincts. Either way, I do credit it for keeping me sane and optimistic [most of the time – I’m human].

As it turns out, my idea isn’t radical, crazy, or even lacking scientific basis. Just yesterday, I discovered an episode of my favorite podcast discussing a very similar concept – specifically, what happens to your mindset and self-confidence if you high five yourself in the mirror daily for 5 days. You HAVE to listen to this – it’s amazing!

I continue to allow myself to roll around in good things, whether it be as simple as waking up and feeling joyous, taking a step forward and achieving something, or just being. There doesn’t need to always be a reason. I believe in its mind-set transformation.

When I received a request from The Grounded Goddess (Jay Street, Schenectady) for more candles – I was already feeling pulled in the direction of transformation, discovery, and hope. This was the day before I found that podcast episode so I felt like it was absolutely the right message I wanted to share.

I forged a relationship with the owner of The Grounded Goddess when I attended a journaling and meditation workshop there. Shortly after, she purchased a couple of candles from my website and, when I delivered them, I approached her with an idea of my creating a spiritual line of candles for her shop. So, I celebrated not only her purchase from my website, but her acceptance of my offer, my eagerness to expand my horizons and learn more about Chakras, crystals, stones, and myself, and being able to provide 8 candles to start that I was proud of.

I celebrated the sale of the first candle from the shop, and, last night, the sale of the final candle…all as the 7 new candle casts cured. I’m celebrating the new 7 candles today*, which I’ll drop off early this evening, the fact that I took a chance and it’s panning out, that I’m making the time to write this blog post after a few months of silence! I’ll be celebrating inside ~ lettin’ the good vibes flow ~ and will be celebrating outwardly with a yoga class.

*Featured in the photo above are 3 out of the 7 candles I’ve made in the past two days in their first drying stage. I chose to vary the designs of “transform” to be tree-like, simple and minimal. This is because transformation doesn’t always have to be big and noticed by the world. Transformation can be small, a secret. It can be understated and it can be loud. Everyone is different. These candles are all lavender scented and feature crushed amethyst stones across the top ~ calling to your Crown Chakra.

What does healing look like? [A personal reflection.]

While speaking with a close friend, I couldn’t put my finger on a specific reason behind my emotional turbulence. In this past week, I had a day where I emotionally shut down. I left work at 9 a.m., crying, and continued to cry in bed (still in my work clothes) until about noon, with smaller crying spells into the early evening. A couple of days later, I felt extreme anger and frustration. I spoke to strangers and about other people in ways that do not represent who I am. Yesterday I felt nothing at at. Today? Peace. Joy. Contentment.

This is the healing process. This is me healing through my mother’s passing and the stress of her diagnosis in early 2019. Through years before that, making myself sick over what others thought of me. Through treating my body like a dumpster and talking to myself like there is something inherently wrong with me. Through pushing my body to the limits in my early 30’s and acknowledging [today, in my late 30’s] that I really hate conventional exercise and today’s diet culture. Through over-caffeination, late nights, and too much alcohol. Through allowing others to treat me poorly and disrespectfully because I thought any attention was better than none at all. Through the parenting I received and prejudices ingrained in me that are not useful. Through things I have said to others that served no purpose other than to inflame and cause harm.

Although the lows are…low and difficult…without them, there would be no comparison with the highs. I think that’s why there are so many damned articles about how healing IS messy. Without the “mess”, we have nothing to compare to the “clean”. If I wasn’t feeling so many emotions with such intensity, I wouldn’t be considering how I can overcome the obstacles or being present in what I was feeling in the moment.

My healing is a roll of the dice every day for me. To others, it may look like unanswered calls and texts; a sudden disinterested in maintaining a relationship. My healing requires keeping more to myself because I am easily overwhelmed. I am changing my participation level in the busy and distracting world we live in.

As for my distaste of exercise – I spent too many years harping that a certain style was superior than the others. I spent too much time selling and not enough time listening, watching, and learning. I have and still use physical activity as a way to help manage my anxiety levels but I am saying it now, out loud and with conviction, that if I not enjoy the activity, I will not do it. Because consistency is so important, I will not reach my fitness goals if I hate the exercise enough to not be consistent with it.

With that being said and out of the way, I am not holding myself to my 2x a week resistance band training with cardio peppered in. At this point in my life, getting my brain on to a healthier path is my main priority. I am starting from the inside and then will move to the outside. I don’t want to feel like a fitness routine has to be a “go hard or go home!” type thing. I will continue the cardio movements I enjoy (which is primarily outdoor bike riding and the Peloton nature rides when the weather isn’t cooperating) but I am adding yoga to reduce stress, and removing the strength training. I signed up for a yoga course through Peloton and am looking forward to the 20-30 slow, mindful movements. And that’s how I know it is the right thing to do – I am happily anticipating the classes instead of trying to find ways to avoid it. See? Listening more. Healing is meant to change, if only we do not fight it.

How do I get through the loss of a parent?

In my last post, I shared that my mother passed away.

I have been plodding along at a slower pace since then and although I have my moments of sadness and anger (the latter being in situations that do not generally call for it), I feel I am doing pretty well. My counselor had suggested reading up on grief, in case I was someone who needed to identify and label feelings. I have not done so. I don’t feel I need to put whatever emotion I may be experiencing into a box. I don’t need it to make sense. It can just be – in whatever form it is in.

While I have kept myself busy, I have not kept myself too busy. I haven’t plunged into any new hobbies nor habits to pass the time. I’ve made it a point to be quiet, yes, but I’ve also gone out and had fun. Between a vacation to the beach, the ordering of a new bicycle, the long weekends at an AirBnB planned in the near future with my wife, a craft show the weekend after next, bike rides alone and with others, reading of books, fetch with the dogs, dinners with my dad, and the usual things like chores, work, and home-life…I have a lot of good and positive things going on. Due to all of this and despite the weight of the last few days of her life and the whirlwind days that followed, I know I will make it through the rest of my life just fine.

By appreciating the good things going on in the here, now, and in the future – I believe this is how I will make it through her passing. I don’t need an article to explain this to me; I’ve been doing it without much effort. I think this is what being quiet has shown me – my mind and body knows the way and all I need to do is not struggle or force anything.

My mom’s last coherent words to me were “keep your faith”. I will, mom, and I’ll see you on the other side. But for now? There’s so much amazing left in this world that I want to experience.

Life Happens: How do I know when it’s time for a new career?

The turn into 2021 suggested a cosmic shift for me. I recall feeling that big things were going to happen this year, the largest of which would be the saddest – the passing of my mother. We had no way of knowing in January that it was going to happen (and it happened 11 days ago), but I had this nagging sense that things were going to change and change they did – relatively rapidly.

The months leading up to her final days, I began to question a lot of things. I pulled back from people to conserve my energy, choosing to engage less frequently. I considered the strength and purpose of relationships, if these relationships were a benefit to me or just a way to fill time. I examined my career and was (and am) trying to determine if what I am doing is what I want to be doing. I am thinking about the stress of it and pairing my grief with that of my clients ~ asking: Am I going to be able to assist them properly while managing my own thoughts and feelings? Asking next: And do I want to?

There are all sorts of articles online about this very topic, but I think that figuring out when to know when it’s your time to go is personal – no amount of Google searches is going to make your decision easier. I sometimes look to others for feedback when I should be trusting myself. Nobody else knows me as well as I do and the best decision I can make for myself would, naturally, be very different than someone else’s decision for me. We are a product of our own perceptions and experiences; as much as we can try to put ourselves in their proverbial shoes, we are limited.

Instead of relying on others to aide me in determining if I am meant to continue being an estate and trust administration paralegal, I am going to carry on with my quiet consideration. I am going to pay attention to my thoughts and feelings to ensure that whatever decision I make is not rash or emotional. My heart may be broken but that does not mean I have truly lost heart in my work. I could be having a completely normal emotional reaction to my mother’s passing and attaching it to the nature of what my area of law is – all things post-death. In plain words: I may not necessarily be having these feelings if I worked in another area or law or was in a different career path entirely.

I am very blessed in that I do not suffer from a lot of the typical work-place issues that others do. I do not work in a toxic environment; I have experienced no bullying, no regular, super-unrealistic expectations. There’s always something new to learn and my bosses have always been very flexible and understanding of me and my family’s needs. I am treated extremely well and I feel appreciated. My workload is too much for one person, but no one is pressuring me to work overtime nor treating me as if I could be or should be doing more. People that find themselves depressed due to work, whether it is the work itself or your co-workers and managers, the answer is easy: Go. Prioritize yourself and move forward. I hope you kick ASS at whatever it is you choose to do! Nobody deserves a beat down from their job every day.

So, I will sit with myself on this.

So, can a Budget Planner REALLY help me? [Final thoughts]

I have come to the end of my budgeting experiment. See my prior posts HERE, HERE, HERE

I learned quite a bit about myself by using that little Walmart budget planner. Forcing myself to write out everything I spent held me accountable to my goals of minimizing my purchases, condensing purchases when necessary, prioritizing my savings, and how I struggle to stay loyal to my goals. It began a transformation of how I view spending.

The easiest way to explain how I fall short in fulfilling my goals is that I made it through June 12th before I stopped adding to the book. If you saw my last post, you will see I had a lot happen all at once. When experiencing disruptions, I have difficulty with staying strong in my path. In this case, while I did not record my purchases in the book, I did not go buck-wild with my spending. I indulged in some delicious food with my friend Leah – but my entire mindset shifted. Before thoughtlessly purchasing anything, I thought to myself, “will this improve my life?”. If not, I didn’t follow through with it. If it was “yes”, I gave myself permission to make the purchase and enjoy it, guilt-free!

I have made several purchases recently that fit into the “life improvement” category. Between a new laundry line system for the backyard and a gigantic wooden indoor laundry drying rack, I also purchased a vanity chair to replace the hard metal folding chair (the new chair has not arrived yet), and this LED desktop vanity mirror:

If you can’t tell, I am super pleased with this!

There are 3 other members in my household and to have the ability to get ready in a space separate from a bathroom is extremely helpful. This mirror also takes up less space than what I had been using – a tripod phone ring light and a precariously balanced, large oval-shaped wooden mirror.

But you’re probably wondering about the bottom line – did I add to my savings account? Did I cringe at my credit card bill? As for the latter, no. I was pleasantly surprised and paid it off with a single paycheck. Typically, I have to split the payment between my bi-weekly paychecks. As for the former question – I added an extra $600 into my savings account. So, while I cannot give you a breakdown of precise numbers, the end result is that my credit card bill was significantly less and the extra money that I would have normally otherwise spent into my savings account. I’d call that a win!

I am coming out of this challenge with a healthier mindset of money, spending, and what it means to me. Healthier in that I am mindfully purchasing items instead of letting my emotional state influence me. These items have a daily impact on my life and are not things that lose its newness after one wear. I am focusing more on quality items I can use repeatedly instead of choosing the cheapest route – I want to “buy it once” and once only.

While I will never be done learning about myself and looking for ways to improve, I am done with writing down each and every expenditure – at least for now! I am feeling optimistic and confident in all that I have learned during this budgeting experiment.

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Disclaimer/Note: I do not get paid for any links added to my posts. So while I posted a link to the chair and mirror I purchased, I do not receive any monetary benefit for linking these items. 🙂 In a world full of influencers, I just want to be honest about that.

But seriously: Can I get by without an emergency fund?

A dramatization of stress

If you have been following my more recent posts, they relate to budgeting, money-management, and learning more about my personal relationship with money.

The importance of an emergency fund is no joke. However, according to Next Advisor, 40% of Americans do not even have the funds to cover a $400 emergency, and 70% of the people in my age group continue to live paycheck to paycheck – more than any other generation, says Business Insider.

I fall into this category…so, are you ready to hear all about my June?

June has been a doozy. The giant tree in our backyard has been a problem since we moved here in 2018 and during one of our more recent windstorms, a large branch fell and damaged a part of our neighbors’ fence. Ironically, we had been on a waiting list since early spring and the tree was removed Wednesday, exactly 2 weeks since the branch fell.

Just prior to the branch incident, we were not sure if we could afford to have it removed because we were faced with exorbitant summer childcare costs that were roughly equal to the quote for the tree removal. But after the storm, we knew it just had to be done somehow, despite the projected childcare fees. We’d make it work, we would just have to be extra careful with our funds from here on out.

I have been working with the neighbors related to insurance claims and options. Because the deductible for their homeowner’s insurance is about $1,000 less than mine, they will claim their insurance if the quote for the repairs exceeds that and I will reimburse them for their deductible. If it is less, I will pay for the repairs out of pocket.

Two days later, my wife unexpectedly lost her job. Guess what? We were not prepared; we do not have 3-6 months of income in our savings accounts to rely on. Just over $5,000 went to the tree removal because if that tree had eventually decided to fall, it would have damaged a lot more or even hurt people.

We are not the only people in this shitty boat. Take my plan for what it is, dismiss it entirely, or use it as ideas or advice…but with a giant grain of salt because we are only in the beginning of what could potentially be a crisis. The thing is – I am an eternal optimist and financial troubles I have had in the past have always been resolved with a good attitude, creativity, and elbow grease. There was a time where I was uncertain about my ability to feed myself and suddenly, circumstances shifted and I was able to buy groceries and feel very blessed. I still remember that day and how it felt, pushing my shopping cart into Price Chopper like I was the beneficiary of a miracle.

Note: we have a small amount of money saved, but certainly not enough to get by without making changes.

Our plan:

  • As my wife is not working, that saves us nearly $5,000 in childcare costs. She gets to spend the bulk of summer being with them, making up for lost time, and decompressing from a super stressful and thankless job. Prior to her termination, she had purchased season passes for her and the kids to the Great Escape and pool passes to our local JCC. These can be enjoyed all summer long, with packed lunches. We also have kayaks, the Mohawk River right down the road, bicycles, and the Hudson Mohawk Bike Trail. We can have an amazing summer on the cheap by enjoying what we have.

  • Removal of excess memberships/subscriptions. Goodbye, Peloton and much of our TV subscriptions.

  • Better meal planning. What’s on sale? What can we buy in bulk and freeze for later? What’s fresh right now at the farmer’s markets? What can we roll from one meal into another? What’s in our pantry now that we can get creative with?

  • Focus on our garden. Soon we will have green beans, tomatoes, salad greens, kale, cucumbers, peppers, berries and other goodies to eat. For the ability to have this during what will be a challenging time, we are very blessed.

  • Continuation of decluttering efforts. What can we sell that we aren’t using and don’t truly need? While this doesn’t bring in a lot of money, I currently do have the equivalent of two week’s worth of grocery money sitting in my Mercari account from online sales. (Here’s a link to my Mercari listings and a link to my website where I sell handmade home decor.)

  • Being mindful of energy costs. Hanging more laundry, keeping the A/C at a reasonable level, paying attention to lights. Keeping curtains nearly closed when the days are sunny and hot to keep the air inside cooler.

While overall watching our personal spending, especially impulsive buys during times of stress – this is what we have so far and it is subject to additions and revisions as time goes on. We are determined to have a nice summer and rethink how we live and spend. I’ll keep you all posted as we navigate this weird and unknown time.

But for now? I’m signing off and headed to the pool with the family – the best place to be on a stifling hot day.

Relationships in my 30’s: How is it I’m finding myself but losing others?

Later this year, I turn 38 – my 20th year high school reunion, if we were to have one. While I feel as if I know less and less about life the older I get…I do know that since nearing my mid-30’s, I am cautious about meeting new people.

I like that word – “cautious”, My wife used it to describe me and it’s far gentler than the word I’d use, which is “standoffish”. I have a hard time moving past the acquaintance phase of relationship-building because, deep down, I fear rejection, mockery, and disloyalty. I have known a lot of it.

That’s one of the things about making friends as an adult – I’ve had the time to become jaded by failed relationships. I no longer throw my feelings and energy toward potential new friends unless, of course, I have had a couple of cocktails. I’m not alone – Alex Williams wrote for the New York Times, “…[y]ou have been through your share of wearying or failed relationships. You have come to grips with the responsibilities of juggling work, family and existing friends, so you become more wary about making yourself emotionally available to new people.” [Check out the article in full HERE.]

Besides that, there’s significantly less room for things that don’t serve me or bring me joy. I decline invitations to activities and social gatherings that I’m uninterested in; I know myself better and treat my time like the precious commodity it is.

Lastly, I am drawn to people who are inspiring, determined, positive, and creative. I feed off of that ~ it inspires me to keep working on myself. I have little patience for those who [unhappily] allow their lives to become stagnant. It’s caused me to drift away from people. I want to keep learning and growing. Sometimes people get stuck, repeating the same misery endlessly. I’m over it*. As my mother used to say, “The Complaint Department’s closed.”

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*Those who know me in person know that what I am about to write goes without saying. But you, as my reader, likely haven’t met me. Not everyone can get out of their own way and move past obstacles in their life. I have, and always will, support and encourage people to seek help from professionals for these issues. I don’t have a lack of patience for those who always keep trying – it’s the type of people who have the tools and choose the route of self-pity that I cannot tolerate. No thanks. Take those bad vibes elsewhere.

Is Financial Freedom an achievable goal for the average person?

If the title piqued your interest and you were hoping I would have all the secrets…that may very well be in someone else’s blog! I don’t believe the answer is the true point. Instead, I think the point lies in what I get to learn about myself during the journey. In the short span of two months, I have definitely not learned all there is to know, but I am enjoying picking up the crumbs.

[See my former posts HERE and HERE]

In April, I noticed that I make a lot of small purchases. Whether it’s a quick grab from Cumberland Farms during lunch or a small, but necessary item from Amazon – all of those little transactions caused me to exceed the limit in my little Walmart Budget Planner.

May proved to be a much more organized month, transaction-wise. I added another regularly-used item to my Amazon scheduled purchases and only visited Cumbies once. However, there was another wrinkle in that…paying April’s credit card bill [in full] escaped my mind.

Unfortunately I noticed this moments before beginning this post and am trying to keep my disappointment in myself from clouding my writing. I was looking forward to comparing my savings in April with my savings in May, but without going back and examining the statements, re-calculating my wife’s transactions versus mine, and crediting payments made to both, I don’t have a clear way of telling you – hey, I did better or worse by $XXX this month! I don’t wish to make the time to do this today as I have other tasks planned. I’d rather just move on and not dwell on an entirely human oversight. My educated estimation is that I spent more this credit card cycle than last…but not by much and not entirely due to frivolities. There was the fee for income tax preparation, I had gifts to purchase, and I bought my parents’ meals during visits with them. I also spend $235.82 on new clothing for myself, which ties into how this exercise motivated me in May.

Documenting my spending last month provided a new and different motivation for me – similar to the first month inspiring me to organize my accounts and passwords. May’s exercise kicked my butt into accomplishing a lot of decluttering. I did not just declutter my closet, I cleared out household items, recyclable items/craft supplies, and gifts. However, in relation to my clothing, I went through my closet with an honest eye and made quite a few donations. This is why I purchased the new items for myself – so much of what I had was uncomfortable and wasn’t bringing me joy. I removed these and replaced them with items that fit my current lifestyle and make me feel beautiful while wearing them.

For June, I am going to have to start using my calendar book again, as it is not like me to miss a payment for any bill. I am not going to go crazy with scheduling each and every task like I had been before detoxing from it – but clearly I may need some assistance with keeping track of the days and certain things that require attention. That’s goal #1 – getting back to using my book and this feels like the most important goal for now!

Goal #2 – less fast food. I made 3 fast food stops in May. I plan on limiting to one, at most, because while fast food tastes great at the moment, I always feel like garbage after. Just like my decision with donating clothing that did not make me feel good – I want to make decisions about my health that make me feel good.

Am I on the way to this dreamland of financial freedom? I couldn’t say, but I can say that I feel that I am on the road to self-improvement and there is nothing wrong with that!

April Review: What did I learn? What can I improve in May?

I have been looking forward to writing this post because I felt very good about April. Was it perfect? No. Have I learned everything I hoped to? Also no. Did I feel like I did my best? Yes.

Before I delve into the details of my April budget tracking, I would like to admit I only tracked until April 23rd. I had two reasons for this; neither really excused it. The first reason was that the final week in April proved to be emotionally difficult for me. The second was not emotional – it was practical: I ran out of room on my monthly log sheet.

The fact that I ran out of room 3 weeks in tells me that I make a lot of purchases. There are 51 lines to fill in and 30 days in April. From this, I’ve learned that I should try and consolidate my purchases to create less record keeping. This means not reflex-clicking “BUY NOW” on Amazon for even the smallest of purchases or allowing stress to direct me to junk food for instant gratification. (Stress eating being a whole different topic.)

Tracking my spending in April also made me think twice about what I spent my money on. Knowing I was committed to adding my purchases to the book held me accountable. My last credit card cycle was a lot lighter – approximately $500 less than the month before. I was also able to put some extra money into my savings account instead of having to draw from it to pay the bill.

In May I will continue this learning experience, with a more watchful eye on how many small purchases I make and also how stress affects my decision-making. It was gratifying to be able to consciously transfer money into my savings, above and beyond what is automatically deposited by my paycheck. I’d like to keep that good feeling rolling!