Grateful

What a year.

I’ll start off with some good news: I got a raise! It caps off a pretty rough year but one where I never stopped giving my best. I really love where I work and I am looking forward to another year!

Grateful that I am getting more financially stable as I’ve gotten older. I’m behind the retirement 8-ball still but no longer by a lot. I can absorb unexpected bills and put things on autopay. I feel very fortunate and blessed to be able to satisfy most of my needs.

Grateful for my body. I went through a dark phase of not caring about her and this year saw me wake up out of my stupor and start paying more attention. I’m not any skinnier but I’m hardier and can hike 20 miles on a dime. I shit you not. 😅

Review season

My employer does something very unusual. Instead of waiting till the end of the year to deliver a final review, we have mid year reviews.

At first, I felt weirded out by this and even more weirded out by our practice of having peer reviews! I was filled with anxiety around what people would think of me and of going through a judgement cycle.

I have now gone through this process about 3 times now and I can confidently say that my fears about it being a judgement cycle were unfounded. Rather than fear the thoughts of my peers, I found that I’ve become excited and keen to learn what people think about me! Not just the good parts but the parts that I could use some growing on too. Furthermore, I look at mid year reviews as an opportunity to take a bit of break and truly reflect on exactly what your hustle and bustle achieved.

Engaging in this review process requires brutal honesty with oneself and a willingness to hear the good and the bad. I’m a constant work in progress but I continue to be thrilled with my progress in the arena of confronting my fears. 🤗

Hot summer

I’ve been enjoying the summer evenings in Utah. My routine used to be lunch and evening walks but the sweltering days have ensured that I can only do evening walks now. It’s honestly become one of the best parts of my day now. Our evening walks have morphed into night hikes and it’s incredibly invigorating to be out in nature when it’s dark with your senses on high alert. It also means we’ve spotted more animals out and about! My favorite sighting happened a few weeks ago when we spotted what we believe to be elk. It was a humbling sight. 珞

Earlier this year, my employer got acquired and the closing hasn’t officially happened yet. It’s so close yet so far and it’s blowing my mind a little bit that if/when it goes through, I’ll have a small windfall coming my way. I feel incredibly fortunate and said windfall is also very timely. I’ve been working with my siblings back home to spruce up our family and any extra funds I can spare will go a long way. Here’s hoping for the regulatory gods to provide their stamps of approval. 爛

I bought a scale. Not for weight loss but data tracking. M and I got some Garmin devices (Garmin 45 and 645) to capture all sorts of information (sleep tracking, heart rate, activities, etc). Part of me is quite fascinated that I’m the lightest I’ve been in a while despite objectively consuming more and without me meaning to. I think it’ll be important for me to use the scale to make sure I’m not losing all my muscle. For weight tracking, I bought the Weight Guru scale which is the perfect set-it-and-forget-it scale. All I do is step on it and it syncs my information over to Google Fit and the Weight Guru app! Pretty nifty!

It’s almost midnight now and I’m icing my feet after a 6 mile evening walk. I wouldn’t trade my status right now for anything in the world (except the chance to see my dad again).

Mic check

I’m back with a long overdue update! I basically dropped a pretty big detail about my life and dipped over a month ago.  So where am I now or how am I doing?

The most noteworthy update pertains to my physical activity. For much of 2018, 2019, and the first quarter of 2020, my physical activity was sorely lacking. I barely got a full 30 minutes of exercise daily. Since late April of this year, I’ve now basically averaged over 30 miles weekly (a combination of walking and hiking). For someone who was basically sedentary, it feels equal parts insane and amazing that I’m logging athlete-level mileage. My body and mind feel strong and I am super geeked for the future hikes I’ll be going on. 😄

Given how active I’m becoming, I decided to splurge on a smart watch! I went with the Garmin 645 which has a killer feature I want to call out – live tracking which means when I’m out on a jaunt, I can share my path with anyone! It gives me a sense of safety that can’t be beat. That said, if I lose cell service, which is very likely given the canyons and mountains I like to hike, the live tracking becomes useless and I may consider investing in a satellite communicator. Another cool thing about the smart watch is the various metrics being tracked like my heart rate and fatigue. As I get fitter, my resting heart rate has been (slowly) dropping and I feel like I have a front row seat to my personal transformation. My goal isn’t to be a runner or compete. I just want to have the stamina to hike 20 miles in a day if I so choose. I’m not very far off that goal by the way. The longest walk I’ve been on was a little over 16 miles so I’m keen to see how I progress as the year goes on.

I’d be remiss in not mentioning the riots happening in America. I was affected more strongly than I anticipated and ended up needing some time off work. Thankfully, my employer and manager have been incredibly sensitive to my needs and I feel very fortunate to be part of a company that cares about me personally. This year has been filled with a lot of hurt and I’m grateful that my job isn’t adding to the pile.

Another big thing I’ve been working on is reframing. Reframing is a key tool in DBT therapy which has been helping me tame my emotional storms. In my lay person terms, reframing is about choosing to apply a different lens to a situation. Importantly, the lens you choose to apply when reframing has to be one that “lets you move forward freely… not the one that’s weighed down by your own self-criticism and fear of inadequacy.” It’s an interesting exercise and I feel happier when I employ this technique.

That’s all folks! Lots of sunshine, exercise, and self care. 🌞

Therapy

So I’ve started therapy (again). Several years overdue and this time, I’m paying attention.

The quarantine, passing of my father, earthquakes, and work-related stressors all came together to form a perfect storm of triggers that first sent me to dark places I haven’t been since my ill-fated stint at graduate school. I was able to realize that I was drowning and desperately needed help. So, I asked for help. I now have meds to coax my brain to behave and therapy for cultivating the necessary behavioral changes.

To say these two things have been life saving is an understatement. I feel alive again for the first time in a long while and excited about things again. I no longer self-censor as aggressively as I used to and my husband has his vivacious lover back!

Not all the credit belongs to external forces. M has been a big motivating factor and has been my biggest cheerleader through the worst of it. I feel like I have a renewed enthusiasm for life, living, and I can’t believe it. I spent way too long in the grays and I now feel I can see in Technicolor. 🤗

Anyway, now I’m rambling. I wanted to brag about something else these changes have wrought: my renewed interest in being outdoors. Since the month of May, I’ve walked or hiked over 90 miles and it’s just barely half over! The best part is I’m putting up these numbers in a completely sustainable way!! Being outdoors also means more pictures so expect some photo posts shortly.

Working through the suck

Today started off weirdly. I _know_ that I need certain routines to get me off to a good start but I let my anxiety around something work related get the better of me.

I wasn’t fully present during meditation practice today and wasn’t as productive as I wanted to be. In short, I was frustrated. But my day has ended on a positive note. I confused in M and we went on an abridged lunch walk where I vented. Then, sometime later in the evening, we went on a longer walk where we just talked and moved in silence.

I feel better about my day and proud that I forgave myself for not being at 100%. Some days are just going to be worse or better than others. It’s life.

Putting in the work

After having a rough start to the whole stay-home-forever-due-to-coronavirus thing, I believe I’ve turned a corner in the past two weeks.

I attribute my positive change to the following:

  • Daily meditation/yoga during the work week. This was an initiative by a co-worker and once I started attending regularly, it helped me feel more connected to my coworkers and part of something larger than myself. It also helped to keep me from doing not-work which, for a high strung personality like myself, is huge!
  • Daily exercise in the form of walking outside for at least 40 minutes during my lunch break. I cannot stress enough how important it has been to feel the sun on my skin while walking. Talk about an instant mood lifter! As an African who works a white-collar job, I’m predisposed to not getting enough sunlight and I was definitely on the borderline w.r.t. my vitamin D levels.
  • Medication. Getting on my prescription medication has helped me be calmer and more open to possibilities. Before starting, “no” was my frequent answer to M’s insistent asks to accompany him on walks. Now my default mode is “Sure”! I feel more even and it’s made the lessons I’m learning from meditation sink in a bit better.
  • Daily affirmations. This is a more recent development but I’ve found that my mood is improved after I repeat and meditate on select affirmations. I have my group’s engineering manager to thank for this but I cannot stress how affirming it feels to be nicer to myself and essentially gas myself up. Being kind to myself is something I’ve started doing a lot more and I don’t plan on stopping anytime soon.

Overall I feel like a new person with a renewed interest in truly living again. I feel like I’m seeing the world and myself with fresh eyes. It’s fascinating.

My anxiety is still there and in fact, I’ve had very vivid dreams lately about some of my big triggers. The good news is I now have tools to de-escalate when I feel a bout of anxiety coming. For processing particularly disturbing dreams, I’ve taken to taking the sting out of them by acknowledging that

  • I’m likely blowing the interaction out of proportion. I have a history of seeing things (particularly my work output) in the most critical light possible and I now take the time to affirm that I do know my shit and to err is only human
  • It’s okay to be scared and feel the feeling. That I now know what I need to do feel better.

Overall, life has felt amazing despite the scary news in the world. M and I are closer than ever and I feel so blessed to call him my husband. I’m closer with my and his family. I’m opening up more with my coworkers and feeling more confident about sharing my perspectives. I look forward to my continued awakening.