Quitting My Job and Hitting the Road

I gave my “I’m quitting” notice at my job in June. I wasn’t feeling fulfilled and certainly wasn’t having enough time to focus on my writing (which is the reason I moved to Los Angeles in the first place). My last day was July 14th. Since then, I’ve traveled to Montana, NYC, and now Iceland. I’ll be back home to Los Angeles in less than a week. I knew I’d be getting a new job once I returned (not sure what job, though!), so I wanted to take advantage of this time while I could.

Travel always clear my brain, and re-sets my mental system. Seeing how other people live helps me figure out what I might want to do with my life going forward. In NYC, I got some inspiration when I met a hospice care counselor at a brewery and talked to her for over an hour about her work. If I wasn’t aiming to be a working television and film writer, I’d be very interested in getting my social work degree.

Anyhow, I’ll share two of my favorite experiences in Iceland so far:

Dettifoss: The most powerful waterfall in all of Europe. It really is awe-inspiring. You feel the pounding of the water trembling under your feet. I imagine it’s like Niagara Falls, though I’ve never been.

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Solfataras: This is a sulphur geyser type place. It’s very, very SMELLY. Imagine bad eggs times a million. But it’s very cool, as there are a lot beautiful colors and vistas.

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Travel Makes NYC Feel Like Land

I have a list of blog topics that I jot down when ideas strike me but I don’t have time to write an entire OMG post. When I go through this list weeks or months later, a funny thing happens. Old ideas don’t always make sense to me anymore. I forget where my head was at when I made the note. I literally have hundreds of these random topic notes. For example, I have one item labeled “a small concession in your 30s.” I assume this was to be the title of a post, and it’s maybe sorta catchy now, but for the life of me I’m not sure exactly what I was conceding at the time. I have some ideas now of what this could have been, but none of them necessarily sound familiar. There has not been an “ah ha!” moment. 

One of my topic notes is “Travel Makes NYC feel like land.” When I saw it again after what must have been at least a month, I thought I must have meant “travel makes NYC feel like home”..or even, “traveling for work makes NYC feel like home.” Because I feel like I usually enjoy traveling for fun, and less so for work. But even with pleasure travel, I always end up taking myself with me, so if I had any worries before traveling, being away doesn’t necessarily solve them. Being away makes me aware of other things, which in turn does help a lot, but it’s different…if that makes any sense.

But maybe travel does make NYC feel like land. NYC is my place- I was born and raised here. I know the crazies on the subway well. I know the familiar must-do sensation of pushing gently but hardily to get into a crowded train car. I know what it feels like to know my stop has arisen on the subway, even when I’m asleep. I know the feeling of walking along Madison Avenue on the Upper East Side, even in winter, and feeling the warm comfort of staring at $4,000 dresses through crystal glass. I have funny memories of trying to sell rocks in Central Park as a kid and dreamy memories of listening to concerts on the park’s grass while wondering about life. 

I guess sometimes I feel adrift when I travel away from my place, and NYC really does feel like land. My familiarity with New York in addition to getting to be here for awhile helps me feel centered lately. Especially after I’d been traveling for months straight without more than 4 day breaks and suddenly am able stay home for awhile- at least 3 weeks at a time. It takes awhile to clear out the imbalance from all the travel or to even realize it’s there. But I think waking up in my own bed day after day has helped me feel centered when I hadn’t completely recognized that I was off-centered. Having a similar schedule that I can control is similarly appealing. Seeing friends and family when I want to instead of being physically separated from them is very nice. 

I never would have realized that NYC felt like land if I hadn’t traveled away from it so much. I might have been one of the many people who gets tired of the big, bustling city and takes it for granted…its easy to be that way. I get that way with other things and have to manually bring myself back to appreciation. But I was adrift in the open sea and then I finally was able to get back to my land, New York, and grab ahold for a second and say yessssssss… thank you beautiful city!!!! And New York feels like a refuge.

What can I give you guys from this experience? I don’t know- I’m still figuring out the lesson. I’m resting and enjoying for now. Perhaps that there’s a centering you can only find if you go elsewhere and finally return. That’s when you really appreciate your way back to where you began.  

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Is Your Mind Worried About Becoming Jobless and Homeless (or What is Meditation?)

A few mornings ago I didn’t feel like meditating. So I went to Youtube, where I get some of my favorite meditation videos, and typed in ‘Meditation when you don’t feel like meditating.’

What came back were a series of videos about what meditation is. A few of them were created by monks, and were quite interesting. I always love when people talk about what meditation is and is not, because I sometimes get asked this question and I can’t think of the answer exactly- not off the top of my head .

Anyway, this Tibetan Buddhist teacher, Mingyur Rinpoche, had a 5 minute video that really clarified a lot of things for me about meditation. I’ll summarize his video here.

First, the problem most of us have with meditation is that there are a ton of thoughts racing through our heads as we’re meditating, and we feel like we’ve ‘failed’ if we can’t quiet them.

But, as Mingyur Rinpoche says, and as many of the best meditation teachers say, meditation isn’t about forcing your ‘monkey mind’ to stop.

We are trying to block all thoughts and emotions and to think of absolutely nothing.

But meditation actually isn’t about blocking thoughts and thinking of nothing.

Or can meditation just about blissing out and being peaceful and open? Why can’t I do that? Why can’t I bliss out and be peaceful and open, dammit? What is wrong with me?!

But meditation actually isn’t about doing that anyway, so relax.

Another problem many of us have with meditating is that our minds will start telling us stuff to do during a meditation, such as “I have to call Zach, I have to buy detergent, I can’t be wasting this time- I have to put my expense report together” etc.

But meditation isn’t about following each and every demand of your monkey mind.

So what the heck IS meditation all about then? If meditation isn’t about saying ‘hey GET OUT!’ to your mind and your thoughts… And it’s not about saying ‘okay, yes sir!’ to your mind.. then..?

Meditation is about making friends with your monkey mind.

So what does your mind like and want? AND what do YOU want? These questions need to have the same answer…Because you don’t want to just give your mind what it wants while you miserably follow (i.e I have to miserably think the same depressing thoughts over and over beccause I have NO CHOICE BECAUSE THAT’S JUST WHAT HAPPENS UGHHHHHHH WHYYYYYYYY.)

But screaming at your mind to STOP THINKING STUPID THOUGHTS GODDAMMIT  JUST STOP IT STOP IT RIGHT NOW doesn’t work either. Your mind doesn’t like being yelled at or told to go away or to stop thinking- and it will sometimes royally disobey and do the exact opposite of what you’re screaming at it about.

So what does your mind like? It likes to have a job. “Without a job your monkey mind thinks it’s jobless and will soon become homeless” -Mingyur Rinpoche

Your mind is always active and wants a job. So when you give a job to your monkey mind, it’s a win-win situation. Your monkey mind is happy because it has a job, and you’re happy because you’re the boss. Your mind is your employee and you are the employer-not the other way around. And in this way, you’re free. You liberate yourself from the monkey mind.

So what does this mean????!!!

Meditation is giving your monkey mind a part- time job.

Just tell your monkey mind, “okay mind, we’re going to meditate, let’s do a job right now, let’s watch our breath.” or “let’s repeat these mantra words.” Don’t give your mind a full-time job…a few minutes a day of meditation is enough.

Also, don’t “punish” your mind if it doesn’t follow the ‘job’ all the time…just simply bring it back to it’s job. Your brain isn’t going to stop thinking just because you’re meditating, but when you give your mind a job and step back, you’ll be able to see those thoughts clearly and let them pass by. Mingyur Rinpoche says it best: In muddy water you can’t see anything, but in still water you can see all the fish swimming around.

So get still. And slowly, slowly, your mind WILL become more peaceful and pliable. And meditation really will bring you to a place where YOU are in charge and are friends with your mind…plus you may start to see some added benefits of newfound love, compassion, and clarity.

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Would You Use A Relationship Contract?

Last week, there was an column in the beloved Modern Love section of the NY Times in which the author Mandy Len Catron described the ‘relationship contract’ she has with her boyfriend. The name pretty much describes what it is, but basically, the idea is that you create a contract between you and your significant other that details terms of your romantic relationship.

Here’s a bit from the article:

The terms range from the familiar (“We will take care of each other when one of us is sick”) to the fanciful (“If we’re both sick, it’s all up to the dog”). In fact, Roscoe gets an entire section, detailing his walking schedules, vet visits and even how sweet we think he is.

We have a houseguest section (guests can stay for up to two weeks but must be mutually vetted) and an item that deals with Mark’s sweaty running clothes (“He agrees to hang these up in the spare room or on the back of the bathroom door but he wants Mandy to know that this may be a fairly common occurrence”).

We agree to split the bill when eating out with one exception: “Special meals (date night, celebrations, etc.) will not be split so one person can treat the other.”

Most couples would probably tackle these types of issues in their contracts:

  • Sex
  • Cleaning
  • Frequency of date nights
  • How often they see other friends alone

I love the idea of this! So much can go unsaid in a relationship, and these unexpressed feelings can eventually cause resentment and even worse – a breakup.

So. Would you create a relationship contract?

At this very moment, it seems a little too formal for me. It’s not even that I find it unromantic. It’s more that I tend to fluctuate in what I need from month to month. And I hate the idea that I don’t have fluidity in my relationships, especially one of the most important ones. But I realize I also have a problem in firmly sticking to plans; I like the idea that I can change my mind if the mood strikes (maybe that’s selfish, I don’t know?).

While the contract idea seems a little too rigid for my taste, I LOVE the idea of creating a couple mission statement. In the article, Len Catron writes:

Our contract addresses much of what must be negotiated in any relationship, especially when cohabitating. It begins with our reasons for being together: “We aspire to help each other be more ethically-minded and generous friends, community members and global citizens.” I know it sounds idealistic, but I’ve had relationships that left me feeling lonely and small. This time I wanted to be more intentional about looking outward as much as we look in.

This is beautiful. I often wonder what my boyfriend and I can do together to make the world a better place. As in, what benefits do we bring to the world when we are united?

In my relationship, my boyfriend pushes me to reach out to people more. In fact, just this afternoon, I was feeling lonely and depressed about my life in LA, and explaining to him how I don’t have the same connections I do in NY, and he reminded me that I’ve met a few women who I really liked and thought had close-friend potential. But I didn’t reach out enough to make that connection blossom. He encouraged me to reach out to them which is something I might be too timid to do on my own. Because of our relationship and his values that prioritize family and friends and loyalty, I’ve made a stronger effort to overcome social insecurity and connect more with people.

So, our mission statement would probably include helping each other foster connections and build a community in Los Angeles.

What are your thoughts on relationship contracts and mission statements?

 

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30 Quotes About Being In Your Thirties – the Coloring Book!

When we first started this blog, I was trying to find awesome, inspiring quotes about being in your thirties, but most of the quotes that I found were negative or ended up making fun of being in your thirties.  There are enough of those, so I pored through all the quotes I found and picked out only the best, most motivational, and most interesting.

I put my favorite 30s quotes together in one of our first blog posts titled: 30 Quotes About the Thirties. It’s one of our most popular posts.

Lately, I’ve gotten into the process of making coloring books. So I’m very excited to announce that we made a coloring book with all of the 30 quotes from the blog post! I enjoy these quotes a lot (I hand picked them so I’m biased though) and find coloring to be relaxing and stress-reducing- so I especially enjoy coloring these quotes.

If you like coloring, and/or are trying to find a great birthday present for a friend or family member turning thirty-something, we hope you enjoy these thirties-themed coloring books! We’re excited to have made them for you!

Please share the thirties love and enjoy!

Here’s a link to the 30 Motivational Quotes About Being in Your Thirties Coloring Book on Amazon!

And here’s the Amazon link to the same 30 Motivational Quotes About Being in Your Thirties coloring book with a black background, if you’re into a more mysterious look.

 

Here are a few pages of 30s quotes images from the books. Enjoy!

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Are You One of the 9 to 11% of Americans Who…?

…would report feeling “daily worry and stress without a lot of happiness and enjoyment” in your life? Because according to the long-standing Gallup “U.S. Mood” Poll, 9 to 11 percent of Americans feel that way. Apparently and not surprisingly, the numbers were even higher immediately following the 2016 election, reaching a four-year high of 13.1%.

Personally, I fall into that depressing bucket now. But I’m also dealing with a lot of stress – fights with my boyfriend, anxiety about my career not moving forward fast enough (I’m 35), drinking too much to deal with the stress of uncertainty, and the general fear of Trump and losing access to Obamacare.

I used to be a lot more excited about life and my career in my twenties. The upside of the fact that I’m less happy now is that the happiness in my twenties made me somewhat dreamy and complacent, and so I wasn’t working as hard as I should have at my writing. Now, the fire is lit under my a** and I have been writing a ton more to deal with the anger at myself for not being further ahead.

While I don’t always experience daily stress and worries, because I do have amazing days where I feel recharged and refreshed, I do think I’d put myself in the 9 – 11% bucket of Americans who are struggling to find fulfillment.

So, what do you do if, like me, you realize that you would put yourself in that bucket?

Well, for me it’s all about testing variables to improve. Experimenting with your life. Making small changes and tweaks to see if you feel happier or more fulfilled from them.

Here are some things I’ve done and/or plan to do in the future:

  • Really analyzing my interactions with people to see if they uplift me
  • Trying natural anxiety relief supplements, like Omega 3 pills (heavy on the EPA and less on DHA)
  • Spending less time staring at my phone in public places
  • Writing EVERY DAY to push my career forward
  • Exercising at least once a week (wasn’t doing that before, d’oh!)

Would you put yourself in the 9-11% bucket, and if so, how do you plan to change it?

What the Heck are Fixed Index Annuities? (And are they a good idea for retirement?)

One of the ways I fall asleep at night is by reading nonfiction books. I like these books, don’t get me wrong, but they still don’t totally suck me in and keep me awake like fiction books sometimes do. Usually, as I’m in bed reading my nonfiction book of choice for a few minutes, my eyelids get heavy and I drift off. It’s a very effective, as well as instructive, bedtime routine.

For quite awhile, my nightly book of choice has been Tony Robbins’ Money, Master the Game. I’m a big Tony Robbins fan, as I enjoy his motivational talks and writings, and was extremely excited to see that he’d written a book on finance- one of my favorite topics.

I devoured a lot of the beginning of the book (which got me through quite a lot of bedtimes as the book is 638 pages long). I really enjoyed most of the way Tony Robbins was trying to make finance information accessible to everyone, and he even included interviews with finance experts I loved such as Jack Bogle from Vanguard. A bulk section of the book was concerned with savings accounts and starting a retirement account, as well as the magic of compound interest- I love these subjects. These are some basic money topics to me, but I enjoy being reminded, and many people don’t understand concepts such as compound interest, which Robbins makes easy.

However, somewhere in the last third of the book, I got lost. The subject of Fixed Index Annuities came up and stayed prominent for many, many pages. Robbins was touting how great annuities are, and how the right annuity would bring you retirement income for life. I was extremely confused and started thinking “how have I not heard anything about any kind of annuity from any finance blogger or writer or podcaster ever before?” I was baffled. For years, I’ve listened to the podcasts and read a few of the blogs and books of some quite entertaining and well-known finance professionals including Suze Orman, Dave Ramsey, Farnoosh Tohlrabi, J. Money, Shannon McLay, Ramit Sethi, Paula Pant, J.D Roth, and more. I couldn’t remember any of them ever suggesting, or even bringing up, annuities.

I actually reread the entire 638 page book (it’s a break from my other favorite bedtime book, The Elegant Universe), and once again attempted to understand Robbins’ take on fixed annuities, but to no avail.

In the back of my mind, I associate annuities with scams. But Tony Robbins was so convincing in his book, even talking about how variable annuities are the actual scams, and fixed annuities are the good ones. So I thought maybe I had missed something. And, in the interest of this blog, and for my own personal pleasure (I have some weird pleasures), I looked everything up, paying special attention to my favorite finance experts and finance news sites, including Forbes and Suze Orman, to see what they had to say.

Basically, without going into the extremely complex and intense detail, my hunch was right. Unbiased (i.e non-commission-based) finance professionals almost never recommend annuities- unless they’re still somehow trying to sell you something…like an annuity. There are very rare circumstances in which SOME annuities would kind of make sense, but those circumstances generally affect people in one of two categories:

  1. If you have an extremely high income and have maxed out both your 401k and IRA and want to try putting tax deferred money elsewhere.
  2. If you are extremely, incredibly risk averse and would rather have complete peace of mind that you will have some money while alive than a good rate of return. Because the odds are against you that you’ll have more money for yourself and for your beneficiaries (spouse, kids, etc) with an annuity than with any other retirement strategies (401ks, IRAs, Roth IRAs, etc).

Otherwise, low cost index funds in IRAs, Roth IRAs, and 401ks are significantly better retirement options, with much better rates of return and way lower fees.

Again, without going into numbingly complex details, the issues with most annuities include:

  • Most people selling them stand to make a major profit off of you, and may not inform you of the other retirement options you have. So there can be quite a bit of shadiness in the annuities business because of the high commissions paid out.
  • Your money is tied up for a very long time, and you will pay major fees if you try to take it out early! These fees can range from 10% up to 20%! So even if you purchase an annuity for $50,000 and in a month you change your mind, you can’t get that money back without getting hit with a ridiculous fee. About $5000 (10%) will already have been removed from your 50k as a commission fee to whoever sold you the annuity! Plus you’ll get hit with that major fee for early withdrawal, so your $50,000 can possibly become only $38,000 in the span of only one month!
  • If you die early, your beneficiaries can get absolutely nothing! The one major benefit of most annuities is a guaranteed monthly income for life, until you die. So if you live a VERY long time, you may somewhat benefit from an annuity. But an annuity is actually a life insurance product, and the companies are banking on you dying earlier rather than later- because if you die early, in most situations, the rest of your payout is their’s to keep! And even if you find an annuity that leaves your money to your beneficiaries (which will of course be pricier to begin with), the beneficiaries will have to pay taxes on all of the interest your money made! So if your original 50K grew to 150K, your beneficiaries will have to pay taxes on the difference- that means paying taxes on the 100K difference!! That’s a huge tax bill!

So, I’m sticking with my classic retirement strategy- the Roth IRA, filled with low cost index funds from Vanguard. I write about Roth IRAs and how to set one up here.  And although I enjoy Tony Robbins’ advice and greatly respect him, I’m not planning on taking any of his advice on annuities.

If you want more information on annuities, here are some of my sources for this article:

The Motley Fool annuity advice

Suze Orman explains annuities

Time Magazine’s advice about annuities

Forbes talks in detail about annuities

Get Rich Slowly shares annuity knowledge

As always, feel free to ask me any questions. I’m just learning about this topic myself, so I’d love to hear your thoughts! Thanks!

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Women In Their 30s Now Having More Babies Than Women in Their 20s

For the first time in over three decades in the US, women in their 30s are having more babies than women in their 20s.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention released data last Wednesday that the birth rate among women aged 30 to 34 last year was slightly higher than that of women aged 25 to 29. Also according to the data, women are having their first child at age 28 on average. Consider that in 2014, the average age for women having their first child was 26.3 according to the CDC. That seems like a pretty high jump in age to me, considering it’s been only 3 years since 2014!

Experts say that the change is partially due to a reduction in teen pregnancy rates. But that’s only part of the story. A lot of women, including myself, feel it’s okay to have children later. I’m 35, and I want children and haven’t had them yet. I don’t feel societal pressure to have children, only biological. And even that biological pressure is somewhat tempered by knowing many women who have had babies over 40, and the fertility options that new technology brings. I’ve definitely calmed down a bit more in the past year or so, because I know I’m just not ready yet and that it’s better to feel that I have the right partner and financial situation to raise a child than to ‘just do it.’

But, for my own peace of mind, I’ll be making an appointment for fertility diagnostic testing at USC.

You Can’t Take Your Cues From Others (or Some People Have the Grumpy Eyes..)

As I was working at a convention the other day, a doctor who was standing in my display started smiling strangely at me. I was talking to him about a product, and then simultaneously wondering if I had lipstick on my nose.

No matter how confidently and seriously I described the products he wanted to know about (and I’m quite the expert on bizarre, arcane topics I never thought I’d know about, such as medical self-assessment credits (this comes from working a colorful variety of tradeshows for over 10 years)), he continued his series of bizarre facial expressions. I was able to mostly ignore this, and after he left I immediately grabbed my phone and went into selfie mode, checking my face for stray chocolate. But there were no blemishes to be found.

And this has happened to me with other customers and other attendees at other shows. This has happened to me with multiple people, when strange smiles come up for no reason, or people look annoyed or unpleasant out of nowhere. But many times, the mystery remains unsolved- my customer buys the product I’m selling or continues to listen to my presentation or gives me the information I need from them. I continue with my day,  baffled by certain expressions not matching what a person is actually feeling. I remain unsettled and uncertain for quite awhile.

I’m a big face reader and feeling reader, and I’ve recently realized that my feelings are often based on how people around me are acting. If I feel like people are upset, I can get upset. If I feel like people are laughing at me, I get worried. If I feel like people aren’t understanding what I’m saying because they don’t respond affirmatively with ‘uh-huhs’ and head nods, I get a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach.

And because I’m such a good face and feeling reader most of the time, I get thrown by people who are bad socializers, and affirmators- who don’t act the way they feel, or who look upset even when all is well. Or people who don’t affirm to me that things are okay. In other words..umm, I’m sorta sensitive…

But is it really worth getting thrown off by these people who make me feel anxious? They likely don’t feel how I think they feel, and if they do, who the hell cares? It’s not helpful to get stressed about it. I mean, so what if I have a spaghetti noodle on my face while talking to someone? I mean, that sucks, and it probably wouldn’t be the best thing for my professional career, but it won’t help to freak out inside. Maybe I’m the one judging myself in the harshest way.

So perhaps the major life lesson I take from this is to take my cues from myself and not from others. It’s hard to keep my happiness levels steady if the bizarre expressions and possible bad moods of everyone around me bring me down. Maybe I need to be the one to bring people up! Even if they’re secretly laughing at me- screw ’em! Let them laugh- maybe I’m simply funny!

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Occasionally freaking out inside at work… especially when people give me the grumpy eyes…

 

Don’t Just Do Something- Stand There

The other day I was reading an article titled “To Stay Married, Embrace Change.” Here’s the sum up: “I’ve had at least three marriages. They’ve just all been with the same person.”

How much change will happen in a marriage? From what I’ve read in this article -and many others- marriages swing frequently through a jungle gym of personality shifting, with both people completely overhauling basic facets of who they are multiple times over the course of 20 or 30 or 40+ years.

I think about who I was at 22 and I guess I do feel quite differently now than back then. I travel a lot more and worry less. I meditate almost daily and work on way less theater. I have more boundaries at the same time as I’ve loosened up.  I’m less likely to put up with people walking on me. I’m a bit more myself and try less to act like someone I’m not. But a lot of my personality remains the same. Do you feel differently than how you felt 10 years ago? Now imagine how you’ll feel 20 years from now. It’s very hard to completely predict.

Marriage adds an extra layer of complexity because both people continue to change- but not necessarily at the same time. Careers change, friends shift, moves happen, babies are born or not born, deaths may occur, there are true times of sickness and health, money situations evolve… so many variables.

The question this brings up in my mind is: how do you know if you can or should stick with your spouse/significant other through personality changes that you really don’t like? Do you not love them anymore or do you not love the change itself? What types of changes are unacceptable? These are semi-rhetorical questions, although I did once have an ex go through a major personality change which ultimately broke us up. But- I want to protest- the change was him becoming emotionally abusive/never around and was extremely detrimental to my well being. The change wasn’t something simple like him becoming really messy.

Which changes are too much to handle?

“He’s not the person I married.”

“We grew apart.”

“She didn’t change. I did.”

These are such common phrases- but how should we handle the feelings they bring up?

Why haven’t we been made aware early in life that personality evolution on both sides of a marriage is an absolute definite? Why isn’t it common knowledge that these changes will scare us and possibly lead us to contemplate divorce? Armed with preparation, we might be able to navigate these relationship changes and not get blindsided by them.  Change scares us, but with marriage, can it sometimes be better to ride the current, knowing that waves and storms are par for the course?

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Skin Discoloration In Your 30s

Have you noticed any skin discolorations since reaching your 30s? I have, namely brown spots and patches on my face (maybe only noticeable to me at the moment). I’ve started my own personal investigation into what’s going on (by that I mean obsessive Googling!).

Strangely, the first time I noticed it wasn’t while looking in a mirror. It was while doing FaceTime on my Mac. There was a little brown patch above my lip. When I looked in the mirror, I could barely make out this brown-ish area. I guess it was something with the light on the Mac.

Soon after noticing that first discoloration above my lips, I spotted a small brown spot on my cheek, and then…oh wow…what’s that? Small brown dots on my nose. Oy.

It kind looks something like these images below:

Looking at this spots jogged something in my memory – namely, a conversation I had with a friend a few months ago. She told me she has some discoloration on her skin, and said it was melasma. I figured that perhaps that could be what I had too. So I dived into some internet research, and sure enough (according to my own self-diagnosis, thanks Dr. Jane!), it seems like melasma to me.

What’s melasma, you ask? Well, according to medicinenet.com, melasma is:

A very common patchy brown, tan, or blue-gray facial skin discoloration, usually seen in women in the reproductive years. It typically appears on the upper cheeks, upper lip, forehead, and chin of women 20-50 years of age

And what’s it caused by? Many times it’s hormones. This is why pregnant women and those women on HRT (hormone replacement therapy) have melasma. It can also be caused by sun exposure. Personally, I only started to notice these spots in the past two years, and since I moved from NYC to LA about three and a half years ago, maybe that’s been the cause of my own discoloration.

So what can you do about it? Well, you can get a prescription for hydroquinone cream or lotion – which works by blocking the natural chemical process in your skin responsible for creating melanin, which produces dark skin pigmentation. You can also get a chemical peel or microdermabrasion.

And of course, wearing sunscreen will definitely help delay melasma outbreaks. Holistic healers also say that trying meditation and yoga can be helpful, as they can help re-balance your hormones.

I’ve yet to try any of these remedies myself, but I’m planning on making a dermatologist appointment soon.

Breathing in the Present Moment in Your Thirties

Whenever anyone talks about being centered and in the present moment, they talk about noticing your breath. I find this disconcerting sometimes, and I recently realized that my inner 12 year old is sabotaging my efforts.

I was around 12 when my family and I were on a trip to Hershey, Pennsylvania. Now, Hershey isn’t super far from New York City, but a lot of Pennsylvania is the opposite of NYC, filled with farmland and fields. While driving to Hershey, I remember noticing how spaced out the houses were from one another and how many cornfields there were instead of houses. So. Much. Nature.

When we arrived, I remember how the air quality was different than in New York City- how it was cleaner, something we city dwellers aren’t used to. We all remarked on this “different air.” All of a sudden, after mulling this air quality thought over for a few minutes, I found it hard to breathe. When I focused on my breath, my awareness shifted to the laboriousness of breathing in and out. “It’s so much harder to breathe when you think about it than when you don’t,” I pondered. I secretly worried I was going to have an asthma attack (I don’t have asthma), or a heart attack (hopefully clean air wouldn’t give me a heart attack.) I didn’t know what to do.

Now, if you know me, you may know that I’m extremely sensitive to talk about medical conditions. I could never be a healthcare professional because hearing about what ails people makes me ill. It kind of sounds funny, but I wish I was joking. Nausea races through my body and the potential of fainting is near when I’m told about the details of someone’s insulin pump or what’s really happening when bruising starts. Conversations about surgeries or bones peeking through skin from open wounds will hasten the likelihood of me sinking into unconsciousness.

So I guess it’s no surprise that thoughts about not being able to breathe correctly, even at 12, sent panic attacks (not real ones, thankfully) through my mind and lack of breath filled up my senses.

I ended up calming myself down by shifting my thoughts AWAY from my breath. I made a conscious effort from then on to NOT to think about breathing. So when I trace back a strange dislike of concentrating on my breath, I come back to very early moments.

Luckily, consciously thinking about my breath no longer makes me feel ill or panicky. I’m just aware of how strange and new it is to WANT to concentrate on breathing. I’m able to be aware of my breath now, with my blockage from childhood fading away every day, because I’m aware that this was a choice I made once that doesn’t work for me now.

Imagine how many strange dislikes we have now that come from very early choices. Question where your ideas and preferences come from. Some choices may have been important at the time, but do they actually serve you anymore? Or do they hold you back?

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Inbox Zero: Life Goal or Time Waster?

I’m subscribed to a lot of newsletters. I really don’t read blogs unless they go to my main inbox, and I really like to read other blogs, so every single day my inbox overflows. And then sometimes bloggers link to other bloggers they like, and I subscribe to those blogs too, so the mail pile continues expanding exponentially.

Yesterday I decided enough was enough. I began going through my inbox, archiving and deleting. I thought I could simply check ‘Get to Inbox Zero’ off my to do list, but I remembered why I had allowed the ol’ mailbox to get as unwieldy as it has- I know it takes a longgggg time to clear the mail out. Yesterday, I worked on the task for an embarrassing number of hours, and got down to a little over 600 emails from over 2000. But I still have a ways to go. And the emails that are left to sort are the longest and best.

Part of my issue is that the sheer length of some of the blog posts/newsletters takes up the bulk of my sorting time. I’m never just sorting- I’m reading.

As I read, I believe it will be even nicer to reach the ultimate goal of Inbox Zero. Hooray! But as my mailbox begins to fill up again, I wonder: Is this a worthy goal? Or an Absolute Complete Waste of My Time? Maybe my time would be better spent eliminating subscriptions from my inbox- but that might be even harder to do. Or maybe I just need to delete the old stuff without even reading it and start anew. Or maybe I should just ignore it all entirely and let it build to epic proportions.

Often times I’m working a medical convention and notice a doctor’s inbox has somewhere along the lines of 10,000-40,000 unread emails inside of it. At first I’m shocked and judgemental- I can’t believe the doctor has allowed this to happen. But then I think, well, perhaps these doctors actually have better things to do than sort through their emails. Like, I don’t know, save lives and stuff. Hmmm…

What are your opinions on getting to and staying at the fabled Inbox Zero?

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Fear of Loss in Relationships

When it comes to sustaining peaceful romantic relationships, I’m not the best. I try really hard, but I have bad anxiety, and that makes me fear the worst. My brain can get caught in a negative thought loop pretty quickly — “Will this last?” “Does he love me enough?” “What if he learns more about me and doesn’t want to be with me anymore?” Or worst, I place too much emphasis on the micro-moments of the relationship (like, what does it mean that he normally texts me around this time, but today he didn’t?) that I forget about to be present.  GAH! It’s enough to drive anyone insane.

So, basically, I’m terrified of losing, to the point where I may self-sabotage myself to subconsciously have the relationship end. Stupid, right?

I’m not sure how to get rid of this nagging feeling, other than the normal things, like going to therapy and obsessively googling self-help websites for fixes. I’ve read a lot of Buddhist teachings about how you need to recognize that you can’t be attached to anything forever. And by truly accepting that, you won’t suffer. But still, it’s hard to not feel deep attachment to someone you love.

I just know that I can’t act from that place of fear – from the fear of the relationship ending at any point. I have to remind myself that acting out of fear is destined to cause problems in any relationship I may have, because I’m not present.

One mind trick that helps me when I’m feeling anxious about my relationship is to think about the absolute worst case scenario. And when I think about how it’s not life or death, I know I will be okay.

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Can the 5 Love Languages Help Me Live Happily Ever After In My Thirties?

Have you heard of the 5 love languages? If not, you might be wondering why you’re having trouble connecting to certain people. Dr Gary Chapman, author of the book The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Laststalks about 5 languages that people ‘speak’ when it comes to feeling loved and expressing love.

These languages are:

  1. Words of affirmation
  2. Quality time
  3. Gifts
  4. Acts of service
  5. Physical touch

Dr Chapman, a marriage counselor for over 30 years, says that the love language that you speak to experience love is usually the same language you speak to offer love. So if your love language is ‘acts of service,’ you might feel especially loved when your partner does the dishes for you when you’re tired or when he or she cooks you dinner. And since your love language is ‘acts of service’ you might express love to your partner by driving him to work in the morning, or helping her carry some heavy boxes, or fixing his phone.

But issues can arise if and when your partner doesn’t speak the same language as you. So if your language is acts of service, like above, and you’re showing your partner how much you love him or her by doing tasks like the ones above, your partner might not feel the love if his or her love language is ‘words of affirmation.’ A partner whose love language is words of affirmation would want to hear you say nice things out of the blue- such as ‘I love you’ – and would want you to tell him or her all the happy things you’re feeling regarding the relationship.

This is where wires can cross and you or your partner can start to feel unsatisfied. If you feel love physically, obviously sex is important, but so are other acts of touch like hand holding and hugging. But again, if you’re with someone who feels love through quality time spent together, they might spend time with you and concentrate on you, but not give you massages or put their arms around you or kiss you enough for you to feel loved.

And quality time is an interesting one, because Dr Chapman differentiates between time spent together and QUALITY time spent together. Someone whose love language is ‘quality time’ likely saddens if their partner is constantly looking at a cellphone during times together, or isn’t making eye contact or actively listening during a conversation.

I definitely feel that love languages are real, but that there are love language combos, and that most people have more than one love language, though one might be stronger than the others. Here’s a test to take to find out what your love language is: http://www.5lovelanguages.com/profile/

My main love language according to my results is ‘quality time,’ followed closely by ‘words of affirmation’ and ‘physical touch.’ I was surprised that Words of Affirmation or Touch weren’t the highest ranking ones, but I think all three are up there. The love languages don’t have all the answers to relationship communication issues, but there’s definitely some wisdom here.

What’s your love language? Do you agree with the love languages? Do you think the love languages help you with your relationships?

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