Amaru: Self-Care Virtual Pet App

Since I treat self-improvement like a hobby, I’m always looking for new ways to help with depression, anxiety, stress, and self-care. I found this app, Amaru, and was intrigued by the premise: taking care of a virtual pet to help with your own self-care goals. Not only does it somewhat invoke memories of Giga Pets and Tamagotchis, I noticed right away that the app feels like a game. Games hack your dopamine system and make you want to keep playing, so I figured if I exploit that for my mental health, it can only be a good thing. More importantly, I noticed that it actually started to help me.

Here’s how it works.

Note: this is not an ad for the app nor am I being compensated in any way for giving my review.

Who Is “Amaru”?

Meet adorable Amaru, a winged, cat-like hybrid. When you first meet Amaru, he is shy and unsure, struggling with anxiety. Your goal is to help him become more resilient to anxiety. You do that by setting self-care goals and reaching them daily. The idea is to show him how things like meditation, practicing kindness, or stepping outside your comfort zone can help him. Clearly, the real goal here is to show yourself how these skills can help you improve depression and anxiety. Helping an adorable cartoon creature is great motivation to start doing just that.

Self-Care Goals and Your Aura

The game revolves around the three self-care goals you set for yourself. You can set your own goal or choose from a list of pre-made ones that include feeding Amaru, taking a screen break, waking up early, being kind to someone, and many more. My current goals are “Practice Journaling”, “Guided Meditation”, and “Practice Creativity”.

You receive an amulet each time you complete a goal. Everytime you earn an amulet, “Gratitude Glints” appear on the screen, with an encouraging message and in-game rewards (food and world currency). Hitting all three of your daily self-care goals brightens your “aura”, which leads to increased rewards within the game. It’s also encouraging to see your self-care streak grow when you hit all three goals on consecutive days.

Amulet in “Amaru” app, awarded when completing a goal
Aura: your self-care streak

In the case of journaling and meditation, the app will automatically count it as complete and give me an amulet when I do the in-app meditations or journaling feature. However, I can choose to do those goals outside the app and log them complete myself.

Bond with Amaru

There’s a “bond” meter to signify your relationship with Amaru. It shows how trusting he is toward you. You build this bond by feeding him and petting him. Though there are no real-world implications of this meter going up, his body language toward you changes as it the bond increases. You will also notice his anxiety is less frequent. Once maxed out, there is no increased benefit, but I’ll bet you’ll want to raise it anyway, if you’re like me. You want the cute creature you’re caring for to love and trust you!

A relaxed, happy Amaru

Playtime and Exploration

Amaru has an energy meter that is tied to both playtime and exploration. You set a “play time” length and a wake/sleep time to help correspond with your own screen time goals. In one sentence, basically, the meter signifies how long you can spend on the app before Amaru gets tired.

I have my playtime set to 10 minutes, for example, with a bedtime of 10. I can play games for 10 minutes at a time on the app before Amaru needs a nap to recharge. Likewise, Amaru will be a sleepy boy if it’s past his bedtime or he is out of energy meter. At that point, I have no choice but to tuck him in to bed. I can still complete my goals within the app, but I can’t interact with Amaru, play games, or send him out to explore.

However, given that there’s plenty of time before your chosen bedtime, and Amaru has the energy available, you can either play mini-games or send him out to explore. Both options help you find collectibles and rarities.

The timer does not apply to self-care activities.

Energy level, wake time, sleep time, and play time. Also: your bond with Amaru.
Exploration options when you’re at full energy.

Collectibles and Rarities

In addition to self-care goals, the game provides collectibles and rarities to find. You find these by sending Amaru out to explore or by playing the mini games. These are just fun collectibles and nothing more, but it does inspire you to spend more time in the app and fleshes out the overall experience a bit more.

Collectibles in Lomeni Highlands

Premium Features

Like every single app in existence, there is a premium feature to Amaru. I quickly gave them my $10 after spending about 5 minutes on the app. I loved the concept right away and wanted to support them for such a cute, unique game. It’s just a one-time purchase, too. So, everything I have said to this point is for the paid version of the app. That means I can’t tell you what you get with the free version. I’m not dedicated enough to try to find out, either. However, I did my due diligence as a part-time, hobbyist blogger and read some reviews. Quite a bit is still accessible and usable in the free version, according to other users. I’d still recommend downloading the app and see for yourself how engaging it is with the free version. If you can afford the $10, I definitely 100% think it’s worth it.

I loved it so much I also spent a few extra dollars on the customization options. That is why my Amaru is purple and has a star-like pattern on him! Customization packs are fun. Totally optional, but fun.

Why it works for me

It may already be obvious to you after reading the intro paragraph about who Amaru is–I want to help the cute, cartoon creature! That’s how it started. Even though he’s fictional and on a phone screen, I want to help the little guy who is cowering and shivering because he’s so anxious and scared. If I can save him and help him, certainly there is hope for myself.

Sometimes, I get on a few extra times in a day just so I can make sure I did everything for him. Other days, it was harder to be interested in my personal goals, but I did them so I could strengthen my bond with Amaru and my aura. Just knowing I could see his cute face brightened my day and gave me the extra push to complete my goals.

That is exactly the point though. The game does a wonderful job of helping you address the hardest part of building habits: establishing them. For habits to really work, you need to do them. Every day. Sometimes multiple times a day. Maybe you know meditation would be good for you, for example, but you can’t seem to establish a daily practice. The app helps you establish the habit, using a game-based system and a cute, virtual pet as motivators.

As time goes on, maybe you start to remember about meditation when you’re getting stressed. Or, it’s lunch time and–hey, something doesn’t feel quite right. Oh! I need to do my meditation! That’s better. Then, you start looking forward to it. You start enjoying it. You start meditating at your desk maybe. Quietly, discreetly, taking a few minutes when things are getting overwhelming or you feel your shoulders tightening from stress.

There will come a day that I don’t use the app. It’s probably not something you’re supposed to use forever. But it’s great at motivating you to learn coping skills and build healthy habits. That doesn’t mean it’s a perfect app though. In the interest of fairness, I want to share some negatives about it, too.

Things to Improve

The mini games suck, quite frankly. “Climbing Cairns” is my favorite one, but it can be mildly infuriating most of the time. You have to stack stones according to the rules of whatever mode you pick. I can’t seem to get the hang of the games’ physics. It’s not as relaxing as it seems on first glance.

“Bonk the Baddies” instructs you to hit these annoying little creatures, but I feel it’s really hard to beat your high score because it’s just not that challenging. It’s repetitive and not rewarding. Not to mention how awful I feel if I accidentally hit one of the innocent decoys they throw in!

“Echo Ensemble” is a musical memory game featuring the worst sounding tones you’ve ever heard. The least they could do is put them in some order to make a pleasing sound. No. They do dissonant, random notes because fuck making this enjoyable. I’d rather have a match game for memory. Recently, they added a puzzle game, but I haven’t played enough to have an opinion. I prefer to just send Amaru out to explore for the hidden treasures instead of playtime anyway.

Mini games

The app would also benefit from a larger variety of meditations. I enjoy the ones they have, but I would appreciate a greater variety. The way I deal with this now, when I’m feeling indecisive, or bored of the current lineup, is to choose the “Special” meditation, which is unguided and can be set for varying lengths of time.

Journal functionality could also be improved. There are 2 journals right now–the burn journal and the gratitude journal. The burn journal is where you can just vent about something, and then watch the entry “burn” on screen, as if to symbolize your releasing it. The gratitude journal is self-explanatory. I know the benefits of gratitude, which is why I keep it as one of my daily goals. However, I wouldn’t mind an option to capture moods, too. Or, maybe have a specific prompt to write about. We don’t want the app to get too bloated, certainly, but all kinds of journaling is helpful.


The app has really helped endear me to this little creature and his cute face. While I’m no stranger to meditation or gratitude, it is nice to have daily goals for them and to implement them more often. This app also helped me drill down on other important things to my mental health, specifically creativity. I knew that having a creative outlet was important to me, but it’s been so vital to just give myself a 30-minute goal to achieve every day.

I hope you give Amaru a try, even if it’s just a few days of the free version. My advice is to give it a shot for at least a week. Sometimes it’s hard to get used to new things. Your brain rejects them before you give yourself any real time to adapt. Try it out! I hope you fall in love with it like I did.

Download Amaru for Android or for iOS.

Here’s some of my favorite Gratitude Glints for the road!

“You are not broken”
“The secret to doing anything is believing that you can do it. Anything that you believe you can do strong enough, you can do.” -Bob Ross
“You make me proud. You’re going to succeed in life. You deserve all the love you receive.”
“You are not your past. You are your own future. Your future identity starts now.”

Note to Self: Stop Trying to Be Who You Were

Sometimes I make the mistake of dwelling on the past: Facebook memories, old photos, journal entries, gifts and cards from years ago. It always sends me spiraling into a cocktail of nostalgia, regret, and sadness. If self-pity were a drug, I would have overdosed long ago.

20-year-old me (2009)
20-year-old me (2009)
2010

I traded my “bad bitch” energy for “anxious girl” neuroticism. No longer the life of the party, I’m more like the veggie plate you bring to a bridal shower. Practical, sensible, the thing that people pick at, but no one wants. And who’s going to eat all the red cherry tomatoes? Okay, I lost the metaphor. The lie I tell myself regularly is that I’ll “get back on track” and start looking like 25-year-old me. Beyond just looking like her again, I wish I had the same qualities as her: fierce, passionate, loyal, fun, confident. I had a few demons then, but eventually I made friends with them.

How did I get here? It wasn’t overnight, that’s for sure. And I don’t mean the change in my appearance. Like every other person alive, the culmination of all my life’s choices, good and bad, snowballed until they eventually buried me under an avalanche. Successes and challenges alike led me to where I am today, but I tend to focus on the negative ones because that’s human nature. I’m not saying it’s healthy, but this whole post is about my toxic fascination. Anyway, I’ve digressed too long.

Let me tell you–it’s extremely hard to find your way somewhere that doesn’t exist. To become a person that you aren’t anymore. There’s a special type of denial and sadness you go through, mourning your past self. The denial part is thinking you can ever go back to who you were, emotionally or physically. The sadness is trying to accept that.

Self-pity is a hell of a drug.

I wish I could clone myself just so I could grab myself by the shoulders, look myself deeply in the eye, and say, Hey, idiot. Stop romanticizing the past. Take off the rose-colored glasses, sweetheart, because guess what? Change happens by looking forward, not backward. There’s nothing for me in the past. If I want to gain more self-confidence, stop caring what others think, or be fit and healthy, I need to take the steps to do that. None of those steps involve moping, wallowing, or wistful longing while staring at old photos. I give myself permission to experience those feelings; they are valid. But they aren’t helpful.

Oh, and the elephant in the room here is that I was an idiot in my 20s. An absolute rude, immature bitch sometimes who burned bridges, acted impulsively, and didn’t know how to manage her emotions or cope with any amount of inconvenience or stress. I think we all act foolishly in our 20s in some way or another, but that’s no excuse. I was no paragon of virtue (or any other kind of paragon, for that matter). It’s laughable that I want to idealize my past self, while conveniently forgetting all the terrible shit I did.

If we’re being fair, the other side of that coin is that I have a lot of positive things in my life now compared to 25-year-old Jessica. I’ve accomplished things I’m proud of. I have friends and family I love. I’m much better at handling my emotions and approaching things with mindfulness. I make better decisions. Basically, I’m more of an average 30-something than I like to think I am, i.e. someone who has matured and grown. An imperfect human doing their best. That’s all of us, right?

If you’re wondering what’s helped me, therapy has been a major step. I’ve also done a lot of self-help work in areas like self-compassion, self-esteem, mindfulness (not just meditation), and journaling (prompts, mood journal, gratitude, etc). Other things I’ve done are establishing friendships with people I admire and enjoy being around, creating space for hobbies and creative outlets, and giving myself space to decompress and be alone when I need it. Maybe most importantly I am learning to give myself permission to not be a productivity machine. Learning to just be and not have to be doing something. I re-learn these lessons weekly, sometimes daily. I’m not a self-actualized peaceful being of purity, nor am I a chaotic, dumpster fire of a person who can’t take care of herself. Like most people, I am somewhere in between.

None of these steps were quick and easy, and like I said, they’re all ongoing lessons. I don’t want to act like I’m giving groundbreaking advice, like “If you follow these steps, you can solve all your problems!” As much as I like to list positive steps you can take in a situation (based on my experience), it’s not that simple. Change is never simple or easy. Despite what some BS listicle on an ad-riddled website will tell you, there are no quick fixes. Believe me, I’ve checked.

I will leave you with this tiniest bit of encouragement, something I am reminding myself of daily when it’s cocktail hour: trust that where you are right now is where you need to be. It may not be where you want to be, but you can’t start somewhere else. You have to start where you are.

Cheers.

Thoughts and Things: On Changes, Grieving Your Past Self, and Uncomfortable Familiarity

There’s something unbearable about being stuck as yourself. The inertia of self looms far greater than any myth of self-improvement or ability to change. Sure, we can change in some ways. But the core essence of our being–what makes us US–is not changed.

Despite my own efforts to self-improve, I’ve always wanted to just run away. That’s who I am at my core. When I was 18, 19, 20, I wanted to move to Florida. I didn’t realize I was really just running from myself. I always thought that’s where I would end up one day. A beach somewhere, I mean. Maybe not Florida exactly. Maybe California. Life had other plans for me, so I’ve been kinda just batting down curve balls left and right until I made it to my 30s. Any day now the dust will settle and I can get back on track for that life I planned. It sure is funny how that works.

In 2019, I moved to Indiana. It was a temporary thing from the beginning. We always knew we would move back when we were done because family and better job prospects are in Tennessee. Now that chapter is done and we are back. Time is funny. Humans can’t comprehend it. I cannot fathom how two years have gone by so fast. Already come and gone. Indiana is now our past all of the sudden when it was my reality and my home so tangibly, so vividly just a short while ago. Now I’m back in Tennessee. How the fuck did that happen?

I mean, a few other things have happened since then and probably have been affecting my mental health and perception of time, but I feel caught off guard.

I’m back home, but it doesn’t feel like home. I was born and raised in Tennessee and it feels strange and cold now. Nothing feels like home. The streets are all familiar. I know all their names. But it doesn’t mean much to me anymore. I have these moments where I say, “Oh, I remember that place.” They happen often. A memory pops up on every block. Sometimes 2 or 3.

But everything moves fast, aggressive. Traffic is harsh and unforgiving. I’m slow and stupid now.

Everything’s the same in some ways. How can it feel so different then? It feels rough around the edges, like a person I once knew. The intimacy you once shared fades into your memory, until the details are blurry. Just fragments of a memory. A stamp upon your emotions. It’s never the same as the memories. I don’t know why. It hasn’t changed much.

I was only gone 2 years. Why does everything feel so strange? Maybe it’s me who changed.

But people never really change, do they? You can slap a fresh coat of paint on, maybe re-decorate the kitchen. But the bones of the house remain the same.

I’m still angry, dissatisfied on the inside. I have learned that the answers I have found aren’t for the same questions I asked. I’m more content in the unknown, but I still don’t let myself reach full satisfaction. What is life to be satisfied all the time? I want to be in pursuit. It’s okay I don’t have all the answers or I’m not asking the right questions. I also cope better in some areas. I’m the same old shitty person in some others. But I’m improving what I can and learning to be. I’m doing my imitation of happy and I’m happy with that.

Except I don’t even remember who I was before the chaos and stress of moving forced me to abandon everything. That’s an exaggeration, but since we have been in Tennessee (a month now), I feel all I care about are where to get the best deals on end tables and what colors to put in the kitchen and bathroom. That’s typical for moving. Things will settle down. I knew it would be like this. But in the meantime, I feel like half a person. Half a person who has uprooted her life twice in 2 years and the second time was during a once-in-a-hundred-years pandemic.

I am ready for that dust to settle. Any day now.

I get caught up in what ifs. What if I had chosen a different partner, what if I had moved to Florida or California, what if I had done a different career path?

Maybe I would be a millionaire by now or completely content and enlightened. Maybe I would have started my own cult by now because I would have done everything else.

You can’t get caught up on what ifs. They only slow you down and they are NOT productive. I made the choices I did to get here, for better or for worse. The only course I can change is the future. Maybe I didn’t always choose right. Hell, I know I didn’t. Maybe I could have stuck with this thing or that thing. Stayed friends with this person or married that person instead. Kept this job, never started that other one, and so on and so forth. We all could do things better, right? My life is just a series of events where I’m cleaning up after the last mess I made.

I miss the fierceness and boldness of the old me. She was a little reckless, but she had a good spirit. The new me is anxious, afraid, always more worried about appearances and what other people think than I ever should be. It’s not so easy to just declare new intentions and make them so, despite what they tell you.

I wonder what the old me thinks of the new me. She probably thinks I changed too much.

But people never really change…do they?

The old me and the new me are in a neverending search for that Magical Answer. An absolute truth. I’d even settle for a comforting lie if it was convincing enough. What I have learned that younger Jessica didn’t know is that there is no panacea. No silver bullet. No magic fixes. Self-improvement, growth, and a hard look at yourself are the only ways that any of your own bullshit will be fixed. Everything else in the world? Crapshoot. You only have control over yourself. That is a fact I have to remind myself of almost daily. And honestly, I barely feel in control of myself sometimes.

I feel more unsettled and unsure lately. I have a new job in unfamiliar territory, both literally and figuratively, as far as industry. I don’t have an antidote. It’s been a month and I don’t feel right still. Tennessee feels ugly and dumb. Maybe it’s how they handled Covid, maybe it’s the god-awful, horrendous traffic in Middle Tennessee. All my pride in being a Tennessean seems to have gone missing.

I wasn’t in a better place mentally in Indiana. In fact, due to the pandemic and the temporary nature of our stay in Indiana, I did not make any friends. I wasn’t able to volunteer because of Covid, and I didn’t get involved in any activities or group events, at first because of procrastination, but then because of Covid. Really I could blame everything on Covid and that would be totally valid. From a mental and physical standpoint. Maybe that’s what the real problem is. Covid has changed the way my brain functions and has made me into a whole different person. Not the woman who left Tennessee. Someone else entirely.

But…people never really change. Do they?

The old me is somewhere under there, whoever that is. Maybe the “old me” is now just the pre-pandemic me that I am trying to find again. Aside from blaming Covid for everything, I don’t really know what my problem is. Why I am struggling so hard. Why I miss a place I didn’t really want to move to in the first place. Why I am having a hard time fitting into a nice condo that I love in an area that I really like. I’m close to family and friends again. I can stop putting life on hold and really live again. Whatever that means.

Why aren’t things just easy?

Why are things still so hard for me?

That familiar pain in my chest. The knot in my stomach. The sadness out of nowehre. I guess I’m about due for another depressive bout for no discernable reason. That’s also something the old me and new me have in common.

There are things I can do to combat it. Proactive things that I do when I want to try to stay at my best. I’m going to keep doing those things that give me light. Connect with friends. Make time to create. Self-care. Maybe eventually I’ll feel normal again.

Maybe I’ll never be normal again.

Maybe I never was.

Because people never really change. Not really, no.

Have I Self-Improved My Way Into An Existential Crisis?

A quick look at some of my blog posts here over the past few years will tell you that I am all about self-improvement. I treat it like a hobby. Oh, you play video games and cross-stitch? Never heard of them. No, I’m working on myself, baby. I need to address all these yucky flaws in my personality. Therapy is expensive, and your girl here is a self-motivated self-improver.

But something has happened to me along the way. I don’t feel any better. I have made progress overall, but I feel worse in some aspects. I still feel like I’m not good enough, still feel like I’m constantly trying to keep up, still feeling empty and lost, like there’s something I still haven’t figured out.

After my epiphany in September about finding peace and doing things that made me happy, I thought I’d stay on that track. A foolish notion proven vain. After 32 years of living, I still haven’t figured it out. The pattern emerges again: I think I’ve figured it out and then come crashing down again when I fail. I haven’t found that Golden Answer we all seem to be seeking.

One can only appease the void for so long before it hungers again.

The Happiness Equation

I am not going to blame self-improvement books or gurus who specialize in productivity. I’m going to blame toxic productivity culture and our obsession with being just 23% more productive. We have to stay #OnTheGrind, gotta keep #hustling. What’s your work flow like? Are you doing these 83 things in the morning or are you a poor, unsuccessful LOSER? Productivity means meeting your goals and meeting your goals means being successful and being successful means you will be happy.

Productivity = happiness.

I’m performance-based and like to see empirical results. Self-help tactics and productivity strategies help me see results. Pomodoro Technique? Awesome. I didn’t know there was a name for the thing that got me through some of my college classes. Atomic Habits by James Clear? Bought it and love the core principles it teaches. Things successful people do? I’m certain if I can do all these vaguely-explained things that are concisely worded into bite-size paragraphs that belie the true nature of work involved, then there is nothing stopping me from being successful!

Journaling, meditating, exercise, healthier eating habits, supplementation and nootropics, practicing gratitude, getting enough sleep, habit-tracking, tidy workspace, time-blocking–if there’s a productivity hack or a “secret to success”, I’ve at least read about it, if not tried it.

A lot of these things have value, even things I would recommend for one reason or another. But have any of them made me happier?

No. Not even close.

I keep thinking productivity and self-improvement will get me closer to success, which will get me closer to happiness. After all, productivity IS next to godliness. Isn’t that how the proverb goes?

The problem is that nothing is ever that simple. I can’t keep up. I’m back in the same familiar places of dissatisfaction–perfectionism, getting bored with the things I do, lack of motivation, wondering if I really care about what I think I care about, general sadness and apathy for no reason.

It leads to a cycle of feeling bad for my perceived failures, becoming unhappy and discontent, and then turning to more productivity and self-improvement resources to motivate me back into doing things.

Lack of results + feeling unmotivated = feeling like a failure.

There’s Another Part to This Equation

FOMO.

The Fear Of Missing Out is a HUGE motivator to me, both unconsciously and consciously.

Thanks to social media, I can see exactly what all my friends, peers, colleagues, acquaintances, and favorite influencers are doing that I’m not. It creates a sense of jealousy and sadness within me.

Why can’t that be me? Well, it could be, first of all. They do things I don’t do, so why should I feel sad or jealous? If I want what they have, why am I not implementing the work ethic they have or making the sacrifices they made?

Second of all, social media is often contrived, if not downright fake. It’s not fair for me to compare my whole life to a cherry-picked, filtered highlight of someone else’s.

I don’t want to get rid of social media though. It has a lot of positives. I also justify social media as necessary for promoting myself and my “brand” as a writer, blogger, and YouTuber/content creator. Gross. I called myself a “content creator”. But, now that the phrase “branding yourself” exists, we all have to be conscious of our online self and how it aligns with our fucking “brand” and what we’re putting out in the world. It makes sense and I acknowledge the benefits–it just sucks and I hate it.

This leads to a constant pressure to be “present” on social media all. The feeling that if I’m not regularly posting or interacting, I am invisible according to the Almighty Algorithm. This is exacerbated when I see peers, or people I admire, flourishing on social media in the form of multiple projects and some form of “success”. I feel like I’m not doing enough by comparison.

If I could only do more, then I will be happy like them.

You can probably spot a number of fallacies and logical leaps in this thinking, but it hasn’t stopped me from feeling like crap and trying to uproot my entire approach so that I can re-do it in the name of being happier. That’s what it’s all about, right? Being happier. Somehow, I get from social media to feeling like I need to do more, thinking “this will make me happy!”

It never does though. Wonder when I’ll learn.

To sum this up another way:
Lack of results + feeling unmotivated x FOMO = really unhappy.

Productivity Isn’t the Solution Because It Isn’t the Problem

Being more productive isn’t necessarily going to help me when the problem isn’t that I can’t produce. It’s the cycle in that happiness equation. Lack of results leads me to feeling unmotivated, which makes me feel unhappy and unfulfilled.

I need to re-write the happiness equation. Because it has nothing to do with results or motivation.

Happiness doesn’t come from productivity. Hell, I’m starting to think it doesn’t even come from success for me.

I still want to create things, like writing for this blog, writing for my music blog, and making YouTube videos at a pace that even glaciers would call slow. I still have career aspirations and goals. But, I don’t want to live and die by the success of those goals. God, I’m sick of that. Though I am performance and results-motivated, I don’t want my happiness to be conditional on the outcome of these things I produce. And I DEFINITELY want to stop comparing myself to others, using them as a ruler for my own progress.

So here are some actionable items I have been implementing over varying lengths of time that are helping.

Stop trying to create on a schedule

Right now, what is working for me is not doing creative things on a schedule or time-table. Yes, I may want people to see this blog, for example. But I do not want to force myself to write out of obligation just to meet quota each week. I want it to be born out of love of the craft. That’s why I started doing it in the first place. Quotas and deadlines are creativity killers, at least right now.

One day, I can focus more on scheduling, optimizing my output, and social media marketing. Today is not that day. Today, I want to enjoy what I do. I want to be an expert in it and master the art of showing up, before worrying about if it’s being seen or making me money.

The reason I love writing and the idea of making video essays and streaming video gameplay is not just because I want to get thousands of views. That potential end result seems to cloud my vision because I conflate it with being successful. What if I could just enjoy the things I love without worrying if anyone sees it though? What if I just start there?

Do the thing I love to do because I love doing it. That’s it.

Deleting social media apps

I have switched to only accessing Twitter and Facebook on the desktop versions (or the mobile site counterpart, if I am convinced the world can’t live without a meme or cat photo). This method helps me control impulsive and mindless scrolling, while also making my sessions far more intentional and mindful.

I have deleted social media apps before. And yes, I ran right back to them because I was sad and bored. Worse than that, I justified that I “needed” the apps because it was easier to post pictures. In other Lies I Tell Myself, this totally wasn’t because the crappy mobile versions are ugly, slow, and hard to interact with. I’m sure it’s a total coincidence that the mobile and desktop versions of Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are shitty and it drives you to download their app and be on it more.

What I’ve discovered since changing my approach to social media is that it’s truly underscored the lie I had been sold by “experts”. I don’t need to be on multiple times a day to be successful as a writer or YouTuber. Networking will absolutely help you in creating a “brand”, but there are better ways to use social media. After all, it is just a tool. I can schedule posts or dedicate a set time once or twice a week to posting. I don’t need to be addicted to social media to get any benefit from it!

Keep an open-ended task-list of next steps and “one thing”

I have two task lists on my phone that are sort of like a “soft schedule”. They function as reminders for everything I want to do, whether it’s chores around the house, bigger projects I want to tackle, or creative things. I don’t set dates or deadlines. I just use it as a storage space for my thoughts so my anxious, inner voice doesn’t harass me about it. It’s on the list! I know about it. I will get to it when I have the energy and time.

I also have a similar version that I will sometimes write down in my journal to help me categorize everything and process it. I have split into Career, Hobbies, Physical Health, Mental Health, and Tasks/Errands.

Whereas in the past, I would set goals and deadlines and be upset when I couldn’t hit them, this is just more like a gentle reminder if I want it. What was I working on? Oh yeah. Here it is. What do I want to focus on in this area? Got it. Back on track.

What really helps is seeing my “next step” . The next step is just what I need to do next to make progress in what I am working on. It not only helps focus my intentions when I pick a thing to work on, but it really helps it seem less overwhelming.

Remember the “moments of joy”

Happy is just a mood; it’s not a constant state you can be in. But moments of joy–doing the little things that fill you with light as often as you can? That’s attainable.

Things that give me light are: creating things of my own (writing, especially), connecting with others, music, and time for myself/fun. I don’t want to do these things on a rigid schedule or do them for any other reason except myself. Not every hobby or passion has to have some greater productivity goal or monetary value. The value is that it exists to edify me.

Beyond that, moments of joy are what make life worth living. These things might not be the meaning of life, but they give your life plenty of meaning.

Self-care

I’ve really devalued this over the years, but it’s so crucial. This looks different for everyone. Personally, I take more of a hard stance on what self-care is–it’s anything that helps you take care of yourself. It’s not always beautiful, Instagram-worthy, fun, or “feel-good”. Something like eating a bunch of cookies and watching Netflix for 3 hours isn’t really taking care of myself. It might take care of my mental health or feel good in the moment. But more than likely, I will feel worse after I’m done.

While I do believe in making time to decompress or take care of myself in more “relaxing” ways, the kind of self-care I am talking about here are things that might not feel good right away but are good for you. Exercising, eating well, keeping up with my skincare routine and oral hygiene, going to bed at a decent hour.

It’s not glamorous. It sometimes sucks. It’s definitely the harder route than just eating a whole pizza and melting into the very fabric of the couch, but it’s worth it. I definitely feel better in the long run when I commit to self-care.


Productivity had nothing to do with any of these steps. I kept trying to shove it into my happiness equation because that’s the lie I have been sold. That equation is bullshit.

Here’s a new one:
Moments of joy (connection, creation, fun) + self-care x manageable goals= contentment and satisfaction. Or something like it.

I’m not great at math–and I’m even worse at metaphors–but, I’m getting better at finding the solution.

Things I’m Letting Go of in 2021

I’m not one for resolutions, and I don’t think I’m in the minority with that. However, I do acknowledge that a new year is a great time to do some re-evaluating and goal-setting.

I’m thinking not only of what I want more of in my life, but what I want less of.

Here are the things I’m letting go of in 2021:

Negative Self-Talk

When I make a mistake or do something embarrassing, the first thing I do is cringe. The second is say to myself something like, “God, I’m such an idiot,” “Why did I do that?” or” “I hate myself.” I don’t know why I think I can berate myself into doing better, or why I think making myself feel worse will do any good. It’s just an automatic response though.

I’ve worked on self-compassion this past year as a way to treat myself with kindness, even when I’ve experienced something difficult. It’s strange at first, but it gets easier. Though I’m practicing this intermittently now, my goal is to implement the meditations and exercises more into my daily life to combat these negative thoughts about myself.

Comparing Myself to Others

I hate to admit this on some level, but I feel this weird jealousy mixed with sadness and frustration at myself when I see successful writers and bloggers. The same goes for Twitch streamers and YouTube creators. I feel so bad about myself when I compare my efforts to what others are doing. What am I doing wrong? Why can’t I achieve that? Am I just bad at all of this?

Here’s how I’ve started to look at it though: I don’t know their journey. Their story. Their demons. I don’t know what they sacrificed to get where they are, to achieve what they have. I don’t know how hard or easy it was for them to do those things.

Honestly, the pity party is OVER. Something else I’ve realized this past year is if I really want something in life, I need to work for it. Not feel sorry for myself. Not compare myself to someone else. They probably did things that I didn’t. They worked hard for it, made sacrifices, and then, reaped the benefits. I can’t compare my half-baked, lukewarm attempts to their fully-cooked, steaming hot success (I suck at metaphors, but you get my point).

Even if we were putting in the same amount of effort every day though, how does it help me to compare myself to them? How does it help me be better at what I’m trying to do if I compare my results to someone else’s? It won’t. I’m no longer going to allow someone else’s success make me feel small–because it’s only ME who is allowing that to happen. No one is doing this to me.

What I can do is reach out and ask how they achieved x, y, or z, or ask for their general advice. It’s a great way to learn new strategies and tips, as well as create a valuable connection with them. Of course, I don’t approach this as using someone for my personal gain. I always approach them out of a place of respect.

I also have learned to be encouraged and inspired, instead of feeling frustrated or defeated. Like, wow, what a cool story. This shows me that it can be done!

Before I do any of that though, I need to remember this: it’s THEIR moment. Not mine. Their story. Their glory. Their moment to shine and be happy. I don’t need to always make it about me. I can be happy for someone else. I can celebrate their success. It’s not a competition. There’s room

“It does not matter how slowly you go, so long as you do not stop.”

Confucius

You might enjoy this post about toxic productivity: How to Be 100% Productive: A Totally Serious Guide

Doubting Myself

I’m DONE doubting myself. Second-guessing my choices. Not feeling confident enough in my own ability to make decisions and do what I want. It’s not that I don’t know what I love or enjoy, it’s that often I’m not sure of other choices surrounding them.

Should I continue streaming video games? Should I even bother making these ambitious YouTube videos when I don’t have time? Should I keep writing if I’m not going to work harder to monetize my efforts? Should I continue with this free bookkeeping course?

Just a sampling of things that splash around in my head on a daily basis and have caused me plenty of overthinking.

Trust yourself, girl. Like, damn. I don’t have to overcomplicate it. I don’t always have to be at step Z. I don’t even have to know the next step. Like with this blog, or writing in general. I get so caught up on needing to know SEO, or having the right tools to help me keyword plan, or worrying about guest posting and making sure I’m networking enough.

I don’t want those steps to stop me from doing what I enjoy. I just like writing. I’ve come to accept maybe only a few people will read what I write. Maybe no one will. But I’m going to keep doing it for now, even if it’s not perfect. Especially if it’s not perfect. When I feel it’s time to take the next step, I can.

But things do NOT have to be perfect to start them–or finish them, for that matter.

People-Pleasing

When I say people-pleasing, I don’t mean bending over backwards at people’s request or having zero boundaries.

What I am referring to is my compulsion to downplay, and even ignore, my own opinions and feelings in an effort to conform to whoever’s personality I am trying to please. Maybe it’s someone new in my life that I want to like me. Maybe it’s someone I look up to and I want to make a good impression on, for example, a boss or older mentor/authority figure.

I have a hard time disagreeing with people in either of these categories and being my true self around them. It feels really bad and uncomfortable to ignore my own thoughts and feelings to fit in. I shove aside my personality to try to match theirs and anticipate what I can say or do that’ll make myself more appealing as a friend/coworker/employee/person of good character in their eyes.

I’m sick of doing this though. Mostly for strangers or people who don’t matter. Why do I care what they think? If they don’t like me or don’t approve of my opinions or personality, why would I want their approval? Having someone like or dislike me isn’t the end of the world. Besides, there are plenty of people I still like, or even respect, who I don’t agree with 100%. That’s just life. That’s people.

The groundbreaking revelation that I’ve been reminding myself of is this: even if someone doesn’t like me or thinks poorly of me, that’s all it is: a thought. What will a thought do to me? Nothing. What will a negative opinion of me do to me? Nothing.

Thoughts do not hold any power of me. I’m not going to keep letting the fear of rejection interfere with my ability to be my own person.


By letting go, we make room for more of the things we want. .

I am trying to replace some old habits, some old thinking. By implementing the new, you displace the old. There’s no where for it to fit, so it must leave.

At least that’s the plan. I’m going to write these in my journal and make an effort to revisit them frequently.

What are you letting go of in 2021?

How to Be 100% Productive

Society is somewhat obsessed with productivity. There’s roughly 1 billion articles, books, and seminars on how to be your best self in pursuit of the hustle, the grind. You want to be one of those productive, happy, successful people, don’t you? Do it* to follow your dreams, reach your goals, etcetera and so forth. Most importantly, do it for YOURSELF. For deep, personal fulfillment–and likes on Instagram from all the people you went to high school with but never talk to.

(*If you have to ask what “it” is, you obviously don’t understand and therefore, can’t join my exclusive club.)

If you want to learn how to get to 100% productivity and kick every day’s ass, you’ve come to the right place! I’m going to de-mistify the process for you and help you go from some idiot with a 9-5 job to a some idiot with no job, but a lot of ambition and productivity buzzwords.

Wakeup Routine

First, you need to make sure you get up at 5am. You just can’t be productive if you don’t wake up at 5am. Why that early? Because you need to work out, meditate, journal, make morning #motivation content for IG, take your vitamins, and make your morning smoothie with fresh, organic fruits, protein powder, chia seeds, and matcha. All before having your morning coffee (or your morning poo).

Productivity doesn’t sleep and neither should you.

Quit Your Day Job

Your job sucks. You can’t learn to be your own boss while you’re taking orders from your real boss. Devote your full time to productivity and you will get full-time results. It’s just math.

Speaking of math, who cares if you have little to no savings and a bunch of bills to pay? You can’t put a price on your dreams.

Whether you’re doing vague thing number 1 or vague thing number 2, it doesn’t matter and I’m not going to explain it, either. I’m going to gloss over the meat of this entire plan, as if it’s incredibly easy to just become a freelancer in X business or start your own business. If you got a problem with that, your logical questions and sound reasoning are not welcome here. Positive Vibes Only.

Get to Work

Now that you’re jobless and have the imminent threat of homelessness, get to working on your new job by 8am. What are you working on? Fuck you. That’s not important.

Evaluate Your Inner Circle

Fourth step: you need to meet new people. If you’re going to be more productive, you need to surround yourself with likeminded people who are not necessarily successful, but who act like it. This will help you be more productive because you can absorb all their positive vibes and learn valuable secrets. Things like how to “brand yourself” and reach your “target market”, even if you don’t know what industry they’re in, much less what they mean by that.

While you’re at it, you need to dump all your toxic friends. You know the ones. They work a stupid regular job so they can pay bills and take care of their stupid family. You don’t need to hear their negativity, like whining about making ends meet or how they have no energy for things they used to love.

Weak. Totally not crushing it.

A Little Catharsis

Next, find a nice, secluded area in the woods. Scream. Repeat, as necessary.

Follow the Greats

While some people might think this section means to use your heroes or biggest influences as inspiration, or better yet, find a real life mentor to guide you, I have some much better advice. Buy my course on How to Be 100% Productive for only $1299! It’s on sale and it’ll tell you all the tips, tricks, and secrets of how to be productive and achieve all your dreams!

Quit Your Hobbies

Do you think that Michaelangelo became a famous tiny penis-painter because he did things he enjoyed? Does Jeff Bezos screw over his employees at Amazon because he likes it? It’s called WORK for a reason. You can’t be 100% productive, or successful, or whatever my original point was, if you’re spending your time on frivolous pursuits–like relaxing or doing fun stuff. You can have fun when you’re dead. Right now, it’s time to get those gains and crush it.

The only “downtime” you should have is meditating on how to be more productive or reading books on how to be more productive.

Give Up All Your Material Possessions and Join a Cult

Your worldly possessions are supposed to be a sign of your ultimate productivity and success. Until then, they just hinder you. You’ll get bigger, better, fancier possessions one day. But right now, all your energy needs to be focused on being productive. You can’t do that if you have junk cluttering up your life, like furniture, or cars, or a place to sleep.

Also, come to this meeting I have of like-minded friends that are totally crushing it! We want to share with you our tips, tricks, and secrets to ultimate productivity. Admission is free. You can checkout anytime you like, but you can never leave! Ha ha. Just a joke. A little humor about the “biz”. It’s funny because once you spend time with us, you won’t be able to pull yourself away. That’s how great it is!

Get A Divorce and Lose Custody of the Kids

We all have to make sacrifices on the way to the top. And while it may not feel like the top with no savings, no possessions, no clear job path, no more friends, and your family now leaving you because you couldn’t pay the bills and you joined a cult–remember, that your family is weak sauce shit and would never understand your path to 100% productivity.

Tune them out. Toss ’em. Boss up and start finally seeing RESULTS.

If All Else Fails, Die, and Become Reincarnated into a Wealthy Family

Sometimes, life’s path toward 100% productivity leads us to strange and mysterious destinations. Like, dying just to be reborn into a wealthy family that will afford you more opportunities and an easier path to success. That’s just what hard work and success are about.

You see, I worked hard to get where I am. Sure, I’ve always had my rich parents as a safety net, and no, I’ve never felt stressed about losing my house, nor do I know what it’s like to work a real, entry-level job, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t work to get where I am. It also means that my experience should be applicable to you 100%, and if it’s not, you’re just not trying hard enough, desperate person who is seeking a silver bullet in your trying times. We are one in the same.

And finally, remember…

When you’re ready to get serious, come buy my course on How to Be 100% Productive.

Now on sale for $1699!

What Grief Taught Me About Peace and Happiness

It was nearing the end of September. Though we would still have a few warmer days in Northern Indiana, this particular day was a cool and crisp.

I was dogsitting for a client that lives out in a rural area–a 20-minute drive from my place. It was peaceful, without being in the middle of nowhere. It sits behind the township’s fire station, which I imagine sees very little action. There’s a park just up the road. Neighbors around, but not too close. Secluded, but not isolated.

On this particular fall day, I noticed a lot of the leaves had started to change colors. Mostly yellow, but some orange, too. I love to see the fall colors emerge. I find it interesting how we view the leaves as prettier when they’re dead.

I was taking my time following Lucy, the pit-mix, around the backyard. The rustling wind gave me nostalgic feelings of fall. Stillness so tranquil and hypnotic, it reminded me of how little peace was in me.

In 2009, I did a brief stint in the Navy. That’s another story for another time. But during that time, I wrote one of my favorite poems I’ve ever tried to write. It starts out like this:
“Peace in nature; none in me
What’s the difference? I don’t see”

I thought about it as I stood among the trees–how it’s still true 11 years later. Peace in nature; none in me.

I’m always chasing something. My checklists, “next steps”, and goals exist because I’m a passionate person with a lot of interest and not enough time or energy to direct into everything at once. Often, I am left dissatisfied, unmotivated, or upset by the results.

Failure. Finding out something no longer interests me. Not seeing the results I want. Not seeing the results I want fast enough. Finding out that it wasn’t exactly what it seemed when I first started. It leads to abandoning things halfway through, getting too excited about the next thing, and ending up just as disappointed, frustrated, and longing to fill the void as I was before I started it.

These thoughts get me down, and I spend ample time ruminating on solutions and the pathology behind why I am like this.

This day in September, in a client’s backyard, was one such of these moments. As I was mulling over my motivations and ruminations, I noticed how the trees shrouded the back line of the property, creating a natural fence. There was one particular enclave that enticed me. With branches hanging down in front, and the way it’s positioned relative to the rest of the yard, it was hard to notice at first.

A pathway lined with fallen leaves lead to an enclave of shrubbery and trees.
The Enclave

This small area reminded me of when I was very little, how my grandpa used to take my brothers and me to the “magical forest” behind his house.

September marked 9 years since he passed. He had been in a vegetative state, unable to walk or talk, after a massive stroke in 1999. He was on a ventilator, peg tube, and catheter for 12 years.

September also marked 1 year since my grandmother–his wife–passed suddenly after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. She was only 72.

I grieved my grandfather for years while he was alive. Prayers for his healing turned to prayers for “God’s will”. Hope for him to get better became hoping for him to no longer suffer. You start to believe that maybe he’d be better off in Heaven. That is… if you believed in the first place. I believed for a long time.

I harbored a lot of anger. Why did this have to happen to him? And if God was real and had a “plan” for everything, why was he letting my Papa suffer for so long? Why wasn’t he doing anything? What could be the divine purpose in making my Ganny suffer in taking care of him every day? I was angry that no one was doing anything. There had to be a way to ease his pain, to help him. I even wished that everyone would stop propping him up with life support and just…let things take their course. But, there was no humane, legal, or ethical way to do it and have a guilt-free conscience.

I’m not saying I wanted him to die. But being trapped in a body you have almost no control over with zero autonomous communication ability sounds worse than death. For over 12 years, that was my grandfather’s reality. I carried a lot of frustration, anger, and guilt about the situation. I cried many times.

That was then. I was full of anger and rough around the edges. Nine years later, I’m still angry (but know how to channel it better), but I wonder if I would have had the strength to let go, had I been in my grandmother’s position. Could I have let a nursing home take care of him? Would I have found a way to pull the plug? My Ganny was as strong-willed as she was loving. I can’t say I would have come to a different conclusion in her position. That was the love of her life.

Her passing, on the other hand, was not gradual. I didn’t have time to come to terms with it. She was relatively fine and stable. There was no sign of deterioration or a sudden health decline.

Of course, there were the initial signs in 2018 that something was beginning to go wrong. After a knee surgery in 2018, Ganny exhibited several odd behaviors and showed signs of cognitive dysfunction. She was eventually diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2019. At that point, I knew she wasn’t coming back. I was still unprepared for her death. I expected her to live much longer, and for there to be way more obvious signs that she was about to go. I still grieve her to this day.

But don’t we continue to grieve the dead long after they’re gone? Is that wound ever fully healed? Or is it merely a patch job that breaks open, over and over again, until we, too, are released from our physical suffering?

I stood there, in that nature-made enclave, thinking about all of this. Surrounded by tall trees and gentle wind, I felt peace. For the first time in a long time, I felt peace.

I looked up at the tree tops, swaying in the breeze, and I felt like my grandparents were looking down on me.

I felt like they were comforting me, letting me know it was okay, that they would always be with me.

It was at that moment that I had this epiphany: grieving is such a thing of the “flesh”. It is something our mortal, limited, physical self does in response to pain and sadness. It’s understandable. It’s natural. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to stop grieving while I’m alive on this earth–and that’s okay. It’s designed that way.

I felt comforted knowing that their spirits live on, in some way or another. There’s something beyond this physical realm; something we cannot and will not understand as long as we are mere mortals.

Beyond the physical realm, there isn’t pain and suffering. They’re not grieving us, or no longer being on earth. They celebrate because they’re still with us, all around.

I’m not speaking from a religious place. I’m not speaking as someone who is confirming the afterlife or the existence of angels or ghosts. I’m confirming that I know nothing–about this world or another. I know that I just can’t know everything. That’s okay. It is better to accept that you know nothing. That means anything is possible.

We as humans have this obsession with having the answer. If we can’t prove it, it must not be real. It’s okay to just not know things, or to admit the possibility of other options. It’s so arrogant to think we have all the answers–to think this realm, this plane is the only one. Of course, it could be. This could be all we have.

I don’t think it is. My “proof” is the way I felt amongst the trees. A little less scientific than some of the other claims out there, but this isn’t an academic journal and I’m not a scientist. I’m not even trying to convince you that the afterlife exists. I can’t convince myself that.

There’s just something that speaks to a part of me that I don’t know how to articulate. A part that can’t communicate with words. It speaks in a language I cannot translate. But the most I can say on its behalf is that: we don’t know everything. But we can be comforted in that we don’t have to know everything.

My grandparents are better off. I will miss them. I will always love them. I will always feel that sadness and deep grief from time to time, because my physical time with them has been cut short. But those beautiful moments where I still feel them, still connect with them–that shows me they’re always with me. Out there in the ether, in the spaces between. I feel them. My love is still going out to them and theirs to me.

One thing I grieve is wanting to be able to tell them I love them, one more time. In that moment, I could feel that they knew I loved them. They didn’t have to tell me that. I felt it. It was like something I already knew in my heart and it was being revealed to me.

In this moment, I also thought about how short my time in this earthly body is. I don’t want to waste even a second of doing something that makes me unhappy. Why force myself to make something work that I wasn’t sure of in the first place? And what am I even really sure of? It’s good to experiment, to try things out. But I need to let it go when it doesn’t resonate with me. Not everything will. I can embrace my experiences and point to the list and say, look at all the things I got to try and experience! They’ll have to change “Jack of all trades” to “Jessica of all trades”.

I also thought about how much I want to make a difference. It doesn’t have to be for money. It doesn’t have to be something I go back to school for. I want to make an impact on someone’s life though and throw some good back out in the universe. It inspired me to inquire about volunteer opportunities and look for ways to help.

It also inspired me to think about my family and friends. People already in my life who could use a kind word, a reminder that someone thinks about them and cares about them. Doing good in the world isn’t always an Instagrammable moment or a high-profile volunteer job. It can be intimate, quiet, small.

Finally, I felt this sense of peace and stillness that, two months later, I still can savor. I go back to that moment often and try to preserve it and nurture it with self-care, such as meditation, yoga, journaling, self-compassion, and self-affirmations. Simple moments like just taking time to be mindful, time to listen to myself. A second to evaluate if what I’m doing is bringing me that peace or if it’s driving me farther away.

When I think about my grandparents, I still get sad. I well up with tears, still. Even 2 months after this experience. I cried writing this. But that’s natural. That’s what’s supposed to happen.

It’s okay. I’m comforted knowing they’re around me, that they love me, and that my love for them can still reach them somehow. It’s not lost.

I may grieve them, but that does not mean they are really gone.

Peace in nature; none in me
So I became the birds and trees
Standing mighty, soaring tall
Nature’s medicine cures us all

The new poem’s beginning

I Challenged Myself to 30 Days of Yoga–Here’s How I Feel, What Changed, and How You Can Do It Too

Why do a 30-day yoga challenge? And why talk about it on my blog?

Thanks for asking, self. I’ll tell you.

I have a bad history with perfectionism. It kills a lot of things I would, or used to, enjoy. Yoga has been one of its perpetual victims.

I start off by just doing whatever yoga I feel like by watching online yoga videos. Then, I start getting interested in specific poses I want to do or improve, like headstands, Dancers Pose, or Crow Pose. This also leads into me wanting to build practices around these poses. That sounds fine in theory, but it becomes an obsession for me. Must do flexibility this day. Strength this day. Core this day. Shoulders the next day. If I miss any of them or the schedule gets messed up, I beat myself up and worry I’ll “lose my progress”.

I usually set unrealistic expectations, with videos that would add up to an hour and a half on some days because of all the targets I want to hit–cardio, shoulders, and core, for example. With no formal training of my own, I build my practices by just following online instructors on YouTube. I pick out the videos that suit my needs/goals and go from there.

So, basically, I push myself too much, try to do too much, then when I fail, I get mad at myself for failing, and ultimately I quit. I don’t try to re-tool things, start up again, or re-evaluate. I just quit.

Why try to fix things into a reasonable set of goals and an enjoyable practice when you can just quit and hate yourself?

It really goes against what yoga is about in practice–being in the present, finding balance, don’t focus on doing things perfectly. But I’m a perfectionist, and I have this idealistic version of what I want to achieve. It’s not necessarily fair to myself, nor do I realize that it’s unrealistic or unhealthy at the time. I see myself achieving the goal, and I want to shortcut to it by ramming yoga videos down my own throat until I am successful.

Apparently it doesn’t work that way.

I decided this time I wasn’t going to let quitting be my final legacy. I’m tired of those two extremes: do everything perfectly or don’t do it at all.

I challenged myself to do yoga for 30 straight days to see what would happen. Not to get ripped, not to lose weight, not even to achieve one of my goals, like having flexible shoulders or a strong core.

I wanted to see what I could learn about myself. Could I gain any insights in 30 days of doing one thing over and over? Maybe I would see what dedication and commitment could get me. If only I could overcome my paralyzing perfectionism and just do it.

I didn’t have a plan as to what videos I was going to do or what flows or sequences I would be trying. I just wanted to wing it.

So that’s what I did.

As for why share it with the world? 1) I hope to inspire you to do the same! Or something similar. Sticking with something for 30 days is quite a commitment, and 2) It’s a way to keep accountability.

But before we get into the videos and the included yoga spreadsheet, let’s dive into what I learned on and off the mat.

Yoga is full of transitions. So is life.

Transitioning between poses in a yoga sequence often requires balance and grace. You need good use of the core, an understanding of where you’re going in relation to where you started, and strength to get there. I’m not deft enough to create a direct metaphor out of that to relate to life, but it caused me to reflect on my own life transitions.

Sometimes they’re messy and awkward. Luckily, I don’t have to keep repeating them to get good at them, which is how I get better at them in yoga. And I know my way around some big life transitions.

Coming back to civilian life after only 9 months in the Navy, which I joined at the tender age of 19; working retail after a few years in corporate America so that I would have the flexibility to go back to school on-campus; moving to Indiana to support my current boyfriend as he finishes college.

Even with all my own personal transitions aside, we’re all currently in a state of transition: from normalcy, to life in a pandemic, and now, to creating normalcy within the pandemic. As to whether or not we are handling that with grace and balance, or any real guidance, is not a question to be answered on this blog.

It won’t always be this hard

Some of these practices were harder than others. Some movements were far harder than even the teacher probably intended them to be. I challenged myself as much as I could, coming out sweaty and exhausted on the other side, more than once.

I didn’t even choose any high-power, high-intensity workouts. But sometimes it felt like a workout because I would move between poses and find myself winded and struggling. The movements were more of an effort than I thought they would be for my state of fitness at the time. I used this as a learning opportunity, knowing that I would get stronger and better the next time I had to do that pose or transition.

I related this back to my life. Things won’t always be this hard. We will know a life post-pandemic. I will move back to Tennessee, my home. I will have the life I imagined, even though every year for a long time has felt like the smallest of stepping stones. That’s okay. Even a small step is still a step in the right direction.

I stepped outside my comfort zone

I picked a couple videos during the 30 days that I would have maybe shied away from normally, or put off doing until I was in better shape, mentally and physically. Things that maybe seemed outside my sphere of interest, like Kundalini Yoga, or maybe would have been intimidating, like a 45-minute Hatha flow (I didn’t finish it, but that wasn’t the point).

I wanted to challenge myself. Being successful is subjective and not even the point during this 30 days. Trying is half the battle. Trying is the success.

I put this into practice off the mat, too. I inquired about (Covid-safe) volunteer opportunities with the elderly. I took on a 10-day, 2-client dogsitting stretch that I likely never would have taken on in prior years as a dogsitter, due to my mental health and extra need for recharge and decompression. I got myself back into personal budgeting. I visited my family in Tennessee and continued my yoga practice while in an uncontrolled environment. And, perhaps the biggest move of all, I enrolled in a free bookkeeping certificate, courtesy the state of Indiana!

It’s been a time of growth and reflection, and it’s fun to look back and realize these seemingly small decisions to say yes led to something big.

I want to make a difference, have a real purpose

Just something I realized during my practices. This past summer, I started streaming video games on Twitch. It was a casual thing, but I hit Affiliate, which allows me to begin making money from my streams. That encouraged me to keep going, but as I did, I realized it wasn’t as much fun as I wanted it to be. I felt all my time went toward that, including all the networking and social media time I put in off-stream with Twitter and Discord and watching other people’s streams. I felt off-balance and unhappy. So I quit, at least for a little while.

It occurred to me that as fun as streaming can be (and I will probably even return to it in the future), it’s not ultimately what I want to do in life. I don’t want to be a full-time streamer. I don’t want to put in the work and effort other streamers do. I want to have fun and build a small community and have the friends I do have, but I don’t want it to be my grind.

I want to make a difference. I want to have purpose. I want to help people. That’s been a common theme for me. I think a lot of us feel this urge, this pull to be something greater than ourselves. It can be obscured with the need to make money, or sometimes, just the need to survive.

However, I’m conflating “make a difference” with “make a living”. You don’t have to get paid to make a difference. You can make a living, and separately, in another avenue, make a difference. This is what inspired me to apply for volunteer opportunities, and ultimately, realize what was missing in my life.

It occurred to me also I have friends that I don’t often keep in touch with. Family who I hardly speak to. People in my life I can reach out to and be there for. Isn’t that a greater good? Those around me could use a kind word or two. I know I could. That interaction is so valuable.

Balance is important

Balance is a common theme in yoga, and it’s not just so-called balancing poses, like the popular Tree pose, or Warrior III.

We aim to find balance in all of our practice. Strengthen where it’s needed, and soften everything else. I’ve heard a variation of that line a lot in my yoga videos. What can you let go of? Unclench your jaw, relax your shoulders away from your ears, maybe let go of some worry and negative thoughts, if you can.

I did it when I didn’t feel like doing it

It’s amazing what impact this had on me. So many times (as you’ll see in my notes), I wanted to quit. I didn’t want to practice that day. I felt wiped out or just not in the mood. But there were 0 times during this challenge that I regretted doing the yoga that day. It’s encouraging that it’s only my mind I have to overcome. What I can do if I only try!

Committing to something every day

There’s something to be said about building habits. The consistency of doing something every day really made a difference. It was a foregone conclusion–I am exercising today. Not “will I feel like exercising today?” Not “I might exercise later”. It was already on the calendar. It caused me to reflect on other things in relation to consistency.

What in my life would I have succeeded at if I had committed to doing it for 30 days? What would be different for me if I had done it every day? How much of success comes from just doing something over and over? Not giving up?

Increased self-esteem

Probably the most unexpected side effect is my increased self-esteem. A weird feeling for me, as someone with perpetually low self-esteem. I’m making strides by using self-compassion and positive self-talk. But I didn’t expect daily yoga to help like it did.

My theory is that committing to something every day and following through with it gave me that confidence. It feels good to accomplish things; I think everyone can relate to this. I love the satisfaction of completing tasks, and working out certainly gives me that feeling. Exercise is also a natural mood-booster, thanks to the influx of endorphins that are released. I imagine that helped a great deal.

Exercise is a form of self-care, too. One that I’m coming to accept as a way to nourish my body and take care of it, rather than punish it or use it as an act of self-hate. Self-care is a way to boost self-esteem because it shows yourself that you are worth the time and effort. Doing it over and over can prove to yourself that you deserve to feel good and do things that are good for you.

Seeing my growth in 30 days was really inspiring. When you can see changes and improvements with anything you do, it gives you a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment. I did that! I’m proud of myself! It’s not about vanity or arrogance. It’s about believing in yourself and being happy when your hard work pays off.

I am not above learning something new–or something old

Just because I have a background in doing yoga, and even earlier this year had a much more committed regular practice, does not mean I am some expert yogi. I am forever a learner and student of this practice. I am humbled in my endeavors, almost every day. I am reminded that I can always make progress and improve. But that it’s not ultimately about that. I’m on the mat to better my mind, body, and soul.

Where else can I remain humble?

Still hanging onto perfectionist tendencies

My last day, I intended to do a sequence for my stiff neck, and also a more energizing practice, like a faster-paced flow. However, I was feeling so wiped out that I did just the shoulder and neck practice. I procrastinated with social media and the online assessments for my bookkeeping certification far longer than I should have. It was well past 8pm. I just decided to quit. It felt anti-climactic, and I immediately was mad at myself.

I beat myself up over that the rest of the night, not realizing that it was this kind of thinking I was trying to leave behind. Then, in an even greater twist of irony, I felt bad for feeling bad. It’s day 30! Shouldn’t I know better than to feel like this?

Well, it looks like I could use some self-compassion. It’s okay that I wasn’t perfect, and it’s okay that I realized I still wasn’t perfect after 30-days of yoga. Imagine that. Doing a 30-day challenge of something didn’t irrevocably cure me of being human.

Yeah, those tendencies are still there. But I finished the challenge. I did it every day. That was the challenge, so I was successful! I need a 30-day challenge of self-compassion next.

How to use the spreadsheet

However you want!

It can be a guideline, it can be your step-by-step instruction manual, or it can be a blank canvas for you to fill with what you wish. If you suffer, like me, from being indecisive over having so many choices, the list might be helpful in getting you started.

I didn’t do these videos with any rhyme or reason in mind. I picked them all on a whim, whatever I was feeling in the moment. Sometimes, it was what my body needed. Other times, it was what my soul needed.

So whether you follow exactly like I did, use the blank template, or something in between, I hope you challenge yourself to 30 days of yoga. See what it can do for you.

30-Day Yoga Challenge Journal Template

(And let me know if this link doesn’t work!)

What can you do with 30 days?

People Tell Me I’m “Too Sensitive”–Turns Out They’re Right (and it’s backed by science)

I’ve been called “extra”, “emotional”, “sensitive” all my life. People tell me I need to let things go or to loosen up. I need to just “not worry so much” or “not let things get to me”. Yeah, I hadn’t thought of that, thanks. I’m 31; I’m pretty sure it’s just my personality.

And turns out, it is! I learned what a Highly Sensitive Person was this year. It’s a real thing.

While not classified as a disorder, this trait is recognized in the scientific community, usually referre to as “sensory processing sensitivity”. It’s certainly not rare though, affecting up to 15-20% of people.

My Experience as a Highly Sensitive Person

I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder in 2009, and I consider it to be the explanation for all the things wrong with me. Of course, that’s pretty reductive to say. The disorder itself is just a pathology for my underlying issues. I’ve blamed everything abnormal or non-conforming about me on BPD. Maybe that’s not fair, but I chalk everything up to that. Not as an excuse, but as an explanation to myself. I do x, y, or z? Must a BPD thing. I am not saying that’s right, but it’s what I do when evaluating myself.

I’ve stabilized and improved a lot over the years with my BPD. Thanks to self-compassion work, self-reflection journaling, and of course, good, ole-fashioned DBT work (and some CBT). Another thing that’s not a self-help exercise, per se, is finding passions and creating personal goals.

However, even into my 30s, I realized I was extra sensitive to everything around me. I labeled them as “quirks”, like my Dad would call them. Things I couldn’t explain with Borderline Personality Disorder, despite trying. Here’s some examples:

  • I can’t handle loud, repetitive, or obnoxious noises. Easily my biggest trigger. Someone playing music from their phone speakers, hearing a television from another room that I’m not watching, someone talking while I have headphones on, etc. It’s like nails on a chalkboard. It fills me with rage and anxiety simultaneously.
  • This goes doubly for noises happening at the same time, like multiple conversations happening. I don’t think anyone likes having a lot of competing noises, but I shut down (or lash out) when this happens. I can’t think, much less talk or do any work. This has happened on numerous occasions in work environments because it’s hard to escape, and I struggle to nicely ask people to do something reasonable, like turn down music, or stop talking loudly. This results in me flipping out or sighing passive aggressively and rolling my eyes.
  • I cry easily, for better or for worse. Whether something’s cute and sweet, or sad and tragic, whether it’s a commercial on TV or a cheesy scene in a movie, I’ll probably cry. It’s embarrassing, the type of crap that actually brings tears to my eyes.
  • On a similar note, I “burst with emotion” often. I don’t know how to describe this succinctly. You know what it means to have your heart “swell” in an emotional sense? I get this warm, swelling feeling in my heart when something overwhelmingly beautiful, or sweet, or touching happens. Two best examples of this are a billboard in Nolensville, TN of a Goodwill employee and a magazine aimed at elderly adults. Makes my little heart burst when I see stuff like this. I don’t cry, but I want to. I’m not sure why. They have such sincere, sweet faces. I don’t know; they could be horrible people, but their eyes and disposition in the photo really reaches out to me for some reason.
  • I’m overwhelmed easily, and it goes beyond my ability or inability to handle stress. As a result, I’ve had tons of different jobs and usually didn’t handle my departure in an appropriate manner. This could also be attributed to my BPD, but the fact that things get to me so easily is a broad enough problem that I could explain with either one.
  • I’m easily put off by touch. I’m an affectionate person, but sometimes I don’t even feel comfortable in my own skin. My clothes might suddenly feel itchy or constricting. My boyfriend’s hand on my leg suddenly feels hot and irritating. This is not always the case, but when it does happen, I am never sure what triggers it. Being tired definitely seems to affect this, but outside of that, I don’t know what causes this sudden shift in how I respond to touch or tactile sensations.
  • I’m very particular about my personal space, and I feel cramped and irritated if someone stands too close to me at the grocery store. However, I feel like my personal bubble is a lot larger than average, and it might make me seem like I’m easily agitated or neurotic for needing more space. But it’s just the way I am.
  • Oh, the grocery store. I avoid going out in crowds as much as possible, utilizing delivery and pickup services to minimize my encounters with the “real world”. Honestly, the pandemic has just given me an excuse to do this and be cautious with actual motive, instead of my own personal reasons. In reality, I have massive levels of irritability in crowds, with a thousand things going through my head at once.

    “Am I in their way? Are they in mine?” “Why didn’t they say excuse me?” “Ugh, why is everyone so rude and getting in my way?” “How come I’m the only one being polite?” “Everything is so looooud!” “Everyone’s going in different directions.” “I feel disoriented.” “I’m confused. What am I getting again?” “Oh shit, I nearly ran into someone.” “Someone’s standing too close to me in checkout. ICK.”
  • I’m affected easily by someone else’s mood, energy, tone of voice, regardless of their actual intent. While this can be a positive thing, it often affects me negatively and can lead to a lot of stress and tension, both mentally and physically, as I find myself tensing my muscles, as a result. This is similar to being an empath, which I think crosses paths a lot with being an HSP.
  • My body is sensitive to medications, caffeine and alcohol. I always thought I was just a lightweight, but this is something that a lot of HSPs experience. Our nervous systems respond differently to a lot of these things, being more sensitive to their effects than we otherwise would. This is one reason I stopped smoking pot; regardless of the strand, I seemed to have an adverse reaction, compared to my friends. My solution for this? CBD oil! All the benefits; none of the nasty side effects.

All of this makes me seem fragile, sensitive, high maintenance, or a diva. And maybe I am those things, but my body is literally just more sensitive to stimuli than a “normal” person! So at least I have an understanding of why.

Traits of a Highly Sensitive Person

Being highly sensitive is not a diagnosis. It’s not a psychiatric condition or a personality disorder. It is real, definable, and observed in the psychology world. According to the Dr. Elain Aron, the spearhead behind the HSP movement, here are just some of the traits, as she’s observed:

  • Easily overwhelmed or overstimulated by bright lights, loud noises, strong smells, certain textures.
  • Pressured and overwhelmed by time limits and deadlines.
  • Strong reaction to violence or gore in TV, film, or video games.
  • Need privacy and alone time to recharge after hard days (this could also be true of introverts, but there is often overlap).
  • Avoiding upsetting or overwhelming things, going as far as to re-arrange or re-prioritize things in your life.
  • Noticing subtleties in things like food, drink, smells, etc.
  • Often seen or perceived by others as sensitive or shy.

You can take her self-test to see if you meet the criteria for a Highly Sensitive Person.

“But Isn’t Everyone Like This to a Degree? “Or, “Doesn’t This Apply to ADHD/Autism/Empaths/Introverts?”

Now I’m no expert on this topic. I’m reading the research and writing of others who have done the actual work and understand this stuff way better. I do know sensory processing sensitivity will overlap with other traits and descriptions, particularly of introverts, empaths, and people with ADHD, anxiety, or autism. That doesn’t mean you can’t be both or that you ARE both. It’s up to you to come to that conclusion, if you’re an HSP.

I’m not going to be diving into the differences between all these things because it’s just not my place to do that. The HSP website has an FAQ that addresses this a little bit, if you’re curious. Ultimately, it’s up to you to make this discernment.

How I Cope with the Negatives of Being an HSP

I think being highly sensitive comes with a number of positives, like being incredibly empathetic and being able to read people easily. However, a lot of being highly sensitive is negative, and I spend a lot of my time recovering from, coping with, or responding to irritating, overwhelming stimuli.

Here, I want to discuss ways to cope with being overwhelmed, specifically the way I cope. If you’re curious, you can browse the HSP subreddit, find another forum, or another person’s blog to get more personal experience. I am just one voice here.

First of all, we’re not talking about how to stop being highly sensitive. It’s just a personality trait, like being gregarious, or assertive, or stubborn. I can’t be “fixed” because I’m not broken. Others might see me as too much to handle or too dramatic, but that’s okay. I am just being myself.

So, with that out of the way, how do I cope with being over-stimulated and always annoyed?

That’s a great question! One I’ve been constantly trying to answer myself.

  • My number one method is distraction, distraction, distraction. Headphones are my favorite defense. Of course, if you were paying attention in the section about how I’m affected, as an HSP, you will have already noticed that people talking while I’m listening to music is incredibly distracting and annoying. However, for most other noises and things, it’s a very good block.
    I also rely heavily on YouTube videos, podcasts, and Twitch!
  • In a similar vein, wearing earplugs at night. Loud neighbors, snoring boyfriend, rambunctious cat? Earplugs help. They do a pretty good job of blocking most noises, though they’re not 100% soundproof. Also, you have to wear them right! Which I definitely wasn’t the first time I tried them.
  • Knowing when to walk away is huge. Sometimes you might sit and stew, thinking you just need to tough it out and be more tolerant. No. Screw that. Walk away. Who cares if you’re being sensitive? That’s literally what this whole post is about! You are sensitive. Just walk away and save your mental health.
  • Recovery afterward is sometimes the only thing you can do. If I’ve had a stressful, draining day, I make it an absolute top priority to recharge. Forget your responsibilities. They can wait another night. Or at least an hour, if you absolutely have something due that night. But pretty much everything can wait if you’re feeling mentally drained. I know what recharges me. Quiet time, laying down, turning off my brain while I watch something. Sometimes it’s me working on something, sometimes it’s reading a book, sometimes it’s a nice hot, bath, sometimes it’s doing some self-compassion work. It just depends on what I feel like I need. Find out what you need to recover.

This is my personal experience being a newly-found HSP. I hope you find it helpful! If you’re an HSP, share your experience with me. If you aren’t, what do you think about it? How does it differ from your mentality and experience?

The Heaviness of Impermanence

We are not permanent;
We’re Temporary, Temporary
Same old story

-Foo Fighters, “The Pretender”

I made a major life change in August of 2019. I moved to Indiana, from my home state of Tennessee, to support my boyfriend, as he finished his engineering degree at Purdue University.

The original plan was for him to graduate in December 2020 and for us to move back to Tennessee ASAP. Both of our families are there. I have a son who decided not to move with me to Indiana. Everything I know is there, plus better job prospects for both of our careers. But, the best laid plans, of mice and men, often go awry.

We didn’t do any of this the right way, so we decided to do it the wrong way. Eventually, things came together. We found a place, at the last minute, in July (because July is such a good time to look for housing in a college town). We switched on our utilities and internet, registered our vehicles with the state (I personally had to go to the BMV at least 4 times), and updated our mailing addresses on everything we could think of. It was chaotic and messy, and this barely brushes the surface of it. Let’s just say, I’m dreading my next move.

As I settled into our new life in Indiana, I got used to having Meijer and Menards, hard liquor in CVS, and lots of factories and farms. It was different, but not unfamiliar. Some backroads made me feel like I was still in Tennessee, even though I was 6 hours away from home. I remember my dad saying that 6 hours wasn’t so bad. I agreed with him until I actually moved. It’s felt light years away on most days.

But as our boxes unpacked and things found their place long enough for dust to settle, I started to feel like maybe I was already home. We went through a lot of trouble for it to be a temporary residence.

It’s so easy to make plans before they actually happen, isn’t it?

I wanted it to be cut and dried–move to Indiana, Colby gets his degree, then we move back. But knowing there was a deadline from the beginning certainly took me out of the moment. I didn’t want to get comfortable or commit to anything long-term, like friendships, volunteer programs, or career goals.

Following a temp project and a month of crippling unemployment, I got a full-time job in November 2019. I really liked being in an office environment and not in a customer-facing position. My coworkers and boss were cool, and it was overall low stress. It was quite the reprieve after years in retail hell.

Unfortunately, I knew from the beginning that my time there had an expiration date. I even had an approximate date in mind. When my coworkers questioned me about it, I tried to stay vague, saying “we’ll see what happens”, and being non-committal. But it tugged at my heart. I wanted to stay; I like feeling like I belong.

I don’t want to get comfortable though because I know I’ve got to pick back up and do all of this again in the next year or so.

Welcome to my state of impermanence.

But I told myself I could still visit Indianapolis (45 minutes away) and Chicago (2 hours away). I could still do things and make my mark on the state, while it made its mark on me. I didn’t have to let the temporary weigh me down.

And then March 2020 happened.

When everything first locked down in March, I was panicked, like a lot of other people. To what extent would this virus ravage the entire planet? Would this be plague-like levels of decimation around the world? Would people close to me get sick and die? Would I get sick and die?

As Covid-19 progressed and things got worse, we realized the end might not be in sight. That coming out of lockdown and reopening wouldn’t leave the coronavirus behind. Our new normal–masks in public, reduced shopping hours, increased safety precautions, half-capacity restaurants–might be happening for a long time. That is, if the government doesn’t force us back into lockdown because of the alarming rate of new cases.

I’ll just be blunt: it’s freaking scary to live during a pandemic. We are indefinitely in the throes of chaos, waiting, having no idea what will happen or when. It’s scary. The unknown is always scary. As humans, we just don’t like it. It’s unsettling to not be able to know the future, much less control it. We might have some educated predictions or vague ideas, but nothing is certain right now.

That uncertainty is a burden to carry around all the time. Whether we are thinking about it or not, it’s always there, silently dictating our actions and feelings behind the scenes. I’ve felt low energy and low mood on days with absolutely no reason to feel like that. Listlessness and boredom seemingly out of thin air. Randomly feeling hopeless about my own goals; a sense of nihilism in pursuing anything I love. Of course, I’m prone to depression, so it’s easy to blame that, but I don’t have a lot of the other hallmarks of the disorder right now. I think I’ve overall been a good place mentally, it’s just this weight that seems to press down on me.

And it’s not just me. The pandemic is wreaking havoc on our mental health. It’s not good to carry around so much uncertainty and fear. Anxiety and depression are on the rise, and these are just early numbers. We feel helpless. We feel hopeless. We feel scared. None of us have a clue what to do. We’re just doing our best. I, for one, am big on distractions, staying connected via online and phone to people I care about, and just trying to take care of myself.

I was already living in the temporary because of my Indiana/Tennessee situation, but the pandemic just kicked it into a new gear. I am living my life in the ephemeral; it’s not just a passing state anymore. Isn’t that ironic? Temporary is supposed to mean for a short while, not permanent. But it feels like it’ll be the default, forever.

It won’t, of course. We won’t live exactly like this forever. Things will stabilize one day. Even if the virus sticks around, we will develop a vaccine. Maybe not soon, but one day. We will re-adapt to life after the pandemic. Maybe it won’t be the pre-pandemic life we knew, but we will adapt. Humans are good like that. We will find “normal” again, whatever that will mean when we get to it. I will also move back to Tennessee, settle down in a nice house, find a good job, and live in a state of permanence one day.

But right now, hanging out in the temporary feels icky. 

I’m doing my best to focus on short-term goals and give myself moments of joy. I’m focusing on the “here and now”, even if the here and now isn’t a great place to be.

Honestly, there’s not much else I can do besides that.

I can only control my actions and behaviors. I can’t control the pandemic. I can’t make time move faster. I can’t predict my own future outside of Covid, much less factoring that in. So I am doing things in my own little world, staying connected to those outside of it, and staying the hell away from people.

I hope you’re doing the same, in your state of impermanence.

(Also, please wear your mask in public, or at the VERY LEAST, stay the hell away from people when you go out.)