The Honest New Year Post


I have come to enjoy changing years and the opportunity it gives me for reflection, rebeginnings, and dreaming for the future. Because of that, I’ve been excited about writing this post for several weeks.

But as I actually sit down to write, it’s hard to find words. My mental health isn’t bad this weekend, per se, but it’s acting up, and things are muted. Enjoyment is hard to find, and words–at least the good ones–even more scarce. (Just writing this post is a way of fighting back, of trying to live through the discomfort of this low rather than numbing it.)

If I can’t find my own words, I’ll use words from someone else; Continue reading

Reflections on Christmas Incongruity


Yesterday I listened to Christmas music on my commute for the first time. It was energetic and happy and evoked good memories, so it was a good start to the day.

But Christmas music also created some dissonance. See, it was 80 degrees yesterday. 100% humidity. I had the A/C on in my car, I was wearing a sleeveless blouse, and all the vegetation here is still green.

Do you know that almost all Christmas songs assume cold weather? They’re all “roasted chestnuts” and “snowmen” and “baby, it’s cold outside.”

It’s not cold outside, and I’m not staying over. Thank u, next.

I love where I live. Florida has been fantastic for me, health-wise. The sunshine and warmth provide a stable baseline for my mentality. They don’t keep me from anxiety or depression or whatever else, but they do tend to make it less severe for me. The sunshine alone is good for most people. That’s why Seasonal Affective Disorder is so prevalent.

So why do I feel this weird dissonance when I listen to this Christmas music in my tropical paradise? Because Christmas marketing is all about selling a winter wonderland. The music, the advertisements, the movies, the outfits. It’s selling a specific experience of bonfires and snow and a glorious celebration of the cold.

Don’t we all feel incongruity when our lived experience doesn’t match the vision we’re being sold? We worry that something’s wrong with us. We try not to talk about it, to keep everyone else from discovering that we don’t fit the mold. Maybe we lose track of our real feelings and desires.

Because the truth is, I hate cold. It’s bad for my mental health, and I only enjoy tiny, tiny snippets of the experience. I’m sickeningly happy to be in Florida, to be able to write you this article from my back porch because it’s warm enough for me to do that. I don’t even have fond memories of cold Christmases from childhood, because I grew up in south Alabama!

Maybe sometimes we’re not actually unhappy with our circumstances, we’re just unhappy because our circumstances are different. And being different can be hard.

Book review: First, We Make the Beast Beautiful


beastFirst, We Make the Beast Beautiful
Sarah Wilson
Non-fiction

Sarah Wilson approaches anxiety disorders with bracing honesty, reassuring credibility, and aching softness. Weaving personal experience, professional research, and inspiration from a number of outside sources–friends, gurus, writers–she offers an exploration of anxiety that’s great for everyone.

It’s not a how-to, an exhaustive research compendium, or a first-person narrative. Instead, she pulls the best elements of each to create a one-of-a-kind book for a deeply varied experience. Continue reading

Lyse Links: Mental Health Edition


Today I want to share some of the most powerful readings I’ve come across about mental health. The more I’ve read and talked to people, the more I’ve realized the frequency and severity of the mental health difficulties plaguing many of the people I know and love. Those same problems are probably affecting the people you know and love. Talking about and better understanding mental health heals us all.

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“Thinking of suicide is a sign of a medical emergency.” Continue reading

Seasons Changing


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A stunning number of my photos are just about the sun

Are you looking forward to the seasons changing? (It is not fall for another 2 weeks)

I’m not. Summer is the only season I like at all. I can vaguely appreciate the joys of the other seasons, but I would be happy with eternal summer for a very, very long time. I revel in sun and heat and long days.

So this Sea Wolf song (Seasons Changing) has me thinking: Continue reading

Book Review: Puddin’


PuddinNEW-678x1024I’m scared to review this book.

Honestly. I’m scared I’ll say something wrong. I’m scared I’ll step over the lines of what I can share online, or that I’ll hurt someone’s feelings. But I want to talk about it. So here goes.

I read Ramona Blue & Dumplin’ very late last year, and I was excited to find Puddin’ at the library. It carries on the story of some of the characters from Dumplin’ and honestly that’s about all I knew going in.

After a long Monday, I knew it was time to disconnect from my computer for awhile, and Puddin’ was the perfect book for that. I read it straight through in a single sitting, and it was absolutely the breath of fresh air I needed. Continue reading

Tired Legs, Sloppy Trails


I ran today for the first time in a week. Last week I came down with a cold and decided to skip 2 runs and rest. With the end of the semester, a full-time job, and a move this week, I had plenty of other responsibilities to sap my energy! But I’m on the tail-end of the sickness now and I really wanted to get back to training. So tonight was a short warmup run and I’m hoping to do a long run tomorrow and jump back up to my target mileage.

[Sidebar: I’m really close to hitting 50 miles for the month. If I’d stuck with my training program, I’d have passed that mark easily, but now I’m scheming how to get a run in on moving day. That’s a shocking and encouraging number to me, so I’d really like to experience that milestone.]

So after work tonight I loaded the dog up and headed out to my favorite local park. It’s a great place with a dog park and miles of trails. We’ve had a few days of rain, so I knew the trails would be pretty messy and they were! My legs are covered in dirt and mud splashes. I had a nasty side stitch partway through and I had to stop a few times–to deal with dog or observe wildlife or whatever–but it felt great to get back out.

[Sidebar again: speaking of wildlife, check out these photos and video from the park! Continue reading

Layering Experiences to Achieve Peak Happiness


“What you do every day matters more than what you do once in a while.”

–Gretchen Rubin

I agree with most of Gretchen Rubin’s happiness and habits advice, but not this particular concept. Maybe that’s just because I’m bad at doing things every day. As a hard-core Rebel, I find routines and daily responsibilities stifling and unhappy-making. But I enjoy certain amounts of consistency and routine in my life. Obviously, routine and novelty conflict, so I’ve spent some time thinking through the right balance. Here’s the framework that works for me.

But first, a caveat: Gretchen’s advice works very well for certain types of habits. Something relatively mundane, like flossing, you can likely add into your daily routine with relatively little psychological backlash. My issue is more with lifestyle changes meant to create more happiness.

Layered Experiences

At the base of Gretchen’s advice is the idea that you need certain actions to become automatic in order to form a habit. That’s true, and it’s good advice (especially in an area like exercise), but we can extract a major benefit without having to do the same things every day. For me, the benefit of repeating certain actions comes in the layering of the experience, not the streak of daily accomplishment.

What is layering experience?

For me (and perhaps you? perhaps everyone?), Continue reading