(broad)ject self homework day #1: sleep!

The homework in last night's (broad)ject self "Self-Care When...You're Tired" was as follows:
"Your homework this week is to diagnose your bad sleep habits and try and break one of them. I’m going to try to abandon the snooze button and I will report back next week."

I was doomed from the start. I slept in until about 9:30am on Sunday morning and took an hour nap in the afternoon. MISTAKES WERE MADE. Then I was somehow surprised when my podcast timer shut off this week's 'Roderick on the Line' and I was left awake in silence. I should have followed my own damn advice and gotten out of bed and done...anything...for 20 minutes before trying to fall asleep again. Instead, I thrashed around and got increasingly agitated.

It came as no surprise to me then at 6am this morning when my alarm proclaimed "Yoga or read, dude" that I did neither. In fact, I snoozed for 35 minutes until I was on the verge of missing the late train. Great start to a Monday!

Still, I was heartened to see that the Globe & Mail dedicated their 'Life & Arts' section to sleep today.

1) In short: you may be sleep-deprived, but no more than your ancestors

2) In short: The podcast 'Sleep with Me' is weird but great (and I already recommended it to you)

3) In short: If you can't sleep, get up and get something done

The upside for me is that if I've had a bad sleep on one night, I'm usually pretty good to get to sleep on time the following. Wish me luck (and morning yoga). I'll report back!

Yule (B)log: Day Three: A Room of One's Own

When we decided to move in with David's mother after we were forced out of our apartment, I declared from the first instant that I would be taking over the finished basement room. As it stood, it was just a storage space for books, furniture, and a lifetime's worth of National Geographic Magazines. David said I was welcome to it, but that he did not intend to spend any time down there, as he had never enjoyed being there as a kid.

It took a while for me to get everything organized, including the acquisition of a reading chair and the expulsion of a lot of stuff that was going to Belleville, but it really became my own space this summer. I have my desk and my laptop, plus bonus screen for when I work from home. I have my big TV and cable. I have my reading chair and all the books I decided to unpack (which was mostly the ones I am very attached to or haven't read yet). I have the bar cart. I have snacks. I have room to do yoga. I even have a bathroom.

I always took Virginia Woolf's essay to be metaphorical in a certain sense, but I have a room of my own now and it is GLORIOUS. With David gone during the week, I have dinner and make small talk with my mother-in-law, and then I change into my soft clothes and head into my cave. Everything I need is down here, so I can work, watch TV, read, or nap as I like. I particularly love weekend days in the winter where I can just come down and loll about without feeling guilty about enjoying being outside. If I bring snacks I don't have to leave for hours.

The most interesting thing is that, despite all David's protestations that he'd never come down, he comes down all the time when he's home. Since my MIL never comes in, it then becomes our sanctuary to have a quiet conversation or watch a movie or just sit quietly on our phones with the cats.

My Sian Cave is something I will fight to keep even when we don't live with my MIL (someday), especially, I think, when we have kids (eventually). I don't need a craft room or games room, but I do need a room where Momma can be herself no matter what. 

Yule (B)log: Day One: Soft Clothes

One of my favourite internet people is Amber Adrian. I don't even remember how I started reading her, but in the last year she's launched an endeavor surrounding supporting writer's in their creativity. She also live-tweeted her father's death, which gave me great comfort for when I am faced with the same eventuality, and wrote a beautiful piece on the miscarriage of an unplanned pregnancy (which I recommend you read if you're in an emotional place to do so). At any rate, she decided to undertake a project called Yule (B)log, wherein she'd blog every week day in December and Twitter nudged me to take part. Here I am.

I am having a terrible day. It's one of those days where everything is going wrong, nothing is within my control, and I am serving as a go between for (seeming) lunatics who are at cross-purposes. So that seemed like a good opportunity to talk about what of my recent obsessions: soft clothes.

I have stolen the term from Judge John Hodgman (who in turn gives credit to Paul F. Tompkins), but I believed in soft clothes even before I head the word. Basically, soft clothes are the clothes you change into when you get home from work. They are not pajamas, per say, but comfortable garments you can lounge around the house in. You do not leave the house in them.  I am a great believer in soft clothes that are not pajamas, because I believe it's a great way to signal to your body that it's time to relax (but not sleep). When it's time to go to bed, then you roll out the pajamas. I don't workout in soft clothes or even do yoga (unless it's specifically a bedtime series). Soft clothes are for reading on the couch, watching TV, or even messing around on the computer.

The most important part for me, as a lady with ladies, is a soft bra. There is no greater feeling then coming home after work and peeling off the old underwire. But I don't necessarily feel comfortable going bra-free, so I got this amazing bra that is soft, comfortable, and sufficiently supportive for around the house. With it, I have a pair of modal lounge pants, tank, and a long-sleeved shirt from Banana Republic (sadly, they don't make them anymore). I actually keep a set in the apartment in Belleville too, so I am never without.

Investing in soft clothes that make you feel safe and happy is a worthy act of self-care that signals to your body and your brain that the workday is done. Particularly in the winter months, there is no better feeling than walking home in the chill knowing that you have soft clothes (and everything else they entail), waiting for you.

In Short: Self-Care When You've Received Negative Feedback

I had a customer meeting this morning about a longstanding issue and we were hoping we'd finally identified the people who might be able to help us solve it.  It was a reasonably productive meeting, with lots of good takeaways.

I had driven up with my boss and as we drove away from the meeting she said, "So, you were pretty frustrated in that meeting." I readily agreed, as the action items they were requesting moving forward were things I had already been doing for months, but clearly no one had been paying attention. "Yeah," she replied, "it was really obvious." She continued to say that we have to go along to get along and other assorted comments about playing nice.

The conversation moved on, but I was rattled. I take constructive criticism very seriously, as I think it's worth its weight in gold. No-one likes to give it, no-one knows how to take it, and then we all end up not knowing how we can improve and getting blindsided when someone critiques us. I am always telling my managers that I want more of it. And yet somehow, it was really hard to hear.

Part of it is that no-one likes to screw up and I didn't want to be responsible for damaging the working relationship we have with this customer. I am a fast learner when it comes to this stuff and I won't make this particular mistake again. Every time I'm in a meeting from this day forward, until the day I die, I will remember my boss's comment and do my damnedest to keep frustration off my face and out of my voice.

But the real challenge I have with this particular feedback is that it touches a nerve for me. If you know me, you know I am loud, expressive, and an emotive open book. I am a lot of human. I own those characteristics, because they make me who I am. To not be any of those things would be to not be myself, to hide, to mute my personality. Generally, people can like it or lump it (and sometimes, they lump it, which is their right). Was it inappropriate to be frustrated in that particular meeting, with those particular stakeholders, over that particular topic? Did they even notice or was it just something my boss was sensitive to because she herself is quite expressive?

I will not be quiet because I make you uncomfortable but...sometimes we have to adapt to the circumstances and our environment.

I came back to my office and I ate my feelings in the form of someone's kid's rejected Halloween candy. That is not self-care. I noticed walking back from chatting with someone across the office that my shoulders were practically touching my ears because I was so tense. That is not self-care.

I should have made a cup of tea instead of mainlining tiny Twix and Crispy Crunch. I should have done a vinyasa at my desk and stretched it out before trying to plunge back into work. I should have forgiven myself for being frustrated and resolved to do better instead of sitting here obsessing over it.

But here we are. Water bottle fresh and full. 5 minute cubicle stretch break. Deep cleansing breath. Loop the shoulders. Onwards.

Self-Care When...You Fall Off the Self-Care Wagon

I should know better. 

After months of contemplating self-care and smugly defining what it meant for me and what it could mean for other people...After months of work developing a theory and a spectrum and starting to focus group the ideas...After allowing myself to imagine I was well on my way to becoming some internet celebrity self-help guru...After all that, do you know what I did? I went on a six night "vacation" to my parents house and acted liked some kind of demonic hair-shirted martyr. 

It's true that the purpose of the trip was to help my fiancé do a bunch of tasks around the house that would in turn help my parents, who have had a Very Hard Year. But we were by no means treated like indentured servants, and instead offered many opportunities to rest and relax. I just didn't take any of them. I ignored all of my pillars of self-care. Worse, actually, I completely forgot they ever existed. I didn't floss, I didn't wear sunscreen, I didn't hydrate, and my sleep hygiene was poor. I had created a protocol of self-care activities to enact in a crisis, a bare minimum required to keep my sanity intact, and I didn't do any of those either. But Slurpees and Starbucks every day? Sure. One measly run. My physio exercises like they never existed. Yoga? Never heard of it.

So, it would be a surprise to no-one to discover that upon our return, after less than six hours of sleep, I was a complete hopeless disaster. Starbucks breakfast (did I have milk for cereal at the office?). Starbucks lunch (no leftovers to bring). Questionable hydration. After almost a week of not taking care of myself with the belief that other people needed my time more than I needed my time, the wheels had completely fallen off the bus.

It's easy in these situations to launch a "fuck it" cycle, telling yourself that since you're already so deep down a hole that there's no point in trying to climb out until tomorrow. Maybe even Monday. But mid-afternoon, I remembered a new mantra I've added to my motivational lexicon. "Today is not over yet." So. Fill up the water bottle. Do a vinyasa in my cubicle. Find an easy work task to start with and rock it out until home-time. Make a plan for what I need to do tonight. Shake it Off.

We are useless to our employers, colleagues, friends, and families if we tap ourselves out in the belief that our needs matter less than theirs. It doesn't matter how good your self-care intentions are unless you are willing to Do the Work. Self-care is hard. It takes time. It takes time away from our loved ones. But that makes it no less worthwhile.

It's 9:00pm on a Sunday. Today is not over yet. What's your move?