Finding Magic In the Mundane

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ConsiPhoto by Pixabay on Pexels.com (because I forgot to snap a photo – I need to work on that. This oldie looks pretty cool though, in my opinion. I’d drive it.)

Let me set the scene:

Springtime is a reprieve in the desert. It’s a reprieve from sweltering hot, dry days and from the gloom of the not-quite-winter that rolls through for about four months out of the year. (Side note: I currently live near Las Vegas.) On this particular day, a few days ago, you could smell the sky like fresh laundry, a quiet blue blanket overhead, a gentle breeze making the trees dance. The sun did not beat down. Instead, it caressed your skin as it mosied towards the edge of the horizon to kiss the world goodnight.

These were my observations as I was sitting in a very long line at our local In-N-Out™ drive through, window rolled down, country music playing on Spotify™ via my (crackly) car stereo. I was paying little mind to the two order takers going from car to car, doing their best to take orders at every vehicle before the line started moving again. (If they weren’t quick enough, they would get a quick reprimand from their shift manager, who was standing idly by, bless their hearts.)

After they took my order, I lounged leisurely in the driver’s seat, shifting just enough to safely accelerate my car when I needed to creep towards the window as the line ahead of me moved. It was sitting in my car, waiting for the line to move, that I was suddenly overcome by a wave of peace. I was struck by how beautiful the world around me was, and I thought to myself, “this is perfect. This is exactly what I needed.”

And then I laughed out loud at the irony of having this moment as I was sitting in a fast-food drive-through ordering double cheeseburgers and fully loaded french fries for myself and my fiance.

Here’s the thing, though.

I’ve understood for pretty much my entire life that happiness and magic exist in what are seemingly the most mundane and ordinary moments.

The complexities of adulthood sometimes make me forget this. It takes quiet moments (and sometimes unusual scenarios) to bring that wisdom back to me.

I have come to understand that, as human beings, we can’t find something that we aren’t looking for (and I don’t mean your car keys). People who look for joy tend to find joy. People who look for the good in others tend to find the good in others. Vice versa, people who look for the negative, tend to find the negative and are the most susceptible to fear – and maybe you haven’t heard, but “the only thing [you] have to fear is fear itself.” (At least, according to Franklin D. Roosevelt. I tend to agree.)

I, for one, choose to look for everyday magic. Things like fresh lilies on the kitchen table, talking to my daughter when she turns into a tiny boxer in my tummy, and being playful with my fiance give me that everyday magic feeling.

I was asked to write a post about all things positive. Instead, I’m choosing to make this a post about how to help you find the positive (and the magic in the mundane).

How do you look for magic and positivity when you feel yourself living in a state of doom and gloom?

First of all, tell yourself to stop swimming in it.

Seriously. Say that out loud.

Second of all, remember that you don’t have to put pressure on yourself to feel positive and motivated all the time. That’s not realistic (even when we aren’t under quarantine).

Treat your negative thoughts like passersby, not like residents or long term visitors. I can’t take credit for this one (I’m pretty sure I saw the advice on an Instagram™ post), but I’ve found it to be a great metaphor for my personal approach to spiraling thought patterns.

Negative thoughts and emotions happen, and it’s important to acknowledge them. Don’t try to pretend you don’t have them – that’s the equivalent of letting a wound fester and not telling your doctor. It’s stupid to lose a leg over a minor injury that would’ve been healed already if you had just acknowledged it was injured and cared for it properly. Consider this when you just want to get the bad thoughts and feelings out of the way because they make you uncomfortable. Secrets make you sick.  (Have you ever been to TWLOHA’s website? If you have, you may recognize this saying from there.)

Once you’ve acknowledged the negative thoughts and emotions, once you’ve given them a little time to breathe, give them a smile (you can take this as literally…or not…as you’d like). Imagine them floating away. Give them a name and tell them thanks for stopping by, please (don’t) come again. Think of one positive thought; flip the negative thought on its head, think of something you’re grateful for, or something you have to look forward to.

It might sound something like this:

“Gah, I’m so tired lately. I have all of this time on my hands, and I feel like I can’t get anything done, and this quarantine is messing with a lot of the plans my fiance and I had over the next few months, and it’s stressing me out. But it’s okay – I have this beautiful new home that my fiance and I live in together. Shoot, I have a roof over my head. I’ve been able to acquire things that we need (and don’t) through the modern convenience of online shopping (keeping the economy alive!), and my fiance and I started painting our daughter’s room today, which feels like progress. Oh, and thanks to current events, I found the inspiration to start this blog that I’ve been sitting on for three years! Not to mention the Final Fantasy 7 remake is out, and we have fresh food in our refrigerator, and I have a beautiful mixer to use when I want to bake and everything I need to make a cake…mm cake…”

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Painting the nursery <3

It’s a magic trick for the mind.

Of course, if you try to replace your negative thoughts with positive thoughts and it starts to feel like you’re just trudging through the deep end of the swimming pool of negativity (which happens too), take a deep breath. You can always take a nap, put on a funny movie, watch funny videos on YouTube™, do a web search for positive news stories (the Good News Network appears to be a good place for that), scroll funny memes, or put on a positive playlist.

You could even try to make a list of five activities that bring you joy (that are accessible to you in your current situation) and try to do one of them.

And, of course, if you’re struggling with a mental health issue, addiction, abuse, or anything else, and quarantine is exasperating your situation, remember that you are not alone. You can try the Crisis Text Line or 4help.org, or any of the other resources from my previous post.

And here’s the takeaway: If you feel overwhelmed by your current situation, concentrate on one thing that feeds your soul. Acknowledge your negative thoughts and feelings. Smile. Try to let gratitude trump negativity. And when you speak, speak with intention. Speak to spread joy. Speak mindfully.

You have to lift yourself up if you want to lift others up with you, and you can’t find something you aren’t looking for.

Consider these ponderings, and you too could feed your soul at the In-N-Out™ drive-through.

Or…feed your soul with In-N-Out™, or whatever else floats your boat.

In all seriousness, let me know what’s feeding your soul these days. Leave it in the comments if you feel like it…you never know who might need to hear your take on finding joy during this quarantine.

Keep your chins up!

Alexandra

 

 

 

 

Game. Changer.

Guys. I just learned about this idea that changed my life, and it was such a huge light bulb moment for me that I just have to share it with all of you.

Before I can share this idea though, I have to give you a little back story on how I came across it:

Yesterday was a hard day for me. You see, I have anxiety. We all have some level of anxiety, and with everything in the world going on right now, I know a lot of you are feeling more anxious than usual. I take medication for my anxiety though, and I have seriously mixed emotions about it.

Despite being a psychology major, a huge supporter of the mental health movement, and a strong believer in the power of getting help when you’re ready and when you need it, I still struggle with the idea of taking a pill for my mental health. Even though I’ve struggled with anxiety and bouts of severe depression since I was a child, it took me until I was 29-years-old to decide that yoga, meditation, and self-help videos just weren’t cutting it. I was so frazzled and stressed I went to my psychologist and bluntly told her (in a semi-joking matter) that I wanted drugs.

I’ve been on these drugs for a few months now, but for the last two days, I decided not to take said drugs.

I’m in quarantine. I’m pregnant. I have an out of control amygdala even on my best days. This was a terrible, terrible life choice for me, and I have been…not the best version of myself for the last two days.

(This morning, I woke up and apologized profusely to my fiance, informing him that I guess I’m just a lunatic without my medication and I shouldn’t have made the decision to just stop taking it by myself. Bless his heart – he just hugged me and told me not to apologize.)

Now the part I’m excited to talk about.

ESSENTIALISM.

Before last night, I’d never heard of this idea before, and in less than 24 hours I can attest that the philosophy of essentialism is kind of a game-changer.

Whenever I feel like my life is spiraling out of control, I tend to turn to self-help books, youtube videos, and google searches. I reach for other people who have free advice to offer, willing to implement just about any exercise or way of thinking to get back to a place of centeredness.

Last night, after a full day of bawling my eyes out and a day and a half of not sleeping, I found myself on the YouTube channel of Rowena Tsai. (She’s great by the way. She started her channel in order to “[encourage her] peers to take an honest and sober look at their lives to see if they’re living the life they proactively choose to live. And if they’re not, to find the courage to do something about it”, according to her profile.)

The video on her page that I watched can be found here: the one habit that is changing my life: set systems rather than goals.

In the video, she starts out discussing how she uses systems to embrace the journey to reaching goals, rather than just focusing on a laundry list of goals, and how changing habits and setting systems are what causes lasting changes in our lives. Then she gets into the idea of choosing to prioritize the essential in your life over the non-essential.

The video itself isn’t about just essentialism, although I still recommend the video.

During her tidbit on choosing the essential, she mentions in passing the book where her ideas on choosing the essential originated from:

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Which, if you’re interested, you can buy here, or here (these links redirect you to Barnes and Noble and Amazon, respectively). I’m sure you can also find it anywhere else books are sold. (The Book Depository is one of my personal favorite online stores.)

If you aren’t a big reader, you don’t currently have the funds, or you just want the short version, I found a fantastic and helpful summary of the main ideas of essentialism at Top Results Academy.

The above resources will give you a more in-depth understanding of what essentialism is, but I’m going to give you the down and dirty version right now:

Essentialism is recognizing that the majority of things we prioritize in life don’t actually matter, and there are only a few things that do. It’s all about the power of choice, and not giving that power away. It’s choosing what problems you want, because everything we do in life has “problems” that come with it. If we can narrow down what the most important things in life are to us, it will help us choose how to best spend our energy, how to set our long term goals, and more importantly, how to set milestones that help us reap the joy of our efforts in the now. It’s about having powerful boundaries and not letting people break them. It’s about recognizing that prioritizing time for ourselves to recharge is equally as important as other “priorities” we set for ourselves. And my favorite part: essentialism is a way of thinking. It’s a practice. Understand the basics and tailor it to your own life.

BOOM.

My brain exploded.

I love to-do lists. I put a hundred things on my to-do lists every day and somehow things still get neglected. Important things, like my health, and the love of my life who just hugs me and tells me not to apologize when I have anxiety meltdowns.

So, this morning, I sat down with my notes on essentialism and wrote down my top three priorities. They are as follows:

#1: MY FAMILY

I have an amazingly supportive fiance who loves me even when I’m being crazy and/or hyperfocused and I have a daughter on the way who I want to grow up healthy and happy in a happy home. I always want to be present for them and approach them with the best version of myself. Twenty, thirty, forty years from now, they’re still going to be the most important thing, no matter what craziness the highway of life has in store.

#2: MY MENTAL AND PHYSICAL HEALTH

This is a big one. I can’t take care of anyone else if I can’t take care of myself. This covers a wide range of habits and routines I want to develop in my life: more yoga, more reading, making healthy, home-cooked meals, gardening, getting eight hours of sleep every night, taking time to sit in silence, continuing with therapy when I need it. This over-arching idea envelops so many important things in my life that shouldn’t necessarily be checklist items.

#3: SELF-FULFILLMENT, GROWTH, AND INDEPENDENCE

I’m about to start on a really cool part of my life journey: being a stay at home mom. (I genuinely never thought I’d be excited about that). It’s important to me that I’m still growing as a human being while I’m at home raising my daughter. This encompasses finishing my bachelor’s degree (that I’ve been working on since 2009…), getting my master’s, starting this blog and eventually turning it into a source of income, and doing things that I feel are impactful.

And there it is. This is just my springboard, my starting point, but I already feel less stressed.

So what’s next?

Finding small, impactful, inspiring steps that I can take that enrich these three main priorities in my life, and gracefully stepping up my “no” game to things that don’t add value to my life.

And just like that, I sat down and wrote my first blog post, which I’ve been struggling to do for months. A small, actionable step I was able to take towards my goal of reaching a wider audience.

So tell me, what’s your take on essentialism?
Was this helpful for you?
What are you prioritizing in your life?

Thanks for reading!

Alexandra