Sparking Joy

Don’t Give From Your Cup, Give From Your Saucer

Is your cup half full? Half empty? I want neither. I want a cup that is so full, that it overflows onto the saucer beneath it. With the self-love, respect and energy that overflows, I want to give to others.

I recently heard this quote on a podcast. People always say you can’t give unless you give to yourself first, and I whole heartedly believe that. When I am at my best – excited about life, energized and healthy, I am the best teacher I can be. I am noticeably more excited about the lessons I deliver, and the kids are equally as invested. On days or weeks where something is getting me down, the energy in my classroom mimics that. We don’t get through as much. There are more arguments. Less laughter and less smiles.

The same rings true for the other people in my life. I am a better wife, friend, sister and daughter when my own cup is filled. I have the energy to be all that.

Some would say taking care of yourself first is selfish, but I disagree. How can I care for anyone else if I don’t care for myself first? More importantly, how can I make sure that I am taking care of myself?

I’ve noticed a few things ensure that my personal cup is full. When all of the following are happening, I’m able to spill into my saucer.

I need to be healthy – which means I need to be eating right. I feel my best when my diet consists of lots of vegetables, some meat, some fruit and tons of water. When I move a lot, whether its a lot of walking or consistent gym visits, I have more energy. I need to be sleeping at least 8 hours a night. Which means, I may not have time for late night dinners with friends or conversations past 7pm.

I need to be excited. I need to have things on my radar that invigorate me and thrill me. Personally, that’s usually a trip on the horizon that I can plan for and dream of. It means I’m reading and learning about new things, and having new ideas constantly floating through my head. It means I’m writing about all of it.

I need to be calm. When things are disorganized and chaotic, I am not at my best. My cup lacks. I need to know that my calendar is organized, that my lessons are planned and that my outfits are laid out the night before. I know myself as a person who does not work well under pressure, so I plan for that. Instead of doing a big project all at once, I divide it into manageable chunks.

I need time for myself, as well as for others. I love my husband, my friends and my family. I appreciate the conversations I have with them, and grow from them. One of my favorite parts of the day is the 20 or so minutes before sleep, when my husband and I are in bed chatting. Sometimes about nothing at all, sometimes about something one of us learned. Sometimes we discuss our plans for the future and sometimes we reminisce on what we’ve done so far. When we have these talks, I go to bed with a full heart. Same goes for the discussions I have with others that I love. And while I love conversations, I also need time for myself. In this time, I think. I play music. I read. I energize myself for the conversations I want to have with others.

I need to feel like I am growing, professionally or personally. Preferably both. Right now, I am pursuing my real estate license, which is making me feel like growth is on the horizon, which is helping to fill my cup. Personally, I am searching for hobbies. Hopefully, when the right one comes along, I will feel growth in that department.

When I do all of that, I feel good. I feel energized and ready to give. It’s important to remember to take care of yourself, regardless of what that means for you. Don’t look at someone else’s self-care plan and mimic it exactly. Think about how you feel when you do things in your daily life, and the things that bring you joy, calmness and ideas are the things you should incorporate more.

When you do that, when your cup is so full that it overflows, your saucer will be ready for others.

Question: What do you personally do to fill your cup? How do you know when your cup is overflowing?

National Eating Disorder Awareness Week: My Story

This week is one that is heavy on my heart. When this week arrives, I spend a lot of time thinking and reflecting. It’s National Eating Disorder Awareness week, and it’s a week that reminds me of how damn lucky I am.

Puberty was not very kind to me. Maybe the more honest thing to say was that I was not very kind to me and did not move a whole heck of a lot when I hit puberty. My diet also consisted of takeout and potato chips. Regardless, I was overweight from the age of 13 to 16. Coming from a household where my mother was a stick thin woman who could eat anything her heart desired, it hit hard. Why was I like this?

Pre-anorexia: I was definitely a bit overweight and a lot self conscious about it

Eventually, I decided to take control of it. I got a gym membership when I turned 16 and got to work. I had no clue what I was doing so I would hop on an elliptical and stay on for twenty minutes. I continued to eat as I always had at home, and the weight started to melt off of me. My goal was to be “in shape” by the time my family went on spring break. I was not really sure what that meant for me, but I knew that I wanted to lose some weight, and I did.

This was me on Spring Break of my junior year. I had lost about 15 pounds at this point, and wore a bikini for the first time in public!

When we got home from vacation, I recall looking at photos and being disappointed. I knew I had lost some weight, but I was upset with how I looked still. I decided that I was going to keep working, and that what I really needed was to change how I ate. So I did. I started weighing my food and counting calories. Guess what guys? It worked. That, coupled with extended time on the elliptical gave me some great results. By that summer, I had slimmed down further. I started getting compliments from people on how pretty I was. As much as I hate to admit it, it felt good. To go from someone who was a wallflower to someone who was noticed was such a thrill for me. I saw myself as a healthy person.

The summer between junior and senior year of high school

Looking back, I should have stopped and just maintained. The weight I was at was ideal for my frame and height. But… as the story goes, it went on. I became obsessed. I couldn’t eat in public anymore because I couldn’t weigh the oil that the cooks used. I became obscenely upset if I couldn’t go to the gym. My workouts were getting longer, and were still just cardio. My meals were getting smaller.

I was the girl who knew calories. You know that scene in To The Bone where the girl looks at a plate and can call out the calories of each item perfectly? That was me. I was still loosing weight. It began to be painful to do yoga, because my back bones were sticking out so much. I was tired all the time. What should have been a big signal to me that this was going downhill was when my period stopped.

The thing is… I didn’t care. I wanted more. I don’t know how to explain it. There was a euphoric feeling I would get from stepping on the scale and seeing it go down. Running my hands down my stomach and feeling nothing brought me joy. Sometimes, I would have realizations that it may have been too much, but the voice in my head told me to shut up and get back to work.

I don’t have photos from my thinnest. I bottomed out at 57 pounds. To put that into perspective, my BMI was 11.5. 18.5-25 is a “normal range”, and I was points below. I am not an advocate for using BMI for most cases, but it just reinforces how absurdly underweight I was.

My hair started to come out in clumps. I had to get a bob cut so I could wear beanies at all times. I was wearing parkas in warm weather. For every hour I was awake, I needed to sleep for three. My body was not happy, and I did not recognize any of the signs.

Excuse the terrible poses. I don’t have any photos from my lowest weight because I had deleted them when I was in recovery.

I ended up in the hospital. My organs were beginning to shut down. I would have what felt like heart attacks regularly. Laying there in that hospital bed, I told myself I needed to do better. I realized I was going to die if I didn’t. In that moment, I promised myself that if I survived, I would help others in similar situations.

I worked hard. I cried and cried for months. I wanted to heal myself, but the voice in my head was so strong at this point. Anytime I ate, the voice screamed at me to stop being such a fat ass. I was working on me, but there was a part of me that didn’t want my own help.

En route to recovery

My parents and my siblings were my support system and I am eternally grateful to have had them through that. I had to go to school for half days only, because of how exhausted my body was. I couldn’t drive because of fainting spells. I lost a whole lot of friends because what 17 year old can handle someone with issues like that?

It got better though. It took years. I was in therapy and treatment for a long time. To this day, I still have trouble with my own self image. Anorexia is something that will never leave who I am. It played such a pivotal role for me in my teenage years, and continues to play a role into my twenties. I am at a point where I can eat well and exercise in moderation and feel good about myself, but it takes effort every damn day.

Healthy, happy me

Work needs to be done to prevent stories like this from happening. My thought is that if I had been educated at a younger age about what healthy eating was and what healthy exercise looked like, I could have prevented myself from going down this dark road. I teach high school now, and I hear girls in the bathroom talking about how if only they were skinny, they’d be so much happier. I want to shake them and tell them my story. I hold back. Maybe I shouldn’t though? Maybe more people should hear these stories. These gross, sad stories so that they don’t have to have their own to share.

This week is hard for me. This week is also a reminder of my own strength and my process. I am so grateful to be here, today. I am so grateful for my health and my family and my loved ones. I am so grateful to be able to share my story. Eating disorders, and anorexia specifically, have a mortality rate of 10%. Many women (and men) will never be able to share their stories. I can share mine.

Here’s me today, thrilled to be eating!

When You Don’t Meet Goals

Real talk: it is February 16th. We are more than halfway through with the month and I… have not read a single book. I have also not gone to a single new workout class. I have been far more conscious of my spending and been more mindful, but I feel like a big, fat failure. Earlier in the month, I set four monthly goals for myself to achieve by February 28th. I realized today that I will (probably) not be meeting two of them this month. As a certified type A human, this has been making me feel quite bad.

It’s been on my mind all morning, and I think I’ve finally found a way to come to peace with this. Yes – I won’t be meeting my goals this month, but why? Well, we moved, and that took a ton of time and energy out of me. Like a lot of time and energy. I also started a new part time job, which has taken some time to figure out. It’s not like I didn’t meet the goals because I sat around on my bum all month. I was busy – packing, moving, unpacking, organizing – and so on and so forth.

So today, I’m here to tell you that sometimes it’s okay to not achieve what you originally set out to achieve. Sometimes, life gets in the way. Scratch that. Sometimes, life happens. It doesn’t get in the way – there is no way! So today, I’m freeing myself from the guilt of not achieving goals that I set out for myself. At the end of the day, I am doing what I need to do to be the best version of myself I can be.

I thought about it similarly to how I see workouts. Sometimes, you just can’t go all out. Sometimes you don’t have it in you because you’ve spent your energy elsewhere in life. In those instances, yoga or a walk can be more therapeutic for you than anything else.

It’s about balance, but it’s about long term balance. You can’t live a perfectly balanced life daily, where you give a little of yourself to everything that matters. It’s about how balanced your month, or year is.

This weekend is a three day weekend, and I’m going to use my time how I see fit. Sure, I could binge read books to achieve my monthly goal, and go to a new workout class today and tomorrow, but I have other things I want to do (like find where I packed my undies).

Sparking Joy

But…Will It Kill You?

Freaking out is my speciality. I freak out about everything: the weather, how much time I need to get to the airport, how many eggs are left in the fridge. My husband, on the other hand, is the coolest cucumber you’ll ever meet, and this has helped me grow. He always says to think about the worst case scenario. Will you die? Will anyone you love die? If the answer is no, then your problem is probably no biggie.

This is easier said than done. For example, this Monday I took a personal day. We get three a year, to use for personal reasons. This was also the first time I had taken a day at my current job. I freaked out. What if they reject it? What if my boss is upset with me? What if my classroom burns and I have to rewrite all the goal books I’ve made?

Today is Thursday – three days post freak out. Guess what? My day was approved. My boss does not hate me. My classroom is still functioning. Nothing happened. I took a personal day, and the world did not end.

I think it’s important to think about worst case scenarios. If you don’t get the job you applied to, you’ll find another one. If the boy you like doesn’t like you back – guess what? There are a ton of fish in the sea. If you don’t like fish, there are also some jellyfish. You’ll survive. I think too many people in our generation overthink what should be a simple decision. People are scared to move out because the place may not be perfect. If it’s not, you signed a one year lease. Life will move on.

In the grand scheme of things, we don’t matter. This is terrifying and relieving all at once. With this in mind, you should feel free to make decisions without mulling over them for a year. Follow your intuition – that sh*t is smart AF. Life is short, as it is. There’s no point wasting time on things that don’t matter in the long run. So, if your decision doesn’t have the ability to kill you, just do it.

What should you take time for, if not making decisions? Smelling the roses!

Pill Shmill: Why I Say NO to Birth Control

I was 14 when I first got on the pill. I had gone into the doctor, complaining of acne, and I walked out with a prescription for birth control. This was the norm (and probably still is today). If only I could go back in time and have 24-year-old me swat that prescription out of 14-year-old me’s hand. By the time I was 23, I had tried almost every type of birth control. I had been through countless pills, the ring, and the Implanon. I had not one, but two IUDs. Some worked for a short period of time, some showed their side effects a year in.

Fast forward to March of 2018. My husband and I were at the airport, waiting for our flight to Germany for spring break. I always forget something when I travel, and this time, I realized it was my pill pack. *Cue the panic attack* If I went home to get it, I would miss my flight. If I left, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to get a pack in Germany.

I decided to not miss my flight, and we made it to Germany. During that flight, we discussed my options. Was this a sign that I should once and for all get off of birth control? I had been getting more granola that year. I had traded in (most) diet Cokes for kombucha. I religiously checked the Wellness Mama website. I ate grain free granola. I had also read about the potential harmful side effects of the Pill – and not just bloating and weight gain. That year, I had read the Period Repair Manual by Lara Briden. She discussed how periods while on the pill weren’t actual periods, but rather chemical periods. Could it be possible that it had been nearly a decade since I allowed myself to have a real period? Could my use of hormones have contributed to my loss of an ovary? These questions haunted me.

During that flight, I decided I was done with hormonal birth control. I had read about other methods, and when we landed, I looked into them. The one that seemed most reliable and simple was an app, called Natural Cycles. Basically, all you had to do was take your temperature every morning, at the same time. You plugged that into the app, and based on that, it would tell you if you were fertile or not, thus acting as birth control, without the gross chemicals.

It took a while to get used to this method. I had to remember, first thing in the morning, to take my temp. I had to set alarms for weekend mornings, to ensure that my temperature was taken within the two hour window for consistency. The mild inconvenience was worth it though. My body felt better than ever. My cycles, for the first time, were consistent. I had more energy and less head fog. I came to the realization that flushing hormones through my body had been doing more harm than good.

I am not saying that hormonal birth control is the devil. It has contributed to society in many ways. It’s allowed women to take control of their fertility and their body. It has been a God send to women who struggle with painful periods. However, it is not for everyone, and the research is showing that. Women who try to conceive immediately after getting off the pill often have a difficult time. Some studies say that it has increased chances of PCOS. For me, it just made me feel… bad.

SEE! It IS possible to have a regular cycle without crap in my body!

As I get off my soap box, I guess I should get at my point. My point is that we, as women, should take ownership over what goes into our bodies. Doctors prescribe hormonal birth control so frequently, and very rarely will discuss harmful side effects. That’s not their fault – that’s what they’re taught. Look into things. Don’t just trust the man in the white coat sitting across the table from you. Listen to your body. If you feel like sh*t, do something about it! No one knows you like you do. To this day, I am grateful AF that I forgot the pill pack that snowy day in March. Who knows how much longer I would have stayed on if that hadn’t happened?