The Project

Birthdays Always Make You Think…

“I thought I would have ______ by this age”

“Uh oh, only ____ good years left”

“Hey, I look/feel pretty good!” (hopefully!)

Our thoughts and feelings about birthdays have a lot to do with how our culture and society views getting older.  We focus on “losing our youth”, whether we have wrinkles or grey hair, and trying to find out if we’re “normal” compared to others our age.  This is often when we do an appraisal of our life, usually measured by a timeline or scale set by standards that aren’t our own (i.e. when we “should” get married, have kids, go to school, pick a career, etc.).  It doesn’t help that we have perfectly-curated windows into other peoples’ lives through social media that can make our self-assessment even more skewed toward the negative.

For me, turning 30 on September 6, 2019 doesn’t make me feel old, scared, or nervous.  I often joke that I’ve been waiting to be in my thirties my whole life – a cliched “old soul” – so it’s not a number that I view negatively.  However, given that self-assessment is in my Top Five Skills (more on that to come!), I can’t help but reflect on who I’ve been with a “2” in front of my age and who I want to be when that “3” comes around.

I can give myself credit for accomplishing several things in my twenties – graduating college, living in 3 different states, being financially independent, finding a good job, adopting a dog, and having a healthy and supportive relationship.  These are important things that each took (and continue to take) commitment, work, and time.  I’m grateful to be where I am and have the privileges that I do.

However, there are MANY ways in which I continue to hold myself back and stay in the most dangerous place of all – my comfort zone.  As someone who has lived with an anxiety disorder for almost 10 years, it takes a LOT of effort to work through fear and “the unknown”.  I’ve chosen to skip social events, new activities, professional advancements, and more due to being anxious, afraid, and unsure.  This wasn’t always the case – unfortunately most of my issues cropped up when I started college and entered the “best years of your life!”, a saying that can only inspire pressure to live up to the social expectations.  The reality for many of us (especially in my generation) is that our twenties are confusing, awkward, stressful, lonely, disappointing, pressure-filled, and not ones we would willingly repeat.

With that in mind, I started thinking of the habits, beliefs, and actions that I want to leave behind in this decade – but more importantly, what do I want to do or start now in order to start that milestone year swinging? What are my larger values, priorities, and goals and how have they changed over time? Who am I now compared to when I was about to turn 20? How have I held myself back and what can I do about it?

Confession time – I am a major list maker.  So I started to do what I know best and list out some of the answers to these questions as well as specific actions or things I wanted to accomplish.  As the list grew, I started thinking that I would need some major accountability help in order to start crossing off instead of adding items.

Here’s where you come in!

A little backstory: I stumbled upon the website Hello Fears after watching founder Michelle Poler’s TED Talk in late 2017; she was capping off a “100 Fears in 100 Days” project that she self-designed to intentionally put her out of her comfort zone and confront her fears.  Besides relating to so much of what she was talking about, I was struck by how her fear-facing inspired others to act in their own lives, on large (coming out to a family member) and small (getting a major haircut) scales.  It’s scary just to put out into the world that you ARE scared, let alone act on it – I was inspired too, but not enough to do something about it then.

So – am I now 100% ready to share my fears, insecurities, imperfections, hopes, dreams, and goals with the world? Nope! But the truth is, I will NEVER be 100% ready to do that, or anything else for that matter. What I AM ready to do is reflect, plan, and act in order to leave behind what I no longer need and enter my next decade stronger, healthier, clearer, and more purposefully.  If that involves potentially embarrassing myself on the Internet, then so be it! And if even 1 person finds this blog helpful in creating positive change in their own lives, it will be 100% worth it.

If I haven’t lost you yet, please check out THE GOALS page where I will be updating my list of 30 goals as the year goes on.  I will also be elaborating on each goal in the Blog, so be sure to click “Follow” if you want to keep tabs on how I’m doing – I would also love to hear from you by sending me a note through the Contact Me page! Let me know if you have your own projects in the works or if you need some help putting your thoughts together. I do love a good list-making session 🙂

Until next time…

-Amanda

Anxiety Goals

Leavin’ On A Jet Plane: Part 1.5

The Goal: Fly across the country by myself

The Why: Confront my anxiety of being in new places without others to fall back on for support 

Well friends, the time has come – it’s TRIP DAY!

Besides being a bit sleep-deprived, I’m actually doing pretty well as I sit and wait for my boarding time. I made sure to pack as early as I could yesterday to avoid last-minute panicking and other than forgetting extra hair ties (which are always in abundance when you DON’T need them, amiright?) I think I’ve got everything taken care of. Unlike many people, the actual flight doesn’t bother me at all – it’s the logistics of knowing what to do and when. As I mentioned in the first trip post, a lot of my social anxiety is rooted in being worried I’ll do something “wrong”, “awkward”, “embarrassing”, or make it obvious that I’m a newbie. So as expected, I made some goofs going through the security line, but you know what? So did almost everyone else around me! (I’m looking at you, guy trying to fly with full sized bottles of olive oil – I get it, but read the rules, man!)

Something I’m hoping to gain from the trip is a better ability to let go of worrying so much about making a fool of myself, or at least raising the bar for what that constitutes. Nobody there knows me at all, so why worry? Maybe I’ll be “that girl who face planted from tripping on her own feet”, but at least that’ll be a fun story for people to tell!

I will be trying to stay off my phone as much as I can once I get to California, but will definitely take lots of pictures that I’ll share in my next post. In the meantime, I’ll be doing a lot of waiting around and trying to snag a nap when I can – wish me luck!

-Amanda

P.S. Special shoutout to Brian for driving me to the airport at 3:30 am. He really is a keeper.

Creativity Goals

Furniture Facelift: Part 1

The Goal: Learn how to refinish/repair pieces of furniture

The Why: To explore my creativity, learn new skills, and restore old/unwanted items to reduce need for new materials

Hello all!

It’s been another busy week and with the California trip rapidly approaching (8 days to go!), I’m right in the midst of my “plan and stress” phase that typically crops up a couple weeks prior to a major event or activity. Thankfully, my anxiety hasn’t been too bad yet and it helps to talk about the trip with others and get excited about it instead of ruminating.

Another tool I’ve been using to ease off on circling the anxiety drain is spending more of my free time doing creative projects.  I wouldn’t consider myself to be “artistically talented” (I can barely make a passable stick figure drawing), but I have always enjoyed working on singular pieces to give them a refresh.  For example, when I was in middle school, I worked with my mother to redwood stain our picnic table and also refinished two porches at our house over a summer (definitely in exchange for some new clothes).  When I came back from my first year at college, I actually decided to completely overhaul my childhood bedroom and go from very girl (think peach, light green, lots of lace, porcelain dolls) to modern and mature (dark brown, deep red, clean lines, and absolutely no dolls).  A few months ago, we repainted our living room and bathroom and I started to think about what else I could makeover around the house.

I realized I had a half dozen flower pots that I hadn’t been using because they didn’t fit with the colors and styles I like now (and also the cat will eat any plant I put on the shelf…).  Call me basic, but I love the “farmhouse-chic” style that’s gotten popular in the last few years and thought maybe I could give these pots a Joanna Gaines-esque make over.

After a little (wait, this is me…A LOT OF) research, I ordered a sample set of chalk paints on Amazon from DecoArt because they offered a wide variety of colors, are non-toxic and low VOC, and had good reviews for paints at this price point (chalk paint can be suuuuper expensive).  Once they arrived, they sat on the shelf for a good day or two before I got around to actually DOING anything with them – which you can imagine if you follow this blog that this is the hard part.  I was worried that if I didn’t get to a project right away that the paint set, brushes, and flower pots would join the never-used candle making and twice-used soap making supplies in the basement.  So I finally talked myself into at least STARTING on one piece and seeing how it went – reminding myself CONSTANTLY that it didn’t matter if it was “perfect” and that it should be fun.

Purple flower pot

One of the first flower pots I painted was the purple lattice one to the left – I really liked the texture and figured it would look cool with a more neutral color and some distressing.  I chose to do a base color of medium grey topped with an off-white/beige coat so any distressing I did would show through with grey and not purple.  I went a little too far with some of my sandpapering and ended up with a couple purple spots, but I can live with them.  Last week I sealed everything with a clear matte top coat for protection (I’ve been skipping the super pricey waxes and using this Rust-Oleum sealer ) and I’m pretty happy with the result! Now I just need to find a nice looking artificial plant to keep the cat at bay and really finish the look… Tan and grey flower potI played around with more of these flower pots and Mason jars (because, you know, #millennial) and tried out some different techniques I found through YouTube and just trial and error.  One of my favorite color switches was this simple pot which went from lime green to light grey to match our new bathroom colors.

Bright green flower pot

It’s still in need of a little sandpapering (I did white underneath as the show-through color), but I really like the overall look and matte finish:

IMG_0048

I think what was really beneficial for me in these projects was that it gave me an activity that was a little intimidating but not scary and could focus my attention on something creative and tangible, not just overthinking and getting worked up over things that have not or will not happen.  Although I still get a little anxious or frustrated when I “mess up” the paint job or the distressing doesn’t look like I pictured it, I try to remind myself that everything can be changed if I want it to be – just grab some paint and start over!

Last week I decided I was ready for bigger projects and started tackling a make over for a couple of side tables that were given to me by my parents (which had been given to them for free by a friend).  They were in good condition and made of real wood, but the color didn’t really match the rest of our furniture and I thought a lighter color would look a little nicer.  I also figured that because they were freebies, it was a fairly low-risk way to try out working on furniture before I move on to larger and more complex pieces (like our dining room table and chairs…more to come on those down the road!)

Brown table

Again, it took me awhile to actually get around to this project, but I found it was a really nice way to spend my free time where I could be “productive” in a low stress context.  Nobody was waiting on me to finish it, it could look however I wanted it to, and I could throw on another coat of paint in a short amount of time before work.  I decided to go with a beachy/farmhouse vibe and painted the main part of the table linen white and the top piece the same grey I had used on the first flower pot (DecoArt “Relic”).  Now, I can completely understand that some people absolutely will not paint over wood and I think there are some pieces that would look really terrible if they were painted.  However, seeing as this table wasn’t an antique (it was from Pier 1 Imports) and didn’t have a unique style I wanted to preserve, I felt pretty good about the choice to paint it (Rocky seemed to approve of the white at least).

Rocky tableI did two coats of the white paint before moving onto the top, which ended up needing three coats to get to the smooth finish I imagined.  I also had to do a little sanding on the top where a couple spot of the wood had chipped, but otherwise I could just wipe it down (two pets = neverending hair) and start painting.  Once the colors where to my liking, I added some distressing on the edges and anywhere that looked like it would naturally age with some sandpaper and then started the process of sealing it with the same Rust-Oleum matte finish top coat as for the flower pots.  I’m going to end up with three coats of sealer on the top, as I plan to use it as a side table in our living room and, being water-based, chalk paint is not known for its durability with water.  Long story short, here’s the mostly finished product – apparently Cleo is a fan!  Grey and white table

As I’ve discussed in other posts, having more resources to help reduce and manage my anxiety is a really big overarching goal for me this year and puttering around on these projects is just one tool I’ve added to my toolbox.  I would love to continue expanding my techniques and work with different paints, textures, and styles.  Thank to YouTube, I have been learning how to repair wood furniture, which will come in handy when I tackle the dining room set and start looking for other free and cheap pieces.  Part of me also wants to get into woodworking at some point, but right now am limited to our condo as a work and storage space, so that may have to wait until I can have access to a garage.  In the meantime, I’m going to start working on this piece that will hopefully become our new TV stand – another freebie that needs a little more TLC than the side table.

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I probably won’t be getting to it until after my trip, so please stay tuned if you’re interested in seeing how it turns out!

Overall, I am happy with myself for giving this stuff a try and am excited to see what else I can learn over time. It’s hard for me to not immediately jump into “maybe I’ll do this professionally!” territory because I’ve found as an adult it’s hard for me to just have hobbies.  So although this is a lighter topic and goal for the year, it still relates back to the bigger picture of what I value and who I hope to be going into that next decade.  Plus, who can resist a good makeover?

Until next time!

-Amanda

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Random Realness

A Should-y Situation

Stop Should-ingOnYourself

So as it turns out, it’s really not that difficult to write your first good blog post – what comes next is way harder.  I fully expected that I would be writing at LEAST 2 posts a week delving into the next goal I was tackling (or at least starting) and that seeing as the topics were more or less laid out in the GOALS LIST, it wouldn’t be too hard to find things to write about. Ohhh how optimistic!

In truth, I wasn’t really sure where to go after making such a big declaration out of my upcoming solo trip.  Most of the remaining goals on the list are going to a) take the entire year to complete or b) require me to REALLY get my ass in gear.  In other words…not going to happen in the 9 days since my last post.  But I felt like I SHOULD be actively working towards those goals EVERY day/week, so therefore HOW didn’t I have something to write about?

Thankfully, I had some wise words originally attributed to Dr. Albert Ellis and recently stated by my yoga teacher in my head:   “Stop should-ing on yourself!” 


Honestly, how many times a day do most of us use the word “SHOULD” when thinking about the actions, decisions, emotions, etc. of ourselves and others?

“I really SHOULD go to the gym…”

“You really SHOULD have kids soon, you’re not getting any younger!”

“I SHOULD like this movie/book/TV show, everyone else does…”

“I SHOULD be able to get better/lose weight/find a better job without any help”

“Why SHOULD he/she be depressed, they have a ton of money?”

“I SHOULD be able to do this without being scared”

This is a very short list of examples which only gets longer when we add in the “MUSTS” and “OUGHTS” – the Trifecta!

Psychologists and behavioral researches call these “should statements” and have known for years that making these statements to and about yourself is related to increased incidence of depression, anxiety, and panic attacks.  Now, having a little pressure to get things done isn’t bad inherently – I would be lying if I said I never waited until the last minute to finish a school assignment that I knew about for an entire semester beforehand.  The problem with “should statements” is it easily becomes a SHAMING statement – we feel like there’s something wrong with us because we can’t live up to what we SHOULD be doing.

When it comes to understanding why shame is such a de-motivator, there’s nobody better than Brené Brown.  Seriously, this woman has spent a decade and a half  interviewing thousands of people from all genders, races, socioeconomic status, geographic area, career, etc. and finding the commonalities between them (as you may have guessed, we are way more similar than different).  She explores shame exclusively in her book “I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn’t)” (2007) and it’s chock-full of real life and research-supported examples of how shame impacts our experiences, choices, and memories.  There’s too much to post here, but here’s one particularly great statement: 

“We cannot grow when we are in shame, and we can’t use shame to change ourselves or others.”

If this topic resonates with you, I highly recommend checking out this and other books by Brené – I’ve been making my way through her collection over the past couple of months and they are all filled with such great information and practical strategies.  Head over to the new RESOURCES page for one of her hugely popular TED Talks and let me know if you check it out in the comments section! 


So… how does all this relate to me having writers block?

Well, as I had mentioned earlier, I felt like I was letting my little group of readers down because I SHOULD be writing more frequently/have awesome things to say all the time. The truth is, not every post is going to be a gem, not every week is going to be an inspiring one, and it’s unrealistic to think I need to start crossing things off the list when I still have OVER A YEAR to go until the finish line. 

This is really where the whole point of the project lies – working through my own insecurities, self-imposed standards, and need to be an “A+” kind of person.  As I was kindly reminded of the other day while stressing out to Brian that I hadn’t written anything this week – this whole blog was MY idea, made by ME, and is a product of what I want it to be.  It isn’t a school assignment or work deadline that I need to meet for anyone else, and I’m not getting graded on it (but if anyone WANTS to dole out some grades, I’m in!). 

I’m sharing my progress for the sake of vulnerability, accountability, and inspiration-ability.  Sometimes that progress will be significant and other times it will be non-existent.  This week happened to be more challenging than I expected, but that doesn’t mean it was a “bad” week.  Not posting multiple times a week won’t cause me to have a reader-less blog (right, guys??) and it doesn’t mean I’ve “failed” because I haven’t crossed a goal off the list yet.  

Actually, I did make some strides towards my goal of meditating every day for a year…and then ended my 5 day streak on Friday. In the past (and let’s be honest, very recent past), this would have completely stopped what I was setting out to do in the first place.  Whether we consciously choose to or not, the old “falling off the wagon” adage plagues most of us throughout our lives and prevents us from getting back “on”…usually it means the wagon rolls right off the road and over a cliff.  

I’m determined to break this pattern and I would love to hear from any of you who are working through the same struggle.  How do you cope with setbacks? Are you a victim of self-imposed shaming? Do you “should” on yourself so much that you need toilet paper? Let me know your thoughts in the comments or send me a private message on the Contact Me page.

Until next time!

-Amanda

 

Anxiety Goals

Leavin’ on a Jet Plane: Part 1

The Goal: Fly across the country by myself

The Why: Confront my anxiety of being in new places without others to fall back on for support 

Plane pic
Flying over the Atlantic Ocean in January 2018

So here’s the thing – I just took my first flight EVER at the age of 28. Yep, I did not go on the foreign language club trip in high school, no studying abroad in college, not even a spring break on some party island (although you probably wouldn’t have been able to pay me to do that last one #nerdlife).  Given that I know babies who had been on more flights than me, I tended to shy away from offering up that piece of information when conversations would turn to travel:

“Oh I know, isn’t TSA such a drag?”

“That’s true, not much room in those seats!”

*Emphatically nodding head and widening eyes to show both empathy and understanding* (I’m very well-versed in this tactic)

Like most things that are just expected of a person, being someone who had not had the experience of flying left me with a lot of embarrassment – it didn’t help that when I did confess to my lack of flying I was often met with “WAIT, you have NEVER been on a PLANE?? How is that even POSSIBLE??”.  Cut to me just shrugging my shoulders, mumbling “Yeah I don’t know umm just haven’t had the chance to?”, and feeling like I was not cultured enough, fun enough, rich enough, or interesting enough. 

  The truth is, I always had the desire to fly, but a combination of family influence, social anxiety, and financial roadblocks got in the way.  In high school, I wanted to go on the trip to France and Spain that literally ALL of my close friends were on, but my parents weren’t comfortable with me flying from a safety standpoint (did I mention my mom is 66 years old and has never flown?).  I had big ambitions of going abroad in college, but when I was accepted on a weeklong service trip to Belize, I got scared of what the experience might entail and gave up my spot.  As a post-grad, I never seemed to have the money to go on more than weekend trips that were a car ride away, and at that point not having done it was making the reality of doing it seem much less possible (this happens to us in a lot of cases, unfortunately).  Long story short – I wasn’t ever really afraid to fly itself, I just had let other factors take over.  Until I decided late last year that I wouldn’t let them anymore.    

My first flight was to the Dominican Republic for our friends’ wedding (hey, Werlins!).  Again, I wasn’t really nervous for the flight, but the process around it: How do I check a bag? Where do I give my ticket? What happens if I get super clumsy and awkward in security and they think I’m nervous because I’m planning something terrible or that I’m on bath salts or something? Basically, how do I not let people know that I haven’t done this before?

In the end, everything went very smoothly and was not nearly as stressful as I anticipated.  It really helped that I had my boyfriend Brian there to help me relax – without making it look like I NEEDED help, of course (yeah, we have a lot to unpack there).  The trip was great and definitely made me realize how much I had missed out on over the years.

Alright, so now you’ve gotten the long winded backstory, let’s settle in on the present… 

A few months ago, I was in the midst of doing a lot of this self-reflecting, soul-searching, Mel Robbins-reading stuff when I came across a place called 1440 Multiversity.  A yoga instructor I really admire had posted about doing a guest lecture there on her Instagram and seeing as I had no idea what it was, I decided to do a little more research.

In short, I was blown away by the beautiful location, holistic wellness approach, and opportunity to learn new things through daily yoga classes, meditation, nature hikes, guest speakers, cooking workshops, sustainability practices, and community.  Oh, and it just happened to be in Santa Cruz, California…completely across the country from where I am in Vermont.

Now, I’ve done this before – find something online that looks cool, research the crap out of it, debate with myself about if I should do it, and eventually overanalyze it so much that I have no chance of saying yes.  Approximate time spent: 87,385 hours per idea.

This time around, I paid attention to what I initially felt when I saw their website: excitement, energy, and “YES! This is exactly what I need!”.  As I signed up for a Discovery Weekend and reserved my room, I decided I would figure out the details later. In a rare event, I let my initial feelings make the choice instead of rationalizing, analyzing, and logisticalizing (not a word, but shouldn’t it be?).

So that brings me to today, which is exactly 4 Fridays away from when I fly out in the wee hours of August 10th.  My anxiety is currently not being too rambunctious, but from experience I know to expect the 2-3 days prior to be very challenging.  That’s when all the final planning happens and I start wondering if this is really such a good idea…which was already decided by my slightly-healthier mind months ago.  I plan to draw on the strategies I’ve learned through counseling and my yoga practice (as well as reminders from all of you!) to get me through.  I’m still a little scared about flying alone, but I have chosen to focus on all of the evidence of solo travel being an empowering learning experience, especially for women.  I’m excited to see a new ocean, wander through the Redwoods, meet likeminded people, eat great organic food, practice yoga in a beautiful setting, and seeing that I CAN do something way out of my comfort zone.  

I will be writing about my experience during the trip in Part 2 and do a post-trip wrap up in Part 3.  If you’ve ever taken a big trip by yourself, please let me know how it went in the comment section!

Thanks for reading!

-Amanda