No Mo November (On Surviving a Shitty Month)

I thought I was dying this November.

I realize that’s a dramatic statement, but when you’ve been around cancer as much as I have, the slightest ailment is a cause for panic. I was EXHAUSTED, so much so that I demanded a full blood panel from my doc. I’ve been anemic before, and was certain this was the case. Otherwise, it was the Big C, because that’s how rational I am. I wasn’t anemic. Nor was my thyroid out of whack. All of my blood looked fine. So, what the hell?

November and I have a long-standing, love/hate relationship. (Here’s another November post, if you like this trip down memory lane.) Two people who I adore died during this particular month, and I think you can guess how. This sorrow seems to live in my cells, filling me with a non-specific melancholy that most people experience in February in this part of the world. The gray feels grayer, the cold feels colder. I can count on one hand the number of times I leave the neighborhood in a week. Maybe this grief is what had me dragging my butt.

Life has been stressful. Relationship stress. Financial stress. Work stress. This is enough to make most people want to stay in bed. Maybe the tired feeling was on account of these old demons rearing their heads? Thing are on the up now, thanks for asking.

hands and wedding bands

I officiated the wedding of my Aunt Gigi and her partner Bob this November, from his hospital bed. This occasion marked a bit upswing in my mood.

I spend a lot of time on my ass, at my desk, working away. I’ve grossly neglected my exercise routine. I’ve slipped from the nutritional choices that make me feel best. This could be what was making me exhausted.

An average-sized five-year-old often ends up in my queen sized bed, wedged between daddy and I. Sometimes he thrashes about like he’s being chased by a Ticklemonster. He’s become an ace at falling asleep on his own, in his own room. We haven’t quite nailed the staying there part. My family doctor suggested installing a baby gate to keep him contained. I found this horrifying. No judgement on those of you who have employed similar methods, but my doctor has obviously never seen a five year old take on a baby gate. Anyway, there’s another reason to feel exhausted. No sane woman could sleep in the company of a little boy who flails about and a man who snores like a demon.

So, what am I doing?

Taking vitamins, as regularly as I can. I don’t always remember, particularly on weekends, when our routine varies.

Saying NO. Holy shit, I’m bad at this, but I’m trying. I’ve had to say no to something very special to me because the mental drain was giving me anxiety. That was a tough one.

Holing Up. I’d love to spend time being social, but until that stops feeling like work, I’ll continue on this hermit-like path. You’ll occasionally see me at writing group meetings, and to drop my kids off at rehearsals. I suppose I’ll have to do some holiday shopping soon. I used to go crazy if I didn’t get out of the house and connect with other humans at least once a day. I used to appear before hundreds of people in my underwear about every other month. This homebody thing is still relatively new for me, and it’s novel. So are yoga pants. I’m a legit suburban mom with a mini van now. Most days, I’m okay with this.

Exercising. There’s just no way around this one. If I don’t move, I feel like crap. I get down on my body, I lose my drive (yes, all of it) and I feel spacey as hell. I’ve started walking for 30-45 minutes after dropping the littles at the bus stop. (Ew, that’s not a euphemism). The key to staying motivated is a good audio book. I only allow myself to listen when I’m walking. It’s working for now. I intend to keep going, even when the snow starts. Please send me your book recommendations.

Self-care. This is a difficult concept. It doesn’t mean pedicures and hair appointments, though it could. I think self-care is about doing things that make you feel good. For me, that’s putting a full stop on work after 5 pm so that I can cook for my family, or help my little dude create a book about dinosaurs. It means reading a novel for pleasure, and not because I’m getting paid to read it. It means tea and chocolate and doing absolutely nothing for ten minutes. A little bit of self-care each day seems to be helping to battle the melancholy.

Listening to my body. If want to sleep, I sleep. Even if I’m in the middle of the workday. Twenty minutes with my eyes closed, and I can easily see a difference in productivity.

So, I’m finally seeing a difference. I realize that it’s also December, which has more than a little to do with this shift in energy. Wednesdays are my favorite day of the week, because I take the mornings ‘off’ to meet with my writing buddies. These women keep me focused on my passion, and they offer the most amazing encouragement, and validation. If you’re a creator, find your people and make them a regular part of your life. Weekends are spent caring for my family and decking our halls. I love Christmas, and Yuletide, and everything connected to staying cozy and bright. I intend to carry this forward until the Spring.

Is it just me, or are there certain months of the year that consistently suck? November is mine, but I’ve survived another one. A big thanks to chocolate, and novels, and my ever-patient family.

Four Ways to Maximize the Last Days of Summer

How can it be August already? I mean, actually, how? I feel like I was just packing up teacher gifts and bracing myself for summer vacation to begin, and now we’ve only got 30-ish days left before the kids are back in school and (gulp) my little one begins kindergarten. July was filled with incredible family time and epic birthday celebrations (I turned 40, more on that later!) and we’ve promised ourselves that we’d slow way down this month and focus on relaxing, being as lazy as we can get away with and spending time with our kids. Here are some ways to maximize the last days of summer:

four ways to maximize the last days of summer

1. Make a Wish List

The last weekend in July was the first we had free in over a month, so we spent some time as a family chatting about the things we’d like to do before the warm weather is done. This was a great way to connect and get a sense of our family’s needs.

Here’s some of the stuff we came up with, in case you need inspiration:

More gardening time when the heat lets up (we’ve had a drought here this year.)

A family trip to an amusement park

Sleeping outside in the tent

Visiting with cousins

Lazy meals cooked outside

Family swim time

A weekend in the big city

Visiting our in-laws

Reading books

Laying on a blanket in the park while the kids play

2. Make Some Plans

With a fairly open schedule, we’re lucky to be free and flexible when it comes to some of these plans. Our first step was to try to secure some dates for family visits. For the rest of the wish list, we’re staying open. The extreme heat doesn’t lend itself well to long days wandering around amusement parks or busy trips to the city, so we’re watching the weather forecast and trying to take advantage of more favorable weather.

3. Focus on the Feels

Sometimes the best way to make the most of your time is to tune in to the way you want to feel. A word that kept coming up in our family meeting was ‘spontaneous’. Another was ‘relaxed’. Here are some others to consider:

easy

budget-friendly

connected

unplugged

creative

fun

adventurous

4. Plan to be Flexible

Above all else, don’t get stressed out about trying to get everything on your list done. It’s easy to get caught up once you set those goals, but remember these are the LAZY days of summer. Don’t beat yourself up if you can’t knock out everything on your list. Carry some of these activities and ideas into the early fall months and use your weekend time. Cooler temperatures might actually make some of these activities more fun.

What’s left on your summer wish list? What are you most looking forward to for August?

A Pep Talk for Creative Types

Hey you artsy soul, trying to make an impression on the world…

a pep talk for creative types

You’ve picked a hell of a path, haven’t you? People think it’s crazy to spend so many waking hours living with your imagination once you’ve hit age eleven or so, but you just can’t help yourself, can you? I’ll bet there are days you think it’s crazy too.

Sure, you have a job that pays the bills. Sometimes you probably even like it. You and I both know there isn’t a single second when you aren’t thinking about your other work. That creative work that doesn’t pay you a dime most of the time, but fills your soul until it’s near to bursting. Except when it doesn’t.

You know those moments where you take a good long look at yourself and say “Seriously, why are you still doing this?” When you stop and count the hours you’ve devoted to your creativity and measure that against the financial dividends of that time investment, do you feel a little sick sometimes? Is there a niggling voice inside your head telling you that it’s time to ‘grow up’? Is that voice telling you that your art isn’t going anywhere?

Well, guess what? I feel the exact same way. Especially right now as I’m typing this. My nay-saying inner monologue is practically screaming, but I know with certainty that as sure as I will not make a cent from my writing this month, I will also come back to it again and again. I will write until my dying day, and it’s not because I have some delusion that I’m poised to become the next bestselling novelist, it’s because I have to write. Even if my stories are absurd, even if I never quite master this craft, I know that when I am not writing I am slowly dying inside.

I’ve had a lot of creative pursuits that I’ve left by the wayside. You’ve probably done the same. There are other avenues I’d like to explore (like pottery!) before I leave this life, but writing is in my blood. You know the feeling. Even in your most frustrated moments you can’t walk away from something that is so much a part of you.

And you shouldn’t.

If your art does nothing more than feed your soul and give you a reason to keep moving through your days, that is a gift worth more than any pay check. If your art helps you contextualize the insanity of the world and seek out the beauty in any situation, you are armed with a power few possess. Build your life carefully around your gifts so you can support your creative space and keep enjoying those personal rewards. I have total faith that if you invest so deeply and create from a place of personal pleasure and power you will make exactly the kind of mark you hope to leave on the world. You probably already have.

xoxo

cat skinner

 

 

The World Isn’t Hard for Beautiful People

I have a weekly date on Periscope with my brother.

We are live every Wednesday at 9 pm, EST and we answer dating, relationship and sex ed questions. I happen to think it’s a lot of fun, and I’ve been honored to speak to a lot of really interesting personal matters via this format. We get most of our questions via Ask.fm because it’s easy to post anonymously there. Last night, I woke up to this question, which isn’t in fact a question at all,  and I knew it was going to end up becoming a blog post:

When I encounter women such as yourself, who are beautiful and appear to have it all together, I go deaf. It’s difficult to hear you because I assume you have no idea how hard this world is as a less than beautiful person. I know I am kind and smart, yadda yadda. Beauty is skin deep. I am sexist!

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