Is it seriously August? How did that even happen? I feel like I blinked in May and woke up here and I’ve just barely managed to keep my head above water. Anyone else having that kind of summer?
I had this great moment of clarity at the end of June. I wanted to make more open, honest and simple posts about minimalism and living a slower life. I wanted to help people feel free and empowered to live their own lives, far from the burden of possessions, jobs and societal pressure. That’s my goal with my time on this Earth for myself, and if I can share my journey there and help even just one other person start to think about their own time in a different way then I’ll be happy.
But it’s been so hard to do that when I feel like I can finally breathe for the first time in two months. I looked at my weekend today and I couldn’t believe I had nothing going on. I knew July was going to be busy, but I had no idea work would ramp up around this time too and I would regret having overloaded myself on the things I could control. But some things you just have to roll with and bite your tongue and do them even if you’re exhausted. It’s a choice to say yes and to follow through on commitments even if you made those during a time when you thought you’d have time for them.
Hence my good intentioned July challenge. Doing three things for thirty minutes a day doesn’t sound that hard, but when you add it up that’s an hour and half of time and all that time has to happen after work for me. So if I’m off at 5 and having nothing going on (this usually only happens about 3 days a week), then I come home and make dinner, finishing that up and the eating bit around 6:30. Then I want to shower, throw laundry in, prep for tomorrow with lunch, etc. and that takes until about 7:30. I’m in bed asleep by 10 on a good night so now I have 2.5 hours of free time. If i do 1.5 hours of my 30 minutes a day with little breaks in-between for water or anything else, then it’s 9:30 when I’m done. Then I’ve got the teeth brushing and the face washing and then I have to get to bed.
So that’s on a work day where nothing else is going on but work. I signed up for summer kickball so that’s one night a week. I usually do a happy hour with old coworkers or a friend once a week. The point is, I wasn’t being honest with myself during this challenge about the time I had to complete it. So now I’m being honest with you all about that. Which feels good and I hope you don’t mind too much. It’s hard to write blog posts about the failures instead of the successes, but I’d rather be honest about it than have you read some garbage I wrote up about learning Spanish, writing the next great American novel or beating my mile pace time in 30 days. The last thing I want to be on here is unauthentic because in the end it hurts everyone.
So I’m still writing. With the business trips this month tripling and the exhaustion from trying to ‘do it all’, the writing hasn’t been as frequent, but I’ve been trying to fit it in. The Duolingo app is still my favorite to open up during a Lyft ride or a quick coffee break. And finally, the walking has had to just be fit in when it can. Today I walked over to the park and did laps around it for a few hours just testing out my pace and I haven’t lost any momentum in the past month, but I haven’t gained any either. Overall, I didn’t set out to do what I wanted with July, but July was so unexpected for me, and I think you remember bits of that in your life much more than you’d remember and cherish the slow times.
I spend a weekend in Bend, OR, a week in LA for work, another weekend with my husband’s family, a weekend back in LA with family and then work in LA again and now I”m just catching up and flowing back into my slower life that I love.
Is there anything that you started to do but didn’t follow through with? I’m sure we’ve all done this before. I used to make myself feel so guilty about it. I would even finish books I didn’t like just because I felt like I couldn’t NOT finish. I’ve started to make very deliberate decisions with my time though and instead of forcing myself to follow through on certain things, I’ve just learned to let go more. It feels good and it’s good for me. I hope if you’re a pusher or a perfectionist these stories might help you realize it’s not the end of the world if things don’t go just as you imagined they would. Sometimes it’s nice to take a step back and readjust your priorities when you have to.
On that note, monthly challenges are going to get scaled back to when I feel like I can fit one in, and lots more posts will happen on the simple, honest life I’m hoping to start with you all.
I am a planner. It’s one of the things I love about my monthly challenges – the fact that I know what my goals are for the month, I can work towards them and at the end of the month I can be satisfied knowing that I’ve accomplished them.
I will push myself so hard to follow up on what I said I’d do. It’s why I’m never late to anything, and if I say I’m meeting you at 5pm, I’ll be there at 4:45pm. It’s definitely something I take pride in, but I’m also super hard on myself when I can’t follow through.
I started this 3 for 30 with so much optimism and realized very quickly that I had taken on too much. For one, I started this challenge during the fourth of July weekend, which was super fun and didn’t leave a lot of time for focus on my three things. Then I had an unexpected work trip, which really took me for a spin and threw all my planning and self care out of whack.
It is also super hard to start goals during a vacation. I managed to follow through on almost 2/3 of the 3 of 30s this last week, which wasn’t ideal. It was much harder than I thought though to keep up momentum when my daily routine was thrown off by travel.
So I’m going to walk you through my 3 for 30 for the first two weeks of the challenge and be open and honest about my ups and my downs.
This one was easy to step into because we were moving around so much over the long holiday weekend. I hit the 30 minutes of consistent walking every day except the 3rd of July because I spent a lot of that day in the car driving.
I wasn’t able to time myself this week, but I did keep my apple watch on through all of the awesome hiking we got to do during the week.
We spent the 4th in Bend, OR and had a great time just walking around the town and exploring. Bend is really charming and we’d driven through it before and had lunch, but hadn’t really spent a lot of time there. I definitely want to go back.
We had a great drive down and stopped anywhere we felt like it along the way. Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood, The Cove Palisades State Park, Peter Skene Ogden State Park and Smith Rock State Park.
We went hiking at this natural rock formation wonder park on Friday. Side note of candor: always remember to bring enough water. We did not and had to turn around before we wanted to because it was hot and I was worried we were going to die (I exaggerate only a little). I made it half way up a trail called ‘Misery Ridge'(that should tell you all you need to know) and the lack of water and the fact that we were only half way up made me turn around right then and there. I believe in pushing yourself, particularly in exercise situations, but I also knew it was hot, I was sweaty and my water was low. Not a good combo. I did bring my water shoes though and as we hiked back down the ridge we found a good spot in the river to swap out shoes and cool down. Heaven.
I ended up in Los Angeles the week after the 4th for work. Surprise trips are not really in me. Like I said, I usually have a plan for the week and this threw me off pretty bad. It was a lot of work, a lot of sitting in fancy buildings in fancy chairs staring at large buildings. The Pacific Ocean was nearly legible through the smog of the city, but I was over it. Southern California is my home and it was weird to be there and be too busy to visit my parents or see any friends. On top of that I didn’t get to walk a lot this week so my 3 for 30 with walking started to slack. We were working 12 hour days with mandatory group dinners after so being active and healthy and outdoors was not going to happen. That’s not to say I didn’t have fun. We snuck in a good time on Wednesday and went to the top of our office building, which apparently is the highest point in LA, and enjoyed the sunset with a glass of wine. Of course several other people did as well so as beautiful as it was, always remember that Instagram isn’t reality.
This one I’ve had some success with. The Duolingo app is honestly amazing, so easy to use and great and reminders that aren’t overbearing.
I’ve had a ton of fun using it. I took Spanish in high school, but never retained anything other than a few simple phrases – my particular favorite “Podria ir al bano”, which was the only way to get out of class.
This screen shot is a little old. I’m already up to level 5 in travel and working my way through it. I’m having a great time with the app. I practiced today at my eye appointment, I practiced in-between meetings in LA and even on our vacation to Bend when I wasn’t driving. I’m feeling confident in keeping this one up even after the month is over. I’m having a great time with it.
I thought writing would be the easiest of my 3 for 30, but it’s been the most difficult so far. I think it’s because I like to be in a certain place and mood when I write. After a long day of hiking or after a day of meetings, I’m not really fond of sitting with my laptop and typing away about nothing. I’ve got too much nature in my head after a hike and after a long meeting I physically don’t have it in me to just go back to staring at a screen.
I think my take on my writing based off these past weeks is to not think of it has something that has to be done so formally. I work best on writing when I’m relaxed I’ve come to realize. So starting this week I’ve been taking my writing where I can get it in. That means on my notepad app in bed, typing away random thoughts when I have a few moments at work, scribbling on a little pad I keep in my bag while I’m waiting for my food somewhere. I work best on writing when I don’t force it. When I can relax with it. That’s the biggest lesson these last two weeks and I’m hoping I can take that with me for the next two.
Well, that was my 30 minutes of writing today and it felt good. My language is right on track and my walking needs to be upped a bit. What are your three things that if you did them for 30 minutes a day, would make a big improvement on your life? Even just one thing is okay! One of the most uniquely human things we do is to constantly better ourselves. I think we just need to take the pressure off ourselves every once in awhile. We’re only human after all.
I can’t believe I surpassed by goal of 30 items so early in this challenge. I think once you start really looking at possessions and things you own that you hardly ever use, it becomes easier to let go.
I want to share some good tidbits from a book called Stuffocation I read this month. I think they might help with perspective if you’re looking to downsize as well. I’m going to summarize some of my favorite tidbits below.
In 1922 Henry Ford said that he wanted a family to buy one of his cars and never have to buy another ever again. Things were built to LAST back then. You didn’t get new clothes every week, month or even ever year. A new item of clothing would come to you, if you were lucky, once a year. It was almost always bought or made to replace something as well, not to add to a collection of items. Now things are ubiquitous and cheap. In 1991 the average american bought 24 items of clothing a year, by 2007 we were buying 67 items every year. A new piece of clothing every 4-5 days. It was also in the 1920s that for the first time manufacturing and agricultural industries were producing more than they could sell. So we had a decision to make: Do we produce less? Or do we buy more? We could have gone an entirely different route. Let people work less, have more time off. A decade after making his famous statement, Ford started pushing out a new style of car every year – insisting to the public that THIS version was the one they wanted. Never mind that you just bought a car a few years ago and it still runs fine. I think we went with ‘buy more’.
In the end it’s all about experiences and we should try to come back to that in our everyday lives. Go back to 2011. I don’t know why, I just picked a year. Tell me one thing you remember about 2011. Was it what you bought that year? Maybe it was if it was a house. But if you didn’t make a large life changing purchase I bet the one thing you remember is a trip you had that year, or time spent during a long weekend with friends. I doubt you remember a pair of shoes you just had to have at the time, a pair you bought, a pair you wore until halfway through 2012 when they fell apart or you got bored and you donated them. But maybe they were $200 shoes. Would you have rather spent that $200 taking your wife away for the weekend? Or surprising your husband with tickets to a show? I bet you’d remember that a lot better than a pair of shoes. If I look back at 2011 I remember seeing a band I really liked with a friend, graduating from my graduate program, going to Denver on a business trip with friends, working at a job I hated (but looking back I really loved it), going camping with friends, winning a contest to meet Katy Perry and going to VidCon. All experiences. I bought a lot of clothes that year too. I remember constantly online shopping. I don’t remember a single thing I bought. I don’t own any of it anymore anyway.
The big takeaway from all this minimalism stuff I’ve bee working toward the last few months is this: Experiences > Things. So when I see a pair of shoes advertised to me online that I feel like i just HAVE to have, but they’re $90 look around and see what that money could be used for that’s more important. A show? A night out? A night away on the coast? A flight to Seattle for the weekend? Your savings account? I have eight pairs of shoes at the moment and they’re all in good enough condition and they all serve a purpose ad get worn. I don’t really need another pair right now and in ten years I won’t remember what clothes I bought this year anyway, I’ll remember what I did and that’s more important.
Here are a few more things I gave away this week:
I’ll be back early next week to intro you into April’s challenge. It’s a little different and I’m pretty excited about it!
We made it! Week four of honest photos. I wanted to close this challenge out with mental health and motherhood. Before we get there I want to reiterate what I’ve been trying to show you all with this challenge. Here is the takeaway: SOCIAL MEDIA IS NOT REAL LIFE.
Let’s go back to the ‘girl Greek island’ I Googled after I asked myself to close my eyes and imagine my dream vacation. I just posted the first picture I found, but the truth is I could have chosen from thousands.
“Our depictions of travel on social media have become an area in which homogeneity has started to be seriously discussed. The problem is all pictures have become identical: iconic tourist destination in the background, woman with the back to the camera wearing a cute dress, clutching at a straw hat. When you travel to any picturesque spot in the world today you encounter lines of young women trying to recreate the same images”
Katherine Ormerod, Why Social Media is Ruining Your Life
There are entire blogs dedicated to where the best photo ops are at tourist locations and if you go to them you will see a LINE of people waiting to get that same exact shot. So I want to remind you again. Here are some images of the same place all those above pictures were taken.
Really quickly I want to tell you a story of when I was in Vatican City. I was wandering around this pillar statue that was in the middle of the area with all of these stone barriers surrounding it to stop assholes from ramming their cars into it. These really stunning young Swedish women were sitting on two of the barriers with one empty between them. They had their fashionable boots up on the empty barrier touching in the middle and they asked me to take their picture. I took several because I know what it’s like to want OPTIONS before you post. I gave their phone back, they thanked me and I got back in line to get into the Basilica. I passed the area again twenty minutes later (the line to get in is very long), and the two women are still there. This time I watch them ask a guy to take their picture. Have they been there this entire time? He takes their picture, they examine it for a moment before asking ANOTHER PERSON to take their photo. You guys. Is this how we spend our travel time now? Sitting on a cold stone barrier all day asking people to take photos of us in the same positions until we get one we think is post worthy? This can’t be our lives….
So here’s where your mental health comes into play. Weeks ago I asked you all to close your eyes and imagine your dream vacation. I bet most of you thought of photos you’ve seen online from OTHER PEOPLE in locations all over the world living their best life. The truth is you don’t know what was going on in that person’s life when they took that photo and had a caption that just said #bestlife or something else equally absurd. We’ve all done it. We’ve all posted inaccurate representations of our lives. I hope that the last three posts I’ve done have shown you that. What I want to challenge you all to do is when you start to feel that fear of missing out, the anxiety of not living as ‘exciting’ a life as what you see other people doing online, take a step away from the photo that is making you feel that way and imagine the real story behind that photo. If you imagine the girl looking at the ocean with a small Greek village island surrounding her, imagine seventeen other girls standing behind her waiting to take that same photo. Is that how you want to spend your time? Waiting to take a photo of your back so you can put it online and make people feel envious? Is that how we want to spend our time, money and life energy? I’m going to go with no.
The feelings you might have when you see photos like this can be extremely detrimental to your mental health. It can lead you to feel like you aren’t enough. Impostor syndrome starts to reel it’s ugly head. I challenge you to unfollow anyone that makes you feel inadequate. I used to follow a ton of celebrities on Instagram. Now the only verified accounts I follow are the Obama’s (duh) and The Happy Pear, because those boys bring me JOY. I used to scroll feeds of beautiful celebrities feeling less than, wishing I could have the life they do. Without those posts in my minds eye every day I feel so much happier. I follow people I know in real life. My feed isn’t so overwhelming now and in turn I find myself engaging more with people I actually care about and know. I challenge you do to the same. It will do wonders for your self image and mental health.
NOW ONTO BABIES! is a phrase I never thought I’d type.
I want to preface this with the fact that I am not a Mom. I don’t plan to be either, but I suppose you never really know. However, I have a lot of lovely wonderful friends who are mothers and some who are even about to become mothers! It’s VERY exciting for me to witness. I am so impressed sometimes when I see people I grew up with or people whose hair I used to hold back while they puked who are now actually raising small infants and doing a damn good job at it too. I wanted to talk about motherhood though because Ormerod’s book has an entire chapter on it and I think it can really help some women out there who are struggling because even I know, as a non-parent, how fucking hard it is to raise children and god damn people on social media who talk about it like it’s fucking sunshine and rainbows all the time 24/7. Mostly because it can make mothers who aren’t experiencing that to feel like complete shit.
I think we all need to do a better job of being up front and honest about raising kids. It’s okay to show beautiful family photos like this one (the two following excerpts from Ormerod’s book):
“You may see a photo of someone baking vegan treats with their kids, pristine homes in the background, handsome husbands just out of eye shot…these can make a mom who hasn’t showered in three days and eats take out noodles feel incomplete.”
So you feel like shit when this happens because they make it look so easy! Why isn’t it easy for me! Well here’s another bit that I suggest thinking about when you see something like this and it makes you feel less than:
“You can take a perfect motherhood pic and then get right back to the sofa with your sweatpants with baby sick in your hair and no one would know. There is zero point in using those perfect images you see to judge yourself on what you’re doing. ”
The truth is, and I say this with the limited extent of my lens as a non-mom: Motherhood can be a very vulnerable time. As women, we could all do with telling each other our honest experiences, particularly when it comes to our bodies. Enough of the shame.
And don’t even get me going on ‘body bounce back’ shit. Okay, I’m gonna get going on it anyway. Women’s bodies are kind of fucking incredible. We literally GROW HUMAN CHILDREN in our bodies. FOR MONTHS. Our bodies change drastically in this time. Not to mention all the crazy shit that can happen to them after the actual act of giving birth. This disgusting pressure we put on mothers to have the exact same bodies as they had pre-birth is one of the worst things we do to a mother’s mental health. You have just been through something truly incredible and your body will need time to heal and repair itself. Sometimes it doesn’t always go back to what it was 100%.
Celebrities in particular have staff dedicated full time to get them back into shape within weeks of giving birth, with nutritionists, personal trainers, the luxury of not having to go back to work right away 9-5, not to mention NANNIES. I don’t know any mother in real life that has those kinds of resources at their disposal. Most of them just seem to be trying to support their new families as soon as possible after their baby comes into the world (via their vagina. Did I mention women’s bodies are kind of amazing and also insane).
Not every woman’s pregnancy is the same. Our experiences during and after this time are really going to be unique to our own bodies. We need to listen to our bodies and not let photos other people may take while on similar journeys make us feel bad about where we are at in our own journey.
Okay, whew. We made it and I’m only left feeling slightly angry after typing all that. Just one more ‘GO MOMS’ for all you amazing women out there procreating and shaping our next generation. If you want to do a good job, then you already are. If you’re worried about if you’re doing it right then you’re doing it right. Just like with schooling, careers, and every other facet of human lives NO ONE REALLY KNOWS WHAT THEY ARE DOING. We are all just doing the best we can. We are all this dog:
Remember if photos of other people are making you feel like shit….unfollow them. They aren’t doing it on purpose (I hope!), but that doesn’t matter. You gotta do you first. Don’t let these images of a moment in someone else’s life, ruin YOUR life. Remember that that’s all it is: a moment! We don’t know what was actually going on before, during or after that photo was taken!
That wraps up honest photos month! I hope you all enjoyed it. Let me know what you thought in the comments or anywhere else online. I’m pretty much ‘hollishillis’ on every platform. If you have ideas of what I should do next let me know! I have February mapped out for my monthly challenge and it’s a doozy you guys. I’m actually having real anxiety of how I will manage it. Here’s a hint: news.
Push-up Update: I’m back at it! The first week I did knee push ups and fucked up my shoulder, then I was out two weeks, but I’m back and doing wall push-ups now. I’m trying not to feel weak and sad about this. My journey is not everyone else’s journey. I have to take care of my body and go slow and as much as I want to just get back down and do the knee ones again I’m going to do the wall ones for another week and then try to move to the knees ones again. I did 40 total this week and I was a little sore, but nothing was damaged so I’m feeling good. I still think I will be able to do 100 real push ups consecutively by the end of the year. Slow and steady wins the whatever. See you all for February’s challenge next week!