I love a resolution. A goal. A dream board I can sink my teeth into. This passion for planning makes the beginning of the year feel like its own kind of holiday. I set aside a sacred afternoon, pull out my colored pens, and fill in a crisp new passion planner with visions for the time ahead.
(Perhaps appropriately for this year, my planner has not arrived and I’m totally fine and absolutely not bothered or anxious by that at all.)
This year, I’m trying to be better about setting goals that are more fluid and flexible, celebratory rather than self-critical, and that attempt to honor both self-care and self-improvement simultaneously. Inevitability, a reading resolution always makes its way onto my list, but while the last five years I’ve set a hard number for myself to hit, this year I’m thinking about things a little differently.
Hello sweet friend. How are you? Is your brain also a bit of a pancake?
I have been giving myself a lot of pep talks this month, from needed tough love moments to verbal hugs and Kris Jenner-like cheer sessions. I’ll be honest, I’m not sure who this blog post is more for, you or me, but if you’re also in need of a reminder that you’re doing just fine, today’s writing is for you.
Who was the first human to market the bubble-bath-by-candlelight trend as being the ultimate form of self-care? I highly doubt they also lived in a New York City apartment with a miniature tub, but if they did, I have some questions. How do you ever find the balance between scalding hot and lukewarm water? Do you choose to have your knees or nipples underwater — because you can’t have both, it’s a tiny tub. And finally, do you know this isn’t actually the ultimate form of self-care?
I’ve been thinking a lot about self-care as we begin entering the dark months of winter and what self-care actually looks like in practice. The pandemic, politics, the state of the world, and just trying to stay afloat in my own life have felt especially heavy the last few weeks. Burnout is hard and all-consuming when it hits, and my sudden deep lack of motivation, exhaustion, self-criticism, and inability to focus is signaling to me — in giant neon flashing letters — that it’s here. I am burned out — and I imagine, we all are.
While we know there won’t be an immediate change to many of our circumstances in the next few months, change is coming. It always does. So while we wait, it’s desperately important that we take care of ourselves and proactively create our own self-care game plans we can fall back on when the coming months get dicey.
There is a turkey currently taking up residence in my fridge, and 10 apples waiting to become apple cider on top of the stove. My counters are covered in supplies for our upcoming dinner feast — stuffing mixes, green beans, cinnamon sticks, potatoes, pies. I think my kitchen, and my apartment on a whole, is happiest on the eve of hosting something special. Hosting in any capacity feels like such an intimate and personal way to shower people I love with love, and it’s something I’ve missed most over the last year.
This is the first year I will be spending Thanksgiving without my family, and it’s taken a minute to let the idea sink in. It’s only a year (fingers crossed) and how lucky we’ve been that we’ve gotten to spend every other holiday together until this point?
Thanksgiving is a cornerstone holiday in the Lanning household both in California, and since my move, in New York — where despite all the obstacles we still manage to produce a multi-course feast from the depths of my microscopic boat kitchen. For what my apartment lacks in counter space (I have one two foot counter) it makes up for in framed art and cat hair — which I’ll try my best not to get in your Thanksgiving meal.
The other day I realized how few photographs I’ve taken this year. With so much time spent at home, my days can often feel like blurs of each other, differentiated slightly by the daily decisions to do yoga or watch Penny Dreadful after dinner, go for a walk before work or during a lunch break, see friends in the park on Saturday or Sunday morning. It’s been an outrageously eventful year and yet simultaneously so mundane in the same stroke.
This month I made it my goal to take a photo or write a journal entry everyday because as much as this year feels burned into my brain forever I know I’ll look back and wonder about the details that made up my days.
During yoga classes, my teachers would often remind me — usually amid an especially prolonged chair pose — to be mindful not to rush through the transitions. “They’re often even more important to be present within than the poses themselves,” they would say in that melodic yogi voice that makes everything sound poetic. Sometimes I would forget the minute the last word came out of their mouth, so rushed was I to alleviate the shakes and pains of my muscles, but on good days, their words would sink deep into my little heart, inspiring me to slowly move with extra depth and care into the next posture.
It’s such a basic idea, the concept of being present within the transitions of life, and yet amongst the upheaval brought on by change, presentness and grace are often the first thing out my window as I want nothing more than to hit a definitive destination.
Where are you in your pandemic journey, sweet friend? Has your obsession with sourdough evolved into an obsession with Star Trek, or have you found yourself adapting back into older more settled routines that are less about a productivity panic, but more about you? I hope that’s the case. I feel like I’ve been ebbing back into that space myself, where my evenings have become more and more centered around doing things that help my brain feel less like an overly shaken snow globe with its repetitive tune on full blast.
A few weekends ago, my girlfriends and I threw our well worn selves, Maria’s pup Billie, and an infinite number of road trip snacks into a car and three hours later, and for the next three days, found ourselves strewn across the lawn of a gorgeous cabin in Hunter.
Some of my earliest memories are cruising around on my bike. When I was five, my dad took me to the park next to our house where I timidly stumbled to follow the sidewalk lines as I became acquainted with my new lack of training wheels. My bike was purple and pink, with a white seat, and a vinyl basket up front for my various stuffed animals to enjoy a front seat view of the world. The second I hit my stride, going from wobbling like a newborn calf to proper bike legend, I loved the freedom of just being able to take off. As a family, we’d take our bikes on vacation and weekend rides around our city, but when I hit the infamous teenage years, I refused to wear a helmet. According to my peers, it was uncool to keep your cranium safe and there was a rule in my house: No helmet, no bike riding. So I stopped biking, eventually giving away my more adult bike by then, and forgetting more and more how much I loved the freedom of two wheels.
For the last five years in New York City, I had told myself I wasn’t a bike person. I was afraid of the traffic, I didn’t know how it worked here, and where would I store a bike anyways? And yet, every time I’ve ridden a bike around the neighborhood — either through rentals or Citibike — what a high! How had I gotten to the point where I believed I wasn’t a bike person? And what does being a bike person even mean?
Before you ask, I am still pumping myself up to try out bicycle trips around Brooklyn this summer. But as I’m working up my courage, inspired by stories of my friends’ trips to the beach and Red Hook, I’ve come to realize that a huge part of this bike hesitancy has been caused by the fact that I’ve told myself I’m not a bike person. Brain, you sneaky little minx, what else have you been telling me that I’m not!