stress [should be] your friend

I watched a great TED Talk tonight that, according to the claims of the presenter, could save my life, and maybe yours too.

I’m a pretty stressed out person. I think I actually need to stop typing/saying/thinking this, because what we say and feel over and over becomes reality. So, I’ll rephrase it, and try to remember that for the future: I sometimes experience a lot of stress, perhaps more than the situation warrants. And like many people, I have always thought that stress is BAD for you. It gives you early heart attacks, makes you cranky, probably gives you wrinkles and we allll know how bad those are (to clarify if you can’t read sarcasm, they’re not bad, that’s a superficial society terrified of aging telling you that, but I digress…). Suffice to say, stress = bad for you.

And like many people, who may experience the s-word sometimes, I get doubly afraid because I am also sure my high stress levels will lead to my imminent demise, or at least earlier than Buddha’s. So I’m really thankful that I listened to this TED Talk today that said we have it all wrong.

Now, I didn’t know much about the biology of stress; maybe you did. But I learned that the stress response is in many ways similar to the response we have in times of joy and courage. Stress is actually just our body preparing you to deal with whatever the situation is that is causing you to feel this way. And studies show that those with high stress who don’t think stress is bad for you are actually more inclined to live longer. And, caring for others and being part of your community makes you more resilient! Woah.

Kelly McGonigal, the speaker, does a much better job than I can in explaining it all, so I’ll leave it to you to watch the talk. But basically, we need to change our perspective, our attitude, towards stress. And in doing so, we will actually make ourselves healthier, and better able to deal with more stress. Consider that as you start Monday morning.

-sah

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may 23 2018

The sound of the dishwasher is always the sound of the end of the night to me. It means the lights are dimmed right down low, we’re all getting ready for bed, teeth brushed, maybe sitting at the dining room table for a few more quiet minutes, but sleep is imminent.

Back home, and in my current place consisting of only me and my partner, it also usually means it’s been an eventful night, because if there were enough dishes to warrant using the dishwasher, that means there’s been friends and cooking and no energy left for dishes.

Tonight was no exception, and my dishwasher is running noisily away in the kitchen, cleaning up the debris (hopefully) of a lovely evening spent with friends and lively discussion. This is what I came to this city for.

People. Discussion. Book clubs. Books. Making connections and building on interests formed into solid passions in the last few years of change and growth. Nights like this one where there is a confluence of these things, leading to a contented quietness punctuated only by the rushing of water and a recognizable whirring sound.

In about one hour and 25 minutes from writing this, I’ll turn 29. Entering my 30th year. To be honest, I’ve been so overwhelmed with life and anxiety and just every day stuff, some more exciting than the turning of another year, I haven’t thought too much about it this year. So here’s a little note to myself, to mark the passing of time, and all the things that change and all those that stay the same.

I wish for myself in my upcoming year more peace, less anxiety, continued growth, some excitement, new friends and time with old ones, new challenges, time for rest, to learn something new, hopefully many somethings new. And to sit on this eve one year from now and feel good. To feel older and perhaps wiser, if only in knowing how little I know and how little it matters, and to be looking forward to the next year as much as I enjoyed the last.

-sah

words matter

Cross-posting from something I wrote on Facebook today, but really important so I wanted to share.

Read this for context.


When I first got back to Canada, it was very soon after Trump had announced the US planned to move their embassy to Jerusalem. Having just left that very city, we had already witnessed firsthand some of the fallout from this decision – protests, violence, clashes with the Israeli army and police.

We were having dinner with friends, and got on the topic. I was expressing my frustration with this “stunt”, of placing showy politics above people’s lives. One of the people at the dinner said that it’s just words, it means nothing. I disagreed – we had already seen the beginning of what these “words” could do, and I was worried about what would happen should the embassy actually move.

Now we’re seeing it.

“The confluence of events led to split-screen coverage of Monday’s embassy unveiling, with U.S. guests led by President Trump’s daughter and son-in-law, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, smiling and celebrating inside the embassy as, along the Gaza border, black smoke billowed from burning tires and gunshots rang out in what an IDF spokesperson called a day of “unprecedented violence.””

I know it’s not only about the embassy. I also know, as someone who regularly tries to understand the news from other countries, that a lot of people will have a hard time understanding the protests, the violence, have a hard time believing it’s more than “terrorism”. Why can’t people protest peacefully?? Well, what would you do, locked behind walls on your own land? What are your options when the world has forgotten you? I asked myself the same question recently, after reading yet another story of a black woman being assaulted and held for no reason by police in the US… what do you do when the people you’d call for help are the ones inflicting the violence? Have you ever been in a position so completely helpless? I haven’t, and I can’t begin to imagine the reactions this can bring about in people, nor condemn those reactions.

If there’s anything I’ve learned after living for two years in Israel and Palestine, it’s that words matter. Politics are not some faraway thing that don’t affect our lives (we don’t have to look far to see how racist policies and the resulting outcomes affect POC in the US, or women fighting for their rights as governments choose to limit their access to healthcare or jail them for miscarriages, or Indigenous people fighting to be recognized and allowed to live with the same privileges as white people, on their own land, to name a few). Constantly, political power plays in Israel, words that later appear as headlines in international news, shape and take Palestinian lives. Alter the lives of refugees and asylum seekers. Diminish and dismiss thousands and millions of people.

I have no advice, other than to be open and try to learn from those who are different, and use your vote and your voice. But I do hope, if you read this far, you remember that while it can be overwhelming to constantly hear bad news, this bad news is happening to real people. The truth is so much more than headlines, so much more complex and it’s important to try, as much as we can, to understand the reality and not buy into the “words” as mere words we’re reading on a page, but as actions that cause violence, and oppression, and hurt.

-sah

badass women

So into this song.

I’m possibly a little late to the Janelle Monáe bandwagon, but I’m just now starting to click with her music, and the only thing I can say is that at least I’m getting to enjoy all her songs for the first time.

I love the video, the subtext, the fact that it’s highlighting black women, celebrating women (including those with and without vaginas), and just everything about it.

This is my second favourite right now.

“But even back then with the tears in my eyes I always knew I was the shit”.

Thank you Janelle Monáe, you’re amazing – which clearly you already know and don’t need me saying, but thank you all the same.

-sah

ready as I ever was

It’s getting so nice out, and so warm, and I’ve already been to the beach twice (albeit in Israel)… and it’s all lovely and glorious… but it’s also about the time of year to share this sweet image I think. I’ve had this on my desktop for years (last modified September 21, 2014, apparently), transferred to each new computer and opened whenever I’m feeling some self doubt, or if I’m anything less than in love with myself.

sweet-bodies
I don’t know the original artist… searching for it now produces memes but no credit, so if you do know who drew this, please tell me! I’d love to thank them for it, because it always makes me feel good.

Fucking beach body season. Ack. This is just your friendly reminder that whatever body you put in a swimsuit and sit on the beach is a beach body. I follow this lovely woman on Instagram who gives great reminders of this (and promotes beautiful and diverse bodies of all kinds), this recent post being a great example.

So don’t forget you’re amazing.

Also.

When I was thinking about this and seeing horrible magazines telling you how to do 100 crunches a day and you’ll have the abs of [insert name of already thin celebrity with a personal trainer who literally gets paid to train and diet to look society’s-standard of “amazing”] and buy these swimsuits and use this cream and etc etc, it got me thinking about how we are always trying to prepare ourselves, and we so rarely feel like we’re “ready”.

It’s an old refrain, I’m sure you’ve said it, I have, and maybe you’ve heard it referenced in some personal development or self-help field: I’ll be prettier and find a partner when I lose 10 pounds. I’ll sign-up for that run once I’ve bought those shoes. I’ll be happier when I earn more money.

Is that true? Of course not! If you find yourself actually happier/with a partner/doing stuff you never thought you would, it’s not because you’re skinnier/richer/whatever. Something else inside you has changed, perhaps alongside those things, sure, but not only because of them.

So along with my reminder to you that you are ready and ALLOWED and DESERVE to wear whatever you want this summer, wherever you want to (and too bad for all the jerks who think otherwise, go flaunt your amazing self-confidence right in their faces), here’s another reminder:

You (and by you, I kind of mean me here, obviously) may never be truly “ready”. You may not have all the skills, you may not know exactly what to say, you may not feel certain, or be sure if now’s the right time, or or or…

But do it anyways. I am as ready as I’ll ever be in this life, because there is no point where you level up and be ready – not until you tell yourself you are, that is. Make sense?

It seems kind of too easy to be true (or perhaps so ridiculously hard as to be impossible, I feel both depending on the day) but I really believe this. We tell ourselves when we’re ready. Society, marketing, they may try to tell us otherwise. Our friends or families or colleagues or even bloody awful strangers on the beach may tell us otherwise.

So what? You are as ready as you’ll ever be.

Get out there!! 🍑

-sah

community

Is there anything more “community” feeling than a Farmer’s Market? Sun shining, warm enough, finally, for only a sweater, and everyone comes alive after a long winter.

thomas-gamstaetter-130746-unsplash
Photo by Thomas Gamstaetter on Unsplash

There’s something so special about the feeling of supporting your community, and being around others doing the same. Almost the same feeling as I was talking about yesterday, when you support an artist you love, going to a local market means you’re investing in your neighbours, and usually, with the delicious organic and sustainably-grown food you’re buying, yourself and the planet. Not a bad deal.

There were carrots of every colour, bigger and far less straight looking than in the supermarket. Big bunches of all sorts of salads, maple syrup, chutneys, and some amazing cider that I look forward to buying for our first summer barbecue. Little kids running around, dogs and strollers and people on bikes… there were folks handing out information about an upcoming community meeting (I seriously can’t wait to start attending those) and just an air of camaraderie that you don’t always feel on the streets of a big city.

My big priorities now when it comes to community building? Find somewhere to volunteer in the area. Start doing some shopping in the market, even if it’s only a little thing each week, a couple veggies or a cup of the delicious-looking Mexican drinking chocolate, enough to get to know vendors and shoppers. Get outside and explore the neighbourhood by foot, my favourite method of getting acquainted with a new place. Take a class – I saw a neat place offering sewing classes, and since I’m reunited with my machine, I think this might be my chance to finally see if I could take after my grandmother and be the seamstress for the family!

It’s a neat feeling to think we’re becoming part of something, even if we still feel a bit outside of the city and like we’re the only ones with no job and no “circle” on some of our less optimistic days. Summer sunshine makes everything better!

Looking forward to a weekend of friends and family and sunshine ❤

-sah

buy buy buy (art)

Since we’ve moved here, it has felt like we’ve done a lot of consuming, and not a lot of making (as in, money mostly… unless you count writing tons of resumés and cover letters, and lots of tasty dinners, as “making”…).

Today was no different, but I’ve learned to roll with it and realize that this is just the point we’re at – making up a little home for ourselves, and full-time jobs will eventually come. So, I’m really enjoying this nesting/decorating/designing/planning period.

We went to IKEA (only the second time – so far 😬) and got a much needed dresser, for our room was slowly becoming one big pile of clothes, and as it is a very small room, that meant there were just clothes everywhere. You know when you move them from one pile to the next, to the bed, to the laundry, and back until you want to give up and just eschew clothes forever? I was there.

I had scoured Bunz and Kijiji and Facebook sales groups, but we had a very specific tall and narrow space to fill, so nothing doing. Plus, I was seriously spending so. much. time. combing these groups, and while I do have a lot of time on my hands right now, there are far better ways to spend it than going deep into the depths of things posted five months ago. Off to IKEA we went, and managed to be in and out with dresser, a few little needed things from the dangerous Market Hall, and, I am not ashamed to admit, a box of half a dozen cinnamon buns 😀 It was lunch time, at least we didn’t go for the Swedish meatballs (I almost went for the Swedish meatballs).

To get to the real exciting bit though… what I got today that made me REALLY happy was, for (almost) the first time, I bought myself some original ART! It has long been a dream of mine to slowly cover every inch of my walls with art made by artists I really admire and whose work I love. Art, however, is very expensive sometimes, so our collection remains small. We have some beautiful and decently sized Kenyan art, from our couple of trips there together, but that is significantly less expensive than if it were being bought outside of Kenya.

There is an artist called EttaVee (well, that’s her brand) who is a painter, making some of the most vibrant, colourful, and striking pieces I’ve seen in awhile. Her work really resonates with me and I have been coveting it since the moment I first came across it. Today, I woke up to see her not-inexpensive work was on HALF-OFF as she clears out her shop for new pieces. I was browsing through, just to see, and came across a painting that made me so happy and warm and fuzzy inside. I realized that if I bought it today, it would be delivered by about my birthday.

Long story short – I bought myself some art! I am slightly in disbelief, I do NOT make big purchases so quickly and without a lot of stress usually. But after I bought it, I was going through Instagram, and the artist had posted on her stories about the sale, and the pieces available. The first picture was of my piece… and the next one was the same picture with a big SOLD on top and it made me feel tremendously giddy!

All that to say – if something makes you really happy, and you have the good luck and privilege to go for it – DO! I am already imagining this piece in each room, trying to decide where I will get to look at it the most frequently. When it arrives, (hopefully in about 3 weeks?) I’ll put up a picture. Until then, check out her Instagram and website, her stuff is beautiful, and you will probably want some too 😊

I hope you have a lovely art and colour filled night!

See you tomorrow

-sah

be uncomfortable

We all experience uncomfortable moments now and again. It’s normal, it sucks, we get over it.

You know who are constantly being made to feel uncomfortable in our society? People of colour. Disabled folks. Trans and LGBTQ2S people. Fat people. People who we see as “different”, marginalized people and marginalized bodies. People who, as a society, we are constantly asking to justify and explain their existence and experiences. They don’t have a choice to exist in these bodies (and to clarify, nor should they be expected to choose differently if they could), yet we are constantly asking them to do the work to explain their experiences to those of us with the privilege to not understand.

I am constantly working on how to be an advocate and how to listen and always trying to learn. And to be honest, it’s pretty uncomfortable. You’re afraid to say the wrong thing, to put your foot in your mouth, or, god forbid, actually say something racist or sexist or unacceptable yourself. But you know what? Apart from that old adage that suggests we learn from our mistakes, I want to suggest something else to you:

It’s our turn to be uncomfortable. If you have the privilege to be unaware of these issues, it’s time you got out of your comfort zone and experienced in the tiniest, most minuscule way, what some people experience all the time. And then, once you’ve learned a bit – it’s time for you, time for us, to go out and have the uncomfortable conversations, to engage when we’d rather not, to contradict racist, sexist, ignorant opinions with knowledge, facts, and sensitivity. To advocate even in our discomfort.

It’s OK to be uncomfortable. We grow in discomfort. We learn in discomfort. We become better people and we become better advocates and community members and friends when we allow ourselves to be uncomfortable.

This is just your daily reminder, if you needed it, to step up to the plate of discomfort!

Just try.

-sah