Letting Go of Perfection

This is a topic I come back to often — and in almost every aspect of my life. While there are some up-sides to being a perfectionist (I usually turn in pretty darn good work!), there are also plenty of down-sides. One of the biggest for me is I let my desire to get-things-just-right and do-them-completely get in the way of doing things at all.

I know I’m far from the first person to experience (or write about) this, so I’m not here to lecture you about it. If you deal with this too (and I know so many people who do!), you already know it. Instead, I’m here to celebrate a small way I’ve managed to let go — in a way I’ve never managed to achieve before.

Yesterday I wrote about how I’ve picked up my yoga and meditation practice again. Exercise of any sort tends to be a place where I get stopped up. When I finally make myself do it, I want to really *do it*. Then I hurt myself because I go too hard too soon. This has happened more times than I can count. (And I would have had to start counting several decades ago.)

This time I decided not to let that happen. Of course, deciding something and actually doing it are two different things — I’d made that same decision before and didn’t stick with it. This time, however, I’ve actually followed through, and I am honestly kinda giddy about it.

I am happy to report that I have cut short or significantly altered my yoga sessions four times. (I’ve only been at it for a little over a week, so this is a significant number.)

I’m not sure I’ve ever bragged about quitting before, but right now I totally am. Every time, I felt a muscle twinge or a nerve being pinched, I slowly came back to centre then called it quits for that session (or rested in child’s pose until the video moved onto something I thought I could handle). Could I have forged ahead and kept going without doing damage? Maybe. (But at least one of those times it was very unlikely.)

But why risk it? Is it worth it to finish that YouTube session with an instructor who doesn’t actually know I exist? My perfectionist brain says YES.

But I’m smarter than my brain.

Suck it brain — I’m taking care of myself.

 

Small Steps

I don’t really do New Year’s resolutions. It’s nice to think about ways I can make 2020 better than 2019, but I’m more into continuous improvement. Sometimes having an arbitrary day to start something new helps (I prefer to start new routines on Mondays as opposed to mid-week), but I used to fall into the procrastination trap all too easily. “I don’t want to start X right now because I have That Thing next weekend. I should wait until after.” “[Arbitrary date] would be a good time to start X because it’s a holiday.” Lather, rinse, repeat.

That’s why I didn’t wait until the new year to start getting back to my yoga and meditation practice. I’d let it fall off quite a bit over the latter months of last year. During my holiday break, I decided I was sick of feeling tired and creaky so often, so I started near-daily practice of both yoga and meditation again — before the calendar clicked over to 2020. (It was only a few days before Jan 1, but it’s the principle that counts — I didn’t let the calendar dictate when I’d start my self care.)

It’s only been about a week, but I’ve already noticed a difference. Even before I re-started the regular yoga, I’d been doing a basic toe-touch stretch a few times a day in which I’d breathe deeply, hold it briefly, then let it all out slowly. Every time I did that, my spine would crackle like a bowl of breakfast cereal. I’d keep breathing and stretching until the crackling stopped.

Now, roughly a week later, when I do that stretch, almost no popping to speak of! It’s a little thing, but it’s really neat to get a measurable result so quickly.

I wouldn’t necessarily know I had made that progress if I hadn’t already been doing that one stretch. So I’m going to keep this in mind as I move forward with this (and any other) self-improvement effort. Stuff is happening. As long as I’m putting in the work, things are getting better. I might not always be able to see or feel it, but it’s occurring just the same.

Knowing that helps.

Hockey as a Health Indicator

Me, in a navy blue Oilers jersey, in my seat at a hockey game

Hockey season is almost upon us again, and I am far more excited about it than I expected. Not just because the Oilers look like they might finally be on the right track (and yes, I know that’s the perennial chorus of Oilers fans everywhere), but because of how I feel about hockey in general.

Last season I was happy to root for my team(s), but at a bit of a distance. I live an easy walk from the rink, but I rarely took in a game. My mental health just wasn’t at a place where I could summon that much energy.

This year, I’ve already been to three live games, plus one open “fan day” scrimmage. And I just bought tickets to the home opener on Wednesday.

This is exciting for me on a much deeper level than just the hockey front. It’s a real-life indicator that I’m in a better place than I was a year ago. I started on my current brain-meds (quetiapine) in mid-May, and I really, truly am having better quality of life as a result.

Last year, the few times I went to a game, I waited until the day of to buy a ticket, just because I wasn’t sure I would be in a mental state to handle it. I’ve planned almost all of this season’s games ahead, and I’ve enjoyed the heck out of the ones that’ve already happened. (I fully expect to enjoy the heck out of the game Wednesday as well!)

I’ve also been thrilled to be talking about hockey again. Beginner’s Puck has kicked off for a third season, and it feels so good to be talking about all the fun with my cohost Deb.

If you’re into hockey, I’d love for you to take a listen. And if you’re not, but you’re hockey-curious, then I’d really like you to listen. Spreading the love to more new fans is what we’re all about!

Speaking of the love, I loved my experience at the game I attended last week. I went on my own and livetweeted the fun. (That’s another thing I mostly didn’t have the energy to do so enthusiastically last season.) If you’re curious what an NHL preseason game is like in Edmonton, wonder no more:

Time vs Anxiety

Last night I tweeted this and thought I’d follow up:

My brother had a projection alarm clock many years ago, and I was always jealous of it. Cut to almost 15 years later (I’m a procrastinator, ok?), and I finally got around to getting one for myself.

I had a few worries, but they were unfounded:

  • I worried I wouldn’t be able to position it to display on the ceiling. (I didn’t want it on the wall.) I could!
  • I worried it would be hard to read. It’s not!
  • I worried it would be so bright it would be distracting for me or Steven. It isn’t!

So it’s pretty much everything I hoped it would be — and more!

As I said in the tweet, an unexpected benefit was that I’m less anxious at night. This is simply because I can very easily see what time it is. I do wear a sleeping mask, but I can push it out of the the way without moving much (or even sometimes just tilt back my head and peek out from under it). And the time is just THERE! Right in front of me!

I used to wake up in the middle of the night (several times a night) and wonder what time it was. Moving my arm in *just* the right way to trigger my FitBit to show me the time while also disentangling my arm from the blankets was a hassle-and-a-half. Steven’s bedside clock was too hard to see—I had to sit up to get a good view of it. (I didn’t have a bedside clock before this because I didn’t want to have to move to see it anyway—I sleep on my back.)

So sometimes I did the little song-and-dance I needed to do to see the time (which then woke me up enough that I couldn’t fall back to sleep easily). But much more often, I’d just continue to lie there and hope to fall back asleep…

That didn’t work either because I’d keep wondering what time it was and how much time I had left to sleep and was it so close to wake-up time that getting back to sleep would be a bad idea anyway and why can’t I stop thinking about this and just go back to sleep?

So anyway, that’s my latest one-weird-trick for slightly subduing my anxiety. Obviously, if always knowing what time it is *makes* you anxious, I don’t recommend this!

Also, it’s worth noting that the thing that’s been helping most with my anxiety is the doctor-prescribed medication I take. And I do not for a moment take for granted how lucky and privileged I am to be in a place (physically, mentally, financially) where I can access that.

So anyway, I guess the moral of the story is that help can be found in unexpected places, and it’s important to recognize and celebrate even the small wins!

Alarm Clocks Time Projection, New Clock Time on Ceiling Wall for Bedroom Decor, Digital Travel Clock with Colorful Backlight for Kids, Adjustable Brightness & Projector Focus, DC Adpator Included

Goodbye, Grandma

First of all I want to thank all the lovely people who sent me cat pictures on Twitter the other day. I really needed it.

I lost my grandma this weekend, and due to multiple circumstances, I won’t be attending the celebration of life in Florida this weekend. I know it’s the right decision, and I think Grandma would agree, but being so far away from my family makes this extra hard.

I wish I had it in me to write the kind of blog post about her that she deserves, but I am exhausted both physically and emotionally. Again, I know she would understand and tell me to take care of myself.

So instead, I’ll just share this amazing pic that my sister found from one of Grandma’s college yearbooks. Check out Flossie Peterson playing basketball. If you can, I highly encourage you to zoom in on her and look at that sparkle in her eye. She never ever lost that sparkle. That’s the Grandma I’m going to remember.

Grandma.jpg

Shoe (Travel) Anxiety

**UPDATE** I didn’t get a chance to post this when I first drafted it (last week), so despite the opening sentence, I can affirm that I’m 100% Travel-Anxious at this time.

Ok, so I don’t actually have travel anxiety *yet*. Is there such a thing as travel-anxiety anxiety? Our big MN-WI vacation doesn’t start for another few days, but it’s been a few years since I’ve traveled for longer than about five days so the prospect of being away from home for two and a half weeks is daunting from a packing perspective.

Happily, we’ll be staying with friends and family for enough of the trip that we can do laundry partway through. But that’s not really why I struggle with packing. When I get dressed for the day, I do it largely based on whim and current emotional state. How am I supposed to know what my emotional state and whimsy will look like two weeks ahead of time??

This is how over-packing happens.

I did swing the other direction for a few trips. I was so dedicated to slimming down my suitcase that I didn’t pack *enough* to wear. And that happened on trips where I didn’t have the option of doing laundry. Oops. Thus my most recent trip swung back to overpackage. Oy.

And can we talk about shoes? This is the thing that stumps me every time. I don’t have a great pair of all-purpose shoes. So I end up packing the shoes that are super comfortable to walk in but are old and ugly and the shoes that are decent looking but only comfortable for moderate walking distances and the shoes that look nice (usually just in case) and maybe the boots because I might want them and they’re so cute and comfy and also the slip-ons because maybe I’ll want to be able to go outside and back in really quickly without having to deal with laces and such.

Shoes take up a dang lotta space.

The solution is probably to find a nice pair of all-purpose shoes. I welcome suggestions! (I have narrow feet, so I’ve always struggled to find shoes that fit.)

**UPDATE** I have decided on one pair of Converse (which I will wear to travel) and one pair of sandals. Here’s hoping that carries me through.

Converse Turquoise All Star Ox Glitter Trainers

I can’t resist a bit of shiny/sparkliness–I nabbed these shoes the moment I saw them. I also have a pair that’s silver, but they’re more worn so these are coming with me.

Spring Grasshoppers Chambray Velcro Sandals - light blue fabric

These are so comfy, and I’m sad Grasshoppers doesn’t make this kind of sandal anymore.

His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik

His Majesty's Dragon: A Novel of Temeraire by Naomi Novik - a black dragon wrapped around a picture of a naval sailing ship hangs in front of a red and black background

[For an audio version of this article, please listen to Episode 39 of Recently Read on The Incomparable podcast network.]

The Deck of the French ship was slippery with blood, heaving in the choppy sea; a stroke might as easily bring down the man making it as the intended target. Laurence did not have time in the heat of the battle to be surprised at the degree of resistance, but even through the numbing haze of battle-fever and the confusion of swords and pistol-smoke, he marked the extreme look of anguish on the French captain’s face as the man shouted encouragement to his men.

That’s the first paragraph of His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik. In the midst of reading lots of current books for awards season, I decided I needed two things: a break and dragons. I enjoyed Novik’s novels Uprooted and Spinning Silver, and I’d heard good things about her Temeraire series.

Those good things proved true.

The briefest description of this book could be “Napoleonic war with dragons” because that’s exactly what it is. It’s an alternate history in which dragons exist on Earth and have been bred and used in warfare for hundreds of years. I generally don’t care for alternate history, but I really really like dragons, so I decided to give this a shot. I’m glad I did because I quite like these dragons. There are many breeds of differing size and capabilities. Some breathe fire, others acid, and all of them are deadly in the art of aerial warfare.

The dragon at the centre of this book is named Temeraire, and he enters the story shortly after the battle described in the first paragraph. The British captain, Laurence, discovers the French frigate he captured was carrying a large dragon egg. That egg is now England’s. But there’s a big complication: it will hatch weeks before they can get back to land. This presents a problem, as the Aerial Corps is a very different branch of the armed forces. Dragon aviators are trained from youth; they’re a group apart, and as such, they’re looked down upon by pretty much everyone else (not only the military, but society at large). The officers must draw lots to see who will attempt to harness the dragonet. In the event, the dragon bonds with Laurence, which means he must leave the navy and everything and everyone he knows to train for a totally new type of military profession.

I enjoy a good fish-out-of-water story (and I’m not talking about Temeraire fishing for his supper until they can reach dry land). Laurence is an officer and a gentleman and his struggle to acclimate to the much-more-relaxed and informal and wrinkled world of the Aerial Corps makes for an entertaining and engrossing read. This is easily the part of the book I liked best (besides the dragons themselves, of course).

I appreciate the thought Novik gave to just how dragons would be integrated (or not integrated) into society and warfare—though it’s the society angle that gripped me most. It reminded me a lot of Anne McCaffery’s Dragonriders of Pern series in that the dragons and their crews provide a valuable service, but most of society looks askance at them. Also, dragons are able to speak immediately and bond with their riders upon hatching, though it’s not the same type of deep, telepathic bond as in McCaffery’s books—these dragons can (and do) take new riders when required. Another similarity: a certain type of dragon only bonds with women, which is a nifty way of working in some modern gender politics. Well-respected and easily-accepted female captains are just as awesome as the dragons are and, compared to the contemporary society, feel just about as fictional.

Speaking of contemporary society, the language in this book feels like a throw-back to that time. It is very formal and occasionally florid. I’m impressed by Novik’s ability to write in this voice while still keeping it accessible to a modern reader like me (someone who doesn’t always go in for period-style writing). Though I will admit the stiff formality of the language and phrasing did slow me down a little bit. It was a minor, added layer of difficulty that I mostly didn’t mind overcoming in order to get through the story.

The bigger obstacle for me was the fact that in the end, this is a war novel. I enjoyed the beginning of the book much more than the latter bits. I liked watching Laurence learn the ropes and deepen his friendship with Temeraire, but eventually they’ve been trained, and it’s time to go into battle. Even in visual media, battle sequences bore me, so while the battles were well-conceived and well-written, I found myself drifting as I read them. I’m not certain I’ll continue on with Throne of Jade (the next book in the series), because I suspect the subsequent books may be even more war-novelly than His Majesty’s Dragon. That said, I am glad I picked up this one and made the acquaintance of these lovely dragons.