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We’ve had some trash weather lately (see image for my MIA patio) but, that just means that I have more of a reason to stay at home and wear comfy clothes!

I’ve never thought I could be a work-from-home kind of person–I prefer to keep my personal life separate from work. While not a usual occurrence, there have been a couple days this winter where I’ve worked from home due to snow. Oddly, I find myself to be even more productive, both with my workload and my personal to dos, on these days.

I’ve been trying to figure out how to keep the productivity going throughout the week when these days come up. While it’s still a work in progress, here’s some of the things that I’ve found to help:

  • Read a book something
    Okay, this makes it sound like I read an entire book just to keep the rest of the week productive. I don’t! I read tidbits of my favorite novels, short stories, poems, and articles. I have at least six different “To Read” piles, and I just pick up what seems interesting at the time. Last week, it was online literary magazines I enjoy. Check them out, or find your own pile to read!

  • Self care
    Or rather, some semblance of self care. Last week that was painting my nails. This week, maybe it’ll be brownies, a face mask, or some crafting. Maybe I’ll finish the scarf I’ve been knitting for the last five years. I’ll probably end up partaking in Law and Order: SVU marathons (but with my laptop open, so I do stuff… hopefully).
  • Tidbits (instead of mouthfuls)
    What I really mean by this is pretty much just: baby steps. Breaking a large task up into smaller chunks. Do I want to deep clean my bathroom? Not particularly. Can I clean one thing each time I go to the bathroom? Sure. How about the laundry pile that’s taller than me? I think it’ll be better if I slowly separate the clothes into colors, whites, and delicates on my bedroom floor first.

Hopefully, 2019 leads me on the right path to discovering just what exactly I need to be my best self. Here’s to a year of learning, growth, and productive personal time.

It seems I’ve been in a rut the last few months while trying to wrap up the year. 2018 hasn’t quite gone as planned, and while it’s been an adventure, trying to keep track of everything I managed to get done and things I’ll have to push to the new year has taken its toll.

2018 has brought a lot for me personally. Both in experiences and personal accomplishments! I drove all over the country in my little civic, from Wisco to Mass to Jersey all for some weddings, and then to do it all over again and drive from Wisco through Iowa, Nebraska, and Colorado just to see Phish at Dick’s for Labor Day weekend. I’ve worked on journaling a little bit more than I have historically–and by that I mean maybe once a month I remember to write something in a notebook and call it a journal. We also adopted a kitten, Wilson, to entertain Sal… that’s still a work in progress but it’s been a blast so far.

This year, I submitted work professionally and received acceptances! In college I tried to pigeon hole myself into writing fiction exclusively, but thankfully I came to my senses and have allowed myself to explore. I had submitted some stories to a couple of magazines and either was rejected or didn’t hear back. I’ve found that I struggle to let go of and see my short stories as “ready”, even after years of revision. On the flip side, most of the work I had published this year was poetry! Somehow, it’s been a faster process for me to see a poem as finished and ready for the world. If you had told me 4 years ago that this would be the case, I wouldn’t have believed it. I had work published in Rabid Oak, Furtive Dalliance, Rose Quartz Magazine, and I have a piece accepted for the January issue of Mojave He[art] Review.

New Year’s resolutions aren’t really my style. Why do you need an arbitrary date to start bettering yourself, or changing in general? Life is always moving and changing. We should, too. Every year people ask me about my resolutions and I usually stumble through some form of “Oh shit, wait, that’s right, New Year’s is right after Christmas. That’s in a week.” And then I find my moment to disappear into the background and remove myself from the conversation, for fear of someone realizing that I have absolutely zero resolutions, and that I’m a failure for doing so.

But, I recently discovered the idea of a word or theme instead of specific resolutions, and I’m going to give it a try. As a big picture person, this seems more productive and (ironically) actionable than a declaration of “2019 is the year I start going to the gym!”

2019 is “focused, but open”.

I’m going to be taking the LSAT. I plan on continuing to write and submit to journals in the new year. Hopefully we’ll be moving out of Wisconsin and back to the east coast. There’s more weddings for dear friends to go to in 2019, so more road trips are likely in our future. I want to put myself first and get stuff done, but I also want to be more open to new people and opportunities. I want to try new things and stop myself from saying “no” preemptively.

So, here goes nothing trying to wrap up a messy year in anticipation for fulfilling productivity.

I’ve been thinking a lot about self-expression.

It’s something that I feel is very important and essential to the human experience. It is also something I struggle with the most. I don’t feel like I adequately express my thoughts in any situation. I think all day, about anything and everything. But later, when I have the ability to verbalize those thoughts? Nothing. It’s like I’ve never spoken before.

Part of my struggle with self-expression is from internalized censorship. I get extremely uncomfortable writing down my thoughts and feelings, for fear of repercussions. You don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, you know. While words can be used to inflict pain, the fact that an individual’s own thoughts and words are valid remains. Just because someone doesn’t like what you have to say, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t say it. The obvious caveat here is to not be a douche to others. There is a difference between self-expression and malice.

Words are important and powerful, but this power goes both ways. Words can be freeing and powerful. They can also be hateful and constricting. Either way, words have meaning. Getting your thoughts out is integral to good mental health. So what does one do when the words are stuck?

To be honest, I’m still not sure.

I journal sporadically–and by sporadically I mean maaaaaybe once or twice every few months. Sometimes I have the energy to express myself creatively and can work on a piece. Usually, I just sit and think in my head for hours and never actually express any of it. If it’s not expressed, it’s not real. Rinse and repeat.

This leads to me being stressed out and tense, and often looking for but never executing any forms of release. I mindlessly read a lot of AskReddit threads. An SVU marathon? Great. How else can I distract myself from the never-ending whirlwind of thoughts that I need to get out, but can’t? Or rather, won’t let myself get out?

Every day, I give myself a pep talk. Everything I want to express, I prepare myself to say out loud. Verbalize it. Make it real. Let it be known. Every day, I try and fail to verbalize this.

Is it possible to know who you are if you can’t express yourself? What happens if you lose the ability to express yourself–do you cease to exist? Do you stay stagnant, forever your last age that allowed self-expression? How long can you wait for this ability to return? Will it?

The kicker is that I am the one holding myself back. All I can do is keep trying. Keep trying to remember to practice self care. Keep trying to write when I can get through the discomfort. Keep trying to work through my shit. Maybe one day, self-expression will make it’s way back to me.