Tag Archives: really real

Blogging Burnout and Writer’s Block: This is Not a Tutorial.

blogburnoutIs it gone? All that inspiration and creativity? Has it been sucked out of you for whatever reason? Maybe you should make a pro-con list like Rory Gilmore. Maybe you should just quit. Maybe this, maybe that. Maybe who knows what.

Coming from a writing background, studying it in school, some really smart people say that Writer’s Block exists and some other smart people don’t believe in it. I do know that creativity ebbs and flows. I do know that sometimes taking a break is good.

Blogging Burnout is a bit different than Writer’s Block. Some people start a blog just for fun and it stops being fun. No judgement here. Some people love fashion or cooking and the blogging comes from there. There’s so many different ways to come at this blogging thing so this may not apply to you at all. But if you happen to be a writer and blogger…

Here’s the thing I know about Writer’s Block. Keep writing. Push through. We all need breaks and breaks can be good. But don’t stop. The more you create, the more creative you feel. It ebbs and it flows and if you can accept it and play in the sea anyway, then do it. Sometimes you’re frolicking around in the surf. Sometimes you’re being pulled out by a riptide. Sometimes you can’t find a shell in the sand to save your life.

Just do it. If writing is a calling for you, then keep going. Take care of yourself but keep going. Because if writing is a calling, then stopping because of Writer’s Block? Waiting for a lightening bolt of inspiration to suddenly strike you? That feels no better than being blocked. Sometimes we have to search out that inspiration; sometimes it comes to us divinely like a message in a bottle. It cannot always be predicted. But just like we cannot predict sickness, we can eat healthy and take care  of ourselves to avoid it. So surround yourself with things and people inspiring to you. Keep a journal. Take photographs. Do something creative just for fun. Anything.

nonnalina2

Please know I am reminding myself of this right now as well. Sometimes, it is just not possible to push through for any number of reasons and I empathize with that. I’ve gone through some tough seasons with my family…where I lost the words. Usually though, for me personally, I can only say that I am a better human when I am writing so if I am not writing here not her, I better be writing somewhere else. That is just me though.

I took a few days off this past week in that I did not write here ever day but more like every few days. Because I am very upfront, I will say I have been battling Blogging Burnout a bit. I’ve talked to others and I don’t think I am alone.

I can only speak for myself here though. It’s a combination of a lot of things: difficulties in real life but also just feeling like this blogging thing, this blogging world? Well, I’ve been feeling a little closed in by it.

For example, I collect books and I love to read. Good writing inspires good writing. Lately, I’ve felt that the blog world has been very recycled lately. This is not a dig. Does anyone feel the same? I feel like I need my blogging shelves filled with great bloggers who are also searching for creativity. But I can’t control my Bloglovin’ feed and what people post so I’ll go into the world in search of new inspiration.

In the meantime, when it comes to Blogging Burnout and Writer’s Block, I’ll be here, playing and working in the surf, riding the wave and always looking for next one.bloggingburnoutpin

Have you ever had Writer’s Block or Blogging Burnout? What are your thoughts on it?
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Really Real, Really Vulnerable, Not Really Me.

For weeks, I haven’t felt quite right. It isn’t physical; my health continues to improve and I am still dedicated to the concept of food as medicine. But something has been off.

I’ve had more blah days than I typically do. Everyone has some sometimes. I’m not saying my blah days were happening every day or even every week. I just noticed a little bit of an increase and I am sensitive to that because, in the past I have struggled with depression. So, I am always checking in on myself in that area because if I felt that awful thing creeping back like ivy one tries to kill, I would take action immediately this time instead of waiting for that horrible ivy to cover my house and windows. That happened once and it was because I didn’t know what to look for inside myself and so I only noticed once I metaphorically looked out of my windows and saw only green and was completely closed in. Never again.

But there was just a slight increase in those blah days. Slight but noticeable.katespadestorage1Then there was the DIY Storage Boxes. It is not a difficult project. I recommend it if it is your style.

But I could not get the lines straight enough. I did them over and over again and it had nothing to do with the “look of things for the blog” issue some people have. The lines were straight enough. I knew it. The pictures did not lie. And yet…

I went so far as to buy another set of boxes (and I am on an extreme budget). I admitted this to a dear friend and sent her pictures. Meanwhile, even as she asked me, then told me to stop, I kept painting.

It felt like a compulsion. *I am not claiming to have OCD, although it does run in my family. Also I have never been diagnosed with OCD. I want to be extremely clear on that not because there is any shame in OCD or any mental illness whatsoever but because I am not a doctor and do not claim to be one and I just think clarity is good when discussing things like this* But in my life, beginning in my teenage years (maybe younger? I don’t remember specific actions), compulsive behaviors were happening and they were a lot more harmful to myself than painting lines on boxes. Doctors were involved (I am not ashamed of therapy or psychiatry in any way…or in my case the combination of both)  and they thought that these behaviors were a response to the crisis I was in at the time which, considering the crisis, made perfect sense.

But maybe the need for compulsive behavior to cope never stopped. Maybe eating for comfort was one too. And others. I’m not sure on that. I do know the whole “straight line” type of issues became worse once I began food as medicine, which could be a coincidence. I am not sure.

I am sure that I kept repainting those lines. I am sure that I put them on my tall bookshelf, took a picture of them, sent it two close friends in a group text (where would we be without group texts?) and said, “I have to fix the lines; they are not straight.” To be clear, they weren’t. But they were straight enough. I knew this. My friends knew this. In fact, one of them may have used capital letters when she told me not to even think of touching them.

So obviously I climbed on to a step ladder with black paint and a brush in my hand (to be clear, my apartment has a lot of white in it was so not the wisest thing to do but I had to fix it…) and painted them again. The only way I was able to stop was because I told myself I would live with them for a month to six weeks and then fix them again. My dear friend who is reading this did not know that is how I stopped (until now) and is pulling out her phone to text me, “If you touch those boxes one more time, I will hurt you” right now. thumb_IMG_5117_1024Then there was the sleeping.

I have never been a great sleeper (I’m talking since childhood) and symptoms of my illness make it harder. But it is imperative for my illness that I sleep. Because of that, I do take something to help me sleep (for the record, I take it once lights are out and my phone is on the floor because my charger is actually only six inches long–it’s ridiculous–and doesn’t reach my bed anyway…I just need disclaim this). For a week, I got three hours or less of sleep. Normally, if this happens even for single night, it affects my illness and takes me out of the game for the next day. I should have been celebrating because it didn’t make things worse.

Celebrating is not what happened. Instead, I felt like I was on extreme uppers (I wasn’t), as if my blood was pure adrenaline. The closest thing to it is when I took a caffeine pill to stay awake the night before a calc final in high school and thought my heart was just going to beat out of my chest.

Obviously, this sleep thing meant I was not myself. I was like a frisky, yapping dog that will not stop barking. I could not stop talking and talking fast. I could not remember details; I really struggled with memory (which is something I am usually excellent at to the point of it being kind of scary). 

IMG_5220That’s how I went into the Influence Conference where I would be meeting new people and people I only knew through the internet.

Wonderful.

If you’ve never been to a conference like this, I have to tell you, since I have been to quite a few between college and working for a student ministry for a time: they are physically exhausting (the schedule is packed because you want to get your time and money’s worth) and emotionally draining (and I don’t mean that in a negative way…there is just a lot of emotion that is brought up inside of you and around you constantly…you are asked to dig deep).

I wish I could tell you I pulled together.

I am great at pulling it together. Ask the people who know me best. I can be a hot mess and still kill a job interview. And yet…

This time my own strength failed me and I was a yapping, frisky dog that could not stop barking. I talked too loud (this is not to say I am quiet generally but this was outrageous), too quickly (when I could remember what I was saying), and too much. I could not make myself shut up no matter how much I really, truly wanted to be silent. Guys, I wanted to shut up so badly! I was forgetful to the point that Bex (who has spent nine straight days with me) noticed and said something to me about it.

I could not be normal Nina (who may not be chill but certainly is not all of that).

The most annoying parts of my personality were front and center and exaggerated

It wasn’t an act. I wish it was because then I could have stopped it. It was a combination of lack of sleep, lack of self care leading up to the conference, and the stress because somehow the recovering part in the label recovering perfectionist slipped away at some point in recent weeks or possibly months.

This was the impression I was presenting to these awesome new women I met and the cool chicks I finally got to meet in person instead of behind a computer screen.mug1

I’m not someone who edits myself to be liked or goes to things like this and worries: will they like me? beforehand. I know people who do struggle with this and it’s not to say I don’t have insecurities but I want you to know this about me so you know this whole thing is out of the ordinary and weird and is not in my imagination or coming from a place of insecurity.

This time though, I was mortified. I wanted to hide under blankets until this manic version of myself left. I wanted people to know the real me (and this is not all in my head folks…comments were made by new people that just confirmed what I already knew…One very sweet and cool girl who I really enjoyed sat next to me one night and the next day the seats were set so she would be sitting next to me again and I overheard her say that she needed to move because she is easily distracted…She was going to move six seats down from me so I could not distract her…She also may be reading this so for the record I in no way blame her. I get it. She was one of few people who confirmed what I knew already). Bex, one of my roommates, knew something was off. Even the roommate I knew least going into the conference did not get to see the real me. She just did not meet Nina B. Period.

I wish I could tell you the real me showed up before the weekend ended. I wish that was how this story ended.

To be continued for your sake (the length…my goodness) as much as my own. 
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That Burden is Light.

I’ve grown used to my arms aching in airports.

Before technology caught up with my insatiable reading habits, as a young girl, I’d pack at least seven books for a week long vacation. I carried them on because I wanted to read them and because well, they added more weight to the suitcase I checked which was almost always on the verge, if not over the 50 pound maximum, much to my parent’s chagrin and consternation.

My arms still ache in airports, my back too.

I carry on at least one real book with my iPad (and Kindle App), my camera, my computer, possibly a second lens, my various chargers, my meds (if I can fit them), and other things I don’t trust to put in my carry on. All this goes into a tote. A backpack would be easier on my body but the tote can double as an extremely large purse or beach bag for wherever I am going. So it all makes sense. Really, it does. Cross my heart.

That Burden is Light

Someone recently asked me to type up this letter of God’s promises to us as a favor. If I told you how many times I’ve learned this lesson (over and over again, like a dog that keeps going through the electric fence), the number may be as high as the number of emails in my inbox. Instead, I am trying to show myself grace, and the same gentleness I felt from God as he very kindly reminded me how little my spirit and soul should ache from the weight he puts on my shoulder (aka they should not ache at all).

Can it really be that easy? Can I know such lightness?

The truth is as He says. His burden is light, his yoke easy.

So what am I doing, what am I morphing it into to make it so dang heavy?

That Burden is Light 1

Well, you know. There’s that guilt thing. Oh, I don’t want to do that because I don’t want to upset her. Or, I have to do this because it will upset him if I don’t. There’s that shame thing. And that embarrassment thing. There are things born out of faux duty and with the appearance of intensity. There’s that perfectionist thing. There’s that trying to be someone I am not issue too. I could go on. But one thing I know is that none of these things are from God.

They make the burden on my shoulders quite heavy and I already have issues with chronic pain so something has got to give. Something always has to give. Thus, God teaching me this lesson approximately 3,500 times:

Look, Nina, this is not from me or of me. Because my burden? Oh Baby, that burden is light. And my yoke? Oh Baby, it’s easy. Look I’ve promised You and I keep my promises. 

So though I am not her greatest fan, I must look to Taylor Swift and her sage advice. When I feel the heaviness and the weight, I must shake it off. It’s not the easiest thing to do. You see, I have the type of personality that just loves adding weight to the burden and difficulty to that yoke. It requires gut checks from me on the regular. Sometimes I go so long carrying all the non-God given stuff that I am so used to the weight and the pain of it.

How uncool is that?

But the wonderful, marvelous thing is the truth: I can lay down every burden not from him and shake off all the extra yokes I seem to have put on myself. I can hand these things over to him. Because he wants me to do so. Because he wants his burden to be easy and his yoke to be light and because those are the only things I should be carrying or wearing.

That Burden is Light 2

Right now, a lot of my guilt (and therefore, burden) comes from my health. I often times feel like I am letting people down because I can’t fully participate in all things. Either I feel guilty for this or I feel awful and pressured when I push my body past its current limits. It’s frustrating. Instead of letting that frustration go and redirecting my energy towards getting better (which is going very well…perhaps that is part of the reason I have little patience for my body’s issues lately…I’ve seen improvement and I just want to be all the way there while I do have a long way to go), it just becomes this weight I can sometimes actually feel on my back. This guilt and pressure is a yoke I can be led by and it is self inflicted.

Well, here we are again–learning the same lesson all over again and all the better for it.

Have you ever felt like this? What are you learning right now?

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How You Get Through the Wave.

I hate sharks. Most people aren’t huge fans either. But I refuse to go into their home (that being the ocean) beyond halfway up my calf. Sharks come a lot closer to shore than people realize; I do my research.

But during my second day at the beach, feeling scored, like the heat entered my body and was burning me from the inside out, I slowly made my way out to Bex, up to my chest, beyond where the waves breaks to where they just lull. If you know me, you understand that this is a picture of my personal insanity: me, floating on my back with barely any effort, relying on that salt water, my body rising and falling with the gentle motion of the waves.

Sometime last week, I took a screenshot of a post from Humans of New York.  She was asked what was one piece advice she would give and she said, “When a wave comes, go deep.” The interviewer replied, “I think I need more explanation on that one.” And then the woman said something profound and lovely:How You Get Through the WaveI think this is brilliant. I’ve done all three things she describes here as the waves of life hit. I have countless examples but I’ve chosen one for each reaction to the waves in my life. We’re all about authenticity here.

How You Get Through the Wave

I was diagnosed with an auto immune disease in 2009 caused by a seizure the year before. In between that time, I faced rapidly declining help and few answers. Looking back it was a major wave of  my life but I had no choice but to ride it out. My body was treasonous and the doctors (thinks three to four a week for several months) had few answers. Even after a diagnosis, finding the right path was a challenge. I worked hard (with doctors, with the help of my family, and on my own) to become as healthy as possible with this illness and live as “normal” a life as possible.

In the past year, my health has deteriorated again but I ignored every warning sign. I ran from from it, lying to myself without realizing it over the severity of my decline. But the wave swept me up and I crashed ot the shore of reality anyway: I had to take just as drastic steps as when I was first diagnosed and all that running only put off the inevitable.

How You Get Through the Wave

My family is incredibly important to me. Before the age of 17, the previous sentence would have red: my family unit, intact, and whole, with my parents married to each other, is everything to me. This unit was my anchor for all things. So when my (truly lovely) parents began the process of divorce, I fought it and I fought it hard, as if I had a say. I made crazy ultimatums. Any gauntlet I could throw, I did. I launched it desperately.

This was a huge, life defining wave, and one (like all waves), I could not control no matter how hard I stood my ground, feet dug deep in the sand, my pride, my ego locked together with my idea of family.

This will probably (not) shock you. They divorced. (I love you, Mom and Dad.) And you know, it was worse, that angry standing my ground. Because I could have been using that time to deal and instead all I was left with was this anger and feelings of failure, on top of the normal ones of grief and loss.

I was clobbered.

How You Get Through the Wave 3

Today I live with the reality of my physical and emotional health. Like I said, I was in denial for a long time and if I would have taken care of things sooner, they wouldn’t be so bad. So here is another wave but this time I am allowing myself to go deep.

It’s transforming me in every way.

I’m learning about my body and food as medicine, that this will be a way of life for a lifetime, not a moment in time. God has challenged me to let down the walls I have in my heart and what I am learning about vulnerability is slaying me.

The wave hasn’t passed yet. That’s okay. In fact, maybe that’s better. I want to go deeper and then come out through it.

When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you. (Isaiah 43:2 a, b)

I would love to know your thoughts.

Love,
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Alarms.

sproutsYesterday, I realized I didn’t want to believe that things were as bad as they are.

I feel like this is a sentence that could be the theme of so many of the most profound yet difficult experiences in my life, be it stuff from childhood, relationships, my health. Right now, it is my health. I knew things weren’t good but I guess I had to lie to myself in order to deal with other things in my life first. Well here is the thing:

The alarms are going off. We are in the red zone. It’s as bad as it has ever been.

Writing that last sentence breaks my heart. How could I almost be back to the place I was before I was diagnosed with this chronic auto immune disease? Post diagnosis, my life had to radically change and I was committed to those changes because I knew what was at stake.

Slowly over the years, I forgot. I forgot how bad it could be and I forgot what was at stake. So I made bad decisions for my health. I thought I could eat and act like everyone else because…I could handle the consequences to my body. It wasn’t that bad. After all, I knew bad and this wasn’t that bad. This slow slide has been going for years, not weeks, or even months. Imagine a slow motion.

How could I be so stupid?

I honestly don’t know. I wish I could tell you. I wish I wasn’t at this point, not quite square one but nearly.

But I am.

The good news is I have the knowledge this time around and so I don’t need to spend the time searching for answers. I know what I need to do and now it’s time to radically do it. It means spending time and money (which is specifically hard right now) but this can’t go on.

The alarm is going off.

I was talking to someone who is one of the healthiest people I know (as in never gets sick plus works hard at fitness and nutrition). This person is a fixer and it has often times been difficult to explain my journey. Yet this person has been a huge part of my health journey and was the reason I was diagnosed. This person knows exactly how bad it was and was there for me in a ways I can’t describe without weeping (and despite this post, I am not a crier).

When I broke down and told this person how bad it was, I couldn’t believe the words coming out of my mouth. Was this my reality? Yes. How could I have let this become my reality?

This person offered steps and a plan. I was still in shock over my internal realization. I said: you don’t understand what it is like. I am in pain no matter what, whether things are especially good or especially bad.

This person said something I needed to hear. It was like a bucket of cold water was thrown at my face. Isn’t your best better than your worst? I get what you are saying and I see that and it sucks. But wouldn’t you rather feel how you did at your version of good?

It’s so simple when put that way.

So I am getting radical and seriously investing in my health. I have to. I have to.

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