Last week I found myself up against a creative wall, riding waves of self-doubt, and needing much more positive affirmation than usual. I caught myself asking Andrew for feedback countless times, and spent an equal amount of time picking up the phone to call my mom for her words of wisdom. Rather than an “I can” attitude, “Can I?” was a question that played on repeat in my head. I felt far more inadequate than I did renewed.
The thing about opportunity finding its way onto your lap, is that no matter how wonderful it is, it often takes much more energy than we can possibly predict. For the entirety of last week, I spent the bulk of my waking hours glued to the computer screen, pouring my energy into new projects, on top of those already existing.
Despite my enthusiasm about the projects that have come my way lately, I couldn’t help but feel frustrated that this particular week was supposed to be a big running week for me. While struggling to focus on the work in front of me, I found myself daydreaming about the PR (personal record) I had hoped to achieve at the rapidly approaching New Orleans Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon, while feeling as though I was watching it drift out of reach.
In the evening hours, I had high hopes of switching gears to do “me” writing, some yoga, reading ,or maybe even finally unpacking from my holiday trip. Instead, I sat glued to the TV, watching episodes of “Cutthroat Kitchen.” My brain was all but mush.
Aside from an afternoon out and about on assignment, I rocked the same black on black attire the majority of the week, and barely left the house.
Something Andrew and I have discussed at length lately, is the fact that we human beings tend to only showcase the high points in our lives, not the ups, downs and everything in between. Intentionally or not, we show the parts of ourselves we are proud of and comfortable with, and much of the rest goes unseen.
Nothing is Picture Perfect
The truth is, life isn’t picture perfect. Doing what you love isn’t always, or even often, photo worthy. For me, this past week has looked like long hours of creative struggle, a constant search for inspiration, and having to literally force my butt into the chair—and keep it there long enough to get things done. The creative cycle isn’t always, or even often, glamorous. But it’s a cycle that keeps my blood pumping, and my mind constantly challenged.
As the workweek came to a close Friday, I finally unpacked my room, took a breather, and prepared to wake before the sun on Saturday morning to run 12 miles. Not only did this run reinstate some confidence for New Orleans in two weeks, it was therapeutic and energizing. No music. No pressure. Just cold wind in my face, conversation in my ears, and the sound of my own two feet moving me along, step by step.
Still, following Saturday was Sunday, another long day of screen staring. In fact, the longest yet this year. By the end of the day, I had finished most of what I started a week prior. It was at this point, I finally felt like I could reset, that is, after a disruptive, anxious sleep (the result of way too many consecutive screen hours).
Monday’s Aren’t Always the Worst
Then came Monday. My friend Lacey, the Parachute Journalist, made her way up from Daytona Beach, to team up with me for a 10-mile training run around downtown St. Augustine. Her upcoming half marathon is the same weekend as mine, in a different locale. Although I doubted the ability of my legs to carry me all 10 miles following Saturday’s 12, they did. We chatted the entire way through and it was an invigorating experience, extreme downpour and all.
Lo-fi photo documentation courtesy of Lacey’s phone.
Of course, our run was followed up with food. Lacey has challenged herself to go vegan for the month of January, in honor of Veganuary, so Andrew and I took her to indulge upon vegan eats at one of our neighborhood favorites, The Back 40 Urban Cafe.
Not only did Monday serve as a time to reset, this time shared with someone who has and continues to face many of the struggles I do, trying to balance passion with livelihood, helped me mentally merge back into a motivated mindset.
This week has and continues to look entirely different than last. Sure, all the burners on my stove are on and each have something different cooking on them, but none are at risk of boiling over. There are still deadlines, but there always will be. The trick is how I (you or we) react to them, and work with them, instead of against.
Numerous times last week I wanted to stop and freeze, or just quit, but I didn’t. Instead, I let myself accept momentary feelings of defeat, and then, I kept going at my own pace. In the end, not only did it pay off in the form of bringing projects to completion and even feeling good about them, it reminded me just how many parts of our lives we stray away from letting others in close enough to see. At the core, we’re all human, meaning we all can find ourselves struggling with feeling incapable and uninspired sometimes.
Whether we swim through these feelings or sink under their weight all comes down to how much heart we are willing to give, and how much humility we are willing to harvest.
No matter what deadlines or challenges you have staring you in the face this week, I encourage you to face up to them and own them, rather than letting them own you. And if you find yourself fretting your mood, take a timeout and eat good food. Nourishment is always and forever a vital part of the equation.
Just Eat Good Food
Did someone say good food? Yes they did. And it was me. My reflections on last week wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the home-cooked meals that carried me through.
“If you’re fretting your mood, just eat good food,” quickly became our mantra, as Andrew and I alternated cooking. Here are a couple of last week’s standouts.
TOFU NOODLE BOWL
Photo Note: Yes, that is the carpet pictured. Andrew was tired from teaching. I was tired from writing. Sitting on the living room floor, stretching our legs out, and having a picnic seemed like the most amazing thing ever at this exact moment in time.
Process: I threw some mushrooms, sliced onion, chickpeas, and chopped bell pepper into a pan on the stovetop and heated for 5-10 minutes in a bit of light water and oil, sprinkling in salt, pepper and garlic powder to taste. Meanwhile, I boiled a bag of tofu noodles in a pot for three minutes, and immediately drained. I then mixed the tofu noodles into my pan of veggies. The dish was paired with arugula, covered with peanut sauce, and dressed up with fresh local strawberries and a few peperoncinis.
Ingredients that I always include in peanut sauce are peanut butter, water, and Bragg’s Liquid Aminos (or soy sauce), garlic powder, and Sriracha. Optional is lime juice, rice vinegar or a splash of anything l feel like being creative with. If you’re a fan of peanutty-dishes, check out my Thai-Infused Peanut Surprise, featuring ample peanut sauce.
SWEET POTATO HASH HEAVEN
Photo Note: I have to point out these ceramic bowls my stepmom made us for Christmas. Knowing how much we love to eat our meals out of bowls, I couldn’t think of a better hand-made gift. Expect to see these pictured frequently. Not only are they functional—shallow enough so food doesn’t get lost at the bottom, but deep enough nothing rolls out—they’re attractive, and made with love.
Process: Using local sweet potatoes, red potatoes, cabbage and Brussels sprouts from the produce stand, Andrew made us this delightful dish Saturday afternoon following my 12-mile run. The sweet and red potatoes, and sliced cabbage were chopped, and then cooked on the stovetop in water and olive oil, and seasoned with cinnamon, oregano, Sriracha, salt, pepper and nutritional yeast. The Brussels sprouts were sliced and grilled in a separate pan. The arugula and fresh avocado gave the dish even more green power. All together this dish took Andrew about 20-25 minutes to make, while I was showering and cooling down after my run.