Category Archives: happiness

How to deal with uncertainty

Dealing with uncertainty isn’t my strong suit. In fact, I’m a compulsive worrier so an ambiguous future tends to leave me feeling overwhelmed and anxious. I like stability, or at least knowing the general direction my life is headed in. For the last several months, though, I’ve been operating in complete tandem to that notion. And then yesterday, I finally just realized the chaos isn’t going away. It is what it is…until it isn’t anymore. So for now, I have to learn to deal with uncertainty the best way I know how.

1) Embrace the chaos

I’ve quickly realized my downward spiral of emotions is typically because of my temptation to dwell on my current situation and then to become obsessive about what the future holds. Living in a constant state of uncertainty the last couple of months means I’ve literally imagined every doomsday scenario imaginable. I wonder about the unknown, I set goals for where I want to be in the future, and then when I’m not sure I’ll get there all hell breaks loose. I blame myself. I obsess. I ask, “Why me?” And in the end I feel more helpless and anxious than ever before. When I asked my intuitive reader what I can change about myself to make my life richer, she promptly told me to stop over analyzing and obsessing about everything. Be present and enjoy the moment. Life never goes the way we planned for it to go anyways. Take comfort in the fact that when things get really shitty, it often opens up new doors and opportunities. Hard times – the uncertain times – are humbling experiences that test our willpower and certainly present challenges. BUT with every challenge also comes opportunity. So, embrace the chaos and uncertainty. I promise you something positive will come out of your situation, even if you don’t believe it right now. On that note, though…

2) Make peace with time

…opportunities don’t always present themselves in a nicely wrapped gift box and they don’t always come when we want them to. I realize that anxious feelings are temporary and fleeting, that every moment of panic comes to an end and that I’m still okay in the end – whether it works in my favor or not.  I continue to remind myself to take deep breaths, that everything happens (or doesn’t happen) for a reason, and that my future goals aren’t a matter of “if” but when. It’s really hard not to be disheartened when things don’t go your way but you have to keep moving forward. I remind myself to be thankful for the little steps I’ve made along the way and for the opportunities that continue to present themselves, albeit in their own sweet time. Keep going, keep moving forward, and keep living (my third point!).

3) Don’t let limbo keep you from living your life

For the last two weeks, I’ve thrown a one-woman pity party. I really hadn’t done much of anything until a friend of mine drug me out of the house and took me on my first ever Fear Fest experience. And guess what? I had the greatest time. I decided amongst the zombies and scary creatures chasing me in the Forgotten Forest that instead of fretting about what may be ahead, I need to do something that makes me happy. Screaming bloody murder and nearly peeing my pants made me happy. And it made me laugh uncontrollably. So this week, amidst the uncertainty, I’ll still be living and doing all the things I love: cooking, reading, writing, playing with my dog, shaking my ass at Zumba, and doing downward dogs at hot yoga. Yes – uncertainty remains, but life goes on. And I have a really great life.

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List and destroy

A brief encounter with an old friend last week ended with an off-handed remark that it seemed to her I was behind in life. I guess in her mind the fact that I’m not dating anyone or married or engaged or popping out babies like it’s my full-time job is a little weird. While I tend to not let myself get bogged down by comments like that (I can think of a million other awesome things to be doing besides getting married), I can’t deny that a lot of non-useful thoughts have been stuck in my head. Not only are these thoughts distracting but they seem to be soaking up my time, energy, and general happy disposition so when I read this article about a three-step approach to simplifying your life and getting past the trivial things that seem to bother us, I decided to give it a try.  

I wasn’t in a particularly philosophical mindset at the time I read the article so I took the route that gave me some semblance of control. I started by writing out a list of all the things that were bothering me. I even included the petty, stupid stuff so that my list included not just the things I needed or wanted to get done but also things people said or people I don’t like (I’m sure we can all guess who made the list). Once my list was complete, I went through each item and pinpointed some immediate, tangible step I could take to address the issue. Even if I knew I couldn’t resolve the issue right then and there I could at least pinpoint an immediate step I could take to make progress towards the end goal. Just like larger school or work projects, breaking down overwhelming feelings into smaller tidbits has been helpful in alleviating stress. Plus, I’ve found that this process has been a good way of recognizing that while some things are petty and not so important in the larger realm of life, my feelings are still valid and little things do matter (as much as we try not to let them).

Since writing my list of things bothering me, I’ve destroyed more than half of the action steps listed (and all in one night at that). The list ranges from menial stuff like “the fact I have a food baby –> do 15 situps” to more serious things like “Forbes says I should have 3 professional mentoring relationships and I have none –> email Eric already!” and “Not being present in the moment –> buy a new gratitude journal and write down all the things you’re loving today.” Overall, I’ve found the process to be really helpful in changing my disposition. And call me anal, but I love that it makes me feel more in control about the trivial (and not-so trivial) aspects of life.

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As an aside, for all those people out there who are engaged or getting married or dating someone or popping out babies … I am genuinely happy for you because your life is fuller and richer in so many different ways than mine. Someday that will be me but right now I’m perfectly okay with being right where I am. ❤

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Life as I know it

The title may sound poetic but I promise you it’s not. Life has just been busy so I figure the best way to get everyone up to speed is to recap the last month and a half of my life in one full swoop.

Really exciting, I crossed two things off my 30 before 30 list:
1. Set up a retirement account. I feel very grown up having a financial advisor who does everything and anything I need him to. We’ve decided to be “aggressive” in the market and while he warned me I may not like him some months I warned him I would probably never even notice.
2. Be a vegetarian for 30 days. Surprisingly, going vegetarian was really easy. The only difficult aspect was having to plan my meals so far in advance and ensure there were vegetarian options available when I was on the road traveling for work. In fact, now that my 30 days are up I’ve actually decided to stick to the new diet. It’s now been six weeks, which is also the amount of time you need to build – or break – habits.

Going vegetarian has meant spending a lot of time in the kitchen trying out new recipes. I honestly can’t think of a meal I made and didn’t like these past six weeks but here are a few recipes I tried and absolutely loved:
1. Spring rolls – I didn’t follow this recipe at all but it was what I started with. I ended up using a basic cole slaw mix and instead of eating it raw with the rice paper, I sautéed the mixture in various seasonings. A very easy recipe albeit a bit time-consuming but they were oh so yummy!
2. Hummus spinach bake – I actually didn’t use a recipe for this. I happened to be using one of those input the ingredients you have into a computer generator and it lists different dishes you can make. Out of that came a plate of hummus and sautéed spinach topped with shredded cheese. I put it in the oven on 350 for about 15 minutes. It was nice and bubbly and paired well with the pita chips and carrots I already had on hand.
3. Zucchini pizza boats – They don’t make for great leftovers since zucchini contains so much extra water but they were fantastic straight out of the oven. Plus there are a ton of variations for toppings. Variety is nice!
4. Stuffed peppers – I love peppers and anything that goes in them. Quinoa is my new favorite super food and these are perfect for grilling out with friends. I have found that Mexican is the easiest vegetarian go-to dish for me.

I had a few other health related goals for the month. One goal was to complete all of my outstanding health exams and another was to beef up the exercise routine. A few things worth mentioning:
1. $500 later it turns out I am, in fact, still healthy. Go me!
2. I tried two new fitness classes: a hip hop dance class and Krav Maga. Not only can I booty bump with the best of em’ but I also found a socially acceptable way of releasing my inner rage. If Krav Maga didn’t cost $150/month I would definitely get a membership.

So you don’t think I’m two-dimensional talking about health and fitness, I did have a few fun things going on this past month and a half. At the top of my list:
1. A few friends and I spent a weekend in the Old Cabin at Blue Jay Farms, which we all know is my favorite Missouri get-away spot! Of course Miley dog joined us. I love make your stomach hurt bouts of laughing and I have plenty of those moments with my home girl Lizard. See below. We made an oriental themed dinner, played a new card game, swam, read, hiked to a waterfall, and picked blueberries. I love that place!

liz

2. I hadn’t seen my Mom since Christmas so I’ve been missing some quality mother-daughter time. Over the 4th of July weekend my parents decided to come down and visit for about a week. We spent time boating at the lake, visiting family and friends, watching movies, snuggling, and dancing/drinking our butts off at the winery. It was a fabulous time and I’m missing them already!

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3. Oh yeah, Dad finally sent me the pictures of our trip to El Salvador. I’ll aim to get those up at some point once I sift through the 2,000+ photos but here are a few teasers.

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And of course I wouldn’t be me if there wasn’t a little bit of self-introspection thrown in the mix. A few self-revelations:
1. Attitude up! I wish I could coin this phrase but I actually learned it at a sexual harassment training I went to for work. I say it all the time now. It serves as a good reminder that we all have the power to change our dispositions. When you’re stressed, feeling overwhelmed, and just consumed or surrounded by negativity it helps to keep things in perspective and to remember that you have the power to keep a positive attitude and mind. It’s sort of like Gretchen Rubin’s think happy, be happy motto.
2. How to live a life of well-being. Martin Seligman proposed a scientific model of happiness and well-being called PERMA. Essentially it states that in order for one to live a flourishing life, there are five basic motivations behind any decision or action made: positive emotion, engagement, relationship building, meaning, and achievement. People do their best work and are happiest when these five elements are being met. I could dedicate an entire blog post to this particular concept as I’ve become enthralled with the scientific model so much that I’ve begun incorporating it into my work culture and everyday life. My poor colleagues have been subjected to team building exercises this past week but I actually think they enjoyed them. If anything I can tell it brought us all closer together (R and M – meaningful relationships). Anyways, I’ll save you the rambling – go check it out!

While this post certainly doesn’t capture everything that went on the past month and a half, I feel a little less overwhelmed jumping back into the blogging world. I keep waiting for my time to free up and devote to writing again but the truth is I just need to make it a priority again (more on that later).

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Filed under 30 before 30, blogging, cooking, family, goals, happiness, health, personal growth, self-introspection, vegetarianism, well-being

Gaining mental clarity

“I come to my solitary woodland walk as the homesick go home. I thus dispose of the superfluous and see things as they are: grand and beautiful.”
-Henry David Thoreau

Hiking in the woods might be the perfect and ideal activity to clear the mind and gain a little bit of clarity, at least for me. Not only is it great aerobic exercise but it serves as a way to get rid of the excess energy stress often places on the mind. Considering my struggle with battling burn out all through the month of March, I chalked this weekend up to spending my time doing various outdoor activities and soaking up the sunshine. The perfect antidote as it turns out.

Since Saturday was opening day of the Columbia Farmer’s Market, Liz and I made plans to meet there and pick up some supplies for an afternoon BBQ before heading out to Shooting Star for a morning hike with Miley. While I prefer shopping local whenever I can, I wish the food was a bit more affordable. I had a really hard time paying $2.50 for ONE tomato. It was well worth it though; our afternoon BBQ of burgers, salad, and potatoes hit the spot. I even picked up how to make homemade dressing and healthy potato salad (use balsamic vinegar and eggs instead of mayo and mustard) from Liz.

Until the latter part of the hike, Shooting Star was practically vacant. Miley fished for rocks and Liz and I chatted about life. By the end of the hike, both of our spirits were lifted and I came to the realization that given the crazy ups and downs over the last couple of months, I finally feel like I’m back to myself and ready to take on the next chapter of life. Nice girls (and guys) may finish last, but we always come out on top in the end. I look at the people who have been there for me these past few months and they are all people who lift me up and allow me to be my true self (no matter how weird and dorky I may be). I’m no longer desperately trying to fit into someone else’s mold of who I should be and I have to say it feels good to shed that weight. I am happy and I think I’ve finally reached the mental clarity I’ve been yearning.

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March highlights

If you haven’t been able to gather from my absence in the virtual world, life has been a bit hectic in the Wallace household. I feel like this entire month passed by with the snap of a finger and yet surprisingly for having felt completely exhausted almost the entire month, I still managed to accomplish the majority of my goals.  Here are some of the highlights of my month of well-being:

  • I loved reading Drop Dead Healthy by AJ Jacobs. Not only did the book make me laugh out loud on more than one occasion, but it reminded me that being healthy isn’t just how you look on the outside, but how your body functions on the inside. It also served to remind me that health is holistic. While exercising and eating right (when I’m not in cookie monster mode) is a big part of my life, I also need to give equal attention to my mental and emotional health. If anything, I got a few ideas from the book on what to include in my own health regimens and I’m excited to start incorporating them into future monthly goals.
  • The inspirational bedroom transformation is not complete but is certainly coming along. Not only did the room get a complete paint re-do, but I’ve been working on some decor projects as well. I bought a bright, cheery, and super fun rug that adds a healthy dose of spunk to the room. I also started a craft project that turns wooden block letters into yarn art (sounds weird, but looks way cool). I will admit I have yet to finish this particular project particularly because my loathe of crafting gets in the way of me actually finishing it, but considering some of my goals for April I figure I can carry this process over into next month. I’m also teaming up with a painter friend of mine who does phenomenal, original work for a reasonable price. The room needs a little bit of art in it and she’s my go-to girl so this particular item will be another thing I carry into next month as well. I keep having to remind myself that evolving is about relishing in the process and not always marking things off my to-do list. But while I like this rule of thumb for my year of self-improvement, I sometimes think I use it as justification for procrastination (more on that later).
  • Between all the hustle and bustle, I still managed to carve out a lot of friend time this month. In particular, I hosted a couple of girls nights, a St. Patrick’s Day themed game night dinner party. and a few Skype dinner dates with my friends who aren’t close by. I have to say the friend love (and booze) was definitely overflowing this month for which I am extremely grateful.
  • Also super exciting in the name of friend love – since I started writing more hand-written notes to my friends and family, I’ve been getting letters in return. This month alone, I’ve received four letters and I LOVE getting mail.
  • Meatless Mondays have been my new favorite health regimen and something I’m going to continue to do. It usually means I end up going meatless for most of the week (no wonder there are health benefits) but I love that it makes me get outside my comfort zone and experiment in the kitchen a bit. Plus, it adds content for the blog and I can’t complain about that, especially considering my lack of other substantial content lately.

So there you have it – another month bites the dust! I almost feel like I could continue well-being part deux into April, but now that Spring is finally in the air I’m getting into nesting mode, which means I need to take advantage of the organizing and purging mood I’m in. Stay tuned for April goals!

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In friendship, it’s about quality not quantity

There is nothing greater than unpredictable Missouri weather – it always brings nice surprises. In a time span of three days, the thermometer outside my house went from 30 degrees to 60 degrees and again back down to a blustery 18 degrees. But I’m not complaining because I took advantage of that 60 degree weather and set out on a 7 mile hike with Miley through the Gans Creek Wildlife area just outside of Columbia. I always choose this trail because there is hardly ever anyone on it which means I can not only let Miley roam free but I also get the woods to myself. I rather prefer hiking alone than with a group of people mainly for the self-reflection and solitude it brings. At times, there are entire sections of the trail where my mind shuts off, my feet naturally shuffling one in front of the other, and before I know it an hour has passed. The only thing I’m focused on is putting one foot in front of the other, listening to the sounds of the wild and making sure Miley doesn’t fall through the ice that she is apparently hell-bent on walking – I mean running – over. Case in point below.

Mileyice

But like I said, being in the wild brings with it a lot of time for self-reflection. Interestingly enough, after writing about how to nurture my friendships one of the things that’s been on my mind over the past week is about the quality and quantity of the friendships in my life. I thought about some of the famous sayings I’d heard before. Like how Henry Adams said, “One friend in a lifetime is much, two are many, and three are hardly possible.” And of course, the unknown, very wise people who said, “It’s better to have one friend of great value than to have many with little value,” or even, “Don’t pity the girl with one true friend. Envy her. Pity the girl with just a thousand acquaintances.” No friendship statements ring more true to me than at this stage of my life. And the science backs it up.

Research shows that people who have strong friendships with just a few people are more likely to report being happier in life than those who are constantly surrounded by acquaintances. I imagine the explanation of that would be the depth of the friendships around you.  Acquaintances are fine but they are also only surface-level relationships. You can’t dig deep in those circumstances or create an atmosphere where the other person truly gets who you are. Isn’t that what we all search for? Someone who gets us at our core? And while acquaintances are fine, I’ve realized I’m not okay with just fine. I want great. I want deep. I want ever-lasting. So even though I can count my friends on one hand and I sometimes get jealous of the girl on Facebook who is always posting pictures of her out with a new person every week,  I actually feel like I might just be the lucky one.

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Friend family dinner party

This weekend I hosted the first potluck dinner of the year. Since I wanted to make a simple and palette friendly menu for a few of my friends who are picky eaters (ahem, Andrew) I went for an Italian-themed meal. You would think I’d be tired of eating pasta after a week of eating left over chicken tetrazzini, but nope – I love me some carbs! And because I’m one of those people who tell other people what to bring to the potluck dinner (I’m thankful my friends understand my somewhat anal and controlling tendencies, haha!) I crafted the following menu which turned out super yummy: a bruschetta appetizer, an Italian ribbon zucchini salad, lasagna, garlic bread, and tiramisu. Since Monica had asked to make the main dish, I ended up making the bruschetta. I can’t recall ever having actually eaten bruschetta before so I was excited to try something new in the kitchen. Turns out it’s  simple to make and is actually pretty healthy for you too.

I used a combination of recipes for the bruschetta but essentially diced up a bunch of Roma tomatoes into small bits and pieces then added in sautéed onion, garlic, salt, and pepper. For a flavor booster I added in a few tablespoons of olive oil, basil leaves, fresh lemon juice, and lemon zest then put it in the refrigerator for an hour to cool down. For the bread, I picked up a whole wheat baguette already sliced at the grocery store, brushed each piece with some olive oil, and put it all in the broiler till it was nice and toasty. Add a heaping spoonful of bruschetta on top of the baguette slice and you’re set, although you keep coming back for more because it’s hard to eat just one. A super yummy snack and it’s healthy for you. Really, what more could you ask for?!

Bruschetta

After dinner we pulled out the games. We made our way through Would You Rather?, Taboo, and Scattegories (I hate that game mainly because I am not good at it – at all). My favorite part of the night was when we ditched the rules of the Would You Rather? game and started performing only Do-It Challenge cards. Basically, you’re given an outlandish action to perform for 90 seconds like make out with a window, drink from a bowl like a cat, or let people draw a mustache on your face which you keep for the rest of the night (kudos to Liz for being a sport on that one!). It sparked a lot of laughter and giggling, which I love. Here’s my lovely group of friends that ventured out for the night, which also serves as my photo for week 2 of the 52 week photo challenge (from left to right: Andrew, Me, Liz, Monica, David).

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Oh, and Liz’s ‘stache for the night. I giggled so much over this photo – she looks very pensive.

Lizstache

All-in-all, I’d call our Italian themed potluck dinner and game night a success. I always love bringing all of my friends together and having them in the same room with me. I never want this friend family of mine to leave my side; they really do add so much joy to my life!

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