Temp Check

I take my temperature every day, literally and figuratively.  It’s how I cope, how I breathe in and out, and how I determine the way that I’m going to care for myself over the course of the new day. Sometimes self-care is staying in bed all day, sometimes it’s a bath, sometimes it’s a run. Yesterday’s self-care looked like organizing the blog’s press and finessing the coding (with significant assistance from my code-literate fiancé — first time I’ve used that word on here… 🥰).

So how are you doing? What’s your temperature?  Today mine is normal, although I have a slight cough that’s likely a result of the change of season I’m witnessing from my window. I’m worried about my family. My parents are both in high-risk groups and both essential personnel, meaning they haven’t stopped going to work. My mother, brother, and sister-in-law are in medicine and on the front-lines of Covid-19. My niece is less than four months old, I think about her every day.

I’ve prioritized pausing and allowing myself to feel everything that I am feeling. Despite being on day 45 of quarantine it is not ‘business as usual’. Nothing about this situation is usual. Letting myself feel concerned is part of how I am caring for myself.

A few things that are helping …

 

On Nourishing: Caring for Yourself During a Quarantine

 

I feel like I have seen dozens of posts like this go up on the past week, so was hesitant to create my own. However, something about several of the blog posts I’ve read regarding self-care over this quarantine don’t sound like self-care to me. They sound like work. They sound overwhelming.

So I wanted to write a little something to you, a person who, like me, is probably feeling overwhelmed right now. And what I want to convey is this: Don’t take on 15 new ‘self-care’, ‘make your life better’ tasks during this time. Your life doesn’t need more complexity, stress, or expectations right now. Most of us are working from home, newly unemployed, worried about family members’ and friends’ health, and worried about our own health. Taking on a new, demanding schedule of working out and meditation and every stereotypical wellness tip will not reduce your anxiety, though it may distract you from it.

Below you aren’t going to find a ‘to-do’ list or a 10-step action plan toward easing your anxieties, because I don’t know what [that] means for you. You deserve a rubric that is dynamic and customized for yourself, and who knows you better than you?

What I suggest is something simpler, like giving yourself a soft place to land or filling your home with a calming scent. Don’t start a new habit, rediscover an old one. Journal, get introspective and ask yourself when you felt peaceful in the past. Use the past to inform your future and commodity forgotten hobbies into current comforts.

 

“Once stress escalates, it becomes tougher to let it go.”

Tamar Chansky, anxiety expert & clinical psychologist

 

Caring for yourself, fully, takes more than a bubble bath and a yoga class. It takes boundaries. Working from home can create a grey area between ‘work time’ and ‘home time’.  As someone who worked from home for over a year and a half, I can tell you that it’s easy to skip your lunch break and work through, or to work past COB. When your cell phone becomes your work phone it can be like carrying your desk in your pocket. Set boundaries with yourself and within your professional relationships. Learn to say ‘no’, learn to love your limits. During this time of pandemic and cortisol-increasing media, it’s important to respect your limitations. Now is not the time to see how fast and how far you can push yourself. Just as important as teaching yourself to work, use this time to teach yourself to rest.

Slow down and try to embrace the ebbs and flows of life confined to your home space. I’m working on accepting the fact that my kitchen will never be fully at rest, but rather always in flux during this time. Because caring for and loving on myself looks like playing, fermenting, and baking in the kitchen. It looks like waking up a little earlier than the rest of the home to sit quietly in the sun, with no obligation. Find your tiny moment, forgotten past time, or pick one new project during this time to be your space to prioritize yourself.

And, above all, be gentle with yourself because you are doing the best that you can.

 

Sustain: women-led period care & sexual wellness

scroll down for more info on how you can get everything in this photo!

 

Back in October, I had the opportunity to spend an evening with Sustain (the newest addition to the Grove Collaborative marketplace), a sexual wellness company that makes shame-free products for periods, sex and body. I was fascinated by what their founder, Meika Hollender, said about the current industry standard (or lack thereof) in feminine care.

Immediately following that dinner Sustain became the only period care I used. Several months later, and they have become my all-time favorite. Tampons, pads, menstrual cups, are all used on the most sensitive parts of your body. You deserve to know what’s in them and Sustain thinks so too. Tampon manufacturers are not federally required to disclose the products’ ingredients on the packaging, so many don’t. The result is that the majority of tampons that contain bleach, dyes, rayons, and synthetic perfumes. 

The exception? Sustain.

Here is the complete list of ingredients for Sustain’s tampons, pads, and liners: 100% Organic, Fair-Trade Cotton.

That’s it.

That’s all.

And that’s the way it should be. You deserve the right to know what is going in and around one of the most sensitive, absorbent, and intimate places on your body. In addition to organic cotton, their tampon applicators are made of plant-based bioplastic (90% sugarcane)!

 

 

Not only is Sustain working to provide you an array of period care products that are safe for you to use, but they also have a sexual wellness line complete with condoms, lubricants, and massage oils that are better for you and your pleasure. 50% of condoms are made with natural latex. When forming latex condoms many brands use money-saving accelerators (ZDEC, ZDBC, ZMBT, and dialkylamines).  A byproduct of this process is carcinogenic nitrosamines. This is such a large issue that the World Health Organization (WHO) has been encouraging condom companies to remove nitrosamines since 2010 as they serve no purpose in the condom’s function.

Sustain is the only brand that has no detectable levels of nitrosamines.

Sustain has also reduced the protein level in its condoms by 75%. Meaning they are less likely to cause irritation or sensitivity.

You deserve a company that cares about you at the individual level and that’s what I’ve found with Sustain. At their core, Sustain believes that gender equality starts with sexual equality and that ethos is evident in all their products and I highly suggest you check them out.

 

All new customers will receive the following in their first order of $20 or more:  Sustain Tampons (Box of 12), Sustain Pads (Box of 10), Sustain Ultra Thin Liners (Box of 24), Grove Hydrating Bar Soap, 60 day VIP trial

 

Check it out and let me know what you think!

 

 

* this post was sponsored by Grove Collaborative & Sustain *

On Reflection: The Long and Short of It {my hair}

 

Short.

Light.

Dark.

Blonde.

Long black.

 

No, it’s not how I take my coffee. It’s what I’ve done to my hair over my 20 plus year history of fighting and eventually succumbing to embracing its natural form.

Fiery red. Growing up I always had very long, shiny, baby blonde hair, but when I was 11 I got the notion the red hair was the ideal form. I lusted over auburn locks and wanted them so badly for myself. After a year of begging, my mom let me indulge this want with a box of temporary hair color. I was hooked instantly. I loved it, but as many of you probably know, temporary hair color (particularly red) doesn’t fade beautifully and so began a cycle of dying, chopping, and growing out that lasted over a decade.

Dark brown. In high school, I dyed my hair a rich dark brown as an effort to reclaim my natural color and cover up the highlights earned from hours of running in the sun. I adopted the idea that my highlights made me look younger than I was and in an effort to look grown I covered them. Layer after layer of glossy dark brown dye gave me a deep, nearly black hair color that I kept until college.

Short & black. After my first year of college, I chopped off ten inches a wore a short dark bob. It was about as different as my hair had ever been. I think it was part of a desire to distinguish myself from the high school person I used to be. A lot of people’s college experiences are marked with all the places they drew a line in the sand and said “this is who I am”. A lot of my early time at college was spent trying to distance myself from my country roots. I had a list of reasons a mile long for doing so, none of which seem to hold any weight today.

 

Natural. When I started a new relationship in 2014 I stopped running. Stopped running from my roots, from my passions, from who I naturally was. My hair got long and the dye washed out. My natural highlights returned, a little brassier than their natural blonde, and my curl pattern started to form again. I focused less on my appearance than I had in years and I embraced a natural “me”. I washed my hair with baking soda and vinegar, spent my days working at a yoga shop and taking long Ashtanga practice every morning.

 

Blonde. In early 2015 the desire to dye my hair again came back, from a place of play. I wanted to try something new, something I never had before. Going lighter instead of darker. I had always been taught that dying your hair darker is adding color and therefore healthier than bleaching or stripping out color. This is why for so long I was terrified to go blonde, despite wanting to try it out. I took the plunge through a series of full highlight treatments over several months which gave me a very natural blonde (I had a lot of new acquaintances believing I was a natural blonde).

 

Bob. The unexpected haircut. As I grew out my blonde toward the end of 2016 I decided to go for a chop (up to my shoulder) to get off a lot of the length and let my natural hair grow back. When I left the salon she had cut my hair the shortest it ever was, up to my jaw. It was like losing my crown. It made me really evaluate my ego and where I kept it. Even five months after the chop (below) my hair was still much shorter than I was comfortable with, although the color was returning to my natural hue.

 

Natural. Today I’ve fully embraced my natural hair. It’s low maintenance, I cut it myself, I flip my part from the left to the right. I keep it long enough to not need hair ties (I just tied all the length into a knot). I don’t have to worry about fading as I did with my dark & short, I don’t worry about it drying out as I did with my blonde, I don’t worry about it curling up too much as I did with my bob. It feels like me, no mess, no fuss.

 

I think the big thing here is how important hair can be and how much it can change how you express yourself or process aspects of your life. Everyone should be free to embrace their natural hair or not, it’s their choice. No hair is unprofessional, no hair is superior. Everyone’s hair and aesthetic is unique and everyone should have the freedom to experiment and embrace the style they want to.

Dear Molly, Is it Wrong to be Co-Dependent?

Hey. I know you talk about independence and being confident and it’s something that I’ve been struggling with lately. I feel like everyone is talking about how they don’t need a man in their life, but what if I want one? Is it so wrong to want to be in a relationship? I think I’m just naturally a co-dependant person, what’s so wrong about that?

 

This community has become one I am radically proud of. You each seem to consistently strive for your independent strength, stretch your legs, remain confident, and keep your head up no matter the challenges that come your way. One of the things I hope doesn’t happen is that you forget that there is not an inherent weakness in partnership or craving partnership.

I posted a few months ago on Instagram with the caption “a note to my v independent ladies: it’s okay to let someone take care of you once in a while” and was very surprised at the messages I received saying that you “Needed to hear this” or “Yes, we do! I always forget it’s okay to not be okay”. Being independent and confident doesn’t mean being impervious, faultless, or invulnerable. There’s so much beauty in your ability to be open to being cared for.

So to answer your question “what’s so wrong with that?” absolutely nothing.

Let’s get vulnerable and personal right now. Sometimes I think that I’m the neediest, independent person alive. I cherish my independence. I love my own space, my personal time, and looking out for “number one”. Yet in partnership, I am “needy” in the cleanest sense of the word. I like to be cared for, I like to feel special, reassured, and provided for. Actually, I don’t “like” it, I “need” it. It’s probably the most dichotomous aspect of my personality and one that’s been a curveball for every guy I’ve ever dated. They expect to date this hurricane that blazes ahead without a second thought and requires no support and instead, I can be fragile and find a lot of stability through relationships (romantic or otherwise). *shrug* People are complex. I’ve accepted the fact that if I was a plant I would not be a cactus happy to go months without support, I would proudly be a little orchid.

 

painfully applicable

 

At first, like you, I felt like this was a massive weakness. One that I thought I would have to work to remove to call myself an independent woman, but that’s not the case. Craving, enjoying, and benefiting from partnership is how we, as people, have always lived. At 26 I’m extremely proud of my tough exterior and soft, gentle inner emotions. This quality has forced me to be extremely careful about who I let into my inner circle and who I will genuinely open with. To be completely honest, there are less than five people in the world who truly know me. It’s how I protect and nurture the side of myself that craves partnership.

My final thought for you is this, love and nurture the side of you that craves partnership, but don’t rely solely on one person, romantic or otherwise, to give it to you. Even if you are single and wishing you were in a relationship, it doesn’t mean that you are any less capable of taking care of yourself and thriving. You don’t need someone else to be next to you to accomplish all you want in life.

 

make believe: a sacred pause

 

Last week, I published this piece and ever since can’t help but continually think about taking a sacred pause. Through my day of living in a city of 8.6 million, being packed like a sardine each time I use the subway to migrate around the city, and never quite having a “quiet moment” I seem to be craving it more than ever. Instead of trying to squeeze an hour of meditation into my already 25-hour day I want to cultivate a soft extension of that sacred pause. A way to experience a gentle pause, in snatches, throughout the day.

 

A few bits to help you create a sacred pause in your day:

clear your home’s energy.

a calming scent for a mid-day escape.

a soft place to land.

the gentle chime of a mediation’s end.

fill your home with tranquil bergamot.

a moment to yourself at the end of the day.

Personal Note: a sacred pause

Earlier this week I started fully processing the grief that has been piling up in me over the past year. A combination of losing so many people, who mean so much to me, manifested itself into an anxiety attack, my first in several years. As I came down from the attack a friend gave me the gentle nudge I needed.

“Maybe you should start meditating.”

I think in the age of Lululemon-esque, green juice, neo-spiritualism “meditating” is a practice that gets thrown around a lot. At times it can seem like a default response for “I don’t know how to support your mental health right now”. But, you see, I have a degree in an East Asian philosophy, one that consisted of studying the  Shōbōgenzō, following the teachings of  Thích Nhất Hạnh, and meditating regularly. Meditation and yoga were both in my daily repertoire until two to three years ago. This gentle nudge was a nudge not into something new, not into a catch-all formulaic response, but back into my center. Back into my homeostasis.

The next day I drafted a potential new blog post. A few of the notes I jotted down for myself: yin yoga, daily meditation, journaling, breathwork, psychologist visits. Each came with a question mark. A C-curve and a dot that was the text version of the “Will this actually work?” question that I had been asking myself since I first knew I was off-kilter. As I scrawled into my journal that night I asked the universe for some sign or path, something to help me with the first step.

Tuesday morning brought that sign I was looking for. An Alchemy Workshop put on by 3rd Ritual, a Taoist meditation company that I’d met a few months prior, was being advertised on the founder’s Instagram. It was described as a “brain bath” and Jenn, the founder of 3rd Ritual, had one guest spot left. I messaged her immediately and got the last spot. It felt like a perfect answer to the question I had been quietly asking myself for weeks.

One of the first things Jenn said was that this ritual was a “sacred pause”. The phrase hit me like an earthquake. I haven’t been taking a single pause in the past year, out of an unconscious fear of the emotions that can come in the slow moments. After an introduction to the space and practice, we all took a few breaths together during a short meditation and then introduced ourselves, sharing our name and something we have that we didn’t have last year. I immediately had two thoughts, one easy and one honest. The easy answer is the ability to make things, specifically my new sourdough fixation, but I chose to share the honest answer: grief. This past year taught me what it is to truly experience genuine loss. Not the loss of a job or relationship, but the real and raw loss of someone you love. After introductions, it was time for the ritual.

The ritual itself was divided into three parts, each addressing a different facet of ourselves. The body, the mind, and the spirit.

 

our alter for The Ritual

 

We addressed the body through a gentle yin yoga flow, repeating postures evenly on the left and right. When I was regularly practicing yoga, under the very energetic and dynamic Ashtanga style, I was bending myself into pretzels and balancing on my forearms with ease. But it has been a long time since I practiced and the challenge presented with adho mukha svanasana was humbling. It also forced me to focus deeply on my physical body and anchored me to the “here and now” of the ritual.

Moving onto the mind we did a writing exercise, based on “looking in the rearview mirror”. Starting with a “Less” column we wrote out all the things we had experienced in the past year (or several years) that we wanted less of in the future. I wrote several things, but the two that jumped out to me are “Guilt, Self-Blame” and “Avoidance, Hiding Tough Emotions”. Moving 200 miles from my family at the start of 2019, just a couple months after we received two stage four diagnoses, has weighed on me for the past year. At the same time as processing this self-blame and guilt over the move, I’ve been hiding a lot of these emotions. From others and from myself. As my family lost people this year I tried to remain stoic, knowing that we likely had more loss just a few months away. In an effort to protect myself from grief I hid from truly feeling. I want less of that. Less of postponing how I feel to make others comfortable or out of a personal fear of feeling raw emotions. To close the “Less” column we closed our eyes, filled with as much breath as we could, and released the “Less” through several, group-wide deep exhales. The only word to describe it: cathartic.

The second piece of addressing the mind was creating a “More” column, based not on all our wants from the future, but again informed by our past experiences. This list was evenly as long as my my “Less” column, but more centering to write. “Journaling, Tidyness Throughout the home, Introspection, Allowing Myself to Feel”.  My favorite one, the one that first came to my mind, is “museum days”. One of my absolute favorite things to do with him, and something we’ve been doing since our first few months of dating (when we were too broke to do anything else we would spend afternoons taking advantage of DC’s free museums). It’s one of the things that makes me feel most full in our relationship. Other things were centered around what keeps me calm and relaxed, a large focus of mine lately.

 

 

The final third of the ritual was dedicated to the spirit, caring for it with a free-flowing painting session. Starting with a center dot, representing each of us, we filled in the surrounding space with all the things we want to keep close to us. Friends and family, goals, hopes, anything. The gentle chime of 3rd Ritual’s Bel drew the ritual to an end.

We closed with savasanaaromatherapy, and a Jenn gently speaking through the parable of the two travelers.

After the workshop last night I wouldn’t say I felt healed, but that wasn’t the point. What I did feel is radically changed. Like a few of the grains of the mountain that’s been weighing me down had been lifted. Last night was the first step I had been asking for. It truly was a sacred pause from all the buzzing that’s been going on in my head lately and a beautiful way to welcome me back to myself and have a moment of calm.

On Reflection: January 2019 Truths That Are No Longer Mine

 

As a society, we engage in a hypocritical game when it comes to growth.

We like to mock our previous selves with self-deprecating photos and jokes, mocking the authenticity we used to adore. While simultaneously urging growth and hustle and daily betterment in our present selves. When do the scales tip? When does the person you are today become a punchline? The answer should be never. Growth is stunningly beautiful, radically raw, and a gift we are given through our humanity.

In honor of my ever-evolving self, here are ten truths about me that felt self-defining in January of 2019, but are no longer true.

 

+ the NYC subway scares me {this one expired quickly, thank goodness}

+ I don’t want to have children {I don’t know when, but there was a switch and now I want three little rug rats — you’re welcome, Mom}

+ I am considering going back to hormonal BC {never again}

+ I don’t have a strong group of girlfriends {it’s never too late to make new friends}

+ I am struggling to see what unique thing I can offer to the blogging space {I am unique, therefore if I bring something authentic to me it’s inherently unique}

+ I have never kicked a rat {August 12, 2019 — never forget}

+ I feel guilty about moving away from my family {I did what was best for me and I know my family supports that}

+ I wrestle with imposter syndrome daily {it’s more of a once and a while thing now… and getting more and more infrequent}

+ I am not interested in being married until I am 30 {I’m interested in taking next steps when it feels right, regardless of age}

+ I don’t think I’ve accomplished enough, for my age {I’m proud of what I’ve done and where I’m going}

On Why: Learning to Love Your Likeability

 

“When you stand for nothing, you fall for everything.”

One of my favorite quotes and believed to be said by Alexander Hamilton (but that detail has blurred since the 18th-century). I always find it remarkable how someone living so long ago, in such a different way could have said something that still profoundly resonates today. We live in a world of quick judgments, fast fashion trends, and bandwagon fans where the urge to “stick to your guns” often overshadowed by the desire to “fit in”.

I used to be a people pleaser and the idea that someone didn’t like me was all-consuming. I spent a lot of my time trying to balance scales, curating myself to fit what someone else wanted. It felt like every interaction with someone was a test I needed to pass, and after I got waves of the self-doubt questions.

“Did they like me?”

“Did they have a good time?”

“Was I funny?”

“Was I ‘too much’?”

“Am I cool enough?”

“Pretty enough?”

“Skinny enough?”

It took a bad breakup for me to throw in the towel and truly not care about what anyone else thought of me. It taught me a very important lesson, one that I wish I had learned well before my twenties, and that is: Not everyone will like you all of the time.

You are not for everyone. You don’t need to be liked by someone else to be worth their respect and time. Your likability is not your responsibility. Your responsibility is to yourself and your honesty. To be strong in your authenticity. Your value is not derived from the evaluation or validation of another.

I learned that to constantly change yourself or strive to be liked by everyone around you doesn’t just hurt you, it hurts your relationships. It hurts your authenticity and the authenticity of your connections. It undermines your ability to truly connect with people. You are not a topiary garden to be curated for another’s enjoyment, you are wild, so embrace it.

Be nice, be generous, be forgiving, but know that others will come to their own conclusions about you. Don’t chameleon yourself to fit everyone else’s needs. You cannot control how others respond to you, you can only control you. Stand for who you are, not who you anticipate someone else wants you to be. It isn’t easy, but it’s powerful. Standing for something isn’t drawing a line in the sand, it’s raising a flag that represents who you are.

You are not for everyone, because not everyone deserves you.

 

Dear Molly, Why Her and Not Me?

I’m wondering if you have advice on something…I just want to know, how to get over feeling “why her and not me” when it comes to guys. It just makes me feel not good enough 😦 Like if a guy is totally capable of treating you the way you secretly want to but chooses not to but then would absolutely do all of that for another girl. I guess I’m tired of feeling like the side person, or the placeholder for when something better comes along. Wondering if you have had experience with this before your current boyfriend or had any insight.

 

Totally know this feeling and it’s a very difficult series of emotions to filter through. I’d start by moving past the mindset that it’s “her” not “me”, because what it really is it “them”. She’s not a perfect being who doesn’t share any of your flaws, she just may be a better match for him. I’m a very different person in my current relationship than I was before. Previously, I was controlling and needy and suffocating because I wasn’t receiving the type of love and care I needed. Currently, I joke that my partner is “obsessed” with me because he’s so attentive and caring and affectionate. Him giving me love in the way I need it changed who I was in the relationship. I’m much more confident, laid back, trusting. (The Aries in me misses the drama, but c’est la vie!)

It’s not to say that my ex was wrong and my current partner is right, or that one is better than the other. What it is is the difference in relationships that Me+Ex v. Me+Current make. When two people come together and create a third thing that is the “relationship”. You both feed into the health of it, but sometimes you are mismatched in how you contribute to the relationship or how you give and receive to and from each other. It doesn’t mean that either of you is wrong or unworthy or, the dreaded word that 99% of guys like to fall back on, “crazy”. It means that the way you need to be loved differs from the way that he gave love.

It’s hard when we see things from the outside because we know that person in one way, but what we don’t know who they are in that relationship just because we’ve been with them before. People change slowly over time and quickly in situations. Being in a new situation with someone else doesn’t mean that he was capable of giving you everything you wanted and that he withheld it. Each relationship is unique in that way.

I’d also like to point out that you mentioned: “secretly want”. There should be no secrets when it comes to what you want emotionally, romantically, or sexually from a partner. Hiding that part of yourself does a few things. One, it makes you feel like they are withholding things from you because they aren’t giving what you are looking for. Two, it creates an unfair field in the relationship where you hold all the cards and he is working to decipher you like an elaborate scavenger hunt. I’m not saying to unleash all your emotional and sexual baggage on the first date, but it’s important to remember that dating someone is not a game to win. This is not to put the blame on you, but only to shine a light on the necessity for strong communication in a healthy relationship. If you felt like you couldn’t talk with him about these things that is a major red flag that you are better off out of that relationship.

As far as moving past the “her, not me” feelings that’s a tough one. Personally, I think it comes from within. I’ve found that small reminders really help me when those feelings come in. Remembering that it’s not personal (he’s not being kind to her to hurt you), each situation is different (you don’t know all the nuances of their relationship and it could have significant drawbacks. people share the good, not the hard), and that he didn’t leave the relationship looking for “You 2.0”. He left looking for something new and different to experience a new and different relationship.

 

xx