Over the last 6 years I have been regularly keeping journals. I am pretty diligent about this practice and have filled about a journal per year with thoughts, musings, to-do lists, attempts at budgets and financial planning (always failing at this), elimination diet observations (a time-honored Queer sport), bitchings, lists of people I’ve kissed, lists of possible dog names, lists of people on my shit list, and recordings of daily minutiae, crushes, relationships, and therapy sessions. I started keeping a diary with some regularity in middle school, but I would start one with enthusiasm, and quickly lose steam, dropping off for months or years at a time. Sometimes when I am home at my mom’s house in the Bronx I come across an old one and sit for hours laughing at the ridiculous things 15 year old me wrote about. My favorite entry by far, from my first year of high school in 2001 reads:
High school is fine. I hate my math class. And the Twin Towers fell. I have a crush on Preston.
I don’t think its possible to find a more nonchalant retelling of one of the most traumatizing days in “American” history. Apathetic doesn’t even begin to describe 15 year old Camila Coddou.
When I was a senior in high school my boyfriend at the time read my journal while I was out of my room for all of 15 minutes. When I returned he confronted me on whether or not I had cheated on him with a friend’s boyfriend. Rather than answer him I whipped the journal out of his hands and ran down the hallway of my mom’s apartment building to promptly deposit the journal into the trash chute. I deeply regret throwing that journal away, and for years after that incident I avoided journaling as honestly as I wanted to for fear of being exposed and having my privacy violated. I was 18- we all do stupid things at that age. Lots and lots of stupid things.
In 2012, when I traveled around India by myself for almost three months, I filled an entire journal in about 90 days, feverishly capturing all the wild things I would witness in one 24 hour period. And thats when the dedication to this practice was cemented. Following India I went to Japan for over a month, then I flew to California and took the train across the country back to New York. Once back in NYC I went through a break up, moved into a milk hut (read: 8 by 8 foot shed) in the Catskills and mucked horse stalls for 6 weeks, decided to move to Portland Oregon, and took an epic road trip across the country to get there with two friends. On said trip I was kiiind of arrested and held in a cell at a border patrol check point for several hours, made a bunch of bad decisions that involved making out with ex’s exes and friends in the Bay Area, and started a new life in Portland, where I promptly had my first threesome, and started dating multiple people at once. If all this isn’t material for journal keeping, I don’t know what is!
A nice thing that I started in recent years is having a lot of intention around the end of one year and the start of the next, and recording intentions and reflections in my journal. I think you know where I am going with this- yes, this IS a NYE blog post, sorry not sorry (just trying that phrase out- I hate when people use it in earnest, and now that I have tried it myself I can report that I didn’t enjoy it). So this past weekend when I was deep cleaning my fridge- another pre-NYE ritual- I thought back to last year’s New Year’s Day entry. I stopped what I was doing to go find that journal, a red moleskine, and re-read the entry from January 1, 2018.
Lola and I were sitting at Laughing Planet, which was the only thing open in Corvallis that day. I was eating a tempeh burrito, and she was eating a seasonal bowl. I don’t know how I remember exactly what we were eating, cause I didn’t write it down, but somehow I do. We wrote lists- what we wanted more of and less of in 2018. Then we made a venn diagram of where our intentions overlapped so we could see what we could accomplish together. Looking over what I wrote last year, I was eager to see what I had achieved and where I could maybe focus more attention moving forward.
I got some pretty major and life changing things done this year that I am very proud of, including committing to a physical activity that I enjoy and makes me feel healthy (wut up crossfit), learning more to assert and keep boundaries, committing myself further to my writing through keeping a blog and most importantly and perhaps most astonishingly, starting to move away from persistent and somewhat debilitating anxiety. Although this year was trying at times and difficult as all hell at other times, as it draws to a close, I feel a sense of peace and pride at where I have gotten myself. I feel like I am standing, somewhat firmly, in my power.
But my real question right now is, seriously, how on earth did I get so much of this shit done?! Like for real, “start a blog” has been on almost every single to-do list I’ve written over the last 4 years. Likewise exercise, and don’t even get me started on taking steps towards anxiety management. Shit I’ve avoided, put off, and actively fought against, much to my own detriment, for YEARS- like I’m taking even fighting Lola on going to workout last year on this very day even though I had said it was something I wanted to do- I was able to start chipping away at, finally, this past year. So what gives?
Well a few things are at play, I believe, but as I scanned to the bottom of the page, written as an afterthought, I saw “focus on the small stuff- the bigger things will follow.” And there it was, a letter from myself from a year ago, written to me, today. The small things. Of course.
Cause when I look back over the course of my life, as a person trying my hardest to really be the best iteration of myself that I can be, mostly what I see is a failed methodology. I see myself badgering me, labeling myself a failure, berating me over and over again, for not getting the things done that I needed and wanted for myself. Looking back through my journals, sadly, its a whole lot of me not being kind to myself, literally asking myself over and over again to *just* make these huge sweeping changes in my life. Eat healthy! Cook for yourself! Stop wasting all your money! Stop being in friendships that don’t feel good! Stop being an anxious person! Wake up early! And then providing myself with zero support or words of encouragement.
Then one day in recent history my therapist asked me about what time I go to sleep every night. I must have been mouthing off about all the things I wanted to get accomplished but couldn’t, so she asked me this really simple question. What time do you go to sleep every night, how long do you sleep, and what time do you get up? A lot of my life I have actually spent running late. Running late to the bus, hair brush in hand, papers flying out of my backpack. Not giving myself enough time to eat breakfast, leaving myself no time to find parking, starting my shift hungry, sleepy eyed, or even just wearing an outfit that I didn’t love, which, hello, can have a super negative impact on your day.
So I started paying attention to one small thing- what time I get up in the morning. The internal dialogue went something like: so if I know I want to eat breakfast and pick out something to wear, I know I need to give myself x-amount of time. So I set my alarm for that time. But the next day, I realized that actually, even though it only takes 15 minutes to get to work, I need an extra 5 to find parking. So I set my alarm 5 minutes earlier. After trying this for a bit, I realized I was still feeling tired, so I looked at what time I was getting to bed, and adjusted that. Am I am to fall asleep easily? No- too jazzed on my phone, so I started ignoring instagram about 30 minutes before I wanted to be asleep.
And so I went, step by step, looking at really small things in my life that I wanted to help myself with. At the time I was also having ocular migraines, bad allergies, and gut issues. Clearly, these three things contributed hugely to my anxiety, which made me feel depressed and made it very hard to motivate myself to get into some form of exercise. Really, I only felt motivated to watch Netflix. Whereas before, I had always looked with laser focus just at the ultimate seemingly impossible outcome I wanted, instead, I inspected possible root causes. I started with one first step: what I was eating.
Could too much dairy be a migraine trigger and be giving me bad tummy times? So I stopped eating dairy. I didn’t go cold turkey and also cut out gluten, sugar, and caffeine all in one go- I focused on one small thing.
And it helped immensely. Having less gut trouble and fewer migraines meant a drastic reduction in anxiety. And a reduction in anxiety, for me, meant more self confidence to try something new, like crossfit.
And so on and so forth, over months and years, I tried small changes.
This isn’t to say that I thought of this line- focus on the small stuff and the big things will follow- last year on January 1st and then voila, this year I started doing crossfit, quit a job that wasn’t healthy for me, and finally felt like I had conquered my anxiety. Or that this one conversation with my therapist about sleep patterns was my aha! moment. Its been a slow process, over the course of years, of reminding myself to ease up, a little bit at a time, and actually address taking real care of myself. You can see hints of it starting a few years back, recorded in my journal, trying to inspect why my methodology wasn’t working. Trying to imagine a self love, a self care, that felt genuine. Reassessing how to actually take care of myself in sustainable and attainable ways. Cause Duh, of course I am not going to all of a sudden accomplish my wildest New Year’s resolutions if I can’t get enough sleep on a regular basis. And considering myself a failure, ever, is only going to hurt me in the long run.
So what I am here to say, as your favorite 4 foot 11 blogger, during the last moments of 2018, that it really is the small stuff that counts. Taking care of yourself, as in real true self care of your body, mind, and soul, is the building block upon which all other accomplishments can be built. And these small acts of self care, are so huge, so important because what we all deserve, more than anything, is to love ourselves and treat ourselves kindly.
Happy New Years babes.
Just kidding, Bruiser wrote this post.