find what feels good

Not to be that person but, guys, my instagram game is so on point right now.

Friends, it has been almost a month – again. Whoops! There isn’t much to say on it: I had nothing remotely positive to say and no strength to say much of anything. It was also good to just take more time off after being so plugged in to this blog for the first few months of the year with the Self-Care Challenge. It was almost like staying away for a long while was the ultimate self-care for the time.

Things are a little better. I don’t want to jinx it or anything, but the past few days have been a lot better, mental health wise, than what this year has turned out to be so far.

I’m forcing myself outside every day now, and it makes a world of a difference. Actually sitting with nature for a few minutes every day infuses some calm and joy into me. It’s also a very doable goal, since it’s literally just go hide under trees in the backyard, making it more achievable in the days when I don’t have any effort left in me to put into anything. I take a book outside and/or coffee (or wine!) and/or a notebook and just soak up a few minutes of birdsong.

I’ve also been doing yoga every day for this month. Monthly challenges are apparently where my strength lies. It’s been really great.

Other than that, it’s been more or less the usual. I’ve been able to face a few things I’d been avoiding and dreading and I feel a little less scared. I read a few books that gave me strength and hope and inspiration and I’m doing my best to sort of focus on that, consciously keep those perspectives that make me feel better in mind. Mindfully battling the monsters in my head,  I guess. Reading has been my anchor and my refuge a lot this year, and I am so thankful that I was able to find not just escapism but small nuggets of ideas that buried themselves in my brain that, when cultivated, really help.

I haven’t found a magic formula and I’m not just suddenly okay. But right now, at least, right at this very second, I feel like I can fight for okay a lot better than, say, a couple of weeks ago.

I definitely want to make a favorites post for this month and I want to get back to WIAW. But no promises or pressure. My foot is still injured – it’s, in fact, worse. I have an appointment coming up, but I’m about to hit three months without running and it’s taking a big toll on me. I miss it like crazy. I don’t know how people cope with not being able to run and I’m low-key terrified of what this might be or might mean for my running future. But I’m trying to remain positive and do as much low-impact exercise as I can.

In the meantime I’m trying to live the best life I can with what I have now and with where I am now and with all the limitations, both concrete and palpable as well as brain-related. If nothing else, it makes for prettier pictures.

I hope you guys are all doing really well. Tell me things. How is summer (or winter, if you live upside down)? What’s the best book you’ve read so far this year? How, good lord, how do you cope with running injuries?

I am wishing you all so many good things.

 

meow?

Oh hai there!

Things have been bad. So here’s a list of good things lately:

kittens kittens kittens

gluten-free cone ice creams and falafel and mushroom and chickpea veggie burgers

audiobooks, the October Daye series, starting a million books

yoga and working out daily

I miss the sea. And I miss running. And it’s Too Hot.

But cats, you know.

 

a general life update and confirmation that I haven’t, in fact, died

Friends, when I said I was going to take a break, I didn’t meant to stay away for a whole month.

May was rough. I can’t really tell you in what ways it was rougher or less rough or even a different sort of rough. Frankly times have just been hard and I’ve had the same old perpetual struggle of wanting to be honest whilst not wanting to be overly negative all the time. I also think I really needed the time and space, really.

Mostly I’ve just been reading.

I’ve been falling into audiobooks and really enjoying them. Caitlín R. Kiernan’s The Drowning Girl blew my mind – it’s one of the most hard-hitting things I’ve ever read, for entirely me-related reasons. But also just an extraordinary novel in general. I’m currently reading/listening to The Red Tree, which almost seems like a sister-novel, or a cousin-novel. Other great things I’ve read include Seanan McGuire’s Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day and Beneath the Sugar Sky. I’ve read other good (and bad) things, but these are the ones that best illustrate the kind of reading mood I’m in. Has anyone read Caitlín R. Kiernan and, lord, does anyone have recommendations of other books kind-of-like-that-ish?

I hurt my foot so I haven’t been running in over a month. Is it close to two months now? No wonder things have been extra hard. I’m getting some new shoes and trying, very cautiously, to get back on that train. On the bright side, literally, it’s now sunny and bright and t-shirt weather. Which makes sense, considering it’s June, but it’s been a bit iffy.

I went for a walk this morning, since I couldn’t run, and even though I’ve had no sleep it was nice to see the ocean first thing in the morning, and a kitty came to cuddle me as soon as I got home, so I’m trying to make this a good day. Also cornetto came out with gluten-free cone ice creams and I’m so happy for it. They’re amazing.

I’m not entirely sure what things will look like now, blog-wise. I don’t want to make any promises. I’d like to get back to reviewing books and doing WIAW’s and monthly favorites and such. This month I’d like to do an overview of movies I watched and books I read and the best of the bunch. But the summer is looking uncertain, so be patient with me, pals.

How are you all doing? What did I miss? Tell me something about this past month!

Hope you’re all looking forward to the new month ahead and that life has been treating you kindly.

Book Club Quarterly Review – Jan-Apr

Last year I told you about my book club and  did an end-of-year-review of the books we picked. This year I thought I’d do that in parts, during the year, instead of a massive post at the end. This is the first of those reviews.

To recap, there’s four of us in the book club, we’re just pals who all love books, and we take turns picking a book each month. These are the first four books we’ve read this year, and my thoughts on them.

JANUARY number9dream by David Mitchell

"She thinks she lives above the clouds."☁️ #bookstagram

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David Mitchell had been on my list for ages and I was thrilled when my friend picked one of his books. He was one of those authors I wanted to love and felt like I most likely would. This is his second novel, and it’s set in Japan, centering around a young man who’s in search of his father. It’s a complete mad romp of a book and you barely know what’s actually happening most of the time – which parts are real, which parts are dreamscape. It moves at a constant fast speed, half thriller with hints of magical realism but not overly bothered by genre definitions or even by giving you time to think about them. It is very easy to understand, almost immediately, what people mean when they talk about the distinct flavor to Mitchell’s writing.

I absolutely loved it. I was right in thinking that he’d be my kind of writer – there’s a dreamy quality to the narrative that’s impossible to properly describe but that’s just to my taste. The writing was beautiful, and it hit me hard several times. Yet it kept moving, and enchanting me, and I was left wanting to buy all his books and read everything he’s written, just not right away because hidden pockets of hurt would most definitely be peppered all over them.

I was properly impressed and excited for more, and it was a great way to start the year – for most of us, at least, if not for the one member of our club who absolutely hated it. Whoops.

 

FEBRUARYThe Gracekeepers by Kirsty Logan

February was my month to pick, and my pick was, of course, something I’d been really dying to read. The Gracekeepers creates a different world, where the planet has been flooded so severely that there’s little land left. We follow both a floating traveling circus and a gracekeeper, who handles the funeral rites and lives in isolation. The writing is absolutely marvelous, but I had such conflicted feelings over this one that I wrote a separate review of it – which you can read here.

Opinions were conflicted too, though mostly on the negative side, it seems. I’m still looking forward to trying more of Kirsty Logan’s writing.

 

MARCH Jazz by Toni Morrison

March was a first for me because I did not read this one. As someone who powers through even books I’m hating, this was a first in many ways, and not an easy decision to make. Having not read it, I’m not going to tell you about the book – I know that my friends either strongly disliked it or outright hated it.

I have read Morrison before, and loved her. She writes superbly. My reasons for not managing to read this one weren’t related to the book itself, but to me. I read a few pages of it and the central subject was very painful to read, to the point that I knew carrying on would be really detrimental to my mental well-being. I genuinely couldn’t force myself to read it. As I battled this in my head I realized that I would rather quit the book club altogether than be forced to carry on – which is an indication of how much I was struggling. So I gave up on trying because I was worrying way to much about a book instead of enjoying the reading experience.

 

APRILMiss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

All of the spoopy books, please and thank you 💀#bookstagram

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April’s pick had me excited again – I had wanted to try this book for a while. It was everywhere for such a long time, mostly because of the unique way in which it weaved pictures with text. Creepy, creepy pictures. This YA book about a group of peculiar children with peculiar powers was so hyped and so well-loved that I really expected good things. Alas, this was another disappointment and once more left me feeling conflicted.

I have several complaints with this one but my main one is exactly the one thing that is supposed to make this book special: the pictures. Not that they weren’t great, they most certainly were, but they did not flow with the story at all. It felt stilted and forced, like Riggs had these awesome pictures and wanted to fit a story to them but ended up chopping them up together in a series of oh look at this photo album we just stumbled upon type of scenes that really didn’t make the pictures themselves fit seamlessly with the rest.

Beyond that, there was also that awful love-interest that wasn’t just weird and uncalled for, it was also chopped together messily. There were several moments when I was pulled out of the story because of how unlikely certain things were – not in the magical aspects but in human actions. The whole book felt messy and, at best, kind of meh. The writing had an easy quality, it made for a quick read that was fairly entertaining in parts, but the more I think about it now, after some time, the less impressed I am.

What really brought it home for me was that my friend, who lent me the first book and owns the rest of the trilogy, asked me if I wanted to borrow the other books and my immediate reaction was to internally groan oh nooooo.

 

Those are the books we’ve read in the first four months of the year – the best one so far was definitely David Mitchell. Tell me if you’ve read any of these and your thoughts on them. Do you have a book club and, if so, have you ever not read one of the selected books?

You're breaking my heart, book #bookstagram

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100 Days of Self-Care: day 99 & 100

Well, friends, here we are. When I first started this challenge, the end seemed so far away. And I was sure that, by then, life would have changed immensely, or, at the very least, considerably. That things would be different both in my life, and in my head. Not that I had any grand illusions that all would be well. April is one of the hardest months of the year for me. I knew this time, right here, would be hard. But I thought some main aspects of life would be different.

Instead, everything feels very much the same. It’s disappointing and sad to write, at the end of the challenge, when you want to compare your starting point with your finish line and very clearly see the changes. But I don’t mean this in relation to the challenge itself, because that did help change things.

I started this in January, when things weren’t going very well and I needed a boost and, more to the point, to make sure I was taking care of myself when I most needed it. In that, this challenge was key, more so when the year has kept being especially rough. In many ways I feel more tired and drained and dispirited than I did in January – which makes it hard to sit back and take a look at all this time and so little to show for it. There’s also something very ironic in this challenge ending precisely today, a significant date for me in all the worse ways. All to say that it feels hard to end this challenge now and sit here trying to write something really positive and uplifting about it because of where I am now.

In the past two days, the last of this journey, my self-care was small. I soaked up some rays of sun, bought a new candle (it smells like strawberries, it’s amazing), and some stationary, had some chocolate, wrote to a friend. More or less the usual. But the main thing, for the past two days, has been a small change in habits. I used to get out of bed and head straight to breakfast – I love breakfast, it’s my favorite, but a big part of the reason for this automatic course of action was a sort of “get it out of the way” deal. I was awake, breakfast had to be had, at some point, best do it as soon as possible so I could move on to other things. For the past two days I have gotten up, headed straight to coffee, and then sat drinking it and enjoying it for a while. I’d tried this switched routine before and really enjoyed it, but it’s so easy to slip back into automated habits. Which is silly because this now gives me a little more time to reset my brain, especially if I had a bad night, and give it time to prepare for the day. And it allows me to enjoy my cup of coffee a lot more – you guys now how important coffee is for me. It’s been rather nice to have some time to just enjoy that, first thing in the morning, before everything else.

This, I guess, has been my biggest takeaway from this challenge. How self-care now comes a lot more naturally to me that I barely have to think about it, that I’m just incorporating small gestures for myself into my day to day life, but also the perpetual call back to consciousness, taking a moment to be aware of what I’m doing and doing it with genuine intention, pausing time a little to focus on this one good thing. It’s now programmed into my wiring and I don’t have to stop at every juncture to wonder if I should be doing this and if I’m allowed to do that, have I earned this Snickers bar, so to speak. But it’s also something I stop to think about and try to readjust my behavior when I find myself becoming too zombified in following the same steps.

So, all in all, this challenge has been wonderful. It made me think about self-care so much more, and what it means, both in general and to me. It made me understand what really helped me, how to best take care of myself, what was most important at any given time. And it reminded me, constantly, to be kind to myself. Which has been crucial – more of a necessity, to get through lots of bad days, than a bonus. Which is kind of the point: self-care isn’t indulgence. It’s necessary. You have to take care of yourself.

That said, I’m so glad it’s over. I’ve loved the challenge and I’ve even loved sharing, but I can’t wait to go back to my normal posts. I’m going to take some time off, first, and give myself at least a few days in which I don’t have to think about this blog in any way at all. I’m really excited to return afterwards, and talk about all things running and food and books.

I’m super happy with this, and I’m really proud of myself. I’m also really grateful to all of you who stuck through it, or joined me partway – thank you for being here with me, and for your support. And I hope you’re all practicing self-care, and will keep practicing along with me.

I will see you soon.

100 Days of Self-Care: day 95-98

I wish these last few days of the self-care challenge were full of wonderful things, go-out-with-a-bang style. At the very least, I wish I had some wonderful new insights into the whole thing and, ergo, on life and happiness and building your own peace.

The truth, though, is a lot simpler: I have been trucking along, once more.

Friday was Cosy Reading Night, as always an absolute favorite of mine (hosted, if you’re new here, by Lauren). It was a pretty low-key edition of it for me, but still so enjoyable. Something about having a worldwide reading moment with other readers is really lovely.

Books are still my main source of comfort right now. A lot of my self-care lately has consisted merely of allowing myself to read, guilt-free. That has honestly been the best thing for me the past few days. That, and playing video games with pals. In terms of productivity, this week has been a bit of a throwaway week, but it’s been just what my soul needed.

A lot of chocolate has been involved too, let’s be fair.

Time alone has been precious. It has allowed me to relax and breathe a little. My goal is always balance, but this past few days this balance has definitely tipped on the side of indulgence. There is a distinct difference, though, between luxury and necessity, and I’m mostly grateful that I was able to take this time and worry a little bit less than usual.

So – take my advice today, and carve yourself some time. Make it a gift to yourself. You probably need it.