2020 has been a year for crisis’ of all kinds. We’ve been through a pandemic, economic struggles, civil unrest, hurricanes, and now fires in the western U.S. To those of you who didn’t know, Hurricane Laura passed over our house last month. It felt like an apocalypse with the wind battering our hundred-foot-tall pines in every direction. While much of our county lost power for weeks, we were lucky. We only lost power for one full day, and only a dozen trees uprooted in the surrounding forest. Nothing hit our vehicles or house (or persons), yet the event felt like yet another in a long line of crazy we’ve endured this year.
Personally, the events of 2020 put added pressure on my job, and myself as a writer and mother. Luckily, I’d canceled much of my publishing ventures back in February. But it was still a rub to push everything into 2021, with the chance that it could take me far longer to bring my sequel to Silver Hollow to life. Meanwhile, we decided to put my four-year-old in preschool. This last one is a bit controversial for a lot of folks, I know. Is it safe? How long will in-person classrooms even last? Trust me, I’ve pondered and worried over these questions and more. At the end of the day, we decided it was better to try and give our only child the classroom experience for as long as it will last. If things shut down again this fall, then we’ll deal with it then. Honestly, at this point, we’re just taking things one day at a time. Trying to think or plan anything in 2020 seems to me only a road to madness.
Speaking of sanity, here’s the way I’ve kept mine throughout the #newnormal.
Now that I’m in my 30’s, I’ve realized how important it is to cut out time for myself. I used to guilt myself over this as a new mom, but after crashing and burning because I wasn’t taking care of myself, I’ve learned from past mistakes. No matter how much you love your kids, your spouse, or your job, you can’t neglect yourself.
When I was younger I had a closet obsession with dance. Some of my earliest memories are becoming enamored with Irish Step Dancing and Ballet. I used to mimic the movements of the girls I saw on T.V. specials and beg my parents for classes. We could never afford those, sadly, and I tucked that part of myself away for a long time. In high school, however, I jumped at the chance to take dance. Those classes resulted in a back injury that put me out of commission for a while. Until I took Ballet in college, as well.
I’m not a prodigy, or uber flexible, or what most would consider good at ballet. But I love the way it makes me feel. I love the grace and the discipline, and how even doing seemingly small movements can make me break a sweat. It’s meditative and therapeutic, I’m convinced. So back in mid-May, I decided to pick it back up again in earnest. Enter the wonderful world of YouTube. I have used the NYC Ballet videos in the past, so I decided to begin here:
I started out slow. While I’ve kept up off and on with at least some form of exercise, I hadn’t seriously worked out since the summer after my son was born. I knew I would be rusty, and that’s why the NYC Ballet Vol. 1 & 2 were the perfect place to start rebuilding old muscles.
I didn’t see results right away, but I started to keep track in my planner when I worked out and began to set goals. By the time June rolled around, and I was privately stressing over whether we were going to register my kid for PreK or homeschool him this year, I reached out for additional inspiration. Enter the beautiful and talented Misty Copeland’s Ballerina Body:
I’ve never really believed in “diets” like some people do. I’m convinced the majority of them are fads and trends. And I care far less about losing weight. I’d rather be healthy (while eating my cookies too ;). I loved Misty Copeland’s Ballerina Body because, rather than starve yourself, her creed is all about eating healthy foods. Instead of denying our bodies, she encourages you to eat healthy fats and proteins (i.e. nuts & eggs). After reading over her tips and suggestions, I started to eat regularly (instead of skipping meals while working).
SideBar:I especially love the floor barre workouts from Ballerina Body. Ever since my lower back injury, I have worked hard to maintain a strong core to compensate for that weakness. Unfortunately, a lot of ballet hinges on strong back muscles. Floor barre not only helps develop better form, but it’s a fantastic way to be kind to your back.
July saw the seventh birthday I’ve spent without my grandma. I was born on her birthday, and for some reason, the loss of her hit me harder this year. Did it have something to do with all the pressure and chaos of this year? Probably. July was also when I made the big decision to push back my extended release date for Blackbriar Cove. I felt like a failure, but no amount of wishing different could change things. Some things in life we just have to roll with and try to keep our heads above the surface.
No matter what I told myself, I struggled to write after this. It was honestly painful to even look at my manuscripts, so I put them aside. Instead, I played video games, read books, spent more time with my kid, and I kept on dancing.
Between ballet and better eating practices, I was physically feeling better than I have in years.
I’m partly convinced it was the reason I could pull out of my disappointments and grief so quickly. In the past, blows like that would have put me down for months. Instead, I threw myself more into ways to strengthen my body. With a weaker back, I looked for methods outside ballet to seek improvement. That’s how I stumbled upon Blogilates. Here’s one of my favorites 😉
I’ve done Pilates in the past, and while normally I’m not a fan of peppy instructors, I fell in love with Cassey Ho’s videos. Mostly because she does isolated exercises specifically for areas I knew I needed help with (i.e. arms, inner thighs, back, and splits.)
As the months turned, and we went from my boy starting PreK, to living through a hurricane, I started searching for something extra. As wonderful as ballet and pilates are, I wanted something more to round it all out. My husband suggested yoga, ironically enough. Let me preface by saying he is not a yoga kind of guy. He’s all about bodybuilding and weight lifting Buff Dudesstyle. But he has a lot of respect for yoga and dance discipline too. When I mentioned yoga to one of my besties, she suggested I try out Yoga with Adriene. Here’s one of the first videos I tried and still love:
Since I started practicing yoga on top of ballet and the occasional pilates and better eating, I found the ever-elusive “balance” I hadn’t known I needed in my life.
I am not a fitness expert. I’m just a mom trying to keep my sanity through the rest of this crazy year.
What’s worked for me may not work for you, but I hope you’ve found some encouragement to at least find what brings you balance in your life. It doesn’t need to be dance or yoga, but I hope you will take the time to take care of yourself this year.
For me, taking care of myself has helped me be a more patient mother, a harder worker, and a better wife. I’ve been able to put away and let go of my stress, and in turn, become a stronger person emotionally and physically. We’re all works-in-progress, and who knows what the future holds. All the more reason to find that balance, and enjoy the little we can control in our daily lives.
I hope you’ve been encouraged today, maybe even a little inspired. Above all, I encourage you to find and pursue the thing you love. No matter where you’re at or where you’re coming from, don’t give up. You’re allowed to be an occasional mess. And you can overcome your present trials because you’re a lot stronger than you think you are.