#DifficultRealities (Part II)

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After reading my last post to my therapist, she recommended that I counteract all the negative things I wrote about myself with a love letter. I do have a lot of good truths in my life and about my personality that I choose to overlook. Even though I spend 24/7/365 with myself, I spend little time actually taking time to build that positive relationship with the  inner me- you have to make that attempt, she and everyone else say.

Well, here goes nothing…

Dearest Andrea,

I seldom tell you how much I love you. How much I admire you. How beautiful and caring, intelligent and strong you are. That you are my hero.

I took you for granted and dishonored you. I said you’re not enough. That you will never be enough. That if you were only a better student, a better daughter, a better friend, a better writer, a better lover- then, I would love you. If you were smarter, more confident, prettier, more social, skinnier, more assertive, nicer- then, I would respect you.

You are brave. You’re a babe. You are a badass. You just forget that some of the time.

I love your courage- courage to cry, to leap, to give, to receive. When your heart breaks, you allow it to open you. When you heal- and you always heal- your heart grows bigger and stronger.

Thank you for trusting your heart over your head even when it means taking a risk, stepping into the unknown and embracing uncertainty.

I catch you dreaming for hours about a better world. You’re always reading, always searching for more knowledge, always expanding your skills, always longing for more awareness. There’s always something going on in your mind: this mixture of hopes, dreams and ideas that no one knows about. It’s a secret garden only I know the entrance to and this garden is magical.

I love that you like to be funny and that nothing fulfills you more than making people laugh. You’re empathetic and feel people’s pain before they need to tell you anything. I love that you feel the world’s pain as your own and how hopeless it makes you feel sometimes.

I love that you’re an open book and share your fears and dreams with the world. I love you even when you shut down. You will sit with it, let yourself cry and just be there. You are beginning to be more conscious of your thoughts and your words, learning to fill them with kindness rather than hurt. You are taking the time to learn more about yourself and are recognizing the importance of it.

You know that you’re not perfect- you will never be and that’s okay. What you need to remember is that you’re loved and appreciated. Being so is far better than being perfect.

You have “Be Your Own Hero” written on a Post-It above your bed. Looking back at that, hell yes- you are your own hero. You are my hero.

No one will ever be as happy that you exist more than I do.

Keep fighting the good fight. You are worth it. Your life is worth it.

Love you for eternity,
Andrea

(And dear reader, when’s the last time that you wrote yourself a love letter?)

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#HowToBeHappy

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Mid-month, I joined this support group because, quite frankly, I wasn’t happy. After being unemployed for a good chunk of the year and having an incredibly stressful summer, I finally had enough of it. I’ve always struggled with my happiness, thinking why can I never be like the people around me. They must be living better lives. They have the ideal boyfriend or husband. They have the perfect jobs. They’re making vaults filled with money with such perfect jobs. They get to travel and experience amazing things and events. It wasn’t until now I realized that these thoughts of mine were bullshit.

I’ve read a decent amount of self-help books and blogs over the last several years, hoping that some magical answer would appear like a magician’s bunny getting pulled from its hat. What a load of crap and a big waste of my time. I used to believe that happiness was a light switch. Something flicks on. You get an overwhelming sensation. It hits you like a bag of bricks. Nope. WRONG. My therapist the other day told me this simple statement and I’ve let it resonate throughout thoughts:

Happiness is a choice.

You can choose to be happy. (You have to.)

She compared happiness to love. Like love, happiness is a series of choices. Love is about making a choice every single day, to either to be or not love. That’s it. It’s that simple. Either to continue the process or not. We don’t love our partners or our friends every day. They do thing that hurt and piss us off. I have done terrible things to my friends and my partner but despite all that, they continue to love me. We choose to forgive. We choose to love. We need to give ourselves that same love.

So, I’m choosing to be happy. Most of the days lately, I don’t know exactly what that choice looks or feels like. It can be fucking hard to do sometimes, making that choice. I want to crawl back into my cave of despair (some day, I want to so badly). The same things don’t make me happy all the time- even my darling cat (who I think is the best thing in the world- well, other than cheese) pisses me off from time to time. Even cheese, an inanimate object with no movement nor feelings, can upset me. I still fume at the world. And I do need help reminding myself to chose happiness (I believe in a great therapist and medication if you do need it. I even write on my hand so I can remember my choice throughout the day).

I know I’m making the right choice. I’ve spend the last couple years miserable out of my mind. I constantly compared myself to other and dreamed of a life that I felt like I could never have. Stress is my abusive spouse. When things weren’t absolutely perfect, I had a meltdown. I often thought about how others’ lives would be better if I was no longer around. But I chose to turn those miserable feelings around. I’m not saying that I wiped away all my jealousy- it’s still there. There are some days where my envy is the only light shining in the room- this bright green beam that burns your retinas. There are moments when I get depressed and just want to cry, sleep and repeat. But in the grand scheme of things, I’m happy. I’m learning that happiness isn’t feeling joyous every second of the day. I’m learning how to be okay with all of the good and bad in my life. I’m working on myself. I know that I deserve to be happy and I’m determine to reach its maximum potential.

I hope that you’re happy, dear reader. However, if you’re not, I hope that you will take the steps to get there. I don’t know what the right steps are for you but if I can get there (especially being so miserable for the longest time), you can get there, too.

All of my happiness to you.

Thank You, Love 20Something

As the last moments of my twenties come to a close, I want to thank everyone who has read and commented on 20Something. I started this blog when I was 22. I remember the day exactly; I felt the need to write- this primal urge to get everything out. Hence, this blog started. I sat in the basement of the campus library and wrote my first post, feeling confused about what I was going to do after college. I wrote down a life plan but little did I know at that moment, I was about to stray from everything I planned… which was the best thing that ever happened to me. After all, all those moments led me to where I’m at today.

To all you twenty-somethings out there, you all are incredibly brave indivisuals. Your twenties are insanely scary but they are also fun- drinking officially at 21 (yay)! Falling in love for the first time (double yay!). Stumbling along a career path (yay!/nay?).  This time is for intense self-discovery and making mistakes, both big ones and tiny ones; creating a life for yourself outside your family and home life and learning what it means to be on your own. It’s about learning how to take risks and becoming a better risk taker with each passing year. This is the time to risk it all in the name of love, friendship, education and career. Eh, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, am I right?

So, I bid adieu to my roaring twenties… and am saying hello to my flirty, dirty thirties, greeting this decade with my arms open wide.

I’m about to go party like a rock star.

Thanks again, dear reader. Love, Andrea

#ThisIs30

T-minus two days until the big 3-0.

Yes, I am terrified. Last night, I broke down my fears to one of my best friends- “I don’t like a grown-up and 30 seems so adult, so finite. I have reached the age where you need to have your shit together. But I just keep fumbling. People younger than me are buying houses and I’m still looking for a job.” I must admit that I’m not proud of the place I’m in and a lot of the choices I made in my twenties. I always thought when I reached this milestone, I’d be an editor at a magazine, well-traveled, married, possibly pregnant… well, I’m just not the person I thought I would be.

I’ve been trying to tell myself that 30 is going to be awesome but I needed more justification. Over the night, I’ve read multiple essays from celebrities, writers and businesswomen about the joys of this new decade of life. I needed to hear that things would be better (even though my body will undergo some serious changes. Just no more gray hair, please)- in the words of Maya Angelou, “When you know better, you do better.”

Listed below are some of my favorite quotes:

“Thirty was always the age I wanted to be. I didn’t look forward to 16 or 21 or even 25. I was like: 30. I assumed by then I would be fully formed and comfortable in my skin and in my body, and I’d know who I was. My twenties were great, but they were hard. You want to get past the learning curve and then have fun.” –America Ferrera

“Your twenties come with a lot of self-doubt and anxiety around big life questions: What are you going to do with your career? Who are you going to end up with? Where are you going to live? In your thirties, you just know yourself better.” –Lauren Bush Lauren

“Your twenties were for ‘ducking up,’ as my auto-correct would say, and learning from those mistakes. Now, you get to live with that knowledge under your belt. I’m hitting a major milestone: 30, or as I like to call it, the Cut the Bullshit and Go Be Awesome stage.” –Olivia Wilde

“(Turning 30) made me want to look at myself and see what behavior I want to bring into my 30s, and what I want to leave in my 20s. I’m such a people pleaser and from an unstable background. I translate too many things into guilt. I’m ready to let go of that.” –Drew Barrymore

“The body is at its best between the ages of thirty and thirty-five…” -Aristotle

“My friends reassured me that 30 was secretly the best, most important birthday a woman could have. Like a reverse Cinderella, my life would magically improve on the dot of midnight. My brain would mysteriously expand, and somehow all the things that didn’t make sense in my twenties—how and why people behaved the way they did, how to play the game—would all be made clear. I’d be smarter. I wouldn’t get fooled like I did in my twenties. And you know what? All those friends were right. –Candace Bushnell

What are your thoughts on turning 30, dear reader? Any advice?

 

Year of Kindness

Two days ago, I sat on the curb in my former office’s parking lot and cried. I was just laid off. My head spun with frantic thoughts of what I could have done better- I should have done this. I should have done that. Why didn’t I do that? But I wasn’t laid off for performance issues. The company is going under and I was “the last one hired, first one fired.” During my exit interview, I was given stellar reviews. My bosses told me that I was rehire-able (if they ever decided to venture into advertising again) and they promised to give golden recommendations as I apply for a new job. Despite knowing all this, I sat in the parking lot, beating myself up, thinking about everything single, little thing that I did wrong.

I’m hard on myself. I know that I am I. Just a couple of weeks ago, my supervisor reminded me: “You’re too hard on yourself.” Every boyfriend I’ve had told me that I am. Most of my friends have. My parents. Even this sweet woman I broke down to at Burning Man last year said that I needed to ease up. I know that I’m hard on myself- I ignore the fact that I am human and I demand absolute perfection from myself. Thus, I dig myself deeper and deeper into the pit of despair and feeling never go enough.

I believe that kindness plays a big role in happiness. I also believe that kindness starts with the way you. I was telling a friend about my drama at work, “I could have done that better.” She turned to me and said, “If you had a friend saying what you’re saying to yourself, would you still be friends with them?” I thought about- “No, I wouldn’t.” “Then why do you treat yourself that way?” she asked.

I’ve been trying to change that mind set around. It hasn’t been easy. I’m used to waking up every morning with the first thought in my head leaning towards the negative. I feel fat. I’m not going to do well at work. I am a crappy girlfriend. My cat, Hova, follows me around until I serve her breakfast. She looks at me with her big green eyes and winds her lanky body around my legs after eating, thanking me for feeding her. She thinks I’m the best. I once read that you need to treat yourself how your pets treat you. Animals know what’s up- they know good, kind people vs. bad ones. All the animals I’ve encountered in my life have given me love and sweetness. I need to give myself some love, too.

Friends, like pets, are a good resource. I replay all the negative conversations I’ve had in my head daily- from arguments I had with my parents in high school to the one I had on Monday with my boss when I was let go. I let myself wallow and sink until I’m mentally drowning. My boyfriend reminds me every day of how great I am. He does a really great job of doing it- there was one day he complimented me 19 times in the span of a couple hours. I usually let each compliment slide in one ear and out the other but now, I’m trying to let his words resonate and find a permanent home in my brain. I canceled plans with friends this week (because honestly, I feel like shit) but they refuse to take my “no” for answer and insisted on coming over with goodies and sappy movies. They reminded me that I’m awesome and this crappy situation will soon pass (if that isn’t kindness, I don’t know what is…).

I’m off to a slow start with my Year of Kindness and am feeling like an emotional Sisyphus. But I know that baby steps are key even if the mean boulder is pushed back to its original spot the next day. I need to eventually stop buying into the myth of perfection (especially with my appearance and where I’m “supposed to be” in this moment of my life) and focus on the things that make me happy, like being proactive- get out of bed every morning with a purpose, even if it’s only to clean the bathroom. And showing kindness to others; that helps, too- I’m teaching an art class this weekend at the Boys and Girls Club. Treating yourself well when you’re not used to it is not easy but it is totally worth it.

Treat yourself how your pet treats you... (Yay for kitty cuddles!)

Treat yourself how your pet treats you… (Yay for kitty cuddles!)

(And dear reader, if you know of any full-time positions in advertising, editorial or non-profit within the Reno city limits, pass the information my way. Thanks!)

Year of Happiness

What does it mean to be happy? Like, absolutely happy- your face hurts so much from smiling, there’s fluffy golden retriever puppies everywhere, your heart is about to burst like you’re in middle school with a huge crush on the adorable guy from geography class kind of happy? Truly happy?

Is this the face of a happiness skeptic (or of a dog-napper)?

Is this the face of a happiness skeptic (or of a dog-napper)

For the last month, I’ve been examining the things that make me happy. Almost like Scully of “The X Files” (which, by the way, season 10 is fantastic), I’ve been a big skeptic. For a long time, I didn’t believe that true happiness existed. I know that you can’t be happy all the time (or maybe you can- who knows?) but for some people, happiness just came easy to them. I think about my best friend, Melissa who is undoubtedly the happiest person I know. She is always smiling and radiating energy. Yes, I know that she has her moments but she always manages to bounce back into Happyland quickly. That’s who I want to emulate.

I used to think that my life would be happier if something would happen- I’d be happier if I had a boyfriend; I’d be happier if lost weight, if I had a good job, etc. Even when I had a great boyfriend or was feeling fit, I didn’t feel happy. Perhaps grateful, especially for that paycheck but at the end of the day, I want to cry into the wee hours of the morning.

 I started researching happiness. What is happiness? True happiness? What does it feel like? What does it look like? Does it taste differently? How do you achieve it? Surely, a person can’t just think about being happy and then be happy. Actually, you can.

Studies show that when you smile, endorphins are released causing you to feel relaxed and well, happy. Your brain essentially tricks you into being happy. Each morning during my shower, I smile as wide as I can and think about good thoughts. I envision having a great day- what that would feel like, what would happen- and I let the happy feelings rain over me. I finish getting ready listening to positive music or a funny podcast that pumps me up.

Throughout the day, I check in on myself, asking myself how I’m doing. With my job, I find myself frustrated and stressed throughout most of the day. I try to funnel that energy into completing my work but I’m not especially good at transferring that negativity. Instead, I write. I received a beautiful journal from a friend as graduation gift; and in moments of pressure, I write one thing I’m thankful for, one nice thing I did for myself and one nice thing I’ve done for someone else. If I haven’t done anything kind for anyone that particular day, I think of a way to make myself or a loved one happy and put that thought into action. Just thinking about making someone else happy makes me happy- and I thrive on that anticipation. I write in my journal every day and I am seeing a small boost.

One of the books I’m currently reading suggests to write down what your ideal happy life looks like, what it feels like. My happy life feels rewarding (in my professional life and with my relationships and community service endeavors), and is filled with devotion and a little too much laughter. I reread this list every morning and when I need a happiness boost. The visual of this list’s words help steer me in the direction towards absolute bliss.

Happiness is more like a muscle that feeling. I know if you work on your happiness, strengthen it every day, that emotion grows stronger. It is a difficult emotion to hold on to but it is achievable. And I am determine to live every day basking in its warmth, snuggling with a fluffy animal.

Happy 2016, dear reader!

Day 30 of my Happiness Journey

Day Thirty: Let’s be real- I didn’t learn anything new on this happiness journey. When I first started a month ago, I planned on writing about something happy every day. But, of course, life happens and as everyone knows, each day isn’t always a happy one. But I know that is the point. We need bad days. They help us grow and appreciate the good days. If there was one thing I rediscovered, it’s up to you to make your own happiness. It has taken small events like tending to my garden or reading on the couch for me to remember that happiness is a choice- you need to do the things that make you happy even if they are scary or if others dissuade you.

I hope you are happy, dear reader, and that your life is filled with positive memories and a cheery disposition.

Day 29 of my Happiness Journey

Day Twenty-Nine: I don’t have much of a green thumb but when I moved into my new home, I was determined to plant a garden and not kill it. My mom bought the flowers; I brought the manpower and spent the day cleaning out the flower bed, laying down healthier dirt and giving my floral friends a new home.

Day 28 of my Happiness Journey

Day Twenty-Eight: I’ve been nursing an eye infection for the last couple of days. While it’s not contagious, it is leaving me feeling pretty immobile. This eye infection is brought on by stress so I’m doing my best to relax while keeping myself busy. The sun agitates the infection so I’ve been trying to limit my computer and TV time by reading, job hunting and prepping for the fall semester inside. As much as my eye burns and leaks, in a weird way, I’m grateful to have this infection. It reminds me to take life easy- everything is not that stressful and intense. My mom flew up for the weekend and she noted how calm and serene my home is. I contribute that cool vibe to Steve but it is something that I’ve been thinking about the last few days- how to de-stress and ease up my life. I don’t have any concrete solutions yet but in the meanwhile, I’m going to go back to my book and take a long bath.

Day 27 of my Happiness Journey

Day Twenty-Seven: One of the best things about the neighborhood I moved into is the all the Latino markets within walking distance. When I was living in Brooklyn, I stopped by my corner bodega for my morning bagel and the cashier insisted I reply to her in Spanish. The same thing happened to me this morning when I was at market buying ingredients for arroz y gandulas. I asked for pork fat at the meat counter and the butcher noted my Puerto Rican features. He said that he would only give me my slice of pork if I spoke Spanish back to him. For the next ten minutes, I stumbled over verb tenses but he patiently waited for my responses without any spoken judgement. I left the market feeling pretty proud of myself- I will be back for more practice and for their house-made flan.

¡Delicioso!

¡Arroz y gandula- Delicioso!