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A Comfort Zone is a Beautiful Place

but nothing ever grows there.

I have been having a lot of thoughts lately about wanting things, but not wanting things. Wanting certain parts of things, without having the whole sum of those parts. It feels safer to just take a taste of things, and not jump feet first into a pool of something that I’m not used to.

I’ve struggled with this for most of my life. In the winter of 2015-2016 I found myself more paralyzed by fear than I had been before. There were things that I used to want to do, places I wanted to explore, and dreams that I so passionately wanted to hunt down. My fears and anxieties and insecurities grew and multiplied and invited their friends to come and join. I wove them all together into a beautifully blinding bubble that surrounded me. I decorated the walls and made myself at home inside this safe, but fake, little world. A Lorde song, Buzzcut Season, seemed to really capture the idea of how comfortable and enticing my comfort zone was:

The men up on the news
They try to tell us all that we will lose
But it’s so easy in this blue
Where everything is good
And I’ll never go home again
Favorite friend
And nothing’s wrong but nothing’s true
I live in a hologram with you
Where all the things that we do for fun play along
But I live in a hologram with you

The complicated thing about this is that it sounds too good to be true – because it is -. This false sense of safety felt great; nothing bad would happen and everything was simple because there were no decisions to be made. But that’s the catch– there are no decisions to be made because you aren’t doing anything. I was staying in every night, isolating myself from my friends, missing out on parties or trying new restaurants, going on trips, taking advantage of job or volunteer opportunities, etc. I made believe that I was keeping myself happy by staying in and being low-key. I told myself that I actually enjoyed being anti-social and having “relaxing” nights in watching Netflix for hours. (which tbh is true, to an extent).

It’s hard to see outside of the bubble. The walls get more and more dense the longer you live in there, until you can’t see out at all. This is when it’s the hardest to get out. It took me most of the 2016 year, chipping away at the walls and slowly sticking a toe or two out, to be able to see how much I was missing. It isn’t until you’re all the way out and standing in the sunshine when you can really see the big picture and how tiny the box was that you trapped yourself inside. I had a therapist once tell me that it’s like a dog that has been trained to be locked inside of a cage with a shock collar that goes off every time they tried to walk out, and eventually even when the gate was open and the shock collar was off they still chose to stay inside of the cage because they were afraid that they would get that same shock upon exiting the gate. The bubble is only as impenetrable as you believe it is.

It takes you committing yourself 100% to something scary, something so completely outside of your comfort zone, that allows you to fully jump out of the bubble and stand in the sun. It will feel scary, you will fear the shock, the walls will tell you that it’s more comfortable inside. While it may be true that it feels more comfortable, it sure as hell is not bringing you any long-term happiness or growth. Get out and go see the things that scare you, you already know what’s inside your bubble, there is nothing new to learn there.

“The woods are lovely, dark and deep. But I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep.” ~Robert Frost

DFTBA,

Jam

World Water Day 2017

“Do what you can, do it with others, and do it with passion.” – Guy Ryder, Chair of UN-Water

(for the TL;DR head to sources)

Hello and welcome, or welcome back, friends. Today is World Water Day 2017, a day dedicated to raising awareness about the global water crisis we are facing. About 663 million people in the world right now are without water. If you think that is a problem that “doesn’t affect us”, or can only picture it affecting countries in rural Africa, Asia, and Latin America, you may be surprised to know that 13 million of those without water are actually in developed countries, including the United States.

“It’s ironic when you live in The Great Lake state and don’t have access to clean water” – Karen Weaver, Mayor of Flint, Michigan

A statistic that I find completely unsettling is that an estimated 5,000 children under the age of 5 will die every day from diarrhea, which can be caused by drinking contaminated water, and made worse by the dehydration that follows and lack of water to mitigate the problem. If the average 5-year-old child in my town were to get a stomach bug, their parent would run to the store and get them a Gatorade or Pedialyte and they would be back in business in a day or two, no big deal. For a child that doesn’t have this option and doesn’t have immediate access to water, this is a terrifying and deadly illness.

While huge progress has been made in the last 5, 10, 15 years, there is still much progress to be made, and worry about increasing obstacles to that progress.

One of these obstacles I am particularly passionate about: Animal Agriculture is one of the biggest threats to water availability that humans face today. Consider for a moment how you use water in your home in an average day: washing your face, doing the dishes, taking a shower, brushing your teeth, doing your laundry, flushing the toilet, washing your hands, cooking, drinking water, etc. You might be picturing that consumption and thinking “yikes, I could probably slow down on the amount of time I have faucets running”. While that may be true, private home water consumption only amounts for about 5% of the US water consumption on average, while a staggering 55% is used for Animal Agriculture. Worldwide, cows drink somewhere around 45 billion gallons of water a day. A DAY. Yes, for sure, cows need to drink water too, but the good majority of water going to animal agriculture isn’t even for the animals to drink. Here are a couple interesting stats to shed some light on the water that goes into animal products throughout the entire production process:

660 Gallons of water= one single 1/3 pound burger

477 Gallons of water = 1 pound of eggs

900 Gallons of water = 1 pound of cheese

1,000 Gallons of water = 1 Gallon of milk

Everyone knows that arable farming (plant crops) uses up water, and we need that, right? Every single day humans survive off of common crops such as corn, wheat, sugar cane, rice, etc. First off, compared to that 900 gallons of water it takes to produce a pound of cheese, one pound of wheat only requires 132 gallons of water. (This is where huge wastefulness comes into play): What we often don’t think about is how much of that yield is going directly to feed the livestock that humans are, in turn, going to consume. 

Scientists at Cornell University estimate that The United States alone could feed 800 million people with the grain that livestock consume. And the demand for meat is set to DOUBLE by 2050. (but I will save my cattle farming rant for another post).

I hope these statistics have you at least interested in the water problem we, as a global population, are facing today.

“This is not a partisan debate; it is a human one. Clean air and water, and a livable climate are inalienable human rights. And solving this crisis is not a question of politics. It is our moral obligation.” -Leonardo DiCaprio

How You Can Help:

  1. Donate- visit any of the following: water.org ; wateraid.org ; unicefusa.org/wateris-beautiful ; wateraidamerica.org ; water4.org
  2. Get Educated- read on using any of the previous links, or links I will include under sources, do your own research–google is your friend, watch the maaaany documentaries (two of my favorites are Cowspiracy and Before The Flood).
  3. Go Meatless- I know, I know. Just try it, one day a week.
  4. Share- just share any information you have learned, help spread awareness.

Sources/Read on:

(for TL;DR people:  http://www.fao.org/fileadmin/user_upload/animalwelfare/arjen_hoekstra_the_water_footprint_of_humanity.pdf)

DFTBA,

Jamie

WaterDay

Shame: Depressions’ Best Friend

“As a shame researcher, I know that the very best thing to do in the midst of a shame attack is totally counterintuitive: Practice courage and reach out!” – Brené Brown

Hello and welcome, or welcome back, friends. Today I want to talk about this pesky little thing called Shame. Now I guess I should start off by saying that shame and guilt, while closely related, are not the same thing. Guilt is the emotion that comes from “I did something wrong, and now I feel bad about it”. Shame is the emotion that comes from “I am wrong. I am, inherently at my core, wrong or bad”.

Even at this moment I can tell you that I am sitting in a coffee shop that I came to with the intention of studying for a test that I have tomorrow, and yet  – five hours later- have been unable to accomplish because of an intense apathy that I cannot shake. Unsurprisingly, these exact self-shaming thoughts have surfaced, telling me that “I am lazy”, “I am dumb”, “I am incapable”, “I am a terrible student”, “I am such a careless human being”.  I haven’t done something objectively wrong, yet have the internal dialogue to suggest otherwise. A great therapist I previously saw, who taught me most-if not all-of the DBT skills that I have, would describe this as a situation where the emotion I am feeling does not “fit the facts”. Having a feeling that does not fit the facts essentially means that you are experiencing an emotion that is more intense than the situation reasonably warrants. So in my current case, it would be reasonable for a person to feel disappointed or frustrated when they don’t accomplish a goal they had set. However, not doing a good job of studying for a test does not warrant feeling like an incompetent human being, and certainly not feeling like this one single lapse amounts to being a failure as a person overall.

This type of situation is common for me, and was generally my default setting throughout the winter of my junior year of college. It is actually common for a lot of people. I personally believe that shame and depression like to skip hand-in-hand into a persons life. In my experience, and the experiences of those I have discussed this issue with, depression will present itself in various ways, which then will lead to the sufferer feeling shame, at times in layers, for the way that the depression is interfering with their life.

Some of the common signs and symptoms of depression are lack of energy, poor concentration, difficulty completing tasks, low motivation, hopelessness, and lack of interest. In addition, poor school performance, neglecting basic personal care, daily tasks, and responsibilities are also more external expressions of depression.  These signs and symptoms are the “facts” or “pieces of evidence” that Shame takes and turns into inherent character flaws, instead of – completely separate from the self – symptoms of a mental illness. Shame exacerbates these symptoms by telling the sufferer that they are doubly wrong, both for feeling a certain way, and for the behavior that is often a result of those feelings.

DBT, dialectical behavior therapy, is a skills based therapy model that I have found extremely helpful in the past year, and one of my favorite ‘Emotion Regulation’ skills from the DBT workbook is called Opposite Action. Opposite Action is a skill that you would use when you’re having an unpleasant emotion that doesn’t fit the facts, and that you want to change. The name is pretty self explanatory: you feel an emotion that prompts an action urge and instead do the opposite of that action urge.

For shame (and guilt) the common action urge is to hide or avoid, aka wallow and avoid all things that could prompt feelings of shame. In my case, this is where I typically neglect all school work and responsibility to avoid the self shaming thoughts that very often come along with trying to get work done when I’m already feeling down on myself. Opposite Action would first have us “check the facts” to decide if the situation warrants us feeling the amount of shame that we feel. In my school scenario, this shame emotion is not effective and is actually detrimental to my progress, so that is when Opposite Action would be useful.

If the action urge that comes along with shame is to hide or avoid, the opposite would be to approach and avoid avoiding. Much easier said than done, as avoiding-avoiding while depressed can be one of the hardest things to do. My blog post, When You’re Stuck in a Rut, is actually me using this skill. I felt the urge to avoid, to wallow, to disappear inside myself, but the tips from that post are actually things that I have found to be opposite actions to those urges.

Overcoming shame and practicing opposite action are definitely muscles that have to be flexed often, stretched repeatedly, and only build over time, but I have found to be one of the most helpful things to slowly but surely learn to deal with the symptoms of depression and the shame that likes to accompany.

I’ll attach below photos of the opposite action worksheets that come from the DBT Skills Workbook (via google images).  Disclaimer: especially if experiencing overwhelming emotions, it is always best to seek help from a professional, great resource:  https://therapists.psychologytoday.com/rms

DFTBA,

Jamie

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Art Journaling 101

Hello and welcome to my first ever how-to. On today’s episode we will be learning how to make something called an Art Journal. An art journal is like the truest form of a scrapbook, in that it involves literal scraps and books. I’m a big fan of up-cycling, and not at all a fan of throwing away sentimental items. So many times I have found myself staring at a pile of what, to most people, looked like actual trash.  Things like concert tickets, movie ticket stubs, public transit receipts, wristbands, etc. were all piling up but I insisted I just needed to find somewhere to put them. Insert: art journal.

For all of you TL;DR people, here is the gist: find an old book, dictionary, encyclopedia, yearbook, or even your favorite novel that you’re okay completely defacing. Open up to any page and transform it into a nostalgia collage. Paint over the words and pictures, or cover the page entirely with construction or scrapbook paper. On top of that add photos, quotes, the “trash” I discussed earlier. Voila, art journal!

For those willing to stick it out for a more in-depth how to:

  1. Find a book: I am a loyal Disney fan, so I decided to go with this book of all of the Classic Disney stories: img_0916but really any (ideally hardcover) book will do.
  2. Buy your crafting supplies. I would recommend starting off with a few acrylic paints (Walmart, target, craft stores), mod podge (same), a pack of construction paper and/or scrapbook paper (craft stores have better variety of these), scissors, paint brushes and sponges (I use brushes for painting and sponges for mod podging), and anything else you like to craft with! Glitter also never hurts.       img_0929
  3. Paint (or don’t) the book cover. I chose to paint the cover because I loved the title but didn’t love the colors. img_0932 Boom, much better.
  4. Decide what options you like for page-covering. Throughout my book I have chosen to paint over some pages entirely, to cover pages with construction or scrapbook paper, or to leave the pages as they are and just add to them. Here are some examples: img_0942 ^^For this nerdcon page I took a piece of scrapbook paper and mod podged it onto the book page. (mod podge is basically glue that you apply with a paint brush or sponge to the entire surface you are attaching to). From there I gathered my sentimental “trash” and mod podged it on top of the scrapbook paper.  img_0936 ^^I’m a big Alice in Wonderland fan, so I wanted to keep this page intact. I decided, instead, to glitter over the images themselves, so that I can keep the picture but add some craft.  Once again I just went with good old mod podge and spread it onto each color section individually and applied the glitter.img_0935 ^^this is a good example of something to do when you want to do some art/crafting, but don’t have actual pictures or paper items you want to add in the book. A good friend gave me some flowers and I wanted to save them, so I found a good related quote to pair them with. I used acrylic paint (bought at Walmart) and a sharpie. ~fancy~   img_0934^^^ Another option that I really love: if you find a page with words that you can find useful, you can do a variation of what are called Black Out Poems. For this you pick out the words, sentences, or phrases that you like, and then blackout the rest of the page with paint or sharpie. This page was inspired by a night this past October when friends and I walked to a nearby park and just played on the playground. It just was a good night that I wanted to remember, so I (you guessed it) mod podged a picture of the park up top.

So there you have it. This is a really simplistic kind of overview of a how-to. That’s kind of the great thing about art journals- it’s hard to explain how to make one, because you very literally make it into whatever you want it to be. I had trouble with conventional scrapbooking because I could never make my pages look like the perfect pinterest examples. This is absolutely not that.

If you would like more info, more examples or ideas for pages, where or what to buy for supplies, or even if this was just a terrible how-to, feel free to comment below and I’ll answer anything I get, (or for my nerdcon fam reading this, you can find me in the facebook group and I’m totally here to help!).

Happy crafting and DFTBA,

Jamie

“You Are Here” Nerdcon: Nerdfighteria

“You are here. Whoever you are, however you came upon this [quote], you are here and we are lucky to have you here. And while we are here together let’s try to be kind and create spaces where cool stuff can happen.” – John Green

Warning–this is gonna be a long one y’all. I have been a long time follower of The Vlogbrothers on YouTube- ever since reading my all time favorite book, Looking For Alaska. The community that has formed around John and Hank Green, and the social media/IRL empire they have built, is lovingly known by its’ members as Nerdfighteria.

A few weeks ago I had the most wonderful opportunity to attend Nerdcon: Nerdfighteria, which essentially was a huge weekend-long celebration of the 10 years that John and Hank have been on youtube, and of the community of Nerdfighteria. When NC: NF was first announced, I was sad to just kind of write it off as something I wouldn’t be able to experience, as it was in Boston and I am: 1) not in boston, and 2) not swimming in expendable cash. Well, my friends, the empire of Nerdfighteria once again showed how truly remarkable, kind, and charitable of an entity it can be. When purchasing tickets, buyers had the option to choose to donate an amount of money to go towards a scholarship fund for community members that would not be able to afford the trip otherwise. I was very seriously emotionally moved (like actual eyes filled with tears-moved) when I received an email telling me that I had been awarded a scholarship ticket. If you want an idea of what the nerdfighter community is like, strangers deciding to just go ahead and throw in some extra money-after already purchasing their own ticket- just so that other strangers would be able to also attend, is a pretty solid example.

With the ticket taken care of, I was then able to find a group of people looking to room share for the weekend through the Facebook NC attendee group, use my moms’ airline miles (TY MOM), and grab a few (many) extra hours at work, making me all set to head on to Boston.

From the literal hour that I arrived in Boston, the tone was already being set for the weekend. Obviously I got lost, which led me to meet my first NC friend, Ryder. In true collaborative fashion, Ryder and I navigated our way through the multi-line Boston subway system, luggage and all, to the hotel where the con was taking place. (look at me using con-jargon like a real con goer!). Throughout our journey to the hotel, Ryder and I got to share our excitement and hopes for the weekend, as well as many of the other things that we are unironically enthusiastic about- both relating and not relating to nerdfighteria-. I don’t even like to make phone calls to strangers from the comfort of my own home, so the fact that this encounter even happened was a sure sign to me that this would be a weekend unlike any other.

The rest of the evening was filled with meeting my roomies, and talking/laughing/nerding on about all of the things we liked and disliked, and all of the things we were most excited to see and do over the weekend.

There is no way I could properly summarize the programmed events for the weekend. Both days were filled with panels, group discussions, Q&A’s, presentations, and activities including: art projects, activism, boardgames, Hamilton sing-alongs, etc., and just so much more. I got to see some of my absolute heroes in real life, two feet in front of me. (like seriously, I did an actual workout with John Green. We have officially suffered and succeeded together). But as John himself said, what made the weekend truly incredible was not just the amazing programming (which I do not want to minimize– it was spectacular), but instead the people. It was all of us being there, being together, being kind and authentic and interested and present. We were there, and we were there with each other. I have never in my life felt so connected to thousands of strangers–and trust me that is saying a lot, I have been to my fair share of Jonas Brothers concerts.

The weekend left me remembering how truly interesting people, places, and things can be. It reminded me of why I became so drawn to The Vlogbrothers channel in the first place, which is, at its core, a celebration and exploration of being completely un-ironically enthusiastic about people, places, and things.

Thank you to everyone who was a part of the Nerdcon: Nerdfighteria experience.

DFTBA,

Jamie

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When You’re Stuck in a Rut (again)

I was going back and forth trying to decide what I wanted to write my first blog post about. I needed to make sure it was the right topic for a first post, because it would ideally set the perfect tone for my blog. It was right then that I realized this was the exact unhelpful line of thinking that led me to the reason I decided to make a blog in the first place.

In the past couple of weeks, for reasons that I am sure I will go into in future blog posts, I have found myself in a very familiar down swing in my not-always-so-stable mental and emotional life. My habitual method to dealing with these lows is to wallow around in them, and essentially let them spiral until things become absolutely unmanageable, historically ending in the need for professional intervention. HOWEVER, over the past thirteen months and counting, I have been working every day to address and challenge my deep-rooted – and often unhelpful- thought patterns and behaviors. Hooray! I am doing the thing! This blog is me doing the thing!

So as I said, I was finding myself in this familiar state of feeling down and depressed, and I won’t lie- I did indeed do a bit of wallowing. This time, however, after letting myself feel and acknowledge the bad feelings for a bit, I decided to actually use the skills I have spent the past year learning. I awoke on a Sunday morning and decided to spend that day figuring out where to go from here and how to get there. I did a fair bit of Pinterest scrolling, blog reading, googling, and brainstorming, to come up with a list of things I could do to hopefully break through the slump I was in- or at the very least keep my life together while the mood episode ran its course. I’m only on day four of working my way through the list, but so far so good, so I thought there was no better way to start off my blog than sharing a general list of ways that I have found to be helpful when trying to get through the rough patch you may be experiencing.

  • Start a Blog: to lead with the obvious, starting a blog can be a great way to organize all of the thoughts you have swirling around inside of your head. It also is a fun and creative way to try out a new hobby, and hey, maybe someone can relate to the things you want to write about.
  • Zen Your Room: by this I mean to do to your room what you would like to do to your life. Need a change? Redecorate or rearrange! Need some calm? Buy some candles and some fairy lights to hang up! Need organization and order? Take everything out of your closet and dresser and find tips on Pinterest for putting things away in a neater and more organized way-trust me on this one.
  • Make a Physical Change: this does not-I repeat does not- mean altering your body via a trendy diet, as (again will go into in the future) can be some blurry territory. What I mean instead is to get your nails done, try out a new haircut, put a streak of purple in your hair, buy a new outfit, switch up your hair/skin/nail products.
  • GET OUT!!! : if nothing else, do this one. Get out of your house, get outside, even just get out of the bed you have been in for three days straight. Get up, get dressed, brush your teeth, and go put yourself in a different location. Seriously. And do it as often as you can.
  • Make a Vision Board: another item that Pinterest does a rock solid job of helping with. When you’re in a very down state it can be extremely hard to actually follow through with much of anything. A vision board will come in handy because you can add a lot of hope to your life and current situation by just simply letting yourself imagine the places you want to go and the things you want to do and putting that onto a physical space that you can look at and find joy.
    • My personal vision board is a cork board ($10 from target) collage of pictures (just printed out from home) of places I would like to someday go to, pictures of old friends and myself, poems and quotes that are hopeful, and encouraging notes friends have given me.

So there you have it folks! My first blog post and a list of a few ideas to get the ball rolling. Pinterest and Google are your friends here. Make yourself an achievable to-do list and give yourself time to work through it. I made my list four days ago and just now have gotten around to writing this. It will take time.

Feel free to comment or send me an email if you wanna share some of your own ideas for slump-killing things to do.

DFTBA,

Jamie