Tag Archives: Health

An Alexander day…

When I was a kid one of my favorite books was Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst. At the time, I remember giggling from start to finish as my mom read through all of the funny little disaster poor little Alexander experienced on that fateful day (woke up with gum in his hair, no dessert in his lunch bag, lima beans for dinner and tragedies of that sort, the type of disasters my 6-year-old self could really empathize with).

It’s been quite a few years since I’ve read that book or even thought about it to be honest but yesterday, on my cycle home from work, all I could think was “wow, that was an Alexander day…”

It was one of those days where you sleep through your alarm, rush to get ready, the button on your shirt breaks on the way down the stairs, you change into a new shirt only to realize it has a stain on it but it’s too late to turn back, rush to work, show up sweaty and frazzled only to realize it’s Friday and no one is in the office anyway. Let’s just say the day got progressively worse from there…

After tackling a disaster of my own in the office (with the support of my absolutely amazing colleagues) I just couldn’t seem to shake the anxiety of the incredibly stressful day. I have a tendency to worry too much, especially about what others think, and this day was no exception. As my mind raced with “what ifs” and “if i only did this..” and “now they think this..” I realized I’d totally lost perspective on the situation. As easy as it is to get wrapped up in your own drama, sometimes it really helps to remember, in the words of my fabulous friend and colleague, “you’re only the star of your own night.” And, you know what? It’s true. I highly doubt anyone else was going home obsessing about the day’s events to the degree I was, or at all for that matter.

So, after a not so restful sleep I’ve woken up feeling slightly less stressed, determined to shake it off and enjoy this fleeting sunny Amsterdam summer weekend.

After all, in the words of Alexander’s Mom, everybody has bad days, “even in Australia.” ūüôā

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Falling into fall

There’s something about the weather in Holland that makes that often cozy transition into fall feel more like shove. Two weeks ago Sebastiaan and I were biking to the beach in shorts and flip-flops and this morning I was shivering on my cycle to work with a scarf, leather jacket and boots on. Where has summer gone?

I can already sense the days getting shorter and the long Dutch winter edging its way closer.¬†Although it’s not quite time to pull out the winter coat or hats and gloves, I’m already finding it a bit more difficult to get out of bed in the morning.

Even though I long ago diagnosed myself with Seasonal Affective Disorder— SAD, (among other things…) this year I’m determined to nip the gloom and doom in the bud and embrace some of the nicer things about the changing season.

I always use a change in season as an excuse to spruce up the old wardrobe, look up some new recipes and find some fun (indoor) activities to fight off any impending cabin fever.

This year I’m looking forward to hosting my first Thanksgiving in our apartment in Amsterdam, picking out our first Christmas tree and spending the holidays in the States with Sebastiaan’s family.

So it might take a bit more effort to perk up over the next few months but reminding myself of all the exciting plans ahead definitely helps to lighten the mood.

Happy fall ūüôā

Quarter-life crisis

Touché

Today I woke up with the feeling that I have accomplished absolutely nothing in my 26 years on earth. OK, so I think I’m having a bit of¬†a quarter-life crisis…

I know this obviously isn’t true and in the whole¬†scheme of things I’m doing pretty well for myself, but I can’t help but think I’m somehow not where I should be.

While I hate to admit it, I think the fact that at least 5 of my childhood friends have gotten engaged and a few more pregnant in the past few months may have a little something to do with this.

I don’t know when I decided, or even where I got the notion, that marriage and motherhood somehow represent a¬†level of achievement¬†and adulthood¬†for women in their mid-late twenties. This is pretty backward thinking and I like to consider myself a fairly progressive modern gal. (This idea certainly didn’t come from my mother who waited until after 30 to have children, choosing to focus first on gaining financial independence and professional success). The strange thing is, nowadays women are generally getting married later, having children later and enjoy more¬†independence than ever. So how in the world did I miss the memo and look to decades old standards of women’s success for guidance?

Beats me.

I know that I’m not¬†ready to have children and¬†while marriage may be a bit closer on the horizon, I’m not ready to rush into that any time soon either.¬†¬†So why do I feel the sudden need hurry up, get hitched and¬†pop out¬†2.2 kids?

I’ve always felt pressure to “keep up” with those around me whether it be academically, professionally or¬†even socially. I’m competitive by nature and hate nothing more than feeling like I’m falling behind the pack. I also, like many people, have a real difficulty living in the present. I’m a planner.¬†I focus so much on the future, where I want to be¬†and¬†what I want to be doing, that I often fail to enjoy all the wonderful things happening in the present. Not only does it make it difficult to appreciate my life as it is now, but it also puts so much pressure on the future,¬†so much of which is out of my control.

So I’m going to try a little something new. I’m going to start regularly¬†setting a few¬†short-term¬†goals that will help me feel more satisfied,¬†happy and at peace with the present.¬†I want to get out and¬†do more in the city, plan some fun activities and day trips for Sebastiaan and me and take some time to enjoy the smaller things in life.¬†Of course things may not always work out how I’ve planned, and carefree days soaking up the sunshine may be¬†few and far between but that’s OK.

It’s all going to be OK… Right?

“True happiness is to enjoy the present, without anxious dependence upon the future, not to amuse ourselves with either hopes or fears but to rest satisfied with what we have, which is sufficient, for he that is so wants nothing. The great blessings of mankind¬†are within us and within our reach. A wise man is content with his lot, whatever it may be, without wishing for what he has not.” ~ Seneca

Spring Cleaning

After¬†surviving some grueling exams¬†resulting in a¬†brief blogging hiatus, a quick trip home and some much-needed girl time, I’m finally feeling a bit refreshed which I think that has a little something to do with¬†the fact¬†that spring is finally on its way.

I love Spring. I love spring despite the fact that I have some of the worst seasonal allergies known to man and spend most of the time looking likes this:

I still can’t help picking up flowers on the way home from work, opening all the¬†windows (in turn welcoming¬†tons of¬†pollen into our apartment)¬† and soaking up a little sun any chance I get.

It’s not just the warmer weather, longer days and colorful clothes that get me giddy just thinking of spring, it’s also the chance to sweep away (literally and figuratively) the winter blues and start fresh. I always take time in the spring to clean out my closet, donate clothes that I no longer wear and in general bring some much-needed organization to my life.

But to me, spring cleaning shouldn’t be only about cleaning out the cupboards and washing the windows, it’s also about taking the time to do the things that will help¬†me live a healthier and happier life, things we often seem to abandon in the colder months.

Today marks the beginning of my spring cleanse. While I wish I had the¬†will power to do some come crazy all juice or raw food diet, I don’t think I would be a very pleasant person to be around…so I will opt out this year.

I’ve picked up some¬†cute new¬†exercise¬†gear (always helps to¬†motivate me a bit), found some great healthy recipes and did a thorough¬†decluttering of the apartment.

Love everything Lululemon

Stuffed zucchini. Yum.

Inspired¬†by this post written by my best friend, I’m determined to shed a few pounds and get back into maid of¬†honor¬†shape (the wedding¬†is just a few months away!).

Student loans and renting in Amsterdam currently limit my abilities to join a gym but luckily our new apartment is just a few blocks away from a beautiful park perfect for jogging. So as the warmer weather approaches (it is going to get warmer in Amsterdam right?) I’m excited to get outside, get fit and¬†incorporate some healthy new habits into my weekly routine. ūüôā

Spring is when life’s alive in everything. ~Christina Rossetti

Relationships are hard

Relationships are hard. Really hard.

Feelings get hurt. We say things we don’t mean. We yell. We cry. We do things that drive each other crazy. We do things that the other person doesn’t understand. We do things that we don’t even understand.

Lately my faith in relationships has been a bit shaken by the astounding number of divorces and failed relationships around me. How do couples really make it work for the long haul? Is there some secret to a successful and happy marriage? I used to think it was all chocolates, roses, diamonds and candle light dinners, turns out that’s not the case (well… diamonds maybe).

I know that marriage is hard, it takes years of work and more work after that.

Sebastiaan and I are lucky to have parents that are both still together. My parents for over 30 years, his for 26. We both have amazing examples of what love really looks like. I’ve talked a lot about my relationship and relationships in general with both my mom and Linda (Sebastiaan’s mom) and they both seem¬†to say pretty much the same thing even though they are in very different relationships. They stress how hard marriage can be¬†and that no matter what it will have its ups and downs. As people change over time and as life happens, both the good and the bad, relationships are bound to be affected.

My parents recently experienced among the worst tragedies parents can imagine, the loss of my brother. It’s hard not to notice how this has dramatically influenced their lives and also¬†their marriage. At first it seemed as though they were just trying to avoid drowning in their own grief and instead of leaning on each other,¬†a kind of¬†intangible distance grew between them.

It retrospect, I think it was their way of protecting one another. It was as if it was at all possible that for even one moment the other was not entirely consumed with thoughts of Kylen, they didn’t dare take that away. I’m not saying that this is necessarily the right or best way to deal with grief, but what is? There is no prescribed formula for dealing with the loss of a child. My parents still deal with the grief of losing their son everyday but I think now they are finally able to¬†begin making space for one another again.

Sebastiaan’s parents also went through an equally scary and challenging period last year. Linda was diagnosed¬†with breast cancer. She was going to need a mastectomy. They were unsure how much of the cancer had spread and were hopeful but vague about the prognosis. I watched as they, and well all of us, were sent¬†on¬†an emotional roller coaster of fear, anger, uncertainty¬†and hope. Herman’s grief was palpable. He was consumed by the¬†unbearable reality of Linda’s condition. Linda,¬†always the¬†pillar of strength within the family, still managed to hold us all together through it all.¬†Although Linda is now cancer free she is still dealing with the emotional and even physical consequences of her illness. She hasn’t gone back to work full-time and is at time struggling to redefine her role in her marriage and her family. Cancer changed Linda as I’m sure it would change most people. She sees things differently now, has very different priorities and has an entirely new perspective on life. Linda and Herman are too working to redefine what their relationship means in the aftermath.

Sebastiaan and I just celebrated our 2nd anniversary and it feels like we’ve already been through more than most couples experience in a lifetime, and to be¬†honest, we’re really still getting to know each other.¬†We have finally been able to catch our breath and take a step forward with a bit more optimism¬†for the future.¬†I still get annoyed by the occasional¬†toilet seat left up, 30 minute showers, wrinkled clothes and addiction to junk food. And I’m sure he’s had just about all the PMS, Keeping up with the Kardashians¬†and clogged shower drains he can take. But we’re figuring it out. We’re figuring out who we are as¬†individuals¬†and what that means for our relationship. I learn something new about Sebastiaan, and well¬†myself, everyday. We bring out the best in each other, occasionally¬†push each other’s¬†buttons¬†and constantly challenge one another to be¬†better people. I know that we will also have to continuously¬†redefine our relationship as we grow and face life’s challenges together as a couple and at times it won’t be easy, it may even feel impossible.

So what’s the secret to a long-lasting relationship? I don’t know¬†that there is one and I definitely don’t know what the future holds for Sebastiaan and me, but I do know that even during the worst of times I can’t imagine my life without him.

What could have been

A childhood friend of mine and my¬†brother, Darrell,¬†was here in Amsterdam last week with his fianc√©, Natasha. They were here celebrating¬†Natasha’s birthday and enjoying a mini European vacation. As always, it was wonderful to have visitors. We shared a few drinks, caught up and reminisced about some funny childhood memories.

The entire time I couldn’t help but¬†look at Darrell and¬†imagine what could have been…¬†I looked at him, just a few months younger than my brother, in love, engaged and having recently purchased his first home. He looked so happy and I was so happy for him. I looked at him and saw Kylen. I tried to imagine¬†him happy, with a job, living on his own, about to be married but I couldn’t do it. I just¬†couldn’t imagine my brother happy.

I still struggle to understand the reality of¬†my brother’s illness. I can’t understand how at such a young age Kylen’s life was overcome with all-consuming depression and anxiety. He went from excelling in school and sports to barely graduating high school in one semester. As I witnessed my brother’s sudden fall from grace I was angry and confused and often embarrassed by his inexplicable behavior. As the years went on I, although 4 years younger than Kylen, took on the role of the older sibling. Unlike my friends and classmates I didn’t ask my brother for help on homework, rides home from parties or advice. We lived in separate worlds. I went off to college and graduate school and Kylen’s life continued on its downward spiral. He couldn’t keep a job,¬†fell behind many of his childhood friends and never gained any real independence (emotional or financial) from my parents.

I looked at Darrell and I was jealous. I was jealous of his little sister.

I longed for so many years to have a relationship with my brother. I imagined that one day Kylen would snap out of whatever it was he was going through and we would finally have the relationship I had always dreamt of. I’d finally have my brother back.

I don’t remember a time when Kylen and I were close but my mom tells me that as little kids we were inseparable. He would make me laugh and play with me and watch over me with the protective eye that only a big brother has.

I so badly wish I could remember this.

Although it has been over a year since Kylen died it still isn’t real to me. I don’t know how to mourn the loss of someone I called my older brother but never really felt like one. I loved Kylen with all my heart and miss him everyday but that doesn’t help to erase the confusion and guilt¬†that still surrounds my relationship with him. I wish that I had been a better and more patient sister and friend for my brother and I would give anything for just one more chance to try.

Being 6,000 miles away from my family has¬†allowed me time¬†to avoid dealing with my grief the way that I probably should. There are always those times though, a visit from an old friend or a familiar¬†movie on television, that creates a crack in my alternate world and allows those hidden emotions to seep through, just¬† for a little while, until I’m able to seal them back below.

On the bright side.

Lately I’ve found it really difficult to separate¬†work and school from my personal life. It’s not that I’m up all night answering emails or studying, it’s more that I allow the stress, and unfortunately dissatisfaction, that I often feel at work and school to follow me home.It’s funny because all day I can’t wait to go home and snuggle up on the couch with Sebastiaan (and a glass of my favorite organic¬†wine) but when I finally drag myself upstairs to our apartment I’m so exhausted, drained and¬†famished (ok, slight exaggeration) that I almost forget that I finally have the opportunity¬†to relax.

Let's just pretend I look something like this...

Instead, I throw my bags down, hang up my coat, mumble “hello” to Sebastiaan and go change my clothes. After a little while and something warm to eat I’m usually finally able to unwind. By this time, Sebastiaan is frustrated and my less than pleasant mood has rubbed off on¬†him.

I didn’t even realize I was doing this until Sebastiaan brought it to my attention last night (yes, we had a small um…¬†argument). I don’t want to come home with a scowl on my face everyday.¬†I don’t think anyone wants that. Not¬†only is it¬†unhealthy for my relationship but¬†it’s not healthy for me. So starting today I’m going to try something new. I’m going to come home, ignore the pile of dishes in the sink or the bag of trash that hasn’t been taken out and take a moment to breathe. In that one breath I will let go of all the¬†negativity that I have carried around all day. That first step into my apartment is going to be like a new day.¬†A¬†fresh start.

I know that this won’t always be possible, and some days¬†taking a breath may not cut it and I might need to throw and/or break something instead,¬†but I’m going to try.

This would be a lot easier if every day was like this...

I’m going to try because spending all day unhappy is no way to spend a day. I may not love my job and I may be¬†counting down the minutes until I graduate but that doesn’t take away from all the¬†wonderful things that I still get to experience everyday. I’m able to wake up everyday next to someone I love, I ride my bike past beautifully¬†lit canals every morning, I get to watch¬†the sun rise over the Dutch countryside from the train, I sit at my desk and listen to the sound of¬†more than¬†5 different languages mingle in the office air. Come to think about it, do I really have that much to complain about? Not really.¬†It’s¬†time to¬†focus on the positive. Time to get rid of that pesky ‘Negative Nancy’ whispering in my ear and look on the bright side a bit more often.

Afterall, life can be pretty amazing when you give yourself the opportunity to enjoy it. ūüôā

“Realize that true happiness lies within you. Waste no time and effort searching for peace and contentment and joy in the world outside. Remember that there is no happiness in having or in getting, but only in giving. Reach out. Share. Smile. Hug. Happiness is a perfume you cannot pour on others without getting a few drops on yourself.” ~ Og Mandino