What I Read This Week: April 24 to April 30

Does anyone feel pressure to squeeze in just a few more books during the last week of the month? I sure do. April has been a month of ups and downs, reading-wish, and I spent the first part of this week slogging through a book that I eventually decided to stop reading because I wasn’t enjoying it. However, I was able to finish three books to round out the month.

A Flicker in the Dark by Stacy Willingham

Stacy Willingham’s debut novel, A Flicker in the Dark, has all the pieces of a thriller that I love: a mentally anguished protagonist with a dark past, a cast of untrustworthy side characters, and a mystery with plenty of twists and turns. Chloe Davis is the daughter of a serial killer and has been haunted by her father’s brutal murders of six teenage girls for most of her life. Now at 32 years old, Chloe must confront the past she’s tried to ignore when an apparent copycat has come to prey on young girls in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

I really enjoyed this book, even though it took me awhile to get into the story. None of the characters, not even Chloe, are particularly likable, but the story is strong and I was surprised by the twists in the third act. Willingham is an excellent writer, and I look forward to reading more of her books.

Counterfeit by Kirstin Chen

This book has been on my list for a long time, and I flew through it this week. Ava Wong has been the good Chinese American daughter all her life. A graduate of Stanford and now a married corporate lawyer on sabbatical with her first child, Henri, she goes through her days meeting others’ expectations. Until her old college roommate, Winnie, returns to San Francisco and asks Ava to meet her for coffee. That meeting leads to Ava joining Winnie’s counterfeit purse dealings in China and the U.S., but if Ava is to be believed, her involvement is reluctant and Winnie’s coercive behavior is more powerful than the lure of millions in counterfeit luxury brands. Soon Ava is in deep, and the two must find a way to escape the FBI, Chinese gangsters, and their own cultural expectations.

This book gave me a Catch Me If You Can feeling, and I loved that. One of my favorite writing conventions is an unreliable narrator, and Ava is definitely one to be watched. Counterfeit is a fast-paced, fun read–perfect for the end of the month.

Hester by Laurie Lico Albanese

Confession: I think The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne is one of the most ridiculous books I’ve ever read. It’s nothing but pages of narration with little compelling me to care about the characters, even poor Hester Prynne with her scarlet A branded across her Puritan’s dress.

Luckily, I found Hester by Laurie Lico Albanese to be a lot more engaging than The Scarlet Letter. I love a good historical fiction novel, and this novel delivered with a descriptive narrative across generations. Isobel Gamble, born in Scotland, lives in fear that someone will discover her synesthesia–her ability to attach one sense to another–and brand her a witch like her ancestor. With a warning from her mother, she learns to hide how she sees colors attached to noises, words, and smells while honing her skills as a needleworker. Then, she and her husband Edward move to Salem, and she meets young Nathaniel Hawthorne. With her husband away on shipping travels and her need to adjust to the community, Isobel draws closer to Nathaniel and into an affair. With themes of love, morality, and friendship, this book is a good read and full of historical tidbits, even for someone like me who doesn’t care for Hawthorne.

And now we’re at the start of May! What will the month bring, bookish friends?

Three Things I Wish I’d Known About My Mental Health

Have you been asked the question: “If you could go back into your past and do things differently, would you?”

I have, and while I definitely wish I could change past events and decisions, I know that I am in the place I am in now because of those choices. I wouldn’t change my history, but there are some things I wish I had known 20 years ago, especially about my serious mental illnesses (SMIs).

Medication Can Help Your Serious Mental Illness

Medication isn’t the villain, but it’s not the hero either.

I fought taking my prescription medication for my depression and anxiety for years. I thought that once I started to feel better, I could stop the regimen of daily pills. I didn’t want to be attached to pill bottles and med schedules when I was 19. I saw those as yet more weaknesses to my already flawed personhood. One night, after another relapse because I’d stopped my meds, my dad used the metaphor that if I had diabetes, I would take insulin every day without fighting it. My meds were the same thing, just to help my brain instead of my liver. That metaphor made an impact on me, but I still didn’t value the full benefits of antidepressants and anti-anxiety meds. They were the first expense to ignore when money was tight. I didn’t prioritize getting my refills like I should have.

It took years for me to understand and accept that these meds help me, but I hate that they don’t solve the problems. So often in society we see quick fixes — pills or shots or shortcuts — as the cure-alls to our pain. Some do their jobs, others don’t. Prescribing mental health meds is most often a painstaking process of balancing a cocktail of meds, finding one that works but for only one symptom, adding another to address something else, adjusting both over the course of months to get the milligrams and timing exactly right, and then one may stop working inexplicably, so the process begins again. After decades of starting and stopping medicines ranging from lithium to Effexor to Adderall to klonopin, I have come closer to a cocktail that works for me than I ever have, but the pills don’t solve everything. They’re more a supplement, a piece of the puzzle that moderates my brain chemistry.

You Are an Imperfect Human

Mistakes will be made.

I have created so much mental anguish in my life by ruminated over every mistake, whether minor or life-altering, because I believe that if I do all the things the right way, with zero errors, then I will avoid tragedy, I will be accepted, and people will love me. I realize that is not how life works. As my dad said, “Shit happens.” But I do still believe that perfection is attainable. I am a perfectionist who seeks external validation and who has abandonment issues. But I do recognize that mistakes will be made, and I know that I have work to do. That work means walking myself back from the catastrophic thinking that I must throw myself off a cliff because I made a mistake, forgot that request, didn’t parent the ‘right’ way, gained that pound. I know better now, so I have to do better. And that work, friends, is hard.

I’m retraining myself, building new paths of synapses for neurotransmitters to speed through my brain so that I can move on from a mistake, recognize that to err is human, and it’s how you recover from a mistake that matters. What I wish I’d known since childhood is that I’m allowed to make mistakes, that just because I’m not perfect does not mean that I’m unloveable. I have a sign in my office now that says, “I love you anyway.” That’s a great sentiment, but teaching myself that it’s true is harder than expected. Learning that I’m a fallible human being and still acceptable and that my accountability, a personality trait of which I am most proud, will help me fix the mistake and do better next time.

Knowing that years ago would have given me decades more to practice, and what would that look like now? I have a glimmer of that image in my head, how I would be able to unclench, to give myself grace, and to at least remotely believe that I am loved anyway, even when I make mistakes.

Asking for Help Does Not Make You Weak

Get support to climb out of the dark hole.

I do not like to ask for help. I continually see the need for help as a sign of weakness and incapability. When I have been in the dark hole of depression, the sucking-all-light-from-life place that is certainly endless and the most lonely feeling that exists, I didn’t ask for help even when I wanted people to understand the pain that I was feeling. Those experiences were when the suicide attempts happened because swallowing pills and slicing into my skin where the only ways I could express my emotions. I was at a loss because when that level of depression hits, there is no next.

Thankfully, I haven’t fallen into that hole in a few years, but the thing with SMIs is that you always know the hole exists. It travels with you, planting itself just outside your home and showing its shadows when things feel uncertain. What I know now is that before I follow the shadows to the edge, I have to ask for help. What I know is that putting words to my emotions, defining how I feel in language out loud to someone safe, helps pull me back from the precipice. I don’t have all the words yet. I still describe my emotions with basic adjectives–bad, sad, angry, lost–but I know working on identifying my emotions will help me move farther away from the hole. And that means asking for help. Hiding the pain and how close I am to falling only makes the steps more slippery. The pain that I felt, the holes that I was in, could have been a bit more shallow, perhaps more manageable from the start if I had known to ask for help.

I know that hindsight gives a more comprehensive picture of what the world looks like, what the impact of decisions is, and how behavior changes the course of the future. I wouldn’t change my path, but knowing more about myself and my serious mental illnesses would have made the course a bit easier. I am grateful that I know now.

Signed, Yours Truly by Abby Jimenez

Five-Star Book Review: Yours Truly by Abby Jimenez

All signs should have pointed to me hating Yours Truly. A primary trope in this contemporary romance by Abby Jimenez is the failure to communicate, the romantic plot device that I loathe more than forced proximity (and that shows up in Yours Truly, too). I should have been irritated with the will-they-or-won’t-they moments and the fake dating throughout. But, you know what?

I loved it. Loved it with all my bookish brain, friends. And here’s why.

Why I Loved Yours Truly by Abby Jimenez

When Dr. Briana Ortiz learns that Dr. Jacob Maddox could be a contender for the Head of ER position that she has expected to be hers, she vows to fight and claw her way to the position while immediately hating this new doctor. But, Jacob doesn’t make it easy for her, slowly winning her friendship with lunches in the supply closet and friendly handwritten letters that she can’t resist. Soon, it’s clear to both Briana and Jacob that there’s something more between them

What I loved about Yours Truly:

  1. The mental health representation: I have not read a book that portrays social anxiety with such accuracy and insight. Jacob is a successful ER doctor with a kind heart, but he deals with severe anxiety that keeps him from enjoying life. Jimenez captured how intense anxiety’s hold can be and how limiting it can be. I felt seen when Jacob described his anxious thoughts and his physical reactions.
  2. Brianna Ortiz: Brianna is a force who we got a glimpse of in Part of Your World, and this book sees her fully developed, raw and emotional, loving and kind. I loved her character arc, especially her battle with trust in a relationship.
  3. The romance: Abby Jimenez writes the kind contemporary romance novel that I love. She includes the tropes that are typical in a romance, even multiple at a time like in Yours Truly, but she does it with a nuance that makes you love every bit of the story and the characters.

What I Read This Week: April 17 to April 23

This week was slower compared to the last, but I still cleared two books from my to-be-read bookcase and most importantly finished Yours Truly, Abby Jimenez’s new book!

Black Buck by Mateo Askaripour

I listened to Black Buck by Mateo Askaripour, and the narrator, Zeno Robinson, did an amazing job. I felt like he was sitting next to me, telling me Darren’s life story. And what a story it is. This book, Askaripour’s debut novel, is a satire about how Darren, a young Black man working at Starbucks, finds stardom when he’s whisked into the intriguing DotCom world of a mysterious business. From horrific hazing on his first day to his position as the only Black person in the company, Darren isn’t sure where he fits, but he’s swept up by the CEO’s magic and loses himself in the process. I enjoyed this book a lot, and the audiobook was fantastic as it brought each situation and emotion to life.

Yours Truly by Abby Jimenez

I hugged my copy of Yours Truly by Abby Jimenez when it finally arrived this month, and I felt the same way when I finished reading it this week. Like all of Jimenez’s books, this contemporary romance brings so much heart to a story that is more than what it appears to be. Dr. Briana Ortiz is prepared to hate Dr. Jacob Maddox when he invaded her ER, but those feelings change as this gentle man slowly wins Briana’s heart. This book has all the tropes—fake dating, miscommunication, forced proximity—but it tackles mental health issues like anxiety and depression, and it is a deeply moving love story, just what I expected from Jimenez, one of my new favorite authors.

Gallant by V.E. Schwab

Gallant is an award-winning gothic novel, one for which I’ve seen a lot of hype on Bookstagram. But, this wasn’t the book for me. I didn’t find the story engaging or the characters endearing enough to be invested in the novel. I’m glad to have cleared it from my to-be-read list, but I would have preferred spending my reading time with another book.

Did you read anything that you loved this week?

How Journaling is Helping Me to Manage My Mental Health

Stating that I’m managing my mental health feels like I’m tempting fate. For years I have lived in fear of waiting for the other shoe to drop. I can point to examples of days when I’ve felt on top of the world with all the happiness, times when the depression and anxiety were just shadows in the background; then, without warning, something happens to throw me back into the black pit that feels unconquerable. But you know what I’m learning to accept?

Wait for it…

That’s life when you have two serious mental illnesses (SMIs). Honestly, that’s life in general. You can’t control the future. And you most certainly can’t control other people. What you can control is how to deal with the situation and move forward. So, here is one tool that I’m using to help manage my mental health.

Rx: Journal Those Emotions

I’ve been in and out of therapy for more than 25 years. I’ve been committed to mental hospitals. I’ve read countless self-help books and blogs. And what has been one constant recommendation? Write down your thoughts and feelings.

Now that I’m in my forties, I finally figured out that yes, journaling does benefit my mental health. All those therapists and doctors and authors were right. Who knew? I may be book smart, but it can take me awhile (meaning decades) to admit that something might work for me.

Make Journaling a Goal for Mental Health

At the end of last year, I set my 23 goals for 2023, and one of those goals was to write “morning pages.” This idea came from reading Tara Schuster’s Buy Yourself the F*cking Lilies, in which she explained Julia Cameron’s famed approach to fostering creativity in The Artist’s Way: write three pages in your journal every morning. Don’t edit yourself. Just write. While I haven’t read Cameron’s book, I was inspired by Schuster’s description of how the journaling practice helped her, so I decided to try it.

Keeping a Journal for My Mental Health

It’s now April and while I have missed some days in my journalling practice, but I do write at least three pages most days. Sometimes the words flow freely and bleed over into four or five pages; other days I struggle to fill the lines on even the second page and resort to finding journaling prompts on Pinterest. But, I’m now on my third notebook of the year, and this practice is helping me learn to manage my mental health:

  • Feeling frustrated about something at work or home? Write it down.
  • Annoyed with myself because I’m not losing weight and am stuck in a binge-eating cycle? Write it down.
  • Unsure of what truly brings me happiness? Write it down.
  • Have a decision I need to make and don’t know what to do? Write it down.
  • Want to envision what life would be like if money wasn’t a necessity? Write it down.

Most of the time, I can close my journal after finishing those pages and feel a sense of either resolution or at least a bit more clarity in how I want to handle a situation. If I need to talk through one of the situations I journaled about, I have at least put my thoughts to paper and have them organized in some way, even if I’m not reading them verbatim. And, I like to think that these notebooks are going to be a nice reflection of how I’ve grown when I look back at them later in life.

So, the experts were right. Writing supports me as I work through my emotions and challenges, and it feels good to say that journaling is helping me to manage my mental health, even if the other shoe drops.

What I Read This Week: April 10 to April 16

This was a big week for reading, both physical and audiobooks. As I continue to clear my shelves, I checked five books off my to-be-read bookshelf! Here’s what I read from April 10 to 16, 2023.

Snobs by Julian Fellowes

Snobs has been on my shelf for at least four years, chosen because Julian Fellowes created Downton Abbey. Unfortunately, this book didn’t bring the drama or the delight that the show is famous for. This book, a character study on one man’s observations of his friend’s attempts to infiltrate high society in England, felt like a categorized list of the faults of the rich with a few eccentric characters thrown in. Maybe it was meant to be modernized, satirical take on the classics, like The Age of Innocence and The Great Gatsby, but all I was left with was a sense that Fellowes hates the wealthy.

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

Listening to The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion was a great experience. This book features characters who are implied to be autistic, and there is not enough representation of autism in literature. Don, the leading man in the story, is seeking a wife who will meet his specific requirements. This list of attributes leads him to meet Rosie, and intriguing graduate student at his university. The two are a perfect pairing, and their interactions are fun and endearing. I enjoyed Don’s journey through the novel, as he grew to realize what was most important to him and how Rosie could fit into his life without being who he originally thought would be his mate. This is a fast-paced read with a good message, and I’m glad I picked it off my my shelf.

Finlay Donovan Knocks ‘Em Dead by Elle Cosimano

Oh, Finlay. You do get yourself into some situations, don’t you? But at least your bestie Vero is there to help out, even when it’s climbing through your ex-husband’s office at night or finding a cold place to store part of a corpse. Elle Cosimano’s second Finlay Donovan book is just as fun as the first! Yes, the plot requires a bit of suspended disbelief, but these are comedic mysteries, so it all works out. Finlay and Vero’s friendship is what keeps me coming back to the series, and Finlay Donovan Knocks ‘Em Dead did not disappoint.

The Power by Naomi Alderman

Reading The Power by Naomi Alderman this week left me questioning why it’s been on my TBR shelf for so long. I love a dystopian novel, and this one comes highly recommended by the queen herself, Margaret Atwood. You can read my full review in another post, but here’s a quick summary:

In The Power, teenage girls suddenly develop the ability to shoot electricity from their hands, resulting in a mass shift in the world order, which is now under the power of women. With Mother Eve revising the traditional scriptures of world religions and queens and mob daughters taking control of populations by force and by charisma, the world is in an uproar. This book starts slow, but soon I couldn’t look away from the pages. With the mess of gender, power, religion, and humanity, this is a five-star book that I’ll be recommending to everyone!

The Masterpiece by Fiona Davis

Historical fiction is another favorite genre of mine, as I explained in my post about five reasons I love this genre, and Fiona Davis is a must-read author for me. I love how she blends multiple timelines, incorporates the arts, and adds mystery to her historical novels. Unfortunately, I didn’t love The Masterpiece, the story of Clara, a watercolor artist and illustrator poised to be the next leading artist right before the Great Depression begins, and Virginia, a divorcee recovering from breast cancer and learning to be on her own in the 1970s. When Virginia finds a painting of Clara’s, she’s determined to give the artist her due. I liked the premise and the historical aspects of the story, but the characters weren’t engaging enough to make me love this book.

The Power of the Girls

Five-Star Book Review: The Power by Naomi Alderman

Do you ever pick up a book from your to-be-read stack and think, why did it take me so long to read this? Well, that was certainly the case for me when I read The Power by Naomi Alderman this week. This book caught my eye years back because it’s dystopian fiction, a favorite genre of mine, but it sat on my shelf unread for too long. Then when I saw that Amazon has adapted The Power into a drama series featuring Toni Collette and Toheeb Jimoh (hello, Sam from Ted Lasso!), I decided it was the perfect time to finally read this book before I tune into the show.

And I’m so glad that I read this book. It starts a little slow, but I quickly found myself wrapped up in a dystopian world where girls have the power to spark electricity from their hands and change society. This is a novel with multiple points of view, and you know from the prologue that the events happened in the past, although it’s unclear what the impact is now. The premise is that somehow young girls around the world are imbued with electrical powers from awakened skeins in their bodies. They can now shock people, send currents of electricity through metals, and play with electrical arcs with their hands. First. these girls keep these powers secret, but then on The Day of the Girls, they can no longer hide, and the patriarchal world turns upside down. Here are a few of the reasons I loved The Power and consider it a five-star book.

Themes within The Power

So many themes are pitted against each other in The Power as young girls learn to harness their electrical strengths, share their sparks with older women, and become the stronger gender across current social norms. Gender norms flip, men become beholden to women for their freedom, and power structures are rebuilt.

Religion is another primary theme in the novel. Mother Eve, a main character, teaches that the Christian mother of Jesus, Mary, was the true giver of life, as Ruth was the most powerful in the Jewish tradition, as Fatima was in the Muslim faith, and as Tara was in the Hindu religion. Mother Eve asserts that women from all religious teachings should be the most worshipped as the Mother of all, and her preachings spread across the world. From that, however, comes the uprising of cults, as other women use their power to control, abuse, and even sacrifice men, and we see concept of humanity challenged across the world.

The Characters of The Power

The majority of the main characters whose viewpoints we experience in The Power are young teenagers at the beginning of the novel before The Day of the Girls:

  • Roxy is the illegitimate daughter of a British gang leader. She has few scruples and immense power with the potential to take down armies of men.
  • Ally is the adopted daughter of a strict, abusive southern Florida couple. Despite their cruelty, she knows her power is a gift. The voice she hears tells her so.
  • Jocelyn is the privileged but vulnerable daughter of a prominent, powerful mayor. Her power is unreliable, as is her behavior.

Mayor Margot Cleary, Jocelyn’s mother, is another main character in the novel. At first she faces decisions on how to stop girls from spreading the power to others and then becomes engaged in a morale battle of how to succeed in her career without damaging her daughter or the world.

And then there is Tunde, the only male point of view in the novel. He is an ambitious young man who seizes the opportunity to capture a girl using her power on video that launches his career as a rogue journalist who will stop at nothing to document the power across the world.

All of these characters grow over the decade or so that their stories span. Roxy, Ally, and Jocelyn learn to harness and use their powers to different effects, and they along with Margot and Tunde each experience the positives and negatives that come from the power itself. With additional side characters who are just as interesting and morally grey as these five, Ms. Alderman has created a character-driven story that is full of tension and leaves you hoping that each will come to their own right conclusions, whatever those may be.

The Structure of The Power as a Novel

The multiple points of view give a depth to The Power that is very intense and engaging. You are engrossed in each character’s experiences as they are well-developed, nuanced individuals. But the structure of the novel is interesting for another reason, as it is presented as an anthropological study at first, with letters in the prologue and epilogue between two authors debating the value of the history within the pages. The book includes illustrations of sculptures and artifacts from the time period, which these two authors refer to as the Cataclysm. This adds another layer to the book and makes it feel like an even more realistic history of what a dystopian world could have been.

The Power was my first five-star read for April 2023, and now I’m hungry for more dystopian fiction. Is this a genre you like to read? If so, drop a note and tell me about your favorites!

What I Read This Week: April 3 to April 9

Despite reading every day, I only finished one book for the week. Sometimes that’s just what happens. However, the good news is that I’m still tracking ahead to reach my goal of 100 books for the year and I’m continuing to read books from my to-be-read bookcase.

Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple

First, let me say that Eleanor is a delightfully quirky main character. She’s funny and outlandish, putting herself, her young son Timbly, and and her dog Yo-Yo into funny situations throughout the day. Whether it’s sleuthing to find out why her husband’s taken a vacation from his lucrative surgical career (without telling her) to having lunch with the man she unceremoniously fired during her old life as a leading animator on a top cartoon, Eleanor is having a day, and Timbly and Yo-Yo are along for the ride.

Over the course of 24 hours, which Eleanor promised herself would be different than her other mundane, stagnant days in Seattle, she meets people from her past, revisits her careers goals, and reckons with her broken relationship with her younger sister, Ivy. The day culminates in Eleanor learning that her husband, Joe, has made a life-changing career decision, and she now must make the decision to change the rest of her days.

Today Will Be Different is a character-driven novel with unique cameos from Eleanor’s past and present, all to demonstrate that she’s unsatisfied with her life as it is. She’s a fun character to spend the day with, and this was a good romp of a book for easy reading.

Three Signs of Burnout

The last five months have been difficult. It started with stress headaches at the beginning of November 2022, a culmination of pushing too hard for too long and putting work stress above all else and heightening anxiety that grew by the day. Then, those stress headaches morphed into piercing migraines that bounced between my temples to the crown of my head to right behind my eyeballs, rendering me essentially useless in my daily Type A functions. That added to my anxiety, because if I’m not performing at 100 percent, then what am I worth?

Neurology appointments, a cocktail menu of new prescriptions, and a lot of frustration later, it’s now April 2023, the second quarter of the year, and I’ve barely made a dent in my 23 in 2023 goals. I’ve lost my motivation and I’m desperate to get it back. So, in an effort to regain my mojo, I’ve decided to first identify three signs of burnout that I’m currently experiencing.

Sign 1: I’m Not Accomplishing My Weekly Goals

Beginning in January, I set a list of 23 goals to meet this year. To keep me on track, I keep a weekly checklist in my Notes app. For weeks I was diligent in reviewing those to-do activities and evaluating my progress at the end of the week. After all, checking off a to-do brings me a pleasure unlike much else. Until now. I’ve barely glanced at that weekly note over the past three weeks, and I’ve resigned myself to not accomplishing those activities. My rationale includes: There’s always next week and I’ve been sick; I deserve to take a break.

Sign 2: I’m Not Taking Care of My Physical Health

The migraines are nearly under control, thank God. My body seems to have adjusted to the medication, and this week was a milestone as I was able to go four days without the painful feeling in my brain that makes me want to drive a pencil through my left temple. Even yesterday, as I felt the pain start to radiate against my skull, I was able to sleep it off and function as an adult for the rest of the evening.

So that’s the great news. The bad news is that I’ve let the progress I’d been making for my health has gone to the wayside. I’ve gone from a regular 45- to 60-minute daily workout to a half-hearted five-minute yoga practice. I’ve cut my step count by half, and my resting heart rate is in the mid-60s compared to the mid-50s that it was in December. To top that off, the last two weeks are the first time in the years that I haven’t been drinking 128 ounces of water a day.

The result of all of these changes? I’m sluggish despite not having white-hot pain in my head every day. I’m exhausted every day despite not being active like I used to be. And, it’s no surprise that my weight change continues to bounce around the same five-pound range, and I’m burning fewer calories during the day. I’m shortening the runway to reach my goal of losing 50 pounds by the end of the year. This burnout is affecting my physical health, and it’s beyond frustrating. It’s bringing on a sense of failure because I’m not perfect and not motivated, which feeds into the cycle of not feeling good enough to do what I need to do and then being paralyzed to make the changes that I need to do and then beating myself up because I don’t do what I need to do.

Sign 3: My Attention Span is Nonexistent

One of my 23 in 2023 goals is to write three pages in my journal every day. I was on a great trajectory to really nail this goal, and I was seeing an impact on my life. For the first time in my life–after all the mental health therapy and the self-help books and plans to improve my world–I saw the value of writing down my thoughts, documenting the day’s activities, and capturing my emotions. I was reflecting on things and releasing pent-up feelings that would have likely erupted like a volcano otherwise.

But now, writing three pages feels like a monumental task. I’ll write a paragraph or sometimes just a few sentences and stop, turning to my phone to scroll through social media, check the news, find new Pinterest pins. I’ll resort to repeating myself just to fill the page. And it’s not just in my journalling practice. My attention span is nil when I’m trying to think through tasks and attack projects that need to be completed. Everything is taking twice as long because my thoughts feel like they’re planted in moors of dense, soupy fog that I can’t break through.

How Do I Beat the Burnout

I haven’t found the solution of how to resolve this burnout. The easy answer, the cliched advice is to just start doing the things, to attack it with the mindset that I have to do the things and by doing the things I will feel better. Do I know that this advice will likely work? Yes. But it feels so daunting, and frankly, I’m tired. So, here is my mini-list of the things I’m going to try to overcome this burnout:

  1. Take a few days off from work. I was honest with my boss. Work has been a marathon since January, and I’ve pushed myself to the brink. I’m grateful that she was understanding and encouraged me to take time off next week.
  2. Keep a gratitude list. I started this in March alongside my daily journalling practice. Writing down one thing for which I am grateful is important because I’m able to see that there are good things in the world, and I am looking at the big and small reasons to be grateful.
  3. Just do the next right thing. I have my weekly to-do list that’s related to my 23 in 2023 goals, but I’ve started writing down my daily to-do list as well. This helps delineate what has to be done today versus what could be done or what can wait. And, by telling myself that I just have to do the next right thing, whether it’s just taking a step outside and then walking a mile after I put my shoes on, that’s a win because it’s a mile that I didn’t walk the day before.
  4. Realize that it’s okay not to be perfect. I’m learning a lot about the downfalls of perfectionism, and I can see how it affects my life and my approach to the world. My need to be perfect is a key part of why I’m feeling burned out. Reminding myself that no one is perfect and that good enough is okay too can be a great achievement.

Do you ever feel burned out? How do you deal with it?

What I Read This Week: March 27 to April 2

Spending a good portion of the week in bed with a bad reaction to medication did have one benefit: I read four books from my to-be-read bookshelf!

Before I get into my mini-reviews, a quick health update. My migraines are about 40 percent better than they were a month ago, which is good but not great. The new emergency med that the neurologist gave me to try made me so nauseous that I couldn’t do anything but lay in bed, so no to that one! I am hopeful that with the more lifestyle changes I make, including my ongoing quest to cut out sugar, I will be able to get to a point that the migraines are manageable. A couple weeks ago I was at my wit’s end because of the near-constant pain and frustration of not being at my best, but today I’m feeling better.

But enough about my brain, on to to the books!

My Reads for the Week

Favorite: White Ivy by Susie Yang – I love a complicated main character, and Ivy is definitely that. This novel is a study on mothers and daughters, tradition, class and expectations.

Most hyped: The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd – So many fellow readers have recommended this book to me and others, but I had left it on my shelf for years. It was good, but I didn’t love it, partially because I did the audiobook, I think. I may try the printed version again another time.

A YA thriller: The Cheerleaders by Kara Thomas – Sometimes you need to go back to high school just to be reminded of the meaning of angst, right? This book gave me Pretty Little Liars vibes all the way through. Not a perfect book, but a quick, entertaining read.

A Rom-Com Palate-Cleanser: The Honey Don’t List by Christina Lauren – I read a lot of heavy books in March and needed a rom-com romp to clear my head. This was a predictable, but enjoyable, read with main characters who are perfect for each other, of course.

What did you read this week?